Board Game Spotlight: Tak

This board game might sound familiar for fans of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, as it appears in the second book of the series, A Wise Man’s Fear. Rothfuss worked with game developer James Ernest to create a real-life version of the game, and it is now available to purchase! Tak is a two-player game which can be described as having the strategy of chess and similar mechanics to checkers. However, that doesn’t tell the full story.

The game comes with a double-sided board, one side with a five-by-five grid, and one with a six-by-six. There are also wooden playing pieces, half cream and half brown. These have flat sides that can either lay flat or stand up, as well as stack on top of each other. Each color also has one capstone, which has special abilities.

The goal of Tak is to use your pieces, called Stones, to create a road from one side of the board to the other. You can connect in any way you would like, though the pieces have to lay side-by-side, not diagonal. A player has several options when it is their turn. They can play a Stone on any square of the grid to try and build their road. They can move a stone they’ve already place, including on top of another player’s Stone to capture that stack. They can place a Wall, which is a stone placed standing on its end. This prevents the other player from taking that square of the grid, but Walls do not count towards building a road. The player can also place a capstone, which cannot be captured, counts towards building a road, and crushes walls.

Play continues until one person completes their road, or all pieces have been placed.

The game itself is well-constructed, with quality wooden pieces and a simple board design which makes it durable. The openness of game play means strategy often changes quickly, and each game feels different from the last, even when played several times with the same person. This is great since the game is a little bit on the expensive side (~$55 USD). You don’t have to be a fan of the Kingkiller Chronicles to play, but fans of the book will likely enjoy having a little bit of Kvothe’s world brought to life.

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Ranking The Wheel of Time Books – Part 1

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

 

So, you have finished the great story that is Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. Of course, there are neither beginnings, nor endings, to the turning (reading) of the Wheel of Time. But it was an ending.

 

It is now the next turning of the Wheel and the time has come for a reread. While you re-read you can clearly remember some of parts in the books, which… were really difficult to get through the previous time around. I can’t be the only one, right? I think we all have those parts, just as we all have parts we can reread time and time again.

 

While the books as a whole are great, (almost) everyone agrees that while the earlier books are filled with world-building and character development, there is slump somewhere in the middle of the series. It makes sense that we will prefer reading some books over others. 

 

I have my own ranking of the WoT books, based both on my personal opinions and what I found online. Mostly my ratings are based on how much I enjoyed the book as a whole, but I also took into account that some books contain important story development that I think make them worthy of a higher ranking.  While all books have some important events, a few trump the other for sheer EPICNESS! 

 

All right, all right, let’s get to the ranking shall we?

 

DISCLAIMER: While some books will necessarily be at the bottom of my ranking, I want to say that I love all the books and do not skip any scenes or *gasp* whole books while I reread.

 


 

NUMBER 15 – Crossroads of Twilight

 

This is one of everyone’s least favorite books; almost all of the rankings I have seen online have this book on last or second to last place. So why is that?

 

As you may remember, the previous book, Winter’s Heart, ended with a VERY important event: the cleansing of saidin. After reading that ending everyone was looking forward to finding out what happens next. Instead what we get in Crossroads of Twilight is the story of what everyone else was doing while Rand and Nyneave were busy cleansing saidin. This book does not provide us with the satisfaction we were craving.

 

Another thing that put many readers off was the focus on Perrin chasing after Shaido to save Faile. I realize this book moves Perrin’s storyline a little bit with this, but I think none of the happenings while he is hunting the Shaido are important to the main arc.  

 

Even so, it is safe to say that the book ended with a unexpected twist: Egwene is betrayed and captured by the White Tower Aes Sedai. This a step forward in Egwene’s story for sure, but it isn’t epics enough to save this book from the bottom ranking.

 

NUMBER 14 – Path of Daggers

 

Another popular opinion is that Path of Daggers should be somewhere at the bottom of the ranking, either last or second to last. I understand this. While we finally get to experience the Bowl of the Winds’ power, which was hinted at in previous books, there isn’t much more happening here.

