As heard on last weeks FTLoP, amongst the fantasy gamebook boom of the mid eighties, was an unusual threesome known as the Cretan Chronicles. Not the first linked set of gamebooks, it nevertheless followed quite swiftly on the heels of Steve Jackson’s very popular Sorcery series, and in a similar way tried to add more depth to the 400 paragraphed Fighting Fantasy books. It did this by a complex patronage/religion system, a novel setting and occasionally seeming to have a bit of sex in it.

I had the first two, and never finished it as an actual adventure (even with the indestructible character cheating), and much like Sorcery it seemed that if you hadn’t picked up certain items in a previous book you would be unable to proceed*. It used slightly different stats to Fighting Fantasy and combat was harder (if you didn’t cheat – which everyone did). But the real complexity came down to the patronage system, where you were favoured by one of the gods. The problem this threw in was which ever god you picked, ALL THE OTHERS HATED YOU, so you were constantly being sucked into traps by Hera or having sex with Zeus disguised as a swan. I had heard, though I find this unlikely, that if you picked Poseidon as you patron the entire third book would be over in about ten minutes.

This makes sense because all of the books were loose appropriations of some actual Greek myths. So the first one has a bit of Troy, a bit of Marathon and then a Jason and the Argonauts subtext. The second riffs on Theseus heavily, and then you get stuck in that bloody maze forever (mazes in gamebooks = very cheap way of padding out the adventure). The final one rips off the Odyssey mercilessly, with you being bounced from island to island and having sex with Circe (like I say, apparently because I never played this one). I had given up on the third one after being stuck in the damn maze in the second. (Someone else’s frustrations here). I can’t say they were great, but they were diverting in the way most of the Fighting Fantasy books were, and they piqued a small amount of interest in Greek mythology in them. To the extent that later Hercules and Xena seemed a touch derivative of the BLOODFEUD OF ALTHEUS (top marks for that title anyway). But if I saw one in a second hand shop now, maybe, just maybe I’d have to make the choice between : if you steer towards the Scylla Go To 452, If you prefer to aim for the Charybdis go to 23.

*It was easy to tell what these items were, because if you bought At The Court Of The Crimson King Minos it had a section that told you what your equipment would be if you had bought it as a stand-alone adventure. Notably unusual in that equipment was a ball of wool which when you think about it makes perfect sense!