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Thursday
Apr242014

The Great Tarzan Adventure #4: The Son of Tarzan

I remember buying the Gold Key Korak comics when I was a kid.  I especially loved the dinosaur and lost world painted covers, and even though it stated clearly on the front of each issue “Son of Tarzan” and “Edgar Rice Burroughs,” I somehow never put two and two together until I began reading The Son of Tarzan.  Oh, well.  Live and learn.  And that’s essentially what this book is all about: Tarzan’s son lives in and learns the ways of the jungle in a strikingly similar manner in which his father did.  If you’ve read the first three, you’ll probably want to read this one simply because it ties up everything with the Russians. 

If you haven’t read this one yet, you will be hitting some spoilers very soon.  You’ve been warned.  Here’s one already – Paulvitch, having run into the jungle at the end of Beasts, is rescued.  He’s aged drastically, scarred from torture, and completely unrecognizable.  And of course, he blames everything on Tarzan.  It is he who acts as the motivating force for the book.  He will serparate Jack, Tarzan and Jane’s son, from his family, which will lead to his being stranded in the jungles of Africa.  The book explores his growing up and learning to survive in the jungle.  Oddly, however, the book is just as much as about the struggles of Meriem, Jack’s – soon to be named Korak – love interest.  

From the opening of the first chapter, I thought this was going to be more or less about Paulvitch’s revenge against Tarzan via his son.   Well, I’ve been wrong before.  Paulvitch doesn’t survive the first handful of chapters.  He gets things started then – bam – he’s dead.  I was surprised but was really ready to have the Russians out of the picture once and for all.  So, no complaints there.  I was glad to see Akut return – he actually plays a bigger role in this volume than the previous.  It is he who gives Jack the name Korak, the Killer, and becomes his mentor.  I would have loved to have seen Sheeta, but you can’t always get what you want.  Sadly, however, I am left wondering if the sheeta that was killed at the beginning of the story was ours from Beasts.  I hope not, but it’s the law of the jungle and all that. 

The biggest surprise for me was Meriem’s story.  I expected to have the typical Burroughs’ romance plot, but I’d venture a guess to say that she takes up nearly half the book.  We not only learn her background, but we see her growing up and suffering at the hands of an evil Arab long before being rescued and falling in love with Korak.  And as expected, once Korak finds Meriem, and learns that he loves her, we know the two are doomed to be separated by distance and social circumstances, just as we expect every thing to work out in the end.  Which it does – almost too perfectly.

I can honestly say that I was not looking forward to this novel.  (There’s one more that I do not look forward to, but we’ll get there when we get there.)  I was reading Tarzan, daggonit, and I didn’t want to read a book about his son.  I wanted a hero, not someone like “Boy” from the Weismuller films, who only serves as a plot device or side-kick.  When it became evident that Burroughs was going to focus on Korak instead of Tarzan, I felt somewhat relieved.  I still wanted Tarzan, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this point.  When Korak grew to manhood, I was even more relieved, and I never felt like I was reading Tarzan of the Apes retold, though the stories are very similar.  At first I was frustrated when that story was interrupted with Meriem.  When it became evident she was more than the standard love-interest material, I was fairly comfortable with the story.  By the time the story ended, she was much more interesting than Jane in all the previous books combined. 

One thing I absolutely did not care for this time around was the heavy reliance upon coincidence.  Things definitely progressed at the speed of plot convenience here.  First there was Paulvitch being taken to the jungle ilse home of Akut, who happens to take the ape to London, where he almost immediately reconnects with Tarzan.  There were lots more, especially involving Meriem’s ordeals.  As soon as it was shown her being kidnapped as a child,  I automatically knew she would be reunited with her family by the end of the book.  Making her an actual princess in the end was pushing it a bit for me, though.

I did like much of the book and was surprised on occasion.  Korak was more mistrustful and bloodthirsty than his father had ever been.  And there were more Wiesmuller moments – good ones – in this book than the previous.  Akut and Korak have many conversations, but I was more excited to see his relationship with Tantor, which lead to some shocking and bloody moments.  And then Burroughs pulled one on me.  When we meet Bwana and My Darling, I assumed they would be Meriem’s parents.  At one point, I even wondered why My Darling would be teaching her English instead of French.  Of course, as soon as Bwana started stripping when he went into the jungle to find Korak, I knew he was Tarzan.  Like I said, I’ve been wrong before.   By that point, however, I realized I was enjoying the novel much more than I had anticipated. 

Of the first four books, I’d place The Son of Tarzan above Retun and below Beasts.  The first novel was different enough, to me, to be in its own category.  Korak proved to be a very likeable protagonist, the action was there, the fantastical elements, too, with talking to the apes and all.  The big surprise was Meriem who proved to be as interesting as Korak.  I would definitely not mind seeing these two again. 

It’s been fast and furious run so far.  Hope you stay along for the ride! 

Sunday
Apr202014

Quite Quotable

"Tanstaafl." Means "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Wednesday
Apr162014

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

Netrunner

Fortune Street (board gamey video game on the Wii)

Quandary

 

(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.  

Sunday
Apr132014

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

Sunday
Apr062014

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