Here is my feedback for Peledgathol, the Last Fortress by Ashton Saylor who won a merit award in this year's Windhammer competition.
Fariness of dice
If you make the right choices then all combats you fight would involve enemies having a skill 2 higher than yours, making it easy to defeat them with a 1d6. The exceptions are a giant spider with a skill 4 higher than yours but only 1 strength, meaning that you have 3 chances to roll a 5-6 on 1 die and a giant goblin that you don’t have to fight.
When determining the success of a military mission or the number of dwarves who come to your fort or the number of battle points your get, 2d6 may be a big range.
The book is quite difficult to win. It is a strategy game in a gamebook and I failed a few times, but I was satisfied with my success. It is a good challenge, not too easy or hard.
First time died fighting goblins paragraph 93.
Died on 82
Died on 89.
Turned into Devra on page 20
Died on my next go because by battle score was too low.
I won on my next go because I realised that the way of winning is by getting the resources in the right order (ore first so that you can make weapons and then get 80 extra warriors and a general if you use the apprentice craftsdwarf) to upgrade my fort then obtaining lots of extra commoners and warriors.
There are plenty of options for you and decisions for you to make – where should you make your fortress? What should you do with each season? Which part of the caves should you escape through? There are plenty of things that you can do.
Puzzle solver appeal
The puzzle comes when you determine how to deploy your forces and obtain as many battle points as possible. It also comes with the order in which you do things over the seasons in order to maximise your defences and get as many warriors as possible.
The solution to the puzzle is working out what to do at the beginning (so you have the correct resources to start with), where to put your fortress and in what order you do the seasonal actions.
It’s good that you don’t get rewarded for taking too many risks and that fits the situation – your character is a responsible king, not some lone adventurer. You also have to lose resources or people on your journey and that is something that the king has to deal with. Berek Stonewhisper doesn’t make it so sacrifice is inevitable. You need to know how to minimise the losses.
There are plenty of interesting characters and your interaction with them is a big part of the book as you have to lead them and, in some cases, be responsible for their deaths.
The story itself is quite an archetypal one – you are thrust into a huge role of responsibility and have to complete a long journey then kill your family’s killer.
Who I voted for
This year, I voted for Peledgathol, the Last Fortress for its strategy system and having a story where you have to make difficult choices and A strange Week for King Melchion the Despicable for its puzzles and story with a great twist.