Sam Bledsoe grew up in Roane County in East Tennessee, graduated from the University of North Carolina and then served in the Navy for four years. After working at various jobs in Chattanooga, Nashville and Lexington, he returned to East Tennesee to be near his family.
In 1975, Sam invented a strategy board game with a Middle Earth theme and named it Trounce. That game used playing pieces that represented wizards, elves and gnomes. Eventually Trounce morphed into the science fiction game that is known today as Zanoba. In 2005, he began writing a trilogy of novels to complement the board game. His first novel in the trilogy was a Sci-
Next came the creation of the Senoobian language, Kuterin, with a complete manual. The idea was to create a complete brand that would offer a broader fantasy experience by having a unique game, story line and alien language that would complement each other and appeal to young and old alike. He is working on the third novel The Obeldazi.
INTERVIEW WITH THE INVENTOR
How is Zanoba different from other strategy games?
There are a number of ways that Zanoba is different. Perhaps the best way to think about it is to compare it with Chess. It is the same kind of thinking game as Chess but, in my opinion, it’s not only different but easier to learn and quicker to play, although just as intense. The board is an unusual design that makes you think in new ways. Besides that, it's my intention and hope that Zanoba will be not just a game but a way to promote a healthy lifestyle and and thinking skills that will be beneficial to all players.
What are the benefits of playing Zanoba?
First of all, it's a terrific mental workout. Current research seems to indicate that mental exercises like working crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and playing card games as well as diet and physical exercise can ward off age-related diseases like dementia. Besides keeping you sharp, I believe Zanoba can be a healthy break from the stresses of daily life. It’s good because it’s different and fun. Secondly and perhaps just as important, it's a great way to connect with other people in a competitive but constructive way. One of the attitudes I hope our players learn is that it’s healthy and constructive to be intensely competitive but you don’t have to be the top player to be a winner. By just making the effort to play and make friends, you become more confident and you become a winner. Every body can’t be #1, but if you make the effort and give it your best shot, you're definitely a winner.
Why did you choose an outer space setting or theme for Zanoba?
I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery and the beauty of our cosmos. When I first created the game that would become Zanoba many years ago, it was based on a Middle Earth kind of theme with Elves, Wizards and Gnomes. I called it Trounce. It was quite nice visually and very interesting but, in the end, I decided that science fiction themes would never go out of style and that was the way to go. Judging from the many Science Fiction movies over the years, I think we would all agree that science fiction is an enduring and popular genre.
Who should play Zanoba?
Everyone! It’s a great game for young people and I mean even kids as young as eight years old. But it’s really good for everybody, even older folks like me. The problem is that the older we get, the less inclined we seem to be to make the effort to exercise, either physically or mentally. Yet, those are both important.
How are the top players recognized for their success?
It is my goal to recognize the top players in counties and states with trophies. But winners of tournaments between schools and other groups can also be recognized with Certificates of Recognition.
How old is Zanoba?
It’s been in the making for some 30 years and it only reached its current form in 2015, after I retired from a business career. For lack of time I put it on the backburner for many years while I pursued a career and raised a family.
What have you learned from other Science Fiction works?
Although I love sci-fi, I actually don't read other writer's science-fiction very much. I don't want to be influenced by their stories and characters or to risk taking on their styles by osmosis. I want what I write to be fresh and "raw" and original although it may not be as "polished" as what some of the really smart and experienced writers are turning out today. Having said that, I do watch every science-fiction movie and have enjoyed Avatar, Prometheus, Elysium, The Martian, Gravity and Ex Machina as well as the old standbys Star Trek and Star Wars. There are so many great ones.