Real Life Gamebooks
The Last Invasion (American edition)
La Dernière invasion (French)
Invasion der Normannen (German)
Den sidste invasion 1066 (Danish)
L'ultima invasione: 1066 (Italian)
Dodge, Bill (American cover)
Houston, Bill (interior)
1986 (British edition)
1988 (American edition)
042510835X / 9780425108352
300 sections |
|Number of Endings:||
This series has a really interesting premise. Instead of being set in a fantasy world, it makes you a fictional character at a real world event in history. It has standard choices as well as a number of skill check rolls. As a keen lover of history, this interests me greatly. The artwork is outstanding. Of the real history settings, this one is the oldest and most interesting setting.
In this case, it sets you as a lord in England during that most important year of English history, the year of the conquest. The character they give you is an interesting one, a Norman lord living in England, which offers you the option of fighting for either side, King William of Normandy or King Harold Godwinson. I was really curious how much influence you could have. I mean, would you be a witness to the event or able to change history? Could you, say, turn the tide of the historical invasion?
I wanted to like this book but just can't. Like some other British gamebooks, the writing is sparse with short sections, so you never really learn much about your character so never really feel anything for him. (I blame Fighting Fantasy for establishing these brief sections as the norm). For example, somewhere in the middle of the book you may or may not learn that your character has a wife. Since the sections are so short, there is little dialogue. It feels like the writers are telling rather than showing.
But the biggest sin, in my opinion, is that the writers clearly have a preferred side, the Anglo-Saxons. Despite making the character Norman, they fully expect you to side with the English (the losing side) with biased writing in their choices, such as "Do you want to join the Normans and be a (dirty) spy or do you want to take your oath to King Harold seriously and remain loyal?" The writing makes it clear they have "good guys" in this conflict, which is annoying to any lover of history.
Such a waste of a great concept.
|Malthus Dire's Thoughts:||
The second in the Real Life series puts you in the role of an Anglo-Saxon loyal to the dying English King, Edward The Confessor, but that quickly becomes fairly irrelevant as the bulk of the book involves you variously deciding to switch loyalties between the incumbent Harold II and the invader William of Normandy. Key events of 1066 are played out with historical accuracy (Stamford Bridge, storms blighting the Norman invasion fleets, incursions by Saxon and/or Viking lords with vested interests, Harold's death and burial, William's succession by conquest, etc.) but the latter stages of the book get bogged-down in seemingly endless battlefield choices of either riding into the fray or sitting back and watching from a safe distance, which can become tedious. Indeed, a lot of criticism has been levelled against this book due to this and it has often been simply written-off as "boring," which is a bit unfair on it. There is no doubt that you do begin to feel that the choices you are being given are there just to make it feel like you actually have some decisions to make and can influence events in some way (which you basically can't!) but the depth of research and "real" history here just about carries it through. Personally, as a history buff, I quite enjoy playing this but it might just as well have been a straight story book given the zero influence your character can have on anything. This is certainly one of the weakest entries in the series, but it is not without its charms and it works as serious history even though quickly it gets very repetitive as a gamebook. Worth seeking out if the period in question interests you, but this is not an ideal book for a casual gaming experience.
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