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Messages - Barrington Boots

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Prog / Re: Prog 2294: East Wired
« on: 06 August, 2022, 02:12:49 PM »
 I thought this was a great Prog. Saturday prog too!

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 05 August, 2022, 12:14:32 PM »
Freeway Warrior Book 2: Slaughter Mountain Run

Back to the Apocalypse! It's another long writeup I'm afraid because these books pack in a lot. Split into 2 parts, because of length, and work.

With two down I've got the hang of these books now. The combat can be quite swingy, but generally isn't a huge threat: what is is the barrage of skill checks you encounter as you play through. Often failing one will deal you a chunk of damage, but sometimes they can be outright deaths. There's also a lot of randomised rolls that can do the same, and on these, rolling low isn't always a bad thing. This is a composite playthrough though, because I still died a couple of times going through it.

If you've finished the previous book you get extra skill points at the start. Stealth is by FAR the most important and most tested skill. In the last game I quickly learned to keep my stealth at 5, here I boosted it to 6 meaning I could pick up more items, take a stealth penalty, and still have stealth 5. FWIW I went into this with Stealth 6, Driving 5 and Shooting, Perception and Field Craft 4. For my starting items I chose the pistol, binoculars (very useful in book 1), a flare (as I needed to make a rendezvous) and 2 meals.

The last book ended with me (Cal Phoenix) successfully escorting the colony to Big Spring but ended on a cliffhanger as the Mavericks abducted my ally / love interest Kate. This book begins by confirming that the leaders of the Mavericks and the Detroit Lions, Amex Gold and Mad Dog Michigan, were old terrorist buddies and the two gangs have joined forces to attack Big Spring. The attack has been successfully repulsed between books with the gangs taking heavy losses, but Amex Gold has given Kate back to Mad Dog as a show of loyalty. Mad Dog has reached out to bring two more clans into the alliance, the New Orleans Saints and the Angelinos. With such overwhelming force the leaders at Big Spring decide the only hope is to break out and convoy over to Tucson.

I was a bit disappointed to see this setting up the same plot as last game, but thankfully I immediately state my intention to withdraw as scout for the colony and pass responsibilities over to Rickenbacker (the pilot guy) whilst I head off to San Angelo to find Kate. First though we have to break out and this is where the book begins. With the Lions off at San Angelo we armour up a bunch of trucks and blast out, ramming through the Mavericks barricades and scattering their men. I dodge through some hazards and once we're clear split off from the convoy, agreeing to rendezvous at Kent on Interstate 20 in seven days.

I follow the Highways for a while: on Highway 158 the book notes I'm able to increase speed to 30mph! It's baking hot and I pull over into a ramshackle ruin for shade and rifle through an abandoned hardware store: in the heat this saps my endurance, but I pick up a couple of odds and ends: a toolkit and some plastic tubing. Pushing on past several Texas landmarks, I ambush and brutally kill two Clansman, lootting them for extra water and ammo and medical supplies and also taking some rope and a leather face mask. At Sterling City all I find is feral cats but approaching Broome I'm forced to duck into a used car lot to avoid a large group of Lions bikers. Here I also scavenge some engine oil.

Reaching San Angelo after a full day's drive, only the city centre is still standing and heavily reinforced with roadblocks and barricades, firmly under the control of the Angelinos clan who, I note, are heavily tooled up but a lot of their equipment seems rusted and in poor repair. I steer the car quietly through the ruined suburbs, eventually parking it in the Sears Megamart underground garage and getting a quick two hours sleep before attempting to infiltrate the city on foot at first light when the heat is more bearable. My plan is to break in through an office block on the perimeter wall.

I'm able to gain entrance by busting through some warped timber barricade and get into the lobby of Lone Star Oil & Gas. As is my habit I keep left, eventually going downstairs into what would have been the office restaurant and kitchens. There's an Angelino in the kitchen: I foolishly give him a chance to surrender and after he shoots me up a bit I put him down and loot him for bullets, med supplies and a blanket as well as looting food from the kitchen and a cleaver, which is a better weapon than my knife. From there it's into San Angelo itself. The bulk of the clansman are congregated at the Reagan Memorial Stadium where it seems some kind of motorcycle rally / race will be happening whilst Mad Dog signs a pact with a guy called Mekong Mike, the Angelino leader. For some reason I'm convinced Kate will also be there (I'm right, but not sure how I arrived at that) so I resolve to break into the stadium , which is full of hostile lunatics. Given the choice of stowing in one of the service trucks containing bike parts of getting in over the wall I choose the latter as the first seems suicidal. My strong stealth score sees me through: inside the race is being prepped (there's some Ben Hur comparisons) but my eyes are for the media box, where I spot four clansman and none other than Kate herself!

