Friday, 17 February 2023

                                     DISCOVERING  THE  SECRETS  OF  SALAMONIS

                                Is it just me or is the cover a tad dull with muted colour ?

                     And the gold foil letters on my copy are already beginning to flake and fade....

Based on two attempts so far, I am giving this one a tentative thumbs up but with grave reservations.

You have to wonder just how much of this book was actually written by Steve Jackson and how much of it

we can attribute to Jonathan Green ?

The opening section is an almost total disaster with it's puerile tone and misguided attempts to be

broadly humorous. I also didn't care for how we are told about what we are saying to other characters.

And a talking dog ? That nearly killed it stone dead for me.

Mercifully, things picked up after I fooled the dwarves with a card trick. A little voice in my head kept saying

" Ok this is more like it ! "

Training, exploring and choosing of quests kept me happy until I perished once more in the sink pits of Bu Fon Fen.

By that stage ,a warm glow of nostalgia was flowing through me as I realised that FF and Steve Jackson had come full circle.

Looking forward to further playthroughs !

Note to first time readers : don't be discouraged by the early section - persevere and you will be rewarded !

For what it's worth, here is my full review - warning - may contain minor spoilers !

A confession up front- I had to cheat in order to progress to the final section of the book.

At times, it felt as if I were reading CREATURE OF HAVOC REDUX, almost like a tour of old haunts from that previous

( and far superior ) adventure. Nothing wrong with re-visiting a classic but it just felt like a re-hash at times.

The GOOD points - The art is very impressive - clear and concise- always a plus in a FF book.

- The Shriekers are a truly frightening adversary and the mystery behind them is ingeniously plotted

by Jackson although true to form , he leaves some questions hanging in the air - for a sequel perhaps ?

- The nostalgia factor is very high in this one with many nods to the history of FF.

The NOT SO GOOD points - I didn't care for the patchwork approach of having mini-adventures and then going back to Salamonis

for the umpteenth time. This led to an awful lot of repetition. I just prefer the more linear style

of adventure.

- In order to complete the final quest, you need quite a few rare items to hand and if you don't have them,

its GAME OVER. Business as usual in Allansia !

- As I mentioned before , the opening section is near fatal and very off putting.

So there you go, SECRETS OF SALAMONIS is enjoyable enough but it could have been so much more.

Just a few additions to my earlier review :

GOOD POINTS : An alternate title for this book could have been FIGHTING FANTASY BEGINS

in the sense that it seems to be setting you up to be the adventurer in the original series.

There is even a bad but good ending which directly segueways into CITADEL OF CHAOS !

NOT SO GOOD POINTS : In one scene, YOU seem to be having a future vision dream of being inside Firetop Mountain.

While I can see the logic in this, was it really necessary for Steve to repeat the exact text verbatim from WOFTM ?

This just seemed pointless.

Ok enough time has passed to have a retro look back at Steve Jackson's latest opus.

It couldn't help but feel just a tad disappointing after all the anticipation.

And it didn't help that the title and cover made it resemble a guide to angling.

But still plenty of good stuff in there to digest and enjoy.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

                    ASSASSINS OF ALLANSIA  -  MY   (  LONG OVERDUE  )   REVIEW

Ok this  has been a  long time coming,  been meaning to post this for ages but

just never got around to it until now.   This entry is an odd one, sandwiched between

Livingstone's earlier efforts and the recent new releases.   

First up - the cover :

I really like this one  -  its  colourful and eye catching - the  blue of the font and Lord

Azzur's  robes contrasting nicely with the gold  background  -   however you cant 

judge a book by its cover so let's delve into its mysteries.

The starting premise has you willingly stranded an a dangerous island in order to earn some gold.

I know I'm not the only reader who found this to be somewhat far fetched.   An adventurer could earn

 more in one day if he played his cards right in Port Blacksand. !    Accepting a bet from your friend just

 seems to be a contrived way to get you on the island  but  it would have been more satisfying to have

 you wash up from a shipwreck for example.    It must be noted here that said island does contain a lot

 of dangerous elements such as insects and poisonous plants etc.    No sooner have you settled into this

Robinson Crusoe lifestyle when an assassin comes knocking on the door of your makeshift hut. 

Kudos to Livingstone  for making this early section extremely  eerie and effective.   You awaken during

 the night , not knowing who is outside or why.   (  or for that matter how he reached the island in the

 first place  )      A violent altercation  ensues with this knife fighter.   After dispatching him, you

 discover he is wearing a scorpion pendant.  This will become a familiar sight as you progress through

 the book.

After various other encounters on the island,  you learn that a bounty has been placed on your head by

 Lord Azzur due to your  interference with Zanbar Bone.    Now all of his top assassins are converging

 on your location  to compete for the honour of killing YOU.     Honestly, at this point,  the plot began

 to resemble that of   THE  PINK  PANTHER  STRIKES  AGAIN   wherein all of the world's top

 hitmen  try to kill Inspector Clouseau  !    

                                                Could this be the man they are looking for  ?

So we can  assume that this adventure is set between  CITY OF THIEVES  and  DEATHTRAP DUNGEON    (  for reasons that will  become clear later in the book  )

Sadly , your friend  Captain Crow dies shortly after you learn this news but you somehow manage to make it off the island and back to the mainland.  Then things really start to pick up.  !

The titular assassins are now coming at you thick and fast, some in subtle ways.  Others are not  so subtle.

Such as  Garanka Vassell,  a blood thirsty warrior and all round mad bastard.

                                Definitely not a face that stands out in a crowd. Oh no.

I should point out that  every time you manage to slay an assassin,  you collect another pendant.

