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Item - War with the Evil Power Master

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Series: Choose Your Own Adventure Board Games — no. 2
Adapted From: War with the Evil Power Master (Gamebook)
Author: Prospero Hall
Date: 2019
Demian's Thoughts:

This tabletop adaptation is an improvement on the original book, which is not to say it's entirely flawless.

Players travel around a system of nine planets, trying to pinpoint the location of the Evil Power Master before his strength grows too great. Making good choices gives the players equipment and points; bad choices and unsuccessful dice rolls give the Evil Power Master more points. When one of the two score meters reaches 25 points, either the Evil Power Master wins, or the players enter one of several possible endgame sequences. The endgame encountered depends on the planet the players occupy when they max out their score. There are also some "timed events," so some planets play out differently depending on the number of points the Evil Power Master has accumulated. Order can also matter, because items found on some planets will be helpful on others. Given that the players' starting location and the scoring values of the various planets are randomized on each play, and that it's possible to win the game after visiting a relatively small number of planets, replay value is significant.

The tone of the text is extremely tongue-in-cheek (some would say silly and juvenile), which some readers will enjoy and others will find irritating. While I didn't find it hilarious, I also wasn't bothered by it, and I at least found it preferable to R. A. Montgomery's original prose. The choices generally felt meaningful and interesting, and they didn't seem too obvious. The basic challenge mechanic adds perhaps a bit too much randomness to the game, but this is somewhat mitigated by the character activation system (mildly reminiscent of Legacy of Dragonholt's) and strategic use of items, which add a little bit of strategy to the mix. The fact that I found a successful ending on the first try might be a bad sign for the game's longevity, but since the ending I reached was a somewhat qualified victory, I'm not discouraged from going back for a replay before too long.

Perhaps the biggest flaw here is that, like many recent multi-player gamebook-inspired games, it's really a bit of a stretch to call this a multi-player game. The inclusion of multiple characters makes sharing the experience feel a bit less forced than in the previous game in the series, but it still boils down to decision-making by committee, and it plays more naturally as a solo experience. For some, that might actually be a benefit rather than a liability, but it's also something I'd like to see future games improve upon, as more player interaction (and independence) might lead to an even more interesting experience.

Bottom line: this probably won't change your life, but it has some clever design elements, and it does a reasonably good job of building on nostalgia for a classic (but, honestly, not all that great) book and creating a fun experience that you'll probably get at least two or three plays out of (and perhaps more).

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