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Item - Diceman #5

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Series: Diceman — no. 5
Contents: You Are Rogue Trooper: Space Zombies (Mini-Adventure)
You Are Ronald Reagan in Twilight's Last Gleaming (Mini-Adventure)
You Are Diceman in Murder One (Mini-Adventure)
Author: Geller, Simon (editing)
Illustrators: Emerson, Hunt (cover)
Stead, Ian (editing)
Brighton, Kevin (assistance)
Date: October, 1986
Guillermo's Thoughts:

In this last issue of Diceman, the format reverts to three adventures, though the last one is extra-long like the ones in issue 4 (farewell gift?). The first adventure in this issue, titled Space Zombies is a sequel to the Rogue Trooper adventure which appeared in Diceman #3. It's the only game in this series not written nor designed by Pat Mills; the author is series editor Simon Geller. This rescue mission in space is a bit disappointing. The writing is nowhere as good as that of Mills and the gameplay is less interesting than that of other Diceman stories. The design is also very unforgiving. There is only one, narrow way to the successful completion of the adventure, and in order to reach it you must manage your inventory in a rather arbitrary, counterintuitive way. Furthermore, the 'Hero Point' mechanic – which is a clone of Honour points, Karma points and similar rules appearing in other gamebooks – plays no role in achieving the optimal ending. The worst consequence of the adventure's design is that it's possible to end the adventure with partial success and not realize it's possible to do better. Overall, despite a good moment here and there, the adventure is of subpar quality.

The second adventure, titled You Are Ronald Reagan in Twilight's Last Gleaming, is the most unusual story in this series. People who are familiar with artist Hunt Emerson's work already know what to expect: a savage satire of the role played by that American president in international politics. Some sensibilities may be offended by the portrayal of people like Margaret Thatcher or Reagan himself (though it must be said that, if you're a convinced right-winger, you probably wouldn't enjoy reading 2000 AD comics anyway). The adventure is so unusual in the gamebook genre (which is filled with goody two-shoes and supposedly apolitical stories) that it almost defies description, but I'll do my best. The first part of the adventure involves making decisions on foreign policy, during which the player must manage three stats: popularity, sanity (?) and international tension. Allowing any of these to run too high or too low may lead to an abrupt ending at some points or may cause failure at the end. The adventure overall has great writing, excellent humour and very comical situations. The conclusion has to be rated as one of the best in gamebook history: it develops a tension and climax very similar to the ones in Stanley Kubrick's film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Reaching a successful conclusion is not easy since it depends on an adequate management of stats throughout the whole game. All in all, if you are not afraid of (quoting the editor) 'political shenanigans,' this adventure by itself is worth the price of the magazine.

The last adventure, titled You Are Diceman in Murder One is a very good horror-mystery story. It involves a lot of investigation work and requires the player to manage four stats. This time powers can be chosen instead of determined randomly, but choosing too many powers can have disastrous consequences in the adventure, so a careful, strategic selection at the beginning works best. As a result, this rule for power selection helps make gameplay more interesting. The adventure can be very tricky to complete successfully since there are many tough choices to make and also because keeping all four stats within safe levels is rather difficult.

Overall this last issue is a very good one. It's only unfortunate a series with so much potential was ended after only five installments. Be sure to check it out.

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