 

Perrin gets a lot of attention in this book. He adds Morgase (even though he doesn’t know it) and Alliandre added to his party. Shortly thereafter Faile is captured by the Shaido and the whole LONG storyline of saving her starts.

 

Rand goes to fight against Seanchan and we get to can experience his madness up close. Am I alone in saying it made me uncomfortable reading that whole battle? Not alone? Great.

 

What drives the story forward in this book is Egwene and her declaration of war on Elaida. I think the way Egwene managed to convinces the Hall to do this is brilliant, and it clearly demonstrates how much she’s grown.

NUMBER 13 – The Great Hunt

 

You might be surprised (or maybe not, given some of the online rankings) to see Great Hunt on my list at number 13.

 

My reason for putting it here is … well … the plain truth is that I don’t enjoy reading it. There is something about Rand traveling with Loial and Hurin through the Portal Stone world that makes me uncomfortable. Those three plus Selene are such a weird combination of characters to me. Their “adventures” make for such an uninteresting series of events that I just don’t want to read it. (Some people may like this part – I am not judging. Hopefully you don’t judge back.)

 

To top it off, Rand beats a sword master in his first serious sword fight. I mean … what? By this time we know he is the Dragon Reborn and that he will play a very significant role in the series, but to me this scene seems a bit overdone.

 

What IS interesting in this book is that we learn about the Seanchan and we get to hear the Horn of Valere being sounded. Very cool. And, we find out how important our Two Rivers boys actually are.

NUMBER 12 – The Fires of Heaven

 

Quite a few people put The Fires of Heaven book at the very bottom of their lists but I rank it a bit higher. I think the reason people don’t like The Fires of Heaven is because it isn’t as good as the previous book, The Shadow Rising (which is ranked higher – we’ll get to that later).

 

For those of you who like battles, this book is probably way higher in your ranking because of the battle of Cairhien. For me it is just a slow paced explanation of Rahvin’s manipulation of Morgase.

 

Another reason I put this low on my list is because of Moiraine’s (perceived) death. I loved all the books up to this point in part because she was in them, and after this book I missed her so much!

 

One epic moment in this book is when Nynaeve captures Moghedien with an a’dam. Finally some justice, am I right?!

 

NUMBER 11 – Winter’s Heart 

 

I think Winter’s Heart has won some fans’ hearts (hehe) because of the cleansing of saidin at the end. No one can deny that this is one of the major plot points in the Wheel of Time; it is what drives the series forward from this point. I don’t know about any of you, but the cleansing came as a complete surprise to me when I read it for the first time. I didn’t think that Rand was planning something so big and I don’t believe it is ever mentioned or hinted in the previous books.

 

We find meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons and so does Mat. And the Tower Aes Sedai are making some interesting findings about the Black Ajah within the Tower. But all in all that’s about it for Winter’s Heart, isn’t it? Not much happening except for at the end. Many stop reading the series at this point because it has been so slow for the past two books that their desire to find out what happens next disappears.

 

 

Part 2, the middle ranked books, coming soon!

 

 

 

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Minor Key: Talmanes Delovinde

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

Talmanes pulled off one steel-backed gauntlet and put out his hand, but for a moment Mat only stared at it. Lead? Him? I’m a gambler, not a soldier. A lover. Memories of battles long gone spun through his head, but he forced them down. All he had to do was ride on. But then maybe Talmanes would leave Estean and Daerid and the rest to roast. On the spit Mat had hung them from. Even so, it was a surprise to him when he grasped the other’s hand and said, ‘You just be there when you’re supposed to be.’”

–Mat, The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 43​

As he finds himself inexorably drawn into Rand’s war against the Shaido, Mat meets a character who will prove indispensible to his narrative. Determined to escape Rand’s ta’veren influence and head south on his own, Mat stops only to offer advice to a force of Tairen and Cairhienin men he spies walking into a trap. It is an invitation from Talmanes Delovinde, a Cairhienin noble of no little note, which ultimately impels Mat to delay his departure and join the battle instead: “I will lead one half, if you lead the other.” Their shaking of hands symbolically initiates the campaign that will eventuate in Mat’s legendary victory over Couladin and the formation of the second Shen an Calhar, the Band of the Red Hand.[1]

 

Approximately three years older than Mat, which places him in his early twenties, Talmanes is a careful and reserved man who prefers the plain dress of a soldier to that of a lord. Rarely one to smile, he is often considered by those around him to possess nothing in the way of humour—although we certainly see glimpses that suggest just the opposite. Indeed, when the prologue to A Memory of Light gives us our very first scenes from Talmanes’s point of view, we learn that he frequently finds it amusing when others fail to comprehend his deadpan jokes.

