Cardboard Children: Bionic Horse


Hello youse.

Today I would like to step away from normal business and talk a bit about game books. Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, Sorcery! You remember those, right? I want to reminisce. Please join me.

If you would like to continue reading this column, scroll to paragraph 2.

If you’re a bit tired of me, your adventure ends here.


You step down from your bionic horse and dust yourself off. You’re not sure why you’re covered in dust all the time. You should really make an appointment with your GP.

The townspeople eye you with suspicion. Many of them have never seen a pencil before, never mind an eraser. The womenfolk pull their children away. The menfolk move a hand towards their concealed weapons.

You grip your dice and smile. “I’m here to find Robert Florence, the God of Games”, you say.

There are gasps. A woman crosses herself and faints. A dog tries to cross himself, unsuccessfully, but manages to faint.

“I am here to kill him,” you grin.

The people relax. They smile. Swords are sheathed.

A fat man approaches on a Segway. He is the MAYOR of this sorry town. He gestures for you to follow.

If you would like to follow the MAYOR, scroll to paragraph 4.

If you would like to throw your shoe at the MAYOR, scroll to paragraph 3.


You remove your shoe, a nice sensible shoe that your girlfriend hates and calls “a school shoe”, and launch it at the MAYOR’s head.

To your horror, his head transforms into an ARMED BOAT. Of course, this is Transforming Head Town! The Old Crone had warned you! You had thought she was drunk, admittedly, but still.

The ARMED BOAT launches a barrage of missiles at your face and chest. Your adventure ends here.


The MAYOR leads you into a small shack.

“This town is Transforming Head Town,” he says. “Many a foolish traveller has, for instance, thrown a shoe at us or something and learned our true nature the hard way.”

“Just tell me where this tiresome games columnist is, Mayor,” you say.

The MAYOR opens a hatch in the wall.

“Through here is the tunnel network that leads to his stinking chamber. I don’t know exactly which direction it is, but I’d imagine it’s either Left or Right from here. Any other directions would be… far too complicated.”

Would you like to follow the tunnel Left? If so, scroll to paragraph 5.

Would you like to follow the tunnel the other way? Right? Your right? Scroll to 6.


You crawl along the tunnel. A strange music fills the air. It seems to be “What A Fool Believes” by The Doobie Brothers. You must be heading in the right direction!

Suddenly, a fearsome TINY AND INCONSEQUENTIAL RAT appears. It is carrying a SPEAR! No, sorry, that was just a whisker. Trick of the light. It is just an UNARMED, TINY AND INCONSEQUENTIAL RAT! You must fight it!


(Roll a D6. If your roll equals or exceeds the RAT’s Combat Rating, you win.)

If you win, turn to paragraph 7.

If you somehow lose, then reality itself folds in on itself. Your adventure ends here.


You crawl along the tunnel. There is light ahead. You hurry towards it.

But as you get closer you realise that it is a TRAIN FULL OF ANGRY COMMUTERS! And it is heading in your direction!

Try to escape! Make an ESCAPE ROLL. (Roll higher than a 6 on 1D6)

If you cheat and jump out of the way of the train, scroll to paragraph 7.

If you are honest and roll a die, your adventure ends here with my respect. But you are flattened under a train! HAHA! Belter!


You wipe sweat from your brow, having just battled a RAT like a hero or escaped from a TRAIN like a fucking liar.

You are at a huge door. You push it open. You are hit with a wave of heat and stink. Yes, this must be the chamber of the God of Games himself!

The filthy chamber is full of board games, piled high in swaying towers. The walls are shelved with IKEA Billy bookcases, and are full of video games, including a ridiculous amount of import PS2 games that cannot be understood and will never be played.

Girls in kneehigh socks are carrying silver trays stacked high with packets of beef Monster Munch and a concoction known as Fiery Irn-Bru.

There, in the middle of the room, on a throne made of HDMI cables, is the God of Games himself.

“You made it here alive,” Robert Florence says. “Impressive.”

“It was never in question. I will kill you today,” you reply.

“I can’t believe you shagged the Old Crone,” The God of Games says. “I mean… that’s pretty desperate stuff.”

If you regret shagging the Old Crone, scroll to paragraph 8.

If you throw a shoe at The God of Games, scroll to paragraph 9. Hang on, did you throw a shoe at… doesn’t matter. You’d have one shoe still on. Still works. Carry on. 9.


“Yes, it wasn’t my proudest moment,” you wince. “But the vodka was very cheap in that inn.”

