I would like to play around with Ethereum, create contracts, do stuff.

I want to learn, not do anything serious for now. Dao Wars seems like a good start, but it costs 3 ETH just to start trying.

Is there a place where I can start without having to mine or buy ether?


You can use test networks in Ethereum. You can also play around on Eris' platform, which is a private chain that will preallocate things for you and enable you to test out your smart contracts and create games with a permissioned layer.



Download Mist wallet here: Mist Wallet (Windows, Mac or Linux), connect to the Testnet (Top Menu: Develop/Network/Testnet), wait for wallet to sincronize blocks, once finished you can start mining to get some ETHER (Top Menu: Develop/Start Mining) on the Testnet, it will take you no more that 5 minutes to get some ETHER on your Wallet.

Note: ETHER you mine on Testnet is only valid there.

Once you have some ETHER you can deploy some sample contracts like the one described here: Create your own token.

Hope this helps.

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