With all eyes on the track, I gain entrance to the observation tower. There are guards from each of the two clan factions, but I sling my flare into the corridor and move in to silence them quickly (and no doubt messily) with my cleaver before busting into the media room, flattening one enemy immediately and gunning down a second. I now face the two clan leaders: Mekong Mike is described as mustachioed and brightly dressed with a steer skull tattooed on his forehead, whilst Mad Dog wears black and has receding long hair going to grey. I'm quickly into a knife fight with the former: he's as skilled as me, and although my cleaver gives me the advantage I drop him in six rounds (its a timed fight) but am left on just 5 health. Mad Dog has meanwhile been on the radio alerting the gang: he has a gun trained on me, but before he can fire Kate wallops him with a chair and down he goes.

At this point, insanely, I am not given the choice to finish off Mad Dog Michigan. Given he has a blood debt against me, and has kidnapped Kate twice and done goodness knows what, and is a former member of HAVOC and leader of a huge gang intent on taking over the Southern United States, it seems remiss to leave him unconscious in a pile of chair splinters. So of course I totally do that and instead satisfy myself with stealing his special map (and using a load of medkits) before we do a runner. There's a full hue and cry in effect as we descend into the body of the stadium itself and Kate is smart enough to spot a service hatch to take us into an electrical duct and from there into some kind of service tunnel beneath the stadium. I don't have a torch or indeed any source of light having not learned my lesson from last time so we blunder around here for a bit (one of my deaths occurred here when I opened a hatch right into a massive group of vengeful Angelinos), eventually using the cables to feel our way along in the darkness before light from glass bricks set into the ceiling brings us to a hatch at the stadium entrance. It takes us an hour to reach the perimeter wall, but our way is blocked by four clansman who arrive in a jeep. I don't fancy making a run for it so I wait till they're spread out and we try to steal their jeep: there's no keys but I nab some antiseptic dressings and after deliberating, a shotgun and two shells before we make a dash for a fire station. We're spotted and under fire: I take a chance to grab a fire extinguisher (not having one cost me last game) and switch my cleaver for a fire axe which has the same stats but is a lot cooler. It's a full in chase into Sears - a clansman grabs Kate, crushing her throat but a blast from my pistol sends him descriptively flying like a leaf in the wind - and back to the car where we can high-tail it out of San Angelo with both gangs on our tail. Oh, and Mad Dog has taken over the Angelinos now, smart move leaving him alive. It's not like I haven't killed dozens of other bad guys...

End of part 1.

As you can tell I'm still enjoying this a lot. Same issues as before - fiddly inventory / encumbrance management and random numbers often causing mishap - and I only had one fight in this first part (The Angelino boss) with all the others being quick kills with my gun or knife. The writing is still evocative and full of detail though, the use of real places & a map based off real Texas gives a real sense of travel, and the heat is used to good effect - I really don't want to be out in the middle of the day! Now we're linked up again, Kate is resourceful and cool unlike the Mungos of the FF world who either drag you down or die instantly (although the sparse dialogue between you and her is pretty weak - but we're not reading this for good dialogue really) and there's a feeling of a real world existing beyond just the things you immediately encounter yourself. And the bad guys names are excellent.

Part 2 to follow!

Classifieds / Re: Cinebooks for sale.
« on: 04 August, 2022, 11:34:49 AM »
I'm interested in a couple, I'll drop you a line now.

General / Re: Forum’s Fav Thrill - Low Life vs. The Out Rd 5 Heat 8
« on: 04 August, 2022, 09:08:42 AM »
Low Life

Fiends of the Eastern Front

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 03 August, 2022, 09:53:48 AM »
Awesome writeup Richard! So glad you're enjoying these.

I didn't try the undersea route in any of my plays and I quite fancy going back and giving it another try. I really loved this book: the fight against Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum is great and the final duel against the ninja rule. I also don't see what's so good about the adventurers - I just met them again in book 6 and they're totally rubbish there too.
I think Cassandra & co must have the record for how many times they've killed me across various books.

