Ages back, cookiemonger bought Master of Magic for me on Good Old Games.

Over the weekend, I finally loaded it up.

It was . . . glorious.

Maybe I’m easily impressed — a comment had described it as “Civilization with magic” in a disparaging tone, but I saw no problem with it. My introduction to Civ was a freeware Java remake, so the resemblance to Civ was pretty strong.

I didn’t really want to read the manual, and I’d played Civ before, so I set up a small map with one opponent and just started playing. I mean, if I stuck with Dwarf Fortress long enough to survive a year, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

I picked the elf-mage (Oberic?) for my first match, since I didn’t know what I was doing. It turned out all right, too. I got lucky: I crippled my opponent’s expansion in the beginning and just . . . experimented for a hundred-plus turns.

My second match lasted significantly longer.

I went ahead and made a large map with four opponents on “Easy” difficulty. I cornered and eliminated one opponent, probably less than a hundred turns into the match, but the other two were just . . . absent. I explored the seas for them.

When I finally found them, they had formed an alliance and filled an entire continent together. Meanwhile at home, my settlements were suffering to rampaging monsters I simply had no answer for.

The difference between ‘Intro’ and ‘Easy’ turned out to be big.

Eventually, I found a barbarian settlement on one side of a narrow strait: I used a floating island to ferry my armies across and began conquering the third . . . and then fourth opponent. I just kind of steam-rolled them.

My third match was against one opponent on a large map at ‘Normal’ difficulty. I started running into my first real difficulties here: my initial settlement was at the middle of an intersection between four major land masses.

Normally something like that would be great for trade. In a 4X though. . .

I started making more extensive use of scouts in that match: summoned spirits with move bonuses. I positioned them at choke points to function as advance scouts so I would know where to field my tiny army.

There were just . . . no good places to build, and my opponent and the barbarians and the dungeons were all too tough. In the final count, my opponent must have had something like ten cities to my three in the beginning.

This time around, I had only one hero (the healer) and handful of Chaos cavalry. The majority of my forces were summoned Hell Hounds, and if the match had lasted any longer I would have summoned Chimeras.

My fourth match, I decided I wanted to try something radically different and I think I went at it from entirely the wrong angle, so I’m going to call that one a loss and move on. I realized a problem with my early game that was stunting my growth.

I tend to go for tech first, and build slowly until eventually “nuking” opponents. It’s a defensive way to play the game, and I think I need to start building Settlers much sooner. I might simply be “worrying too much” about my individual settlements.

I like to “take care of my people,” and I try to keep all my units alive.

I’m starting to do the math though — starting to figure out how much it costs to build vs. summon units, and what the long-term value of units that can level (living) are relative to their upkeep.

I’m pretty sure I have at least three of the magic schools figured out: Death, Chaos, and Nature. Life, I haven’t figured out yet . . . and most of Sorcery’s spells don’t make sense to me. I don’t understand the timing of Counter or Dispel.

Each game though, I get a better score. I’m getting better!