 

Talmanes Delovinde. Precedence Entertainment.

In the aftermath of Couladin’s defeat, Talmanes is one of those who pledges to follow Mat, telling him that “Until yesterday I have followed men of other lands because I must. You I will follow because I want to” (TFoH, Ch. 45). From its very creation, Talmanes holds a position of leadership within Mat’s Band. He initially commands the First Banner of the Horse, who call themselves “Talmanes’ Thunderbolts” (LoC, Ch. 22); when the Band increases exponentially in size, he is promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General. Invariably one of Mat’s most trusted officers, he is left in charge of the Band on multiple occasions when Mat is required to travel without it—into Salidar, to Ebou Dar, to the Tower of Ghenjei.

 

Although at one point Mat thinks in consternation that Talmanes “could be almost as eager to go off and charge somebody as Nalesean” (LoC, Ch. 38), his actions reveal him to be a careful observer and a solid commander. From his first meticulous assessment of Mat, Talmanes’s watchful nature continually receives comment within the series. He is consistently among the first to perceive a problem and to grasp the solution. “Wide-eyed and alert” (LoC, Ch. 5), with his “head swiveling constantly” (KoD, Ch. 26) to survey his surroundings, he works to evaluate all conceivable risks on a potential battlefield. On their first meeting, Tuon is impressed by his apt appraisal of the area and the way he accounts even for the possibility of raken, a Seanchan military asset of which he has heard tell but never seen in person.
Though Mat is the undisputed leader of the Band, Talmanes is responsible for a significant portion of its success. It is under Talmanes’s supervision, for example, that the Band more than triples in size, a statistic that astounds Mat when he and Talmanes are reunited in Knife of Dreams after a separation of more than four books. Although it is Mat’s reputation that draws recruits, Talmanes is the one to oversee the intake of thousands of new soldiers while simultaneously securing a contract with the King of Murandy that yields more than a year’s pay for the entire Band.

 

Caemlyn, by Jan Walker.

Likewise, at the dawning of the Last Battle, Talmanes plays a crucial role in rescuing the dragons from the ruins of Caemlyn—an act that has immense significance for both the Band and the fate of humankind itself. Knowing that Caemlyn is lost beyond saving with the forces at hand, Talmanes refuses to commit his men to a senseless attempt to hold the city. Instead, he opts to concentrate on what is absolutely necessary: securing escape for as many civilians as possible and preventing the dragons from falling into enemy hands. Although Talmanes knows that he cannot “reproduce Mat’s blend of insanity and inspiration,” he is also fully aware of what he must do and how he can best do it: “We will retrieve the dragons,” he assures the Band, “but we’ll do it smartly” (AMoL, Prologue).

 

Which is not, of course, to say that they will do it without flair.

 

Footnote:
[1]The first Band of the Red Hand died protecting Aemon al Caar al Thorin, the last King of Manetheren. Mat’s Band is named after it.

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On This Day in Randland: Dahan

Two thousand years before the birth of the Dragon Reborn, the Shadow laid waste to the Westlands for three and a half centuries in what would come to be known as the Trolloc Wars (c. 1000 AB – c. 1351 AB).[1] Incited by Ishamael, who was never fully bound at Shayol Ghul, the Wars shattered much of what had been built in the aftermath of the Breaking. With armies as large as three hundred thousand men sometimes facing even greater armies of Shadowspawn, the loss of life was astronomical. Entire cities and nations were obliterated: Manetheren fell to betrayal, Aridhol to fear and darkness, and others to fire or to slow decay in the years following the Wars.