I wonder if the rushed ending was due to the writers being told this was the final book? That could certainly put a dampener on the creative spirit.

Reading around, the publisher and the authors did have a falling out causing the abrupt end. It sounds like Mark Smith and Jamie Thompson felt they were being messed around and jumped ship to write Duelmaster instead, hence Inferno not being to the same standard as the others.

Strontium Dog

General / Re: Forum’s Fav Thrill - Halo Jones vs. Shakara Rd 5 Heat 5
« on: 03 August, 2022, 08:51:02 AM »

Prog / Re: Prog 2293 - Leave no trace!
« on: 02 August, 2022, 05:29:06 PM »
Quick one for me as although I got the Prog Saturday (hurray!) I don't have time to review it.

Dredd Really enjoyed this episode. Although I still don't know the full story, it's now fully 'clicked' for me and I am excited to see what's next. Dredd being a right dick in this episode too.

Brink I've found myself mentally checked out on this sadly and not enjoying it anymore, I'll read the last few episodes together when it wraps up and that should bring the fun back.

Skip Tracer Dire. Can we have Paul Marshall on something else please.

Dexter Best Dexter for ages this. The development with the Fony was unexpected - I agree with Colin on the AI here... really great. On the art, Tazio Bettin is amazing at action sequences but there's a few shonky faces this time around.

Jaegir Amazing. A nice reminder that Atalia and her guys are still bastards, but I still want them to win through here. Grim stuff, hugely digging it.

Three excellent strips this week!

Bit of a head-scratcher here. Early Bad Company I think is stellar, but as noted before each series is worse than the last and the very last one we had was appalling. Red Seas I've only read in it's entirety in the Ultimate Collection: I'm a big fan overall, but it can't maintain high standards throughout and there's some real peaks and troughs in the story.
On the balance one thrill had more impact on me when I first read it, and that's possibly because of when I read it, but I think I'll go for Bad Company

General / Re: Forum’s Fav Thrill - Stickleback vs. Brink Rd 5 Heat 3
« on: 02 August, 2022, 09:06:08 AM »
It's Brink

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 01 August, 2022, 02:42:42 PM »
Way of the Tiger: Inferno!

This is it - the finale of WotT. Sort of. This was the last book in the series as of 1987, but a final book was released in 2014 to resolve the series.
Reading around the series before I started picking up Assassin onwards I heard that this book has a poor reputation and generally is regarded as a bit of a clunker. I'm playing the 2014 rerelease as I couldn't get hold of a copy of the original, and I understand there's been some errata applied but I don't know what (as I have avoided spoliers!)
Here we go.

We begin with peace in Manmarch. The Legion of the Sword of Doom is finished following Honoric's death, and the forces of the Rift have melted away, ceasing their raids. Irsmuncast is broke, and I have needed to borrow heavily to repair it following the events of the last book (this, sadly, is irrelevant) but all is well.
The book starts with the sighting of a force from the Rift. I have been awaiting news of my old friends Glaivas and Dore, who have mounted an expedition into the Rift itself because Dore is a lunatic: instead what we get is a bunch or Orcs in the company of none other that my old enemy Cassandra and my old pseudo-ally Foxglove. They are asking for amnesty to enter the city. Gwyneth hates Foxglove as she thinks it was she that betrayed the city in book 5 and suggests we ride out and capture them, but I am supposed to be a just ruler so I grant said amnesty and Cassandra and Foxglove are brought before me: the latter in a very sorry state. Cassandra, who is in charge of this delegation, gives me the news that The Black Widow now rules the rift in place of Shadazar (killed by me in the previous volume) and that she has captured Glaivas: I can swap him for my sceptre which I must deliver myself into the Rift. There is no word of Dore who is apparently 'within the Rift'.
I can read Cassandra with my Shin-Ren skills and see that she speaks truly, but that she is desperate to kill me. Foxglove on the other hand is in a pitiful way, corroborating Cassandra's story and both begging for her life and pleading not to be sent back to the Rift. Cassandra tells me she used Foxglove to get into the city and now I can have her or she will take her back, giving me the choice of sending her back, having her executed at Gwyneth's request, or having her held as my prisoner to accompany me into the Rift. None of these seem like ideal choices here: I found Foxglove to be my most useful advisor, but I know she's evil - however two choices here seem bang out of order so I choose the latter. I also have the option of detaining / killing Cassandra but I did declare amnesty so I let her depart - her parting advice is to take the narrow path on the fourth tier to avoid a trap even I could not hope to survive.

