The free Magic: The Gathering game has just launched and it's quite good

Does the card work for you.

The free-to-play Magic: The Gathering Arena game launches today on PC, and it's rather good.

What Arena does marvellously is make sense of an otherwise complex card game. In Magic, for instance, there's a resource-gathering mechanic and card 'tapping', and an unusual block system - at least to my untrained eye. And when it all kicks off, it can be very hard to keep track of, so having a game do the hard work for you, and talk you through it, is very helpful.

This was especially obvious to me after playing my first game of Magic: The Gathering with physical cards earlier this week, and then playing it in Arena today. What I really like is how it's exactly the same game, which makes it, I believe, the only online collectible card game out there with a physical counterpart.

You can, for instance, brush up your skills in Arena - or try to get any resemblance of skill whatsoever, Bertie - then use it in real-life on your Magic pals. Or when those pals aren't around, Arena gives you something to do - someone to play with. One compliments the other. And when you buy packs of cards in real-life, apparently they have codes you can enter to make them appear in Arena (you can't do it vice versa).

Arena begins with a tutorial - a handful of successive matches each introducing new concepts of the game to you. Standard stuff, and I got through Arena's in about half-an-hour. Once through, you get five standard decks to play with for real. You can buy more cards if you wish, of course.

Arena isn't as handsome as HearthStone or Gwent - it's duller, to my eye - but has energetic animations and effects, and talking heroes, so it's pretty enough. Give it a go!

The Throne of Eldraine launch coincides with Arena's launch. Here, Johnny - who you might recognise - talks about the fairytales some of the cards are based on. It's Johnny's story time.

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About the author

Robert Purchese

Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.

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