“Don’t say “in” and “inn” so close together like that. Sounds rubbish,” the God of Games says, rising from his chair. “Would you like to see my game book collection?”

“Not really,” you say.

“Well, you’ve come all this way,” Florence says. “Do you like my kneehigh sock-clad serving girls, by the way? Am I creepy for being into kneehighs? Probably. Let’s not analyse it.”

The God of Games leads you to a shelf that is rammed full of game books. He starts to talk to you about his childhood with these games. He tells you about how he would buy a Fighting Fantasy gamebook from John Menzies in Glasgow City Centre every single week. It was where all his pocket money went.

“I played all of these games. And I never cheated,” he smiles. “Not once.”

He tells you that the first Fighting Fantasy book he read was House of Hell by Steve Jackson. “Whenever I think of a Bad House, or of travellers stopping at a strange house at night, it’s Steve Jackson’s house I think about. That book changed me.” He tells you how he never beat it, and was glad he never did.

“My favourite was City of Thieves, by Ian Livingstone. It is the book that made me the gamer I am. It totally captured me. I spent a whole summer holiday from school reading and re-reading it. I am serious, dead serious, when I say it is one of the great works of fantasy fiction. It will never be regarded as such, though. It is, after all, “just a game”.”

At this, the God of Games’ eyes flicker with emotion. Is this man not the heartless beast that you thought he was?

“Do you know who illustrated this legendary book, this City of Thieves?” he asks.

“I have no idea,” you reply.

“IAIN MCCAIG!” he bellows. “Sorry, caps, Iain McCaig. He’s a big success in Hollywood these days, and I’m very glad. He changed my life with his illustrations. I’m not exaggerating. Would it be wanky of me to say that his City of Thieves illustrations are tattooed onto my soul?”

“Yes,” you cringe.

“Okay. Sorry.”

If you would like to continue listening to this tiresome bore, scroll to paragraph 10.

If you would like to turn your attention to one of the ladies in kneehigh socks, scroll to paragraph 11.


You launch a shoe at Robert Florence’s head.

He catches it! He plucks it out of the air with almost no effort.

“All those games of Asmodee’s brilliant Jungle Speed have made my reaction time second to none,” the God of Games laughs. He throws the shoe back at you.

The shoe lodges in your throat, like a laced leather penis.

Your adventure ends here.


You look at your watch as the God of Games drones on.

“Yes, the Fighting Fantasy books don’t get the credit they’re due. You know why, don’t you? It’s because they’re British. Our gaming history gets Americanised constantly. You can see it in how they call legendary British board games like HeroQuest and Space Hulk “Ameritrash” games. You can even see it in how retro gaming is perceived to be NES and SNES stuff, when we in Britain grew up on Commodore and Spectrum. FUCK the NES!”

“Can you get back on topic, please?” you ask.

“Mm. Yes. Anyway. The Fighting Fantasy game books were magical things. Simple role-playing games, but wonderful stories. A whole universe opened up to you as you lay snuggled in your bed. An impossible world invited you to explore it as you lay in your back garden. These books are our history. Mm.”

He goes on to tell you that he fell in love with Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series. “I felt like the Lone Wolf,” he says. “I didn’t play football like the other boys. I wrote stories and rolled dice.” The Lone Wolf books followed one character through a series of adventures. An epic quest. “I cared more for Lone Wolf than I cared for most characters out of any fucking supposedly classic fucking novels I read later in life!”

“Okay, calm down,” you say.

“There was another one I played… My sister Frances bought me it for Christmas one year. It was wonderful. There was a kind of… web-type thing in the front of the book. And as you visited certain places, you would shade in parts of the web. I would dearly love to know the name of that book,” he says, looking past you.

“Who are you looking at?” you ask.

“Them,” he says. “Do you think they’ll go out and buy some Fighting Fantasy books after they read this?”

If you think that the readers of the column will-

“I’ll answer this one. No, they probably fucking won’t. WILL NO-ONE TREASURE OUR HISTORY?!!”

The God of Games thumps a fist into an IKEA shelf, shattering it into a thousand pieces.

“I met Ian Livingstone once,” he says. “I was filming a show called videoGaiden and he was at some games conference thing. And I thanked him for City of Thieves. That was it. Just thanked him. And he seemed genuinely pleased.” He is weeping now. Big tears tumble down his face like globules of sperm down a kneehigh sock. “Please tell Ian, if he should read this, that I apologise for the swearing and the sexual stuff in this column.”

The God of Games is doubled over in front of you. He is sobbing.

