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International Tabletop Day Session Report

Tabletop day with the Southeast Gamers

Our local boardgame club participated in this year's International Tabletop Day, an event launched by Geek and Sundry's Tabletop. Tabletop is hosted by Wil Wheaton and feature's Mr. Wheaton and his friends playing board games. If you haven't checked out the show yet, I recommend that you do. It is a really slick production that is great for new gamers and still enjoyable for us greybeards.

Our event was open to the public, but most of the players that showed up were regulars from our weekly game night with the only difference being that we were all there at once. Throughout the day, there were usually around 25 people playing games on various tables. I thought some information about what was played and what we thought of the games would be interesting, so that follows. Obviously, I have a lot more to say about the games that I played.

Poison—Reiner Knizia's Poison is a great little traditional card game that gets a lot of plays at our weekly game night. When I arrived at 10 a.m., there were only four of us early-birds, so we decided to start with a quick game that we were mostly all familiar with and wouldn't keep us tied up when the crowd arrived. In the game, players play cards of three colors into distinct cauldrons, trying not to be the player that takes the total value of the cards in any cauldron above thirteen. The game's name comes from the “poison” cards which are worth +4 to the total and count doubly against the player that captures them. The twist in scoring is that the player with the most of any color (but not poison cards) can discard all cards of that color. That leaves a situation usually where some players are playing to capture nothing while a few players are competing to capture the most of a certain color and all players are trying to use their poison cards in a way to punish players that are too obvious about their goals or what colors they have and don't have in hand. It is a fun game that I recommend anyone pick up. Unfortunately, it is currently out of print and fetching around eighty dollars (US) on Amazon and the Geek marketplace. The re-themed version called Baker's Dozen is a little easier to find, but even that one seems to be getting scarce.


Talisman 3rd Editionone of our gamers that isn't a game night regular had requested Talisman, so I brought a copy of the only edition I still have in my collection—not because it is the best edition, but because I collect GW miniatures it is loaded with them. In Talisman, players play the roles of various fantasy characters as they attempt to become powerful enough to take on the fierce boss that awaits them at the end of the road. This involves rolling dice and moving back and forth along different lanes encountering creatures and random events and earning experience and magic items. For me, Talisman is a game that has run its course because of the app and PC versions. It is so easy to play a quick game of Talisman on my tablet or PC—and it is so much quicker. Still, we had a good time with the game. In fact, the person who requested it really liked it, and one of the other players contacted me for advice on a similar game that he could pick up. (I'm going to recommend Fantasy Flight's Relic, for the record).


One Night Ultimate Werewolfour group had only recently started playing this Werewolf variant and it was the game many were most looking forward to playing at the event. As a large crew had arrived while we were playing Talisman, I suggested we play a few games of ONUW before breaking out to smaller games. A full compliment of ten played and we worked our way through all of the different roles over the course of twelve games (in two distinct sessions—one later that night). In One Night Ultimate Werewolf, players randomly are assigned secret roles. In general, the roles can be thought of as on one of two teams—the villagers and the werewolves. If the villagers can ferret out at least one of the werewolves, they win. If both werewolves remain hidden, the werewolves and their minion win. The roles included in the game allow for some players to look at other players' cards, to switch cards, to reveal themselves to teammates, etc. There is far more information to go on than in a standard game of Werewolf and the game doesn't depend as much on playing multiple games while making decisions based on the metagame. In fact, I think the game gives just the right balance of known and unknown. If players play well, it comes down to successful bluffing and use of inductive logic in just the right mix. I like this much better than The Resistance and if nothing changes, I'll be passing my copy of that game on to someone as I don't feel the need to own both. One thing is for sure, I'm done with standard Werewolf for the time being. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a straight-up upgrade over the original game.


Terra MysticaI've been trying to get Terra Mystica to the table since I got it as a Christmas gift, but haven't found a good opportunity until now. I sat down with three other players—all new to the game—and we fought our way through any confusion we had over various rules. Really, the game went very smoothly after the second round or so. We played with the suggested factions and initial board setup. I like how all of the factions play distinctively from one another. The game plays really quickly once the players are clear about their options, and the one action per player per turn keeps downtime to a minimum (assuming players are immune to analysis paralysis). This game came down to the wire with Justin pulling out a win with the Nomads. I can't wait to play this again [note: it has taken me so long to finish this write-up that I have played it again and again. I like it better each time].


Titan: The Arenawe shuffled players once again and ended up playing one of my all-time favorite games, Reiner Knizia's Titan: The Arena [note: this was not the more recent update Colossal Arena from Fantasy Flight but the original game from Avalon Hill]. Titan: The Arena is a “gambling” game in which players bet money on the creatures that they think will win in a multi-creature free-for-all. Players take turns playing cards of certain values on creatures to establish the creatures current power. When all creatures have a card, the creature with the lowest power is eliminated (along with any money bet on that creature). The creatures all have unique special abilities that are available to the primary “backer” which allow him or her to manipulate the game state in various ways (drawing extra cards, switching visible cards, forcing another player to discard, etc). The combination of the tense card play and the interaction of abilities makes for a really fun game. This is one of my groups most played games and I would never turn it down. On this night, I fell just short of a victory as one of the students who is a regular at our weekly game nights and really good at “mathy” games edged me by a coin.


