Graphing Fighting Fantasy favourite, House of Hell

Cover to Steve Jackson's House of Hell Fighting Fantasy gamebook
House of Hell by Steve Jackson

The Fighting Fantasy series of books, created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, were a staple of 1980s solo roleplaying. With simple rules and basic character creation (roll two dice for your stamina, etc) the meat of each book comprised 400 numbered paragraphs. Starting at paragraph 1 you, THE HERO, starred in your own adventure, following instructions to turn to different paragraphs. Success or swift death depended on your choices and the outcome of battles and luck rolls.

My old copies of a handful of the 50-something books has long since decayed in a damp attic. But I recently came across “Fighting Fantasy Classics“, an app version by Tin Man Games featuring a slowly growing library of favourites from the series. After some research into “best of…” lists, I decided to buy a copy of House of Hell, the 10th book in the series, and give it a whirl.

To save you scrolling to the end to get the full graph of all 400 pages of the book, here it is. You’ll need to use the free yEd Graph Editor or the browser version, yED Live, to view it.

I’ve also graphed all 400 pages, and the many magical items with their varied uses, of book number 3: The Forest of Doom. You can pick up that graph here.

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The Medieval Puzzle Collection and homogeneous linear equations

The Medieval Puzzle Collection by Tim Dedopulos

The Medieval Puzzle Collection, A Fine and Perplexing Tome of Riddles, Enigmas and Conundrums, is one entry in a long list of Carlton published puzzle books by Tim Dedopulos. Similar titles include numerous Sherlock Holmes themed books, Tutankhamun’s Book of Puzzles and even A Game of Thrones Puzzle Quest.

I think this particular book, published in 2014, is a cheaper black-and-white reprint of the full colour The Medieval Puzzle Book from 2013. Suffice to say, Tim has churned out a lot of these books over the last 10 years, and there’s probably not a huge amount to tell between them.

Short version: I think this book is downright poor, though not quite as poor as The Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth, also by Dedopulos. I don’t hate all his books – I quite enjoyed Sherlock Holmes’ Elementary Puzzles – but Medieval is both dull and badly edited. I’ll try to explain why, finishing with a mathematical foray into the world of homogeneous linear equations. Ready? Read on!

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News and Updates for December

logoChristmastime is here, by golly!

Whether you call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Hogswatch, Krampusnacht, Pancha Ganapati, Winterval, Yule or Yalda, the end of the Gregorian Calendar year is, for many, a season of glad tidings and enforced time with the extended family.

Puzzles and games are a great way to soothe political and religious differences, offering something entirely different for people to argue about.

As I write this, there’s still time to pick up some of these puzzle books if you’re stuck for gift ideas. Alternatively, there are a few online challenges to while away the northern hemispherically cold winter evenings.

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The Egyptian Jukebox: Solution Part 2

Egyptian Jukebox book cover
The Egyptian Jukebox

The Egyptian Jukebox by Nick Bantock is a dark and intriguing conundrum. The book asks a single question: “Where do my worlds join?”. The answer can be discovered in the 10 Drawers that make up the book.

This is Part 2 of my solution to the Egyptian Jukebox. Part 1 is here and provides some hints to get you started before going into the full explanation of the puzzle methodology and the solutions for the first 5 Drawers.

This part will give a brief recap of how the puzzle works before giving the solutions for the last 5 drawers and fitting them together for the final answer.

If you want to avoid spoilers as much as possible and just want a few hints, stop reading this post now and go read Part 1.

Last chance!

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The Egyptian Jukebox: Solution

Egyptian Jukebox book cover

The Egyptian Jukebox

The Egyptian Jukebox by Nick Bantock is a dark and intriguing conundrum. The book asks a single question: “Where do my worlds join?”. The answer can be discovered in the 10 Drawers that make up the book.

Solving the puzzle requires a few good guesses and a willingness to test out ideas, so it’s easy to get stuck. But I think this is a fun puzzle to solve and do not want to spoil it by giving away the complete solution immediately.

Instead, this post gives a few hints to spark your own ideas before explaining the main method of solving the puzzle. There is then a detailed solution to the Drawer 1 puzzle, and finally a summary of the solutions for the next 4 Drawers. I’ll published solutions for the final 5 Drawers next week.

There are two key steps to solving The Egyptian Jukebox. The first is to crack the cryptic message in the Inscription:
“The gods stand upright and give latitude.
From the yarns pluck golden songs to string across.
With this grid you may now navigate The Egyptian Jukebox.
Ten drawers – ten small solutions – and an answer.”
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The Egyptian Jukebox

Egyptian Jukebox book cover

The Egyptian Jukebox

The Egyptian Jukebox is an intriguing puzzle book and certainly worth a read, though it is not one that you are likely to return to time and again.

Written by Nick Bantock in 1993 the titular jukebox is a cabinet having 10 drawers, each associated with a different Egyptian God, and all lovingly photographed. Every drawer is stuffed with creepy knick-knacks, coins and postcards from around the world. A short, often ghostly story accompanies each drawer and gives context to the contents.

The creator of the jukebox poses a single riddle: “Where do my worlds join?”. To help solve it, cryptic clues have the reader running around each drawer like a rat in a maze.

This is an enjoyable and solvable puzzle. Small clues scattered throughout the book must be pieced together to find the correct path through every drawer. It’s nicely structured so that the reader can see that they’re making progress, but different stumbling points present themselves on each page and require a slightly different approach to solve.

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The Eleventh Hour

11th Hour book cover

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base

The Eleventh Hour screams out “kids picture book”, but don’t let the simple style fool you. This is a wonderful adventure and puzzle for children of all ages. It won author and artist, Graeme Base a well-deserved “picture book of the year” award in his adoptive home of Australia in 1989.

The story is sweet and told in short rhyming passages. A diverse group of animal friends enjoy celebrating Horace the elephant’s 11th birthday together. But disaster strikes at 11 o’clock when the banquet prepared for lunch is stolen. Can you identify the criminal mastermind?

The answer to this question is quite simple, but the joy of the book comes in finding all the different clues confirming it. Secret messages and hidden clues are crammed into every inch of every brightly coloured page.

Hieroglyphics? Check! Musical notes spelling out a message? Check! Turning the book upside down? Check! I don’t know about an eleven year old, but it kept me quiet for a day. A sealed section at the back of the book goes through all the clues and I guarantee not even the most eagle-eyed reader will spot them all.

If you know an eleven year old, buy them this book, then steal it for yourself to cherish forever.