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The Crimson Sea

(American cover)
(British cover)
Series: Hero's Challenge: Sagard the Barbarian #3
Authors: Gygax, Gary
Dille, Flint
Illustrators: Morrill, Leslie (interior)
Warhola, James (American cover)
Release Date: 1985
Length:97 sections
User Summary: At the beginning of the book, your character’s female companion, Ketza Kota, is kidnapped by slave traders. You must learn her whereabouts and eventually undertake a sea voyage to the land of Hitaxia in order to rescue her.
Guillermo's Thoughts: This is the most interesting book in the series, though this is not really saying much. Most of the book involves a sea voyage where the player has freedom of movement to explore. This feature alone makes it more fun than the rest of the series, but the book still has a lot of flaws. For starters, the rules for ship movement (which involve rolling a die to see which hex you fall on during every move) make it way too random, and it's easy for the player to manipulate the rules system in order to avoid encounters and thus reach the final destination without danger. If you decide to explore (after all, that's why you purchased the book after all), you'll find a lot of easy battles, plenty of treasure and even one dangerous battle, which is so unfair you can only count on dumb luck to win (though I suppose it would be silly to complain about this when the rest of the series is so damn easy). The book is never as challenging or interesting as Seas of Blood, for example. Exploration is mostly random since the map key gives no clues at all, so navigation means you have roughly a fifty percent chance of reaching a safe port and a fifty percent chance of sinking your ship when you visit any hex (by the way, sinking your ship may be an easier way to reach your final destination).

The frequent battles are, once again, too easy most of the time (at least with an experienced character). The book has a lot of mass combat and naval battles, but these add little in terms of strategy. Furthermore, the consequences of losing one of the naval ones often will not be harsh at all. There is one fight near the end which may be difficult if you do not possess a strong weapon, but even then it's possible to win it if you roll a 4 at the beginning of any combat round, so plain luck can also ruin this experience. While this series lacks abrupt failure endings for the most part, this book introduces at least a couple of them, so at least it gets points for this.

While Leslie Morrill's illustrations for the first two titles in this series were quite good, the art here is among the worst I've ever seen in a gamebook. Seeing this, it's no surprise Morrill was replaced with Iain McCaig for the final title in the series.

Like the rest of the series, this book offers an interesting, detailed setting, so it's a shame it never really takes off in terms of challenge level. It gives the player the chance to ignore the main storyline for a long while and explore, undertake quests, even go pirating. Even if it's never too complex, the adventure's flexibility is a big plus. The Crimson Sea is a dud, but less so than the other books in this series.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
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