Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ninja! (Way of the Tiger book 0) review

Hello, gamebookers!  I'm excited to be giving you this weeks blog post, because my good friend David Walters has given me a sneak peak of Ninja!, the new Way of the Tiger prequel.  As we all know, there is a Kickstarter going on to bring Way of the Tiger back.  The Kickstarter is on almost $32000 and it reached its target within 24 hours of being launched; however, there are plenty of great stretch goals in $5000 increments and there are 6 days left (at time of publishing) to make your pledge.  I for one would like to hit the $50000 stretch goal where the series gets keywords.  That would tighten up the gameplay here, but that's just me.  You want to hear what Ninja! is about, don't you.

Ninja! is definitely an excellent addition to the series and it's not just because the title is a noun with an exclamation point after it, like all of the other books.  The prequel fits in very well.

Here is the story:  the events of this book take place before the scrolls have been stolen after the scrolls have been stolen, but before you set out to get them back.  You and four other Kwon worshipers (a mixture of monks and ninjas) go to the Island of Plenty in order to complete a series of tests and become a grand master.  These tests involve infiltrating certain buildings and stealing flags.  You have to do this twice.  This is not particularly difficult in itself - the trick is competing against your fellow students.

However, as it turns out, this will be no simple contest.  As soon as you land, it turns out that the place where the first flag is held has been taken over by ronin.  I don't want to spoil the rest of the book, but let's just say that it doesn't get any better for a heroes there - it gets a lot worse.  There is a mystery at the heart of the book - someone is trying to kill off all the Kwon worshippers and it is up to you and your four companions to find out who and stop them.

David has done a great job in tying this prequel into the rest of the series.  It is a difficult thing to do as there are six books worth of events that David can't tamper with by introducing a character too early.  However, he still manages to find some familiar faces, such as Gorobei and the Monks of the Scarlet Mantis.  The characters in your book are well written and thought out - upon learning of these attempts on your life, your character blames Yaemon, which is understandable, considering that he killed your step father.  There is also a difference in attitude between the monks and the ninjas which demonstrates their different approach.

David has also done fun stuff with the combat system.  The Way of the Tiger system is simple yet utilises a range of options that people might forget about.  There are combats where you need to use your inner strength to increase the damage you deal as you only have a certain number of rounds.  There is a combat where blocking is useful.  There are combats where you can use shuriken and poison needles and there is also a combat where you have to use nothing but throws.  David has really pushed the boundaries of the system.

So Ninja!  will make an awesome addition to the series.  And you can get it if you pledge on the Kickstarter.

$15 will get you the pdf of Ninja, but you could also get the beautiful hard back books that Megara is famous for.

Go on!  Have a pledge!  You know you want to!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Necklace of Skulls review

Necklace of Skulls is an excellent mold breaking gamebook from Dave Morris where your hero is in the Maya who sets out to avenge their twin brother after he went to Visit an evil wizard known as the Necklace
of Skulls.

The gamebook places you in a world deeply steeped in myth and magic - you can travel through the underworld, fight a hydra, meet a god and even become immortal (which in game terms, means that you can only die in a sudden death paragraph.  Life loss no longer means anything.  And this is not even a trap where you have to choose between this and winning.  You can become immortal AND win at the end too).

The gameplay depends on you choosing skills.  There are no random elements, so no dice to roll and no frustrating random deaths.  The skills are all balanced and skills that might not seems so powerful, such as etiquette, folklore and cunning are just as useful as the more powerful skills such as magic and swordplay.

As well as the fantastic encounters, you also get to explore the culture that you live in - for example, you could learn a sacred game which will come in very handy later on in the book.

The book culminates in visiting the city of Necklace of Skulls where you have to overcome various challenges before you see him.  Then you have to take part in the sacred game in order to get your brother back and destroy the Necklace of Skulls himself.

The game itself is challenging but the choices are logical. It also has several options and uses of skills that may not be the obvious ones to take, but Dave Morris has some good explanations as to why they work.

As with a lot of his gamebooks, Necklace of Skulls has the feel that you are living in a world of myth and
legend that you get to explore.  The gameplay is balanced and there are multiple paths through the book that, along with the skill choices, enhance the replayability of the book.  Buy this unique treasure among the world of gamebooks.

You can buy Necklace of Skulls as a paperback for £6.99 or as a Kindle ebook for £2.99.  Also, have a look at the other books available in the Critical IF series.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Heart of Ice

Heart of Ice has recently been re-released as part of the Critical IF range for  Kindle and paperback.  I read the original version a few years ago.  Back then, I thought it was one of the best gamebooks ever, if not the best.  And now, Dave Morris has made it even better.