If you want to plunge a sharpened pencil into the God of Games’ neck, scroll to paragraph 12.

If you want to order some Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf books, navigate to the Amazon website.

If you want to let this pathetic “God” live, and return to your bionic horse, scroll to paragraph 13.


You walk over to one of the girls. She smiles at you.

“First of all, what age are you?” you ask.

“I’m 21,” she says.

“Phew. Okay then. That guy over there is banging on about game books or something. He’s such a geek.”

“Oh, I like geeks. They turn me on.”

“Do they?”

“No. That’s just a construct. Me being a geek, or being turned on by geeks, or me enjoying wearing kneehigh socks – all just constructs,” she grins. “In fact, I’m not even here. You only think I’m here because the readership of this website is predominantly male, and the writer has placed me within this fiction to appeal to those men.”


“Yes,” she giggles. “That’s why he’s crying, really. He was crying before you got here.”

Hey, you think. She’s flirting with me!

“Well, how about we get out of here so you don’t have to listen to all this games talk?” You fix her with your best seductive smirk.

“If I was real, I think I would probably actually like games. And I think I’d be really annoyed at how you assume I don’t. I’d be annoyed that it was even an issue, to be honest. No, not annoyed. I’d be bored by it. Have you ever visited that boardgamegeek website?”

“Yes,” you say.

“Have you noticed how most of the highest rated photos on that site are photos that men have taken of their wives and girlfriends playing games with their cleavages on show? That’s what I’d be fucking up against!” She chuckles. “If I was real, I mean! Come on, let’s go somewhere pink where I can wear a basque and heels and have sex with you or something.”

You leave with the sexy girl.

Your adventure ends here, but just think of what you’ll be doing with this hot geek-loving girl!


You stick it in, deep and hard.

There is a moan, a gasp. You hold it firm inside that soft flesh, and then pull out.

The God of Games falls to the floor, dead.

“Thank you,” he says. Like, he said this before he died. He goes “Thank you for releasing me from this responsibility. Do you know that people tweet at me asking which games they should buy? Seriously. CROAK!”

You turn away from his disgusting corpse, and nod at the kneehigh sock ladies.

You start to make your way out of the chamber.

Suddenly, JAMES PUREFOY is there! He points a handsome finger at you.

“You killed my creepy friend,” he says. “Now I will kill you!”

JAMES PUREFOY: Combat Rating: 27

(Roll 1D6, if you roll over a 27 then you-

JAMES PUREFOY pulls the dice from your hand. “Do you seriously play things like this? Hahaha!” he laughs. He swings an aluminium baseball hat and your nose is whipped clean off your face. “I NOSE this would be fun,” he laughs. He swings again, and your jaw is removed from your face. “Chin-chin, old bean!” he laughs. He’s laughing, right? Know what I mean? What a guy.

Your adventure ends here. Solomon Kane is available to buy on Blu-Ray now.


You return to your bionic horse.

“Well, Samantha,” you say. “The God of Games wasn’t much of a god after all. More a Scottish dickhead with mental health issues and a fetish for socks.”

“You don’t have any issues, do you?” asks your talking bionic horse Samantha.

“No, of course not,” you laugh.

You climb into the saddle and dust yourself off. Where is all this dust coming from?

Samantha activates her jetpack and you both fly off into the sunset.



  1. Ravenshaw says:

    I was hoping this would go on for 400 entries, but I’ll settle for 13.

    • Kdansky says:

      I wanted to collect keys, and then sum up their numbers (three of them, to be exact), and then possibly win.

      That one was hard. I managed to get through most of them, except that one.

      City of Thieves and the Jungle one were the best ones. And the samurai one was great too, although impossible to win.

  2. N says:

    Bravo. Fun read.

  3. DarkFenix says:

    After reading that I’m pretty sure a small portion of my soul just shrivelled and died.

  4. Cerebulon says:

    The only adventure books I ever read were the Goosebumps Choose Your Own Nightmare ones, which I understand to be American – Which I now understand to be an unforgivable crime. Consider this comment my goodbye for I will be turning myself into the authorities this afternoon.

  5. Bobsy says:

    I have just this moment purchased City of Thieves for iPad. It has a silly skull guy in it! Ha ha ha!

    Silly skull guy.

    • Bobsy says:

      OH DEAR GOD it turns out City of Thieves is an epic tale of misery, where everything that could possibly go wrong most definately will go wrong. Every street, building or alley is full of horrible things waiting to happen. Fancy going into the sewers? WRONG! It’s got giant centipedes! And then giant rats! And then a goddamn witch! Okay, what about this candle shop? WRONG! The store owner drugs you and takes your money. How about this house? WROOOOOONG! It contains the SERPENT QUEEN.

