How did I come
to design the new board game, Tarzan Triumphant: I am the Apeman?
Hereís the short version of a long story, plus some tips for play.
My first encounter with Tarzan of the Apes was on a comic book spinner
rack, where I discovered a Gold Key comic featuring a chapter from Russ
Manningís multi-part adaptation of Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar.
That comic led me to a musty alcove at the back of the Public Library.
First I read Tarzan and the Lost Empire, and wasnít impressed.
But when I discovered the novelization of Tarzan and the Jewels of
Opar, I was hooked. For a new reader still learning who the character
was, when Tarzan loses his memory and has to rediscover his identity, itís
the perfect introduction.
The origin in Tarzan of the Apes soon followed. My parents bought
me the uniform Ballantine paperback set, and I read the entire series,
one a day, one book after another. A few weeks later, the African continent
seemed filled with lost cities, and the repeating theme of Tarzanís amnesia
and the number of Apeman impersonators really jumped out at me.
Through every book, I enjoyed the fantasy of living the life of Tarzan;
pure and unencumbered and filled with wild adventure and travel to exotic
locales. Edgar Rice Burroughs created a literary fixture with his tales
of this noble savage, an orphan of doomed castaways who was raised by wild
animals and grew up to slay his father's killer and rule over the beasts.
Tarzan ultimately claimed a mantle of British nobility, and fought for
and won the true love of his life.
There's no doubt about it, Burroughs' imaginative writings really inspired
me as a child. His books were a strong influence in me becoming a writer
myself. I taught myself to type in Grade School, just to be able to tell
my stories more effectively, and wrote several novels with a shared history
where mankind had previously migrated into space and colonized the brightest
stars in the night sky, called the Wild Stars.
After I opened my first comic book store in 1982, I began adapting the
foundation story arc of the large tapestry of Wild Stars in comic form.
I drew the early issues myself, and later hired professional artists. That
first major arc took over 20 years to publish. During the creation of those
comics, I had an idea for a boardgame that incorporated many elements from
the story. But since some of those elements involved surprises from the
series finale, I waited the 20 years for the completion of Wild Stars:
The Book of Circles, before showing the concept to a local game publisher;
Lords. They were skeptical about how a boardgame could possibly employ
such elements as time travel as a form of movement. But once they saw the
concept, they were interested.
So I worked up a prototype of the Wild Stars: Celestial Clockwork
boardgame, a game of galactic conquest with unique player movements like
none before. It was during the final stages of that game's creation when
I conceived another boardgame that at first I called Jungle Chess.
Then... I named it what it really was:
Tarzan Triumphant: I am the Apeman.
For obvious reasons, the fellows at Troll Lords felt that Tarzan was
a more recognizable name than Wild Stars. So... after a license had been
secured from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., the Apeman's adventure game jumped
to first place on the release schedule.
Tarzan Triumphant: I am the Apeman is a game designed specifically
for anyone who has ever read a Tarzan novel, comic, or watched one of the
movies. As with my own Wild Stars, Iíve incorporated many elements from
the source material. Tarzan Triumphant employs numerous concepts,
characters, and locales from the romantic jungle world created by Edgar
The problem with past games dealing with Tarzan, was the limiting factor
that there can be only one Apeman. I turned this disadvantage into an asset.
Sure, there can only be one real Tarzan. But, as in the novels, there can
also be many imitators. And Tarzan has been hit on the head so many times
during his often violent life, that he has to be suffering from repetitive
head trauma. Having suffered a few sports related concussions myself, I
can relate to the Apeman being prone to forgetting who he is.
The game starts with two to seven players, all of whom are certain that
they are the real Tarzan. But only the true Tarzan can prevail in the dangerous
jungle nestled between the Oparian escarpment and the impenetrable swamps
of prehistoric Pal-ul-don, where eight lost cities of Edgar Rice Burroughs'
creation lay hidden.
The players chose from 7 different Tarzan playing pieces, each sculpted
in the likeness of an actor who portrayed Tarzan in the movies. You'd can
choose from Elmo, Johnny, Gordon, Jock (whom Iíve been told is a distant
cousin), and others. The players can then prove who is the real Tarzan.
Each player starts out in their own lost city, with 18 faithful waziri
warriors and 9 animal allies... the animal types differing for each Tarzan.
Personally, Iíll take an army of prehistoric three-horned Gryfs. But you
can also choose from a pride of golden lions, a tribe of Great Apes, or
a herd of elephants, rhinos, or others.
Your waziri warriors can only travel along the Golden Streets of the
8 Lost Cities, and the Ivory Trails that crisscross the jungle. Your animal
allies, however, can travel both these paths and through the green vastness
of the jungle.
In keeping with the original Jungle Chess concept, your Tarzan
piece is like a combination of the King and Queen Chess pieces. Not only
can Tarzan move farther than any other piece, he has no limit to his movement.
Tarzan can go anywhere that there is a hex space. Just like in the books,
Tarzan can climb impassable mountains, swim swollen rivers, and cross impenetrable
swamps. But be careful, while Tarzan can pause while climbing a mountain
face, you canít end a movement in the middle of water, or youíll drown.
However, if you're like Esteban in Tarzan and the Golden Lion, and
are confronted with being an impostor, you too can option to run away and
end your game in a river.
Each turn, a player makes three moves. He or she can move three different
pieces once each, or move one piece twice and a second piece once, or move
one piece three times. Since your Tarzan piece can move farther than any
other piece, with a triple move Tarzan can do incredible things... just
like in the books. But, again, be careful. If you lose your Tarzan piece
by being foolish... youíre out of the game, because the true Tarzan will
take his revenge on all impostors.
Game play has two modes. The first has each Tarzan and his jungle allies
trying to conquer the lost city of Opar. Control the five gates of this
ancient Atlantean outpost, and you win the game. This is not a game for
The second game mode is the race to rescue Jane. Tarzan's one true love
has been trapped inside the treasure vaults of Opar. Tarzan must race against
the impostors to rescue her, but he and his allies must also dig her out
of the treasure that is piled around her. Once Jane has been rescued, Tarzan
must then return her safely to the Lost City from which he began. But watch
out! Not only must Tarzan defend his city from the impostors, on the way
back everyone will be trying to steal Jane away. Once Jane is returned,
the treasure is tallied and the winner determined. And with Jane being
Tarzanís greatest treasure of all, she multiplies the wealth of her Apeman.
Again, it's all just like in the books.
This is a game that's simple to learn, but complicated to play. It's
all about movement... and how determined the player is to prove that he
is Tarzan Triumphant:
I am the Apeman!