Sabrage By Philip Armstrong
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
Philip Armstrong is another Windhammer regular and always does well with his fun, cartoon-like gamebooks. This year we have Sabrage, in which you play a sword. This is new; I have never been a sword before! The goal in this game is to talk to your newly found wielder, Qorc, get him to trust you and get out of a massive cheese.
There, you see a Ham Hound bounding about and barking to itself. It looks like a baked ham—complete with honey glaze—on four stubby legs. A large red tongue lolls out of its fang-filled mouth.
As always, Philip’s gamebooks are fun and massively creative. We have a hub-based gamebook here – a central market home base, and then three spikes to explore – a desert, an ice world and a jungle. A nice touch is that these aren’t independent silos. You find items and characters that overlap these areas so you are encouraged to go back and forth. There is a nice mechanic where the choices that are red can only be selected once, while other choices can be selected multiple times. I like this, but it does sometimes feel a bit like a cheat mode. Because you cannot choose them more then once to abuse the mechanic, the red choices are usually really good and give you one time bonuses, like coins or items.
Combat is difficult and isn’t quite as immersive as it should be, but I like the idea behind it. There’s a nice tactical element but I don’t feel that the combat moves vary enough to adapt to the situation too much. Then again, you are a sword and there’s not much to be done with you.
The unique part of the gamebook is the interaction between the sword and the hero. Qorc has a mind of his own and won’t always do what you want unless he trusts you enough. Unfortunately the relationship and the banter between the two is under-developed and could be more interesting. I would like to have seen a lot more conflict and less trust.
The world in Sabrage is fantastic and the cast have a discworld vibe. There’s brilliant creativity on display and you get to meet many colourful characters on the way, a hamhound, for example. We’ve come to expect this level of creativity from Philip and he does not disappoint at all this year. A lot of people will find Sabrage appealing and the gamebook will do well!