Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Killjoy scientist John Boardman returns, along with a colleague, James Smolen, to offer up two articles on extraterrestrial life. The first, "An Exozoological Sampler," offers up six creatures from other worlds. Accompanying the article is another "Alien Life Forms," which is an overview of scientific speculation at the time regarding the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe. Boardman and Smolen suggests that life may be quite common among the stars but intelligent life exceedingly rare. Likewise, they suggest that any such life may be so unlike human beings as to be difficult to come to any understanding with -- not exactly the stuff of good gaming!
This issue's complete game is The Wreck of the B.S. M. Pandora by James Dunnigan, Redmond Simonsen, and David Ritchie. The game concerns a crashed survey ship, the Pandora, which is transporting alien life forms to human space for study. The game, for one to five players, simulates the efforts of surviving crew members to recapture the escape life forms, repair their ship, and get it back into space so that it can reach its intended destination. It's actually a neat little game, both for its schematized representation of the ship and its clever system for determining the reactions of alien life forms to different crew members, based on their behavior.
There's a lengthy article by L. Sprague de Camp, "Conan: Illusion and Reality," about which I've written before. To call it next to worthless is an understatement. However, it is a reminder of the state of Howard studies prior to the renaissance that occurred in the later '80s and especially in the 1990s. But for a handful of stalwarts, I don't think too many people take De Camp very seriously as a scholar or interpreter of REH, thank goodness.
As in the premier issue, a significant portion of issue #2 is taken over by reviews of all kinds: books, movies, and games. The reviews this time around are less snarky but generally no more positive. On the other hand, they're longer and more detailed. So, when Eric Goldberg deems Magic Realm to have "fall[en] flat on its face" in trying to its lofty design goals, he at least explains why he feels it has failed. Still, after re-reading this issue, it's hard to shake the feeling that the crew at SPI were difficult to please -- either that or they just liked to complain ...