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Item - Das grosse Nibelungen Spielbuch


Series: Das Grosse Spielbücher — no. 1
Alternate Title: The Big Nibelungen Gamebook (literal English translation of title)
Author: Wolf, Robert
Illustrators: Hildebrandt, Greg (cover)
Peterka, Johann (interior)
Date: 1985
ISBN: 3404281276 / 9783404281275
Length: 406 pages (750 sections) plus character sheets
Florik's Thoughts: In 1988, this German-language gamebook by Robert Wolf came as a surprise. Apart from the cover, nothing pointed to popular Anglo-American fantasy. Instead, the story is based on the Nibelungen myth - indeed, on the Wagner operas more than the version found in the medieval epic. The interior illustrations are in black and white Art Nouveau style, reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley's works.

I find the interior layout distinct and rather clean, with large paragraph numbers. A sidebar contains game-specific reminders as well as the numbers of paragraphs you can travel to. Hardly any rules need to be learned: Character generation begins in paragraph 1, the combat table with a short rules explanation can be found on a foldout of the front cover. The character sheet sits on the foldout of back cover.

All of this raised expectations back in 1988. It does even now, when thumbing through a used copy. In actual play though, this gamebook turns out ... somewhat peculiar.

First, there is the style. Competent, jocular, but quite formal, addressing the reader as "Sie" rather than "du", as you would address a stranger in German.

Second, the gameplay. In theory, during character generation, you split points between four attributes. Later, the reader gets a choice between three paths through the book: You can play as fighter, bard or magician. In practice, efficiently maxing out the relevant stats is what it takes to succeed. One attribute corresponds to each path. You need it at maximum to have a 50 per cent chance of success in the final fight.

Those three paths promise good replayability. However, they all follow the same basic pattern: you are tested by a corresponding god and received by a corresponding patron figure from the Nibelungen myth. Tested, I said? Yes. You run through tests. The story sometimes feels more like a school for heroes and less like an adventure.

Also, even with 750 paragraphs, a single playthrough will be quite short and include an awful lot of checks - which path were you following, what equipment do you own?

I will say that the narrative includes some surprises and odd twists. One I enjoyed in particular is that paragraph 750, the last one, is not the optimal ending.

Das große Nibelungen-Spielbuch is not a bad gamebook. I'm glad I own a copy. Given its oddness, however, I'm not surprised it never made as much of an impact as Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy did in the English-speaking world.

More reviews by Florik

Special Thanks:Thanks to Falk Nußbaum for providing information on this title.
Users Who Own This Item: Florik, Harvey, katatonius, katzcollection, Lord-Xtra, M.Marangio, nefast, redpiper05, sebastian, Sir Olli, thth

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