There is no question of me not heading off to rescue Glaivas so I gear up and Foxglove and I depart. I decide to show trust to Foxglove - not guarding her and so on - in the hope that this will be reciprocated. This is a mistake. The day before we're due to enter the Rift she comes to me in tears saying how awful things have turned out for her etc. and asks for an embrace. This should have set the alarm bells ringing but I offer one anyway - before I can stop her she has 'stolen a kiss' and cast some enchantment magic upon me. However! I have the Shin-Ren skill and I do not fall under her spell through supreme force of will. I have the option to let her go again here, but I decide to still bring her into the rift with me, resolving to watch her closely and it looks like this is a mistake too as she then asks for the sceptre and I hand it over before she gives it back, confident in the knowledge that she can make me to stuff. Ooops.

At last we descend into the Rift, Foxglove staying twenty paces behind me. The rift is split into levels or tiers - I imagined it as being as sort of giant natural cavern, but it's more Moria-like, each level containing rooms, stairways, passages and the like. The first tier is mainly deserted but the second tier is described as populous, being made up of complete villages and towns that both trade and fight with each other for resources and 'are too focused on staying alive for frivolity'. It's a wretched sounding existance and it really strikes me here what a horrible lunatic the likes of Dore must be, as he came here essentially to attack these settlements and kill as many of its inhabitants as possible. I need a disguise, so I silently kill a Shambler - a small orc-like creature - and steal its grime-covered furs. A skilled mimic I can copy its gait and hopefully pass for one. I steal some chains and put them on Foxglove - she is not happy about this - and drag her after me pretending she is a captive.
It's not long before my disguise is tested as I am confronted by an Orc Chieftan and a bunch of his mates who wants to take Foxglove from me for some terrible purpose. I'm not handing her over, so I challenge the orc to one-on-one combat - he finds his hilarious, as I am a lowly Shambler, but he's not laughing when I snap his neck with the teeth of the tiger throw.

Leaving the second tier we descend further and find the scene of a battle: a bunch of Dark Elves and Orcs, obviously slain by good guys of some kind. The third tier is thick with smoke and the sound of its denizens. Here am ambushed by none other than the four adventurers I met way back in book 2: Eris the magician, Vespers the swordsman and priests Thybault and Taflwr. They ambush me, because killing hapless Shamblers is their thing, but I throw off my disguise (after taking a serious amount of damage) and reunite with them. Here Foxglove makes her move, throwing herself at them and asking for help in renouncing evil, but because I'm not enchanted, I'm able to put a stop to this and tell her not to speak to them. So far bringing Foxglove along has been interesting but not helpful! I'm not really sure how these four guys have got so far into the Rift but their assistance is welcome, and we combine forces and move onto the fourth tier, which is infested with strange, grotesque mushroom trees and lit by fires and furnaces. Following Foxglove's advice (and common sense) we opt to avoid the main route down as it is said to be guided by Fire Giants and instead take a sinister, quiet secret pathway down into the depths.
The pathway is quiet, a change from the bustle of the main level. Everything is shrouded in cobwebs, and it seems we really are on a secret stair. It is here that I peer inside an ancient samovar only for a small spider to suddenly burst out of it and run INTO MY OPEN MOUTH before climbing up my Eustachian tube and 'before long I can feel it fidgeting about under my brain'. WTF. Horribly the book asks me if I now have two brain-spiders so it seems this horror can strike more than once. Emerging from the secret stairs I urge my companions to take the narrow path, as Cassandra suggested, only for us to be pitched headlong into a smaller chamber where a reception committee awaits.