 

[​IMG]“Sing of Manetheren” by UnderdogMike on DeviantArt.​

 

Despite the monumental destruction unleashed by the Shadow, the Light eventually prevailed, helping to ensure that no Shadowspawn would venture past the Borderlands for almost two millennia. The day of humankind’s ultimate victory is still celebrated in the Westlands today on a holiday named Dahan, which falls on the 9th day of the month of Saven. In our own world, this translates to roughly the 20th of May.[2]

 

In all actuality, the exact date of ultimate victory is uncertain. According to The World of Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time,” the majority of historians in the Westlands “believe the date was arbitrarily chosen” (Ch. 31). In large part, this is because the catastrophic losses caused by the Wars engendered enough confusion that dates and records became suspect. By the time two decades had passed after the end of the Wars, a new calendar system had been adopted in response. Given the series’ investment in the fading of memory to legend and myth, it is perhaps fitting that the date of one of the most important victories in history has been lost to the shrouds of time.

 

It is also not known exactly where or how ultimate victory in the Trolloc Wars occurred or was declared. As it ended “the long push that finally drove the Trollocs back to the Great Blight” (TFoH, Glossary), it can be assumed to have taken place near or within the Mountains of Dhoom, where the former borderland nations of Jaramide and Aramaelle once stood. What is known is that in 1301 AB, a decisive victory for the human armies at the Battle of Maighande turned the tides of war in their favour. Although the Trolloc Wars lasted another fifty long years following the battle, Maighande was the beginning of the end.

 

There are two principal accounts of the Battle of Maighande within the series: the first is one of Mat’s memories, the second a glossary entry on Rashima Kerenmosa. In The Fires of Heaven, we briefly hear tell of the battle as Mat recollects “leading a flanking attack that turned the Trollocs at Maighande” (TFoH, Ch. 49). Later, from the glossary in Lord of Chaos, we learn of Rashima and her five Warders, all of whom fell at Maighande. Known as the Soldier Amyrlin and remembered as one of the strongest leaders in White Tower history, Rashima and her Warders were responsible for killing at least nine Dreadlords and countless Shadowspawn in the battle that took their lives.

 

[​IMG]“Neverborn and Twisted Ones” by PetaloMaM on DeviantArt​

 

Even after the victory now celebrated at Dahan, chaos existed for another century. Little information remains on the Wars themselves and the people who fell to their wrath. Indeed, much of what does exist, such as the fact that Trollocs and Dreadlords once “plundered and burned a part of the White Tower itself” (ACoS, Ch. 11), is hidden in the Thirteenth Depository of the Tower Library, where even most Aes Sedai cannot access it. Stories and fragments and names are often all that remain, and these can be unreliable, as evidenced by the way in which stories about Barashelle and Anselan are wrong on many counts.[3] Enough information still exists, however, that the Trolloc Wars remain a major marker of time in the Westlands–not only in terms of the holiday that celebrates their end, but as a measure of all that has been lost and gained in the time since.

 

Footnotes:
[1] The Toman Calendar designated years following the Breaking of the World as Years AB (After Breaking). Information on the multiple calendar systems used in the Westlands post-breaking can be found in the Glossary to each book, as well as in The World of Robert Jordan’s ‘The Wheel of Time.’
[2] Details on the Feasts and Festivals celebrated in various nations are given in The World of Robert Jordan’s ‘The Wheel of Time.’ For information on how the calendar used by the characters in the series matches up with our own, visit our page on the Farede Calendar in the TarValon.Net Library.
[3]As revealed by Birgitte, Barashelle was an Aes Sedai during the Trolloc Wars. Because she bonded a man while still Accepted, she was forced to release the bond and was punished for three years before being raised to Aes Sedai. After her raising, her new Warder, Anselan, was chosen for her. Two thousand year slater, love stories are told about how Barashelle had to complete some “long, arduous service to earn Anselan’s love,” and make no reference to their being Aes Sedai and Warder (TFoH, Ch. 37).

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TarValon.Net’s April Wrap-Up

Here’s the collection of April’s events here at TarValon.Net!

Raisings

Job Postings

Positions Appointed

Events

Posts of Note

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