      But its not the fights that are so horrible. It’s that it takes utter delight in draining your stats wherever it can, just for shits and giggles. I started with a pretty epic 13 SKILL, but by the end I was being literally run out of town with 9 SKILL, 5 STAMINA, no LUCK and absolutely no gold whatsoever.

      Rab, honestly, there were much better Fighting Fantasy books than this. My favourites were Midnight Rogue (you’re a pro thief, with a choice of wicked awesome pro thieving abilities) and Keep of the Lich Lord (which had a pretty goddamn scary villain. Just look at the cover!). Neither were quite so spitefully cruel as City of Thieves. But perhaps that’s just part of the charm.

    • Nick says:

      Keep of the Lich Lord is a favourite of mine too.. also Starship Traveller, Robot Commando (driveable robots and fightable dinosaurs? Yes please.), Moonrunner and Space Assassin!

    • Dolphan says:

      ROBOT COMMANDO. That was the name! Insanely good book. Robots and dinosaurs, yet taking itself completely seriously and somehow pulling it off.

    • Phydaux says:

      Midnight Rogue and Space Assassin were two of my favourites. I wrote (about 1/4) of Space Assassin as a computer game in QBasic back in my early teens.

    • bill says:

      I remember loving city of thieves (though i have no idea why). And Deathtrap Dungeon. And warlock of firetop mountain (which probably wasn’t very polished, but was first). And Creature of Havok. And the Mad Max style future car-wars one.

    • qrter says:

      Bobsy, it isn’t called City of Lovely People, and there’s a reason for that.

      I wholly agree with Rab – City of Thieves has always been my favourite – sure, the book’ll chop off your characters extremities if you only so much as look the wrong way, but that’s what happens in most FF books anyway, the books aren’t about mechanics like SKILL and STAMINA anyway (most people will cheat at that stuff, and if you don’t, you are insane).

      The book has incredible atmosphere, you can almost smell Blacksand, while you’re dodging death and deceit at every step. Even the smaller characters are realised pretty well.

    • Cooper says:

      Not convinced by the hand-held gadget version.

      Mostly because you cannot cheat.

      It’s all lovely and such, but surely they -never- really intended the books to be played properly?

  6. Inigo says:

    You stick it in, deep and hard.

    There is a moan, a gasp. You hold it firm inside that soft flesh, and then pull out.

    I should really stop skim-reading these.

    • Chris D says:

      It’s not really any less disturbing if you read the whole thing.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      “The shoe lodges in your throat, like a laced leather penis.”

      This column was really far more fun than a board-games column has any right to be.

      (And I cheated constantly, of course. Otherwise I might have missed something! That would be terrible.)

    • MaXimillion says:

      Sounds pretty much like all the choose-your-own-adventure stories I’ve read.

    • Mr_Initials says:

      It was better than some of the other choose your own story books I read, in which I would read through almost the entire thing to die because I didn’t feed a dog a sandwich or some such nonsense.

  7. Qazi says:

    As far as i’m aware, I’m just missing 47, 48, 51, 55, 57, 58, 59 of the FF originals. Painstakingly collected from scouring the breadth of the U.K.’s charity shops in my youth.

    I have never completed House of Hell either.

  8. Theroux says:

    Fighting fantasy books were amazing. There I said it. I am now going to have a shower.

    Anybody who played them have any faves? Blackvein Prophecy had a brilliant “You wake up and you have no idea what where who why, go outside and figure this all out you strapping young man” type stories.

  9. DrugCrazed says:

    Lone Wolf has a digital version if you can’t bear with mathematics iirc.

    • adonf says:

      Can you skip the fights ? Cuz restarting the whole story just because of a missed dice roll was just dumb, I don’t think any sane person ever did that.

  10. AmateurScience says:

    I used to go to the library every week and get a different fighting fantasy book! Robot Commando was my favourite (there was another one with post-apocalyptic car battles that sticks out but I forget the name). Must have had that one out twenty times. They had Lone Wolf too!

    Really really loved those.

    BTW the whole Lone Wolf series has been digitised and is a available for your nostalgic pleasure in a browser-based format here:

    link to

    Absolutely fantastic!

    • Museli says:

      Freeway Fighter! I’m going to re-read it right now, I think. I bet it’s still awesome.

      EDIT – Well, that was brief. I’m out of fuel. Time to start again :)
      EDIT 2 – Got a bit further, ran out of fuel again. Curse you, Livingstone!

