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Night of the Nazgûl

Series: Middle-earth Quest #1
Author: Ruemmler, John David
Illustrators: Heffernan (cover)
Britton, Richard (Rick) (interior)
Holloway, James (Jim) (interior)
Release Date: 1985
Length:454 sections plus prologue.
AlHazred's Thoughts: This book, the first in the Middle-earth Quest series, takes place during the early part of the War of the Ring. Taking his cue from a side note in the first Lord of the Rings book, The Fellowship of the Ring, that Strider had used agents to warn the Shire of the coming of the Black Riders, the author weaves the story of a stablehand from the Prancing Pony who must bring his dire message to Hobbiton. Strider himself gives you your mission and your starting equipment.

The Middle-earth Quest series included a map card with each book, with numbered locations. Each location has a "Time" value to the upper right of the paragraph; in the Advanced Game, you were to keep a running total of this value to gauge the total time required to complete the mission. In Night of the Nazgûl, this is a key factor, since you are in a race against the agents of Sauron. The longer it takes you to get to Hobbiton, the better the chances that Sauron's agents will have beaten you there. In addition, the time used must be minimized to gain the maximum possible Experience.

Because Night of the Nazgûl has such tight time requirements, the utility of the map card is minimized. Playing the Basic Game, where time is not tracked, it is possible to explore the entire map board and have all the encounters; by playing the Advanced Game, you really have to choose carefully whether any potential encounter is worth the time wasted or not. Missing the target by as little as fifteen minutes is a real possibility, since you will not be able to avoid all the time-wasting encounters. This heightens the suspense dramatically.

Aside from this, there are a huge number of possibilities for exploration here. The map covers the Barrow-Downs, with huge numbers of dead kings buried with jewels and items of power; the Old Forest, the haunt of wild animals and Tom Bombadil; Green Hill Country, inhabited by elves; and the towns and villages of the Shire. Many areas have the potential for enriching the character, but again, time is of the essence.

All told, this is a strong entrance into the gamebook field. With a strong plot, the opportunity to interact with fairly well-known fictional characters, and a lot of semi-random encounters that may or may not be found, it has a lot of replay value. This is probably one of the best gamebooks made in the Eighties, a strong member of an interesting line.

More reviews by AlHazred

chaosbreaker's Thoughts: Night of the Nazgûl is a unique gamebook. Along with Lone Wolf and Fabled Lands, it stands out as being forward thinking and plays more like a computer game than a gamebook. Night of the Nazgûl (NotN) is the first in what was a planned series of thirteen Lord of the Rings gamebooks; because of licensing issues only seven got printed.

The story begins as Strider asks you warn the hobbits across the river of the coming of the Dark Riders, the Nazgûls. He would do it himself but he is waiting for Frodo and party. It's up to you to warn your village. Strider says to hurry but to stay off the roads. NotN is a great gamebook because of two things: hex-map movement and time pressure. Many gamebooks have maps as a reference, allowing you to look up your whereabouts occasionally. In NotN, by contrast, you move across the map and use the book as a reference, making movement like a top-down view of a computer game. Every space you move into takes time, and further exploration of each area also takes time. Because of curiosity, you will want to explore and make up the lost time via road travel. However the road is a perilous path, full of patrolling bandits.

The game system is also flexible in terms of complexity: you can play with Basic, Advanced, and RPG rulesets. In the Basic rules, you have limited stats, and no time pressure, while the Advanced rules have complex combat, spells, skills, and time pressure. Finally NotN can be played with the full tabletop roleplaying rules from its publisher, Iron Crown Enterprise -- the Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game system. So depending on your desire for realism versus of ease of play, you can play in any of three ways.

Managing the conflicting goal of exploring leisurely versus rushing towards your village is tense. It is amazing how one element, time pressure, can add such intensity. NotN is one of the best Lord of the Rings licensed games, and I hope it becomes an iPhone app someday.

Originally posted on Play This Thing!.

More reviews by chaosbreaker

Users Who Own This Item: AlHazred, Ardennes, Auric, auximenes, B0N0V0X, BarefootJimmy, bigcobra, bookwormjeff, castiglione, chaosbreaker (Found a new copy online.), Crazyscotsman, CSquared, dave2002a, egokun, Faberwest, Falcon, Fullerton, hoops4ever, Jubal, karalynn, katzcollection, kinderstef, knginatl, le maudit, lugh, Malthus Dire, marnaudo, mike all angel, mir1812, mlvoss, m_bojangles, nelsondesign, Radjabov, randrews (Found this for a couple dollars at a used-book store.), Robert Mammone, rowns, Sabreman, Sir Olli, sireeyore, spragmatic, StagQuests, Tremendez, twar, vindic8r, Xelforp (Played once.), xinuz, Yalius, Zolika
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Users with Extra Copies: Crazyscotsman
rowns
twar - Some shelf wear. Small rip on front cover. Small crease on back. Map detatched but present and in good shape. No pencil marks.

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Play Aid

Middle-earth Quest: Night of the Nazgûl Map Card (side 1)

Middle-earth Quest: Night of the Nazgûl Map Card (side 2)