It is indeed another trap: my old enemies Cassandra, Tyutchev and Thaum are here - although, the boom states, hiding from the Black Widow instead of doing her bidding. They have drawn me here, but their looks of glee turn to surprise when they see I have arrived with backup. The heroes and villains exchange insults as the battle lines are drawn. As ever, Thaum opens the fight with his magic, in this instance a blinding flash - I am wise to it and shield my eyes, but Eris and Taflwr blinded. I use a shuriken to stop Thaum casting again and close with him whilst Vespers and Thybault clash with Cassandra and Tyutchev. He is a weak opponent and easily felled, but before I can finish him off I am blindsided by Tyutchev who I throw into Cassandra. It seems that my guys are in trouble - Thybault is down, Eris is still blinded. I engage Tyutchev, miss two kicks in a row and am getting royally killed when another threat bursts into the room - The Krathak (it is not explained what this is) being driven by Dark Elf minions of the Black Widow, come to kill everybody. Everyone flees through a secret door to the Worldworm - a gigantic snake statue that it is said coils to the very centre of orb. Everyone dives into it's maw (I elect not to kill Cassandra as she holds the maw open) and everyone then plunges out into a void. A prayer to Kwon cannot help: instead I plunge into a huge spiderweb, at the mercy of the gigantic Black Widow as she emerges from the darkness, a juicy morsel for the queen of evil...

So: this book wasn't as bad as I'd heard, but it wasn't great. What was helpful is that in the original printing I understand that this indeed marked as THE END, whilst in my newer edition it simply says something like 'you're doomed, unless you can escape..?' and finishes there. For the gamebook player of 1987 this must have seemed an appalling end to the series, and I can see why a final book was commissioned.

That aside this was the weakest book in the series by far. There was no use of my ninja skills aside from Shin-Ren, no mention of Kwon until the very end, only one fate roll, and only one fight (I don't count the one against the orc)- and in that, against both opponents, it ended after 3 rounds regardless. The writing is still good, but it's lacking some of the atmosphere of the previous books: I found it hard to visualise the environs of the Rift and some parts seemed skimmed over, especially the ending which felt terribly rushed - one minute I'm locked in combat and them suddenly a massive unknown monster arrives, we jump into another monster and then it's all over. It very much feels like either the authors ran out of steam or motivation to finish and just wrapped it up. Having Foxglove with me didn't make a huge amount of difference although that may have changed had I been entirely under her spell or taken a different route: in the end she just made herself small whilst the battle raged around her and, I assume, escaped into the Worldworm with everyone else. There was no clue as to what happened to Glaivas or Dore. Finally it was pretty easy: the first WotT book I completed in one attempt - although I finished it on 4 endurance so and probably would have died had the battle with Tyutchev run it's course. Skimming through there are some auto-death paragraphs but they seem to relate to making poor choices.

A note on the art for the new edition - it looks like it was painted in full colour for the hardback Kickstarter editions and the reproduction here in B&W is poor, with the images often being quite murky: there's a nice picture of Foxglove and a great one of the spider at the end but the others aren't good. There are however some lovely maps of both orb and Irsmuncast.

Book 7 coming up soon.

Off Topic / Re: The Black Dog Thread
« on: 01 August, 2022, 11:20:54 AM »
Thanks Funt.
I love the Ice Cream Goat! I'll print it up and stick it by my desk!

Games / Re: Gamebooks
« on: 01 August, 2022, 10:01:39 AM »
Mighty collection there.
I also have Assassins of Allansia and I'm looking forward to giving it a go: good to hear it's a fun one. I heard it's very tricky - I really like the concept.

The Duelmaster books have you both playing at the same time, but at certain points (at the end of most paragraphs) you get told to wait until the other player gets to a wait prompt and then you both read on. Taking actions gives you keywords, eg if you take an item or kill a monster it'll say record keyword x and then if the other player enters that area later he'll be prompted to ask if you have that keyword: if so he'll be redirected to another paragraph saying there's a body here, or an open chest, and so on. I've not played Clash of Princes but I'm assuming they work in the same way.
Arena of Death is like a little head to head version of Deathtrap Dungeon. It's the same arena as featured in the first WotT book, but also has an underground area.
Valley of Death is a more lopsided one in that one player is a hunter and the other the quarry. The hunter player starts off at a huge advantage - a powerful character, and able to set allies and traps about the valley, but the quarry character has the easier ride, if they play smart. It's a very interesting dynamic.

When SinDex was good it was excellent, but much like Star Wars or Aliens I feel I'm at the point where the poor stuff outweighs the good.
It has had more highs that Feral and Foe in fairness, and I feel confident it'll win this tie which means I can vote for Feral & Foe, which I think is superb, without any nudges from my conscience.

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