    • AmateurScience says:

      Thanks: To Amazon!

    • Chris D says:

      I remember Freeway Fighter. You run out of fuel a lot in that one. There’s a section where you have to win a race to get the fuel you need. On the final stretch you have to choose whether you want to overtake left or right and if you make the wrong choice you don’t get the fuel. You don’t discover that you’ve lost there and then, you have to go on many paragraphs before you actually learn it’s all over.

      It must be well over 20 years since I read that but I still remember it today. Curse you, Livingstone!

  11. Burning Man says:

    That was brilliant. Like, really really fun brilliant. Excellent job. And any reference to James’ singularly excellent article always gets extra points.

  12. Maldomel says:

    I died by trying to throw a shoe at the God of Games. How foolish of me to think I could win with such petty tricks.

  13. JackShandy says:

    Ok, yeah, this is totally fantastic.

  14. Sami H says:


  15. Synesthesia says:

    wow, fantastic read. Very fun. My favourite part:
    “IAIN MCCAIG!” he bellows. “Sorry, caps, Iain McCaig. ”


    I used to get obsessed over these books, i had a complete shitload of them, in spanish. And i cheated at them. All the time. Got fingermarks all over the book, till i needed more fingers, then followed all possible branches and read the entire thing in one sitting. Hm.

  16. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I had a ton of the Lone Wolf novels. They were awesome.

    I also had a set of books called the Scarlet Sorcerer and the Emerald Enchanter. They were for two people – each had one. They were basically combat decks, where you each turned to a page, called out info, and then did things, like try to kill each other.

  17. pvaughan007 says:

    Great article, or should I say adventure. Kneehigh constructs and all. Never cheated – not even once.
    Thanks for the fun ride Robert, er… God of Games.

    I too miss the days of those books. I found a few others with the same nostalgia and we created an online game, Nightmare Cove, where people can write those stories in a (hopefully) easy to use interface, or play whatever is out there. It has both the “turn the page” actions and the inventory/combat of a lite RPG. We just launched it recently on Facebook. If anyone is interested, here’s the link to Nightmare Cove

  18. onomatomania says:

    Oh, hey! This is a good place to mention Project Aon. The author of the Lone Wolf series, Joe Dever, and the illustrators involved have all given permission for their works to be distributed for free under license. It’ll still cost money to get a paperback or Kindle version of the Lone Wolf books, but if you just want to reread a few books or make a wallpaper out of the Sommerswerd illustration, this is what you want.

    But wait, you cry! How will I track my character? My old Lone Wolf action charts have hundreds of numbers scribbled into the margins as I tracked my combat skill and endurance points! What am I to do, write on my screen? Perhaps. Alternately, you can run the Seventh Sense GUI, which tracks everything for you, moves your character from book to book automatically, and gives you by-the-book or hardcore modes for those who don’t have no truck with these ‘saved game’ deals.

    I hope I’ve just ruined your weekend!

    • slingshot says:

      Ah, I remember my collection of Fighting Fantasy books, great fun. Unfortunately, after I got married the wife convinced me it would be a good idea to give them all to a charity shop. Not quite sure how she did it – I expect hypnosis was involved somewhere.

      I was therefore delighted when I discovered that Worldweaver Ltd were converting the series to the Kindle format. The only trouble is you have to be in the US for “active content” to work. Damn you Amazon!

  19. Fiwer says:

    I liked CYOA books well enough, but I don’t think the more RPG-like versions of them were ever that big here in ‘murica. I do distinctly remember a game book that had a page in the front where you recorded various pieces of equipment you were holding, and that you actually had to calculate combat outcomes. I absolutely loved that book but I can no longer remember the name of it. Lone Wolf might very well be what I’m remembering, at least the name seems to ring a bell.

    It’s funny that my only other memory of it isn’t of text on a page, rather it’s a memory of standing in front of a great chasm wondering what my next move should be. It’s something very special to be so wrapped up in a book that 20+ years later you no longer remember reading about an adventure, but rather remember having an adventure.

  20. cptgone says:

    as the only geek in the village, i didn’t even know there’s such a thing as a game book. ordered City of thieves 8)
    thank you! and thank you for the laced leather penis.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      City Of Thieves was my first one.

    • Iokanaan says:

      chamber of the god of games was my first one. and I loved it! especially the weirdly suitable soundtrack. and having sex with a random girl in kneehigh socks. I know now why I keep following this blog.

