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These books consist of two distinct sets, each containing four interlinked books. Each book gives its reader control of a different character, and the books may be played alone or with up to four people simultaneously exploring the same territory. Characters come precreated with five attributes: Initiative (which determines the order of play), Combat (which determines the effectiveness of attacks), Magic (which determines the strength, not the quantity, of magical power), Aura (a measure of charisma) and Vitality (which serves as hit points). At certain points in the adventures, players are asked to choose from the "book of heroes." This allows them to pick an attitude (friendly, aggressive, etc.) to take in a particular situation, adding a role-playing element to the proceedings. Choosing from the book of heroes also allows players to earn power points which may be spent to increase their powers or access new areas of the game.
The books are quite non-linear, with readers visiting locations one by one and checking them off on the map when all possibilities are exhausted. In multiplayer games, when two players simultaneously enter the same location, they may either fight or team up. Although this series is not the first to allow multiple players to participate, it is one of the more intricate examples of the idea.
Gamebooks1. Caïthness l'élémentaliste
2. Keldrilh le Ménestrel
3. Péreim le Chevalier
4. Kandjar le Magicien
5. Les héritiers de Dorgan
6. Le sanctuaire des Horlas
7. La huitième porte
8. L'ultime réincarnation
Each character comes with its stats precreated; you don't roll dice to determine Skill, Stamina or whatever. With each character come strengths and weaknesses which you'll have to carefully understand to be efficient in combat. There are four characteristics: Initiative (which means the same in French as in English), Combat (Fighting, or Skill if you prefer), Magie (Magic), Aura (Charisma) and Vitalité (Hit Points).
Initiative is used to determine who strikes first in a fight. If you cast a spell, you must use the Initiative score associated with it; some spells are cast very quickly and other are slower. Combat is used to determine whether your blow lands or not. You roll three dice and if the score is lower than Combat, then you hit. Magic works the same way as Combat. When you cast a spell, you roll three dice, add the level of the spell (from 1 to 5), and if the total is lower than your Magic score, the spell is successfully cast. There aren't any magic points, but you can't cast the same spell twice in a fight, or twice in a "game turn" (explained below in the multi-player part). As for Aura, it represents your Charisma (both your physical beauty and your skill at Diplomacy). It's not used at all in the solitaire game; it only applies in a multi-player game. The use of Vitalité is rather obvious. When you take damage, you add Wound Points. If you have more wound points than hit points, you're dead.
The character sheet features four icons portraying an open hand, a fox face, an eye and a lightning bolt. These relate to one of the most interesting features of this series. At some point during the adventure, you'll see this sentence "Choix du livre des héros numéro 5" (Choose from the book of heroes number 5). At the end of the book there is a special "book of heroes," divided into four parts (one for each icon) and with sixteen reference in each part. When you have this choice, you must choose your attitude for the encounter; the open hand is friendly, the fox face is cunning, the eye is careful, and the lightning bolt is aggressive. You then read the appropriate numbered section in the appropriate part of the book of heroes.
When you make one of these special choices, you gain a "Point de Pouvoir" (Power Point), which you mark in a box on the character sheet under the relevant icon. These points allow you to obtain new spells and to reach certain parts of the book that require expenditure of Power Points to proceed. This rule is enjoyable because you can play the character as you wish without being forced to act as a do-gooder all the time. If you want to be aggressive all the time, you can. Obtaining several points of the same attitude has a use in the game. With Power Points come new powers. They almost always require either a number of Power Points (6 to 13) or a number of points from a particular attitude.
For example, some healing spells require either 6 PP or 3 Friendly Points. Most offensive spells are expensive (12 points) but can be easily gained with 6 aggressive points. You should realize that you can't have more than 16 points (the number of references in the book of heroes). Thus, having 12 or 13 points is difficult. It adds some strategy to the book, and it's a very good idea.
The rest of the character sheet is rather traditional: weapon, magic items, spells. You don't use any money in this series, however, and don't need to eat.
Each character plays in the same world but is looking for something different. There's a map showing roads between the locations. For example, if you want to go from the lake to Selartz (a city), you take the roads, decide whether you want to explore a location or not, and then reach Selartz. Next to your character sheet is a page listing all of the locations of the book with a reference number and a check box. When you're able to explore Selartz, you check this page and go to the reference. However, some locations on this page don't appear on the map. That's because some of them are hidden or are part of another location (Selartz contains several smaller locations).
When you finish exploring a location, you often see this text: "Fin d'Exploration" (End of Exploration). This means that you must check the box next to the location you visited, indicating that you'll never be able to go there again. This will prevent you from going several times to the same place and repeating an easy "book of heroes choice." This would allow you to unfairly gain Power Points, which would be unfair. In the multi-player game, it is sometimes possible to encounter the phrase "Fin d'exploration pour tous" (End of Exploration for all). When this happens, nobody will be able to go to that place, and everyone must check the box corresponding to it.
Don't worry about being unable to go back to a place you visited. There is never anything important left to find in a closed location unless you made very poor choices, which almost never happens.
In a multi-player game, the character with the highest initiative plays first (since the Initiative score never changes, it's always the same character who acts first). That player reads the current reference. If the number is printed without dashes ("61"), it has to be read aloud. If it's printed with dashes ("-61-") it must be read in secret.
The basic pattern of play is "read one reference, choose your path, and wait for the next player to read" (this is called "un tour de jeu" (Game Turn). Players must always declare their locations, since two characters aren't allowed to be in the same place at the same time. If that happens, you have three choices: the newly arrived character can go somewhere else, the two characters can fight, or the two characters can team up.
There are very strict rules for alliances. The player whose Power and Aura added up to greatest total is the leader. The other members close their books and follow the leader. This is why some spells improves your Aura (Caïthness, for example, has several of them). You can break an alliance whenever you want. If an alliance wins the game, all of its members win.
When it's your turn to play and you're on the map, you have several options:
Move: you go to another location, following a road and then stopping.
Rest: heal 10 Wound Points
Explore: go to the reference of the place where you are currently located
Frederic's General Comments
There's something important you should keep in mind when reading my reviews. I played the books in order. Thus, I had experience from Caïthness when playing Keldrilh. Even if the locations don't offer exactly the same encounters, I knew that some places were more dangerous and carefully avoided them until I was strong enough. If you plan to play the four books, choose your favorite character first. After a book or two, you'll get used to the game and won't enjoy the later books as much as the first ones.