Take it EasySpeaking of “mathy” games, we had just enough time before the Final Four game started (our college was formerly part of the UK CC System—Wildcat fans abound) to get in one more game. Take it Easy was my choice because it is very easy and quick to teach and it works well with all types of players. Take it Easy is a bingo-like puzzle game that is very difficult to describe without the game pieces at hand, so go here and check out the free solo game on the designer's website. I had a great board going but spent the last five draws hoping for a tile that never came which dropped me from a great score to an average one. Unfortunately, for me, another player had placed in nearly the same pattern I had. The only difference in our boards was enough for him to move past me by three points, so I finished the night with back-to-back-back close losses. In fact, the only game I won all night outside of Werewolf was the very first game—Poison. If I was the type of person that worried about wins and losses, it would have been a disappointing night. Since I'm not, it was instead a great one. I can't complain much about getting to game these days since I run a successful weekly game night, but getting to play this many game sessions in one day was a joy. Can't wait until convention season when I can get in more marathons like these.




Games I Didn't Play in


There were other games going on that I wasn't involved in. No one else took notes, so I'll just list them here for the curious:


Munchkin: Apocalypse

We Didn't Playtest This At All: Legacy

Cards Against Humanity

Eldritch Horror

Magical Athlete

King of Tokyo


Fortune Street (board gamey video game on the Wii)



(most of these saw multiple plays throughout the day)


Taken all together, it was a great day of gaming capped off with getting to watch the Cats win their Final Four game on a last second shot. A good time was had by all.  


Quite Quotable

There was the class of superstitious people; they are not content simply to ignore what is true, they also believe what is not true.

Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon


Quite Quotable

We each have a moral obligation to conserve and preserve beauty in this world; there is none to waste.

Robert A. Heinlein, Friday


Quite Quotable

Beauty is a luster which love bestows to guile the eye.  Therefore it may be said that only when the brain is without love will the eye look and see no beauty.

Jack Vance, The Dying Earth



Burroughs covers most of the "pulp" bases with this one. Welcome to installment number two of THE GREAT TARZAN ADVENTURE!  This time out, we’ll be examining the good, the bad, and the ugly of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s second Tarzan novel, The Return of Tarzan.  This book marks a significant turn already for the series.  Whereas, Tarzan of the Apes read like a Victorian adventure novel despite its pulp accoutrements, Return strives to be nothing more than it is: a globetrotting story that would give Indiana Jones a run for his money.  Does that make for bad reading?  I suppose it really depends on the reader; it definitely doesn’t for me.  The spoilers are about to be let slipped.  So, if you haven’t read it yet, you’ve been warned.

The Return of Tarzan picks up pretty much where the first ended.  Our protagonist is trying to find his way in the civilized world.  He’s taken up with D’Arnot, his closest “civilized” companion from the first book, who is trying to divert Tarzan’s mood after having sacrificed his love for Jane to ensure she and her father have a happy, comfortable life.  I don’t know that Edgar Rice Burroughs set out to write a novel in the traditional sense with the first book, but here, he plays strictly to his strengths.  There’s social and political intrigue, there are exotic locales and the discovery of a lost world – it’s like all the best ingredients of pulp fiction.  On the other hand, the limitations of pulp are more clearly seen in this volume – there’s limited character development and a less developed plot.     

Before I began reading, I read the back cover where we are told: “After a brief and harrowing period among men, he turned back to the African jungle  . . . It was there he first hear of Opar, the city of gold, left over from fabled Atlantis.”  I was excited, because who does lost city adventures better than Burroughs?  It was only by the time I got to chapter nineteen of a twenty-six chapter book, however, that I was finally getting ready to see Opar.  Now, what was left off the back cover was the story of a Russian agent blackmailing people for information and how Tarzan gets on his bad side.  This story would see Tarzan from the streets of Paris to the deserts of North Africa to the deck of a steamer.  And the best part is that Tarzan himself becomes a secret agent!  Foiled by Tarzan in Paris, the Russian swears revenge that sees him moving and counter-moving against the Lord of the Jungle on two continents.  When Tarzan is tossed off the steamer by the enemy agent and left for dead, the narrative finally returns to the African jungle and to the lost city of Opar.

Now, to say I was disappointed by the late appearance of Opar would be deceiving.  I definitely wanted Tarzan to get there, but all along the way I kept just thinking, “No way – no way!”  If anything bothered me about the book, it was the crazy coincidences that pushed the plot along.  For example, Jane just so happens to take a cruise to postpone her marriage, and when the ship sinks, she ends up on the African coast, in Tarzan’s family’s old cabin no less.  And it just so happened that Tarzan, once dumped overboard, finds himself back at his old haunt as well.  There was more, but those were the icing on the cake.  Yes, it’s incredulous at times, but the thrills and the sense of wonder overshadows its limitations.  The fast and furious pace, plus the vivid scenery and action make it an easy, worthwhile read.

I think it’s justified, too, to say that Burroughs relies on stereotyping in this novel.  The Russians are the conniving villains; Jane is the damsel in distress; the Waiziri are the Noble Savages. Concerning the portrayal of the Arab tribes: the good guys look good, the bad guys look bad.  He utilizes this trope regardless of race. About the only character who shows any sort of growth is our protagonist.  During his initial encounter with the Waiziri, Tarzan is ready to kill one of the tribesman just as he killed in the previous novel, but this time, he waits.  He realizes he is not a savage beast but a man, and that man realizes the Waiziri are men, too. 

On a final note, I would like to pose this question: do you think that the fantasy trope of the primitive men with supermodel women emerges from this book?  The men of Opar are a step or two above the apes, yet the women are slower to devolve.  This image became ingrained in the minds of readers, especially when Frank Frazetta got a hold of it.  That would be an interesting topic to pursue.  Any takers? 

Anyway, that’s all for now.  THE GREAT TARZAN ADVENTURE! will return next month (that will be in late April) with a look at The Beasts of Tarzan.  If you’re just now finding us, look that one up and start there.  Would love to have company along for the ride.  As always, Nerdbloggers would love to hear what you folks have to say.  Feel free post to your heart’s content: agree, disagree, compare/contrast, discuss future reads, or anything.