SPOILER - you need to have a certain number of these to proceed to the final stage of the book - END

OF SPOILER.     It will take  you quite a few attempts to find the optimum path  which allows you to

confront / be ambushed by as many assassins as possible.

Having dispatched as many as you can ,  your final port of call is FANG itself  and who should you run into but  THROM ,  a familiar face from DD.   

                    Lord Azzur  ( on the right  )  -  by all accounts, a thoroughgoing bastard

And so we reach the endgame,  the showdown with Lord Azzur himself,  the man who has made your

life a misery.   Let me warn you  right now that this guy is EVIL  through and through.  There is no

 way to beat him , no way to come out on top.  The  best you can do is survive and live to fight another day.

As I mentioned earlier , you need to have acquired a certain amount of pendants in order to satisfy

Lord Azzur.   If you don't have the right amount, its  GAME  OVER.   But even if you  do have

 enough,  your only reward is to be offered   a  '  lesser of two evils  ' choice -   enter Deathtrap Dungeon or be killed on the spot.

So there you go folks,  its a no win scenario of the worst sort.    Having the book with you entering DD

 is a clever bit of dovetailing on Livingstone's part   but it still leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

Maybe someone could write a sequel in which YOU  hire a bunch of assassins to kill Lord Azzur.   Now

 THAT would be fun  !

Tuesday, 26 October 2021


Regarding the ' stupid choice ' of deciding not to proceed with the quest, I've toyed with the notion of writing an adventure titled YOU ARE THE LAZY HERO which would offer several options.

YOU could refuse outright to take up the mission in which case its GAME OVER.

OR - YOU could begin the journey and then at some point say to yourself - " Sod this, I'm off to the nearest tavern. "

OR - YOU could actually attempt to complete the mission while acting in a cowardly way, avoiding danger at every opportunity. In which case, you wouldn't get very far.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

                        MY   OWN   GAMEBOOK   ADVENTURE

Here are some pages from my own mini- adventure written way back in the 80's.

Its quite similar to the more recent adventure   RETURN  TO  THE  ICEFINGER MOUNTAINS  as seen in Fighting Fantazine  issue 9.

As you can see from this last page,  I had theorized that some of  the Snow Witch's slaves had been unable to escape from the caverns. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018


I  recently received   PORT   OF   PERIL   as a birthday gift   so I finally got around to a belated read  /  play through and as promised  ,  here is my review


First the  cover  :

Art  by  Robert Ball and quite a striking cover in fact,  certainly superior to the inside art.   I'm assuming this shows one of   Lord  Azzur's  troll guards.   The  titular port refers of course to Port Blacksand.

The interior art is more problematic.   Minimilist  art style is one thing but its quite another to obscure someone's face as seen in this illustration of   Hakasan  Za :

You can just about make out her face but whats the point of  creating a new companion  /  character if you cant properly see them  ?

As for the adventure itself,   I enjoyed  it a  lot  more than I expected to.    Well written,  fast moving and steeped in  the lore and history of  FF.   However,  it may have been just  a little too easy to complete.    Although there are many dangers to overcome ,  there is none of the fiendish numerical tests and wordplay from the vintage  FF  books.    True,  you need to have a lot of   '   shopping list  ' items in order to proceed at specific times  but its much easier to just pretend you have said items than  being told to solve an equation or add numbers together.

I also wished  Ian had invested more character into  the villains as much as he does the good guys.  Zanbar Bone isn't a character at all,  just a boss monster who appears at the end to be bumped off.

And the infamous  Lord  Azzur  remains  an enigma and a mystery as we see no more of him nor learn no more about him than we did in  CITY  OF  THIEVES.    And why would he ally himself with Bone,  as surely that would undermine his own rule   ?    And its news to me that Bone was once human as  Ian  never mentioned this before.   Its almost as if  he were retroactively re-writing the history of  FF.

At times,   POP  almost feels like an homage to  FF   rather than a proper  FF  adventure with copious references to the past,  almost a greatest hits package  if you will.    That said , its extremely well written and cleverly plotted,  a real page turner as they say.

And any veteran FF fan will feel a warn glow upon reading  Yaztromo's  final words which brings POP  to a perfect close.

Although I found the timeframe somewhat confusing.   Going by the encounter with  Bignose,  are we to assume that  this adventure takes place  concurrently  with   FOREST  OF  DOOM   ?    But surely it takes place   AFTER    City Of Thieves    ?

A few plot elements also bothered me.    It doesn't make sense to me why  Gurnard  Jaggle would leave booby trapped chests for other fortune hunters.    And why are you foraging for scraps in Chalice when you are supposed to start the adventure  with 10 meals  ?

But these are minor quibbles because overall,   Port of Peril  is  a good, solid, old school   FF adventure.   And one which I thoroughly  enjoyed.

I  hope you have enjoyed reading my review just as much  !

Monday, 9 April 2018


Here  are  some  snaps  of  my  personal  FF  /  game book  collection :

Some  of  the  jewels  in  there  include  the   SORCERY  !   boxset   plus  first  editions  of  the earliest  FF   adventures.

Also  the  three  book  series   THE  CRETAN  CHRONICLES ,  written by the same team who produced   WHAT   IS   DUNGEONS   AND   DRAGONS   ? 

Monday, 8 January 2018


Further to my previous post on the Archmage,  here is some strong pictorial evidence as to his true appearance :

from the  inside of   Crown  Of   Kings 

and here he is on the cover  :

they even put him on the cover of    YOU ARE THE HERO   !

so if  he's not that bloke,  then who the hell is he  ?