  21. Soon says:

    I have Steve Jackson’s four-part Sorcery! Epic on my shelf. They’re currently 27 years overdue from the library.

    Also, I believe Ace Team cite the artwork as an influence.

    • ElvisNeedsBoats says:

      I loved Sorcery. I bought the magic book at the first chapter when it came out and waited patiently for each new chapter to be published. They were a huge step up from CYOA (which blew my mind when I first saw Cave of Time at a RIF sale).
      I might still have them packed away because, even at 40, it pains me to get rid of them.

  22. wcaypahwat says:

    Ahh, I forked out and got the ones available on iPod. Haven’t seen a physical copy of one in around a decade or so.

    I do remember a coupleof others, too. not fighting fantasy…they were fun and humorous. I recall getting caber-tossed to death.

  23. dwl says:

    Well done! :)

  24. BurningPet says:

    Slightly unrelated, but i heard King of the dragon pass is a good game which takes the experience of the adventure books to a whole new level for the pc.

  25. JB says:

    House of Hell was my first one too. The hanged man picture haunted my dreams (nightmares) for some time.

    Hotel California by The Eagles always reminds me of House of Hell…

    • jaheira says:

      “..but you can never leeeaaave ….”

      Man, Houe of Hell was scary. Easily the scariest. Deathtrap Dungeon was the best though.

  26. Westcreek says:

    Transforming Head Town.. damn.. should have listened to that old crone! =/

  27. lordcooper says:

    I’ve never read/played a gamebook in my life. Gonna give them a try now, thanks to you :)

  28. Luke says:

    The first of these sorts of books I read (played?) was the Virtual Reality Adventure series. Of those books, Green Blood was the only one I ever finished without cheating.

    The cover of Coils of Hate still creeps me out a little bit.
    link to

    I played my uncle’s copy of Warlock of Firetop Mountain around the same time, and spent long hours rolling dice around on my bed whenever we went to visit.

  29. Kefren says:

    I like the format! Maybe game reviews should be like this.

    “Are you a man-shoot fanboy? Go to 2. Do you only like cerebral games of emotional attachment? Go to this review.” Etc.

    I love my FF books and others. I have shelves of them. I enjoyed the Terrors Out Of Time series too, all that Cthulhu mythos.

    I loved City of Thieves so much that I wrote my own 400 paragraph adventure set there one summer when I was about 15, sat on a big window ledge while keeping an eye out for the gorgeous girl from down the road. I still have it in the hard back book I wrote it in. No real planning, I just kept writing and kept track of it in my head – section 400 ended on the last page. I was amazed. I’m sure it is shit since I have never re-read it, but I should scan it in one day.

    I always mapped FF games with the paragraph number for each junction and room. Then I allowed myself to backtrack and take another route if I felt like it (and was still alive). It felt much more like an RPG dungeon crawl then.

  30. corbain says:

    My favorite Fighting Fantasy book was “Creature of Havoc”, the most intellectually demanding of the series with it’s coded language and secret portals to hidden paragraphs. It was flawed only by a few typos which made it impossible to complete without cheating.

    I also loved the Way of the Tiger series, i can’t remember too many details, but remember thinking they were a step up from the FF books

    link to

    • Nick says:

      I remember attempting the teeth of the tiger throw on an L shaped sofa cusion.

    • corbain says:

      Found this “Lets Play” Way of the Tiger on Something Awful.. the scans really bring back the memories

      link to

    • matte_k says:

      Man, Way of the Tiger! Fantastic books. Being a ninja assassin very much appealed to my 10 year old self. I remember rather stupidly using a pen by mistake to mark off a shuriken i lost in game on the character sheet :(
      I’m fortunate in that my wife has a better collection of FF books than me, although she has never read “The Riddling Reaver”.

      Edit: Some more digging around has reminded me of the Falcon series, anyone else remember these? Kind of like Timecop, but not shit. And no Van Damme. First one was Falcon:The Renegade Lord, think they did 6 in total.

  31. shinygerbil says:

    CAN ANYONE HELP ME HERE? I am fairly certain that House of Hell was actually broken, at least the first print run. But a perfunctory search of the Internets does not reveal anything.

    I remember because, my Dad gave me that book to read, then asked me a few days later if I’d finished it yet, to which I replied yes. At which point he showed me a note in a magazine informing readers of a misprint in House of Hell which made it impossible to complete, thus proving me to be a liar and shaming me. :'(

    My favourite FF book has to be Trial of Champions. Don’t know why, I just loved it. And who else owned Out of the Pit? I read through that book over, and over, and over again. Just loved all those illustrations.

