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Item - Siege of Sardath

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Series: Fighting Fantasy (1982-1995, Puffin) — no. 49
Translated Into: Le si├Ęge de Sardath (French)
Author: Phillips, Keith P.
Illustrators: Edwards, Les (cover)
Knifton, Pete (interior)
Date: May 28, 1992
ISBN: 0140349472 / 9780140349474
Length: 400 sections
Gamereader's Thoughts:

Siege of Sardath has some standout elements: the Dark Elves are the main bad guys, which is surprisingly unusual. You'd think Dark Elves would've been a more sustained collective force of evil in Fighting Fantasy, but in retrospect FF's villains tended to be evil sorcerers and a horde of bone-headed greenskins or ogres. In comparison, the Dark Elves have relatively few appearances, and most of those few are fleeting glimpses.

But here they are centre-stage, and kitted out with a stylized mountain lair, fashion sense and even culture. Pretty cool, if you can reach them that is. Sardath is a tough book. Many of the combat encounters are extended beyond mere dice rolling. They're drawn out into paragraph sequences where you make choices on how to proceed with the battle. Success in the book depends on these encounters ending in just the right way. Victory isn't necessarily killing your enemy, it's about making the combat unfold in such a way that you leave with the requisite quest item and/or piece of information. This makes the book unique - but very difficult. It's in the nature of FF that some of the combat will be out of your hands, and the true path through an encounter is difficult to guess (as always!).

The puzzles are not difficult, but one of them involves you tracing patterns from the interior illustration of the book, then fitting the patterns together to get a number. Not difficult, but laborious.

As for the plot itself, it sees you taking the role of a councillor from the town of Grimmund, which is located on the outskirts of the Forest of Night. Beyond the forest is Sardath - a large town which customarily trades with Grimmund. But strange goings-on of late have cut off the trade route. You need to venture into the forest to investigate.

As a matter of fact, titling the book "Siege of Sardath" may be misleading. When you reach Sardath you don't even enter, and Sardath's siege is accorded little space in the book. In actuality, after it provides the motivating reason for your adventure, Sardath's "siege" hardly plays any role at all, and even ceases to be the main point altogether.

I personally found Sardath an awkward book to play through, mainly because so many encounters must proceed just-so and conclude in just the right way. But the "unfolding mystery" angle the author was obviously operating on was a good idea, and the evil role being occupied by Dark Elves was a nice departure from convention.

There are some special rules: rules for shooting with your bow (really just a skill test), and for keeping track of the weekday. But the distinctiveness of Sardath really comes from its layout and plot ingredients - the new rule set is fairly minimal, though does effectively contribute to building a quasi forest ranger persona for the player.

It seems to have been Keith Philips' one and only contribution to the FF series. Despite its flaws, Siege of Sardath does have the stamp of ingenuity and talent on it - would've been nice to see what else Philips was capable of conjuring up.

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Special Thanks:Thanks to Nicholas Campbell for the cover scan previously used here (now replaced by a higher resolution image) and Ben Nelson for the character sheet.
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Play Aid

Fighting Fantasy #49 Character Sheet