It's a big statement, but now I'm going to back it up.

So what's going on?  In the far future, the Earth's climate has been destroyed by a computer program known as Gaia, which has been infected with a virus that has driven it haywire.  Most of the planet is covered in arctic waste, apart from the bits that are covered in hostile jungle.  Humanity will probably be extinct in a century's time, so the rich live lives of hedonism and decadence while the rest of humanity struggle to survive.

One day, you hear Gaia talk to you through a TV screen where she tells you of the Heart of the Volent, which will grant ultimate power to whoever takes it, and so starts your quest to find it.

The writing does an excellent job of communicating the bleakness and hopelessness of the world you live in and you can get to see lots of it.  Dave Morris describes everything vividly from arctic wasteland to hot jungle to crazed mutants.  You really get the feel that you are in a hostile world.

On the game side, there is no randomness, and so no frustrating deaths from die rolls.  There is also plenty of variety as you can take several routes to reach your goal and also choose 4 skills from a list of 10 which will depend on which situations you should deal with.

The structure of the adventure is one of the things that makes it so special.  Your journey allows you to really explore the world you live in.  As you do, you find other people after the Heart of the Volent and get to either interact with them or learn about them.  The characters in this story are all interconnected and they all have their own special MO which makes them all formidable characters in their own right.  Meeting with them allows you to learn about them or make some friends or enemies which may become important later.

You may also get to talk to Gaia more or learn more about the Heart of the Volent.  It turns out that this powerful artefact is not all that it seems to be and Gaia has a reason for sending you to look for it.

Eventually, you will fin the temple where the heart is located and find many other people there looking for it, some of whom you may have met on your way here.  This is where things really start to hot up - you can form alliances with certain characters when you go to explore the dangerous temple, but these alliances might break as soon as your perceived use may be over.  You don't know who to trust in this game, but you will still need the help of others to reach the Heart of the Volent.

Eventually, you might find it and this leads to one of the other wonderful things about this gamebook - it
presents a situation where you really have to decide what you think is best.  There are several endings and different people will have different opinions on what they will think the best ending is.  None of the endings involve you saving the world and giving humanity a lasting peace and happiness, but it is up to you to choose what you think is the best ending.  In a format where your choice for endings rests between 'you win' and 'you die', this gives the book a sense of gravitas that most gamebooks do not have.

The writing does an excellent job of communicating the bleakness and hopelessness of the world you live in and you can get to see lots of it.

On the game side, there is no randomness, and so no frustrating deaths from die rolls.  There is also plenty of variety as you can take several routes to reach your goal and also choose 4 skills from a list of 10 which will depend on which situations you should deal with.

So Heart of Ice is a fantastic gamebook - one of the best, if not the best gamebook out there.  It has a real sense of story with deep, well thought out characters, an immersive setting and several great endings, where you decide which one is the best.  Buy it immediately!

Heart of Ice is available for £1.96 on Kindle and £5.87 in paperback form.  And if you love that, why not have a look at the other gamebooks in the Critical IF range.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gamebook fun!

Good day to you all gamebookers! 2013 is proving to be a gamebooktastic year and here are some of the
treats that you can enjoy this October.

Fighting Fantazine issue 12! The latest issue of Fighting Fantazine is out!  Take a look at its great Sci fi adventure, read an interview with Robin Waterfield and take a look at all the latest news and reviews amongst other goodies.  Also, be sure to read all of the reviews as there are instructions to get a free pdf gamebook somewhere in them.

Windhammer competition!   There are 14 entries for this year's Winhammer competition.  Read them and vote for 3 of them.  Voting is open until 31st October.

Way of the Tiger!  In case you haven't heard, Megara Entertainment will be bringing back this classic gamebook series.  It has already raised $21676 which means that it has hit its target and also the stretch goal that the new book 7, Redeemer! will be fully illustrated.  Also, we have the treat of a prequel book, Ninja!, written by ninja maestro, David Walters.  There are many more stretch goals so head on over to the Kickstarter page and make your pledge.  It is well worth it to have these fantastic gamebooks with the added gorgeous touch that Megara gives.