    @corbain: I was about to be all cool and be the first one to mention Way of the Tiger, but no, you just had to get there first. I only played the first one but I remember it being pretty badass actually.

    • Kefren says:

      I had the large-sized Out of the Pit and read it loads: recently I bought it for my nephew (in a smaller novel-sized format I hadn’t known existed) but he was not that fussed by it. It’s a bit sad when we can’t communicate our nostalgia and personal memories!

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      You should have then replied: “I didn’t say I completed it successfully. I determined it was impossible win and thus I was done with it”

      In fact, phone him up now and tell him that, I’m sure he still remembers.

  32. Snakejuice says:

    This game was WAY too short! It ended in the first paragraph!

  33. pertusaria says:

    That was fun, thanks!

    I’m enjoying the digitised Lone Wolf thanks to some of the comments here, but it’s just as punishing as I remember adventure books being. (Refusing to change the settings to “wuss” so far.)

    I had a few Choose Your Own Adventures back when, and later played with my boyfriend’s Fighting Fantasy collection (he has the advantage of not being American). Hadn’t run into Lone Wolf until now, though. Thanks to its creators for putting everything online, for free!

  34. McDan says:

    Amazing yet again, and I remember and own some fighting fantasy books. Right good they are.

  35. Whosi says:

    Another excellent column. I was a big fan of Tunnels and Trolls by Ken St. Andre, published by Flying Buffalo back in the day. By the time Fighting Fantasy appeared seven years later I had temporarily moved away from that genre, unfortunately. I may have to buy a few just to see what’s up for myself.

    I have to admit, though, that I’m a little lost on your British history rant concerning Commodore. The Vic-20/C-64 and Amigas were American computers that were very popular in the states. Though IIRC Commodore UK was the only subsidiary to survive the bankruptcy…so maybe that’s where your example comes from.

    Anyway sorry for the derailment, keep up the good work.

    • pertusaria says:

      Flying Buffalo have put the first Tunnels and Trolls solo adventure online here, with links to basic rules:

      link to

      I haven’t played it yet, but again, thanks to kind-hearted devs.

  36. Jake says:

    Great column as always. I had some Transformers make-your-own-adventure type books. I remember getting repeatedly eaten by Skullcruncher in the swamp.

  37. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    Amazing piece of writing Rab. For the record, I was there from the very beginning: the Warlock of Firetop Mountain. And you’re right, City of Thieves was the best.

    Ian Livingstone just retweeted you, by the way. The god of uk gaming indeed.

  38. sebmojo says:

    The forums have an excellent (and still ongoing) Let’s Play of the entire Lone Wolf series here – it starts with the first book here.

  39. El_MUERkO says:

    Myself and my wife were house hunting yesterday and we viewed a house for sale and the owners neighbour directed Solomon Kane.


    There you go.

  40. AlwaysRight says:

    I feel Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson should be held in much much higher regards. Thinking about it they are probably one of the biggest influences in my life.

  41. FunkyBadger3 says:

    I remember Warlock of Firetop Mountain. The copy I got came with a free Spectrum game (Warlock of Firetop Mountain).


    What was the spaceship one called… bloody impossible that…

  42. BathroomCitizen says:

    Love this stuff, Rab.

  43. malkav11 says:

    I first got into the genre with an AD&D gamebook set in Castle Ravenloft that someone had left at a local coffeeshop. They had a bookshelf set up and you could leave books there for people or take them for yourself, either way. No charge. I only brushed against Fighting Fantasy in the form of the spinoff Sorcery! series of which I found one book and the spellbook. The main series for me was definitely Lone Wolf, although I never made it through anything like all 28 of them (and still can’t – the last three books aren’t up on Project Aon yet.)

    I should also point to the fantastic open-ended Fabled Lands series, which was initially set to be, I think, 12 books in all, each detailing adventures to be had in one of the regions of the world, interlinking via codewords with other books. Ultimately only six were published, although a recent resurgence in interest has seen the first four books republished and an iOS app conversion of the first two books (with more of both on the way), as well as an RPG, something which -might- lead to the series finally being finished. Maybe. In the meantime, have a link to an officially sanctioned computer version: link to

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      I loved the Fabled Lands books so much, if ever the rest come out they’ll be a day one purchase for me. I liked FF and all, but FF is a linear to Fabled Land’s sandbox, and sandbox RPGs always win the day with me.

  44. Ezhar says:

    What I like about this format is that I can see all the endings without having to replay multiple times. Also, using mousewheel-up to restore a savegame is very innovative!

