Puffin Books, £3.50, ISBN 0-14-034272-9
It always start out simple, doesn’t it? You are a veteran soldier who served Gallantria in the War of the Four Kingdoms, only to become restless once peace has settled upon the land. You are enjoying a drink in a tavern in Royal Lendle when you are approached by a farmer. He beseeches you to come to the aid of a small village, Karnstein, which he claims to be attacked by the Shadow Warriors, creatures that are supposed to exist only in myth. No one believes the farmer, much less come to his aid, so you are his last resort.
You suspect that some villains must have disguised themselves as the Shadow Warriors to terrorize these good people, and therefore you decide to show those villains a thing or two about bad manners. However, it isn’t long before you realize that the Shadow Warriors are, indeed, very real. Worse, you are going to be a pawn in a struggle between the old Elemental Gods and a villainous megalomaniac. But first, you have to leave the city with your life intact while dodging the tax collector. Seriously!
Legend of the Shadow Warriors is not a very difficult campaign, not least not in the combat encounter department, but to succeed in this one, you will have to discover the correct script as determined by Stephen Hand. It is easy to miss out on an important encounter because you happen to pick a left turn instead of the right turn. However, discovering that script shouldn’t be too painful because this campaign is still fresh and exciting for at least three runs. Mr Hand integrates plenty of horror fiction and movie elements in this campaign – from WW Jacobs’s The Monkey’s Paw to The Legend of Sleeping Hollow – and the whole thing works beautifully as a straight fantasy campaign with spooky flavors.
The downside to this campaign is the presence of a tedious maze sequence that is clearly designed to pad the campaign and the need to convert letters to numbers and add these numbers up. Mr Hand also assumes that his idea of common sense is universal and applies to you instinctively, when this may not always be the case. Still, for the most part you will encounter tragedy because you do stupid things rather than because Mr Hand is a sadistic game designer.
All in all, Legend of the Shadow Warriors is an entertaining gamebook that allows you to have fun in a well-drawn setting, which is how all gamebooks should be.