Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Computer games - Battle for Wesnoth

Battle for Wesnoth is a brilliant turn based fantasy strategy game for the low low price of $0.  I had a period where I just played that game in all of my free time and if you played it, you could see why. 

The concept is quite simple.  You are the commander of an army from a particular classic fantasy faction (humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, dragonfolk, Lizardfolk, Merfolk being the most common).  You then summon units which you move around a hex map across different terrains in order to destroy the other faction. 

That is the essence of it but there are many aspects to the strategy of Wesnoth which make it so great.  The map is made up of different terrains which have different effects on defence and movement.  They are quite intuitive - for example, mountains offer the best defence and take up the biggest number of movement points.

There are also castle hexes which allow you to summon your units.  You cannot, however, summon whatever you want.  You are limited by a list and how much gold you have.  You get more gold by owning village hexes.  Units that stop in villages for a whole turn are healed. 

There are many different types of unit - each faction has variations on a theme.  There are units that are good at offense, units that are good at defence, units that heal, units that are fast, mounted units, units that are good at ranged attack (they still have to attack from an adjacent square but if the defender does not have a ranged attack then they cannot fight back) and units with special attacks such as slowing attacks or poisonous attacks.

Also, units gain experience with each battle or kill.  If they get enough, they can level up and become more powerful.  Most units start at level 1 and can go up to level 3.  If you are playing a story game then you can carry any surviving units over to the next scenario.

I haven't even got round to unit alignment (chaotic, lawful or neutral) and how the time of day affects their attacks or how the game accounts for different attack types and how each unit has a resistance score for each type.  There are several more subtle details like this that make the game a great exercise in strategy. 

If all Wesnoth had were scenarios where you pick or create a map, your faction and an enemy faction, I could still play the game for ages.  however, it goes much further than that as the game also provides several story based games (campaigns) with interlinked scenarios.  The stories are far from the standard 'kill all the opponents' aim and usually have some great plot twists such as the original campaign Heir to the Throne.  Each scenario in a campaign offers a some interesting strategy choices.  Some scenarios involve you going from A to B.  Some involve you you killing a certain number of units.  Some involve you surviving a certain number of turns.  As well as the official aim, you also have to make sure that your units are getting enough experience so that they will level up for the more difficult, later scenarios. 

On top of that, there are an infinite number of other scenarios and eras (collections of new factions with interesting units) available from Battle for Wesnoth's large and dedicated fanbase - enough to keep you happy for months.

Battle for Wesnoth is simple to learn yet very deep in terms of strategy, its rules providing an infinite number of units, scenarios and campaigns.  It will surely keep you hooked for months. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Future plans part 1 - gamebook theory

Hello gameboookers. I hope you are having a fab time, wherever and whenever it may be. I'm writing with my planned response to this post with what you want.

The top three things, getting 13, 12 and 11 clicks were gamebook theory, interviews and kickstarter alerts. I'll address each of those individually then I'll address the bottom answers.

Gamebook theory

So a lot of you want to write a gamebook? Well, I can help with that. I ahve written a few posts on how to write a gamebook, but I realise that they are getting several years old. All of the "main" posts have been written and the remaining posts I have leftover from when I wrote a massive batch are on "minor" things. however, since writing these posts, I have done a lot more gamebook writing, which is why I want to revisit and update various posts. The ones I have in mind are listed below:

How to write a gamebook series (makes sense, I guess)

Dice (and other random elements) in gamebooks

Types of Choice (links in with a Bestiary of Player Agency)

Gamebooks for dummies


Magic systems


GameBOOKS vs GAMEbooks

Gamebooks that feel dangerous vs gamebooks that are dangerous

Enjoyable and challenging vs unfair and frustrating

Gamebook player types

Morality in gamebooks


Food and water

Minigames and puzzles

Once I have revisited them and refined my outlook, I can apply again and then refine it. In the long long term, I will be able to distill all the important points into a book about how to write a gamebook.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


In case you didn't know, Alexis Smolensk, writer of the Tao of DnD blog is also making a podcast now with his daughter. In podcast 5, he talks about scarcity and raises some good points about how scarcity can create interesting choices and also good adventures in order to get those items. Having too many resources leads to players not really needing to make any decisions about how to distribute them.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Our survey says...

Back in the April A to Z, I released a form asking for what you want form Lloyd of Gamebooks. You can still fill it in if you haven't already.

Here are the results so far, from 15 respondents:

What do you want to see from Lloyd of Gamebooks?

Gamebook playthroughs                                                         5

Gamebook theory                                                                   13

Articles on RPGs, boardgames and computer games             9

Kickstarter alerts                                                                     10

Interviews with gamebook authors                                         12

News of releases                                                                      11

Legend of the Wayfarer                                                           6

Other                                                                                        2

Here are the comments that people left:

In a post in the near future, I'm going to lay out my plan for this. In the mean time, you can still add your opinion.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Gamebook Feed - time for seconds

Hello, my lovelies!

Just a little note to say that The Gamebook Feed is working again. For some reason, it just stopped posting when 2016 started. Maybe it game up posting as a new year's resolution?

In case you don't know, I created The Gamebook Feed as a way to automate collection of news on gamebooks. I did it using Feedly and IFTTT. To find out how, go here.

There are a few more blogs that I have added to the feed:

Interactive Visual Gamebook Adventures 

There is an excellent in depth analysis of gamebooks on this blog and I look forward to every post.

Way of the Tiger Playthrough

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Mrs Giggles gamebook reviews 

Mrs Giggles reviews gamebooks. Her reviews are entertaining to read and she is hard to please.

Skill, Stamina, Luck and Lies

Cellar Dweller attempts to discover if it is possible to play the Fighting Fantasy books with a skill of 7, a stamina of 14 and a luck of 7.

If you have some more gamebook or interactive fiction blogs that I could add, please leave a comment. Which reminds me, the gamebook feed is now comments by members only as I had tons of spam on it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

minigames in gamebooks

Gamebooks have always utilised a wide range of methods to determine success or failure, ranging from random rolls to trivia quizzes to riddles to maths problems, but they also included minigames.  I'm going to try to define it as a game that is not the main part of the gamebook, but a separate challenge that is used to determine success or failure.  Now, I could spend ages trying to define what a game is, but I will trust your own idea on that and if you would like to know more, I will refer you to the modern Library of Alexandria.

There were occasional minigames in paper gamebooks, such as Curse of the Mummy, where you had to work out which move you should make in a boardgame.  The Forgotten spell also includes minigames.

However, the introduction of gamebook apps has made minigames possible.  For example, Warlock's Bounty is a gamebook app where combat is decided with Magic the Gathering style cards, the Khare app from Inkle has a game called Swindlestones and the 8th Continent by Patrick Garrett has several mini games - combat is card based, finding things involves playing a version of bejewelled and reading your father's journal involves working out a code.

This got me thinking about minigames and their use.  I like mini games in books as it is something to focus on and work out.  It provides an intellectual challenge that depends on skill which is refreshing if most things are determined randomly or by choices you make which have consequences which have some degree of arbitrariness.

I have found one issue with mini games however.  Games which have no variance - you have to do the same thing to win - and don't allow you to skip them become a waste of time.  It is fine in Warlock's Bounty where every combat will be different based on the randomly drawn cards, but if I know how to crack a game every time, I no longer want to play it.