  45. Arasaka says:

    I started with Demon’s of the Deep. I don’t remember why I bought it over any Choose Your Own Adventure in the shop, but I ended up buying most of the series as time went on (and only or or 2 CYOA). It was also my gateway into D&D.

    I think I have all of them up to Spectral Stalkers, save Daggers of Darkness. I think Luke Sharp was the weakest of the authors, though now I wish I’d picked up all of them anyway.

    I loved the art and the stories, and might go back through them one day. Reading F&F books would easily be my favourite childhood memories.

    Basically, on reflection, these books shaped my hobbies/interests for my life. Great article!

    • Chris D says:

      “I don’t remember why I bought it over any Choose Your Own Adventure in the shop”

      I’d hazard a guess it was because the cover was frickin’ awesome.

  46. Vurogj says:

    I vaguely remember a series of two player books, to be played competitively. One where the players were two dueling mages, and another where one player was trying to escape from the other, who was playing as some freakish 8 foot tall blue lizard monster. I’d *love* to have a better memory, or for some kind soul to point me in the right direction of what these were.

    • Jackablade says:

      The wizardy ones are Emerald Enchanter and Crimson… something alliterative. Conjurer? Can’t say I’ve heard of the lizardy ones.

    • Lokarn says:

      I found those at a library years ago – Duel Master: Challenge of the Magi the first one was called.
      The big lizard thing you could play as in the second I seem to remember being called something like the Archveult, can’t remember the name of the second book(s) though.

  47. Randomgerbil says:

    As soon as I read this I went and found my box set of Fighting Fantasy 1-10. I regret to say I never really got into them as my 10 year old self, since all that writing and dice rolling seemed like far too much of an effort to make when reading a book. Now, I may well play them all. We shall see.

  48. Nilokey says:

    Fiery Irn-bru sucks.

    I really wish I had got into Fighting Fantasy books when I was younger, really missed out by being stupid.

  49. MadTinkerer says:

    ““I’ll answer this one. No, they probably fucking won’t. WILL NO-ONE TREASURE OUR HISTORY?!!””

    Over to my left, as I type, I have original British editions of Sky Lord and Trial of Champions sitting on my shelf. City of thieves and several others are around here. They survived the basement flood that wiped out most of my collection. I’m going to be eventually getting as many of the recent reprint editions to fill in the holes in the collection, but as far as I know they never reprinted Dragon Warriors 5 (Which isn’t technically a FFstyle gamebook but was marketed as such and fits nicely next to them) or Allansia (OVER ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS NOW).

    By the way, I live in New Jersey. ;)

    “Our gaming history gets Americanised constantly.”

    There are several reasons for this that I see:

    1) You guys did actually have NES and SNES games too, they just weren’t as ubiquitous at the time as Commodore and Speccy. If Atari hadn’t screwed up and caused The Crash in ’83, convincing every American CEO that videogames were a fad that was over, the NES might have stayed a niche console in the U.S. as well.

    But you guys should count your blessings. There are quite a few games every year that, for whatever reason, are released in Europe (usually Britain) but never come stateside. Or they’re mysteriously altered: No one in the U.S. knew about the wonderful Engrish in Zero Wing until All Your Base became a meme. This sort of thing still happens today.

    2) Cartridges last longer and are much less fragile than magnetic tape and magnetic disks. There’s just more NES things in working condition than Speccy things.

    3) The Internet has more Americans on it than British folks. Therefore the reason the NES is more popular than the Speccy on the Internet is merely because of the proportionate populations. This is also why you sometimes get online games that aren’t even in English that have more players than WoW: because China has more people in it.

    If you bother to look, there are plenty of sites that are dedicated to particularly British geekery. I think “You can see it in how they call legendary British board games like HeroQuest and Space Hulk “Ameritrash” games.” is a real problem though. If more European people knew what the American board game scene was actually like, the term Ameritrash would only apply to stuff like Monopoly and Scrabble rather than the lovely, very British, HeroQuest.

    I’m not an Anglophile, because I actually lived in London during my high school years and that should be enough to prevent anyone from becoming an Anglophile, but I’m still quite fond of genuine British Geek Stuff.

    • Matt says:

      As a fellow American, might I kindly say,


    • bill says:

      Amiga, Atari ST (and possibly megadrive) FTW!

      seriously, at that time Amigas and STs were so much better than IBM compatibles (which i had)… i’m not really sure how we all ended up using PCs. *imagines a world where everyone has amigas*