Review: Gary Chalk's Gun Dogs

By Dave Neumann 13 Dec 2013 0
Totally not Minas Tirith. Totally not Minas Tirith.

You have just been captured and taken, blindfolded, to a dungeon. Surely this is due to your leadership of a terrorist organization that has been trying to take down the ruthless Emperor who has innocents executed at his whim.

OK, now forget all that, because it’s just the propellant to send you off on a routine fantasy adventure that has nothing to do with your far more exciting back-story. In fact your back-story is only the first 2 pages of the nearly 20 pages that start out Gary Chalk’s Gun Dogs. That’s 20 pages before you reach any decision point. Maybe it’s me, but I kind of expected more “game” in my gamebook.

The story itself has promise: You are a Gun Dog, a captured criminal who is now slave to the Emperor and charged with a quest from the Emperor himself. Failure to complete the quest, or to avoid the quest, is punishable by death, as a magical collar around your neck will remind you, as it tightens, when your mind wanders. You’re given a quest, a gun, and the aforementioned collar and let loose into the wild.

While not breaking any new ground, this is the first sighting of "turd-fish" in a gamebook. While not breaking any new ground, this is the first sighting of "turd-fish" in a gamebook.

So far, so good. Just the fact that we’re not playing in a Tolkienesque fantasy land was already making this better than what I had been expecting. The book consists of your journey from the Imperial city of Lentica to a far-flung outpost of the Empire where the Emperor’s nephew is commander. No birds from the outpost have reached the city in many weeks, so you’re sent to inspect. Why this is so dangerous that they’d send a criminal, and possibly the most dangerous man in the Empire, to investigate is beyond me. To be sure, there were obstacles along the way, but nothing so terrifying that a couple of soldiers couldn’t have done the trick.

I think that’s the thing that bothered me most about this book. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I really enjoyed the setting and wanted to learn more about these Gun Dogs and the Empire. Why is the Emperor in power? They mention rebellions and the cities unifying, but that’s given short shrift as well. Your the leader of a terrorist group planning to kill the Emperor? You’re parents were slaughtered by the Emperor? I want a book that deals with all that stuff, not the routine and boring “quest” that forms the entire plot and leaves all that stuff behind. Out of all the stories and adventures that the setting seems to have writhing under its surface, the author chose the most boring of them all. If the author were given the chance to direct Raiders of the Lost Ark, he would have reframed it to be about Marcus Brody’s duties at Marshall College. Who gives a shit that professor what’s-his-name…Jones?…is off fighting Nazis, we need to see Brody run a staff meeting!

See all that vast nothing to the west of the cities? Yeah, that's where we're going. Cities are for sucks. See all that vast nothing to the west of the cities? Yeah, that's where we're going. Cities are for sucks.

They attempt to pump things up a bit by adding the art of Gary Chalk. They tried pumping it up so much that they stuck his name in the title of this thing. I actually like Gary Chalk’s art. I think it’s a great addition to the book and much better than the stuff I saw in Curse of the Assassin. I wish there would have been more of it, but it is definitely a step up for Tin Man.

From a technical standpoint, the game has all the trappings of every other Tin Man gamebook. Bookmarks, difficulty levels, automated character sheets, etc. Having just played Curse of the Assassin, I noticed no improvements or upgrades in the system whatsoever. That’s not a bad thing. When you have something that works, you stick with it, but it makes these reviews seem less like app reviews and more like book reports.

So, Gun Dogs isn’t terrible. It’s actually got a cool setting that would be nice to explore someday. It was a nice way to spend an evening. That said, it’s not going to win anybody over if they’re not already a fan of gamebooks. It does everything that all the Tin Man gamebooks do, it just doesn’t do it any better or any worse.

Review: Gary Chalk's Gun Dogs

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