Join us for Sunday, when I release a review of what I think is one of the best gamebooks of all time, if not the best.  I have mentioned it before, but on Sunday, I will go into why I think this is the case.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Turning Titan characters into magic the gathering cards

I've found an online Magic the Gathering card creator and with it, I will make Magic the Gathering cards of six famous Titan wizards - the Star Pupils and the Demonic Three.

The Healer

This character's card has pretty obvious abilities.  As a healer, it prevents damage.  He can also remove diseases in the form of -1/-1 counters.  However, his disease prevents him from actively taking part in combat.


The old wizard has a few tricks up his sleeve.  As we know from Forest of Doom, he can turn you into a frog.  He also creates small magical trinkets to sell to adventurers to help them in their quests or he may teach them spells.  This is represented by his +1/+1 counter ability.


Nicodemus does not like to be bothered which is why he goes away if you do not pay his upkeep cost and why he has shroud.  Nicodemus is a retired badass wizard who now hands out helpful (usually) advice to adventurers now which is why you can draw two extra cards at the beginning of your draw step but then you have to discard one as sometimes he gets things wrong.

Balthus Dire

Using my conversion table, Balthus should have a power of 4 and a toughness of 6.  Balthus makes tokens as he is rasing an army to invade the Vale of the Willow.  His collection of dangerous spells is represented by his damage ability.


The Warlock of Firetop Mountain can come back to life if he is killed as long as he has body parts to bring him back.  He is also able to gain control of many creatures and command them to guard his mountain or conquer Allansia.

Zharradon Marr

Marr's experiments in Marrangha where he uses the parts of captured creatures in an attempt to create the ultimate weapon.  This is why he can destroy creatures.  Also, if he puts more effort into his magic, he can create better beasts.

What other characters could we make into Magic cards?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Writing the Way of the Tiger prequel part 2 - a guest post by David Walters

Good day to you all, gamebook lovers!  Today, we have another great guest post from the fantastic David Walters who is writing the prequel book to the Way of the Tiger series, Ninja!  

In case you don't know, David, Mark Smith, Jamie Thomson and the guys from Megara have all teamed up to recreate the popular 80s gamebook series, Way of the Tiger with the prequel and also book 7, Redeemer!, which means that our hero can finally get out of that blasted spider's web from book 6.  

Only 5 days in, the kickstarter has managed to raise a fantastic $15070, which puts it on its first stretch goal.  There are stretch goals that go all the way up to $100000, so your money is still needed and who can say no to a superb gamebook series crossed with beauty that graces all of Megara's works?

In case you don't know just how fantastic they are, take a look at my reviews for book 1 and book 2 on my other blog.

I'm hosting part 2 of David's series on his experience writing the prequel to an already established gamebook series.  Part 1 can be found on the blog of Brewin' and part 3 will is on Scott' Malthouse's Trollish Delver blog.  Enjoy!

Part two: the benefits in writing a prequel to an already established series:

I’m David Walters, and I was tasked with writing the prequel story to the Way of the Tiger books, a series of six ninja gamebooks set on the world of Orb. I found there were a few advantages to writing a prequel as I undertook the task, which I’ve mentioned below.

The world is already there

By writing for an already established series I found that I already had a wealth of places, characters and cultural references (including the gods of Orb) to draw on. This allowed me to concentrate my efforts more on story and character, as the setting of Orb was already richly detailed. The ninja skills and background of the main character was already detailed as well, which made it clear what kind of choices Avenger might have to available during encounters. In many ways I could use the detailed background to inspire interesting scenes.

You can explore the main character (and other characters) more

The readers may already know what Avenger does in other books, but a prequel gave me the chance to explore the backstory. This lets the reader choose what kind of events shaped Avenger into the character that they have come to know and love. I was also able to deepen some of the other characters a little: after reading the prequel the reader will hopefully better understand why in book 1 the Grandmaster of the Dawn was so willing to send Avenger out alone on such an important quest. Other characters could also be explored by having choices in dialogue that led to different information, showing more character background.


I did not need to spend any time creating rules for this gamebook as they already existed and had been extensively ‘road tested’ in the main series. This meant that I could focus more on crafting the story and its interesting choices without worrying as much on what rules to use. The rules (such as the ninja special skills) also gave a clear direction as to how to set up some of the scenes of the prequel which were to then use those skills.

Creative direction

I did not need to worry about which direction to take Avenger as it was already set out in later books. This meant that I could spend my time ensuring a good fit with the rest of the series through references to characters and situations already familiar to fans. I also had the benefit of an established backstory of Avenger’s childhood and training which meant I did not have to establish one especially for the prequel.