I’ve recently started to play Magic: The Gathering (MTG) for fun (i.e. not competitively). There are dozens of casual play formats that let you tailor the game to your preferences, and “kitchen table Magic” can be cheap.
I just bought a couple thousand common cards (i.e. the most commonly found in booster packs, 10 of the 15 cards) for about $40, and that’s enough to play with my family for years without getting bored. These cards are not valuable, nor can you reasonably expect to win much against competitive players in the MTG community, but it’s a ton of fun without a huge investment. The game formats using only common cards are called “Pauper” formats.
Magic has both a main game and a “metagame”. In the main game each player has a deck of cards and tries to defeat her or his opponent. In the metagame each player tries to build a deck of cards to use in the main game. You can opt out of either game if you want. Don’t like the metagame? Buy it build a preconstructed deck and you can play the main game with it. Just want to build decks, or don’t have any opponents handy? It’s pretty enjoyable just reading cards and trying to figure out how to make them work well together in a deck.
I like both, though. It’s fun to select cards for your deck and then test them against your opponents’ choices. It’s definitely better as a social game than as a solo game (although that’s possible too).
I thought very, very briefly about getting involved in the larger community of players, but it’s impractical and expensive for me. I like the game, but playing with cheap cards seems like a better fit than shelling out hundreds of dollars for the “good” cards. This way I’m not worried about my kids accidentally ruining a card and feeling bad about it. They’re super-replaceable (the cards, not the kids).
Both of my kids like to play and read the cards, and it’s been good for them.
We drive each school day for a healthy distance. A couple of weeks ago my son asked for some “undead” Magic cards (black) to read in the car. He read through about a hundred cards, including the “flavour text” (thematic text that doesn’t affect gameplay) in twenty minutes or so, and he’s seven. Magic and Pokémon both have been good reading challenges for him.
My daughter likes to categorize and sort the cards, although she seems less interested in actually playing the main game. She wants to do some drafting with some homemade “booster packs” (deck building based on a limited selection of random cards) soon, and I’m looking forward to it too.
All of the parts of Magic: The Gathering have been fun and challenging, and I’m glad I started. The only problem is figuring out how to store all these cards. :)