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Item - Mines of Moria

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(ICE edition, 1st printing)
(ICE edition, 1st printing)
(ICE edition, 1st printing)
(Berkley edition, 1st printing)
(Berkley edition, 1st printing)
(Berkley edition, 1st printing)
(Berkley edition, 1st printing)

Combined Summary

Series: Middle-earth Quest — no. 7
Translated Into: In den Minen von Moria (German)
Minas de Moria (Portuguese)
Las minas de Moria (Spanish)
Le miniere di Moria (Italian)
Authors: Mathews, Susan
Ruemmler, John David
Illustrators: McBride, Angus (cover)
Carroll, Dan (interior)
Britton, Richard (Rick) (cartography)
Date: 1988 (ICE edition, 1st printing)
ISBN: 0425089932 / 9780425089934
Length: 333 sections, plus prologue.
User Summary: This book takes place during the Fourth Age, in the first few years after the War of the Ring's end. A clan of Dwarfs has hired you to enter the long-abandoned Mines of Moria and retrieve a lost will. Along the way you'll have to face orcs, trolls and many other creatures, as well as members of a rival clan who want the document for themselves.
Fullerton's Thoughts:

After playing two of the Middle-earth Quest books (this one and A Spy in Isengard), I have a feeling that ICE's design philosophy for this series was very different from that of other companies. The ideal path is almost trivial to find, and a huge percentage of the entries are not relevant to the plot. There are a bunch of paths where they a) steer you away from them in the first place, b) take you further away from the ending, and c) don't give you any sort of reward to reward you for the risk. Maybe ICE wanted the series to appeal to people who wanted an easier book to play through, and/or people who just want the fun (and danger) of exploring areas purely for the sake of exploration.

The book would have been better if the unnecessary paths gave you something to help during the later parts of the book. In other words, it would have been nice for the unnecessary paths to be helpful on occasion, possibly by containing some of the clues that were otherwise thrown into the main path.

Despite my criticisms, the book did give me a lot of entertainment for my money: Probably 3 hours to play through it, and then at least another 8 to map out all the possibilities. Plus, I plan to replay it once or twice in a few weeks. Once to try to maximize the treasure I find, and maybe once to see whether I can actually beat one of the tough monsters.

More reviews by Fullerton

Guillermo's Thoughts:

(review based on the Spanish translation)

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the last book in this series to be published in English, but it unfortunately for the most part does not live up to the high standards set by the earlier two volumes. It begins with a short overland journey, but most of the action takes place inside the Mines. As you might have guessed, it's a dungeon crawl-style book, but the design leaves a lot to be desired. There are several pointless, dead-end passageways; there are also several instances where simply deciding to enter an area leads to an instant-death ending; several opportunities to decrease your skill scores, which puts you at a disadvantage since this adventure taxes your skills quite frequently; places you have to go through where you have to succeed at several skill rolls in succession or fail, and several areas with ridiculously powerful opponents (no Balrog, sorry), so that entering them means almost certain death. Furthermore, the authors cared to introduce a very obvious clue that points to the final goal, which means you're very likely to simply miss a large chunk of the adventure simply by following it. The dungeon feels rather short and unsatisfying, especially when compared to those found in the more famous British gamebooks. Furthermore, the writing is for the most part amateurish enough to be cringe-inducing.

Last but not least, the book does not seem to account for the possibility that you can play a dwarf character, and constantly assumes that your character is a non-dwarf, such as in the situation where you find a suit of armour that "is too small for you, but would probably fit a dwarf".

The book does have its saving graces, though. One is the inclusion of a companion character who, in contrast to most of the writing in this book, actually has some entertaining dialogue to offer, and in some situations can enter into conflicts with the player character. Also, there is a map in this book which is used to navigate certain parts of the dungeon (like in A Spy in Isengard). However, the map only covers two short sections of the dungeon; the rest is explored in standard gamebook fashion (with numbered sections and 'turn to' instructions), which means you'll have to draw your own map.

Overall, the book is for the most part a disappointment, but might be worth reading for the fun dialogue and the thrill of exploring a famous location from Tolkien's epic story. As a game, however, it is only recommended for die-hard fans of traditional dungeon crawls, and even they should be warned that this doesn't have the quality of, say, the average Fighting Fantasy dungeon adventure. It's not as disastrous as the second Legends of Skyfall book, but it's no classic either, so don't go out of your way to read it.

More reviews by Guillermo

TheSector's Thoughts:

I have fond memories of this book from my childhood. Revisiting it these days, though, I'd say it's about average as gamebooks go.

Don't get me wrong, Mines of Moria does have a few things going for it. Name recognition, for one - what Tolkien fan could say no to adventuring in an infamous location from the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Your dwarf companion is another nice touch. He doesn't affect the actual gameplay much (you don't share supplies, and usually he fights one enemy while you're fighting another), but he does offer some nice banter and even arguments to liven up the dungeon crawl - a nice change of pace from the usual "lone wanderer" approach. This book's difficulty also isn't too awful - there ARE are some bogusly difficult monsters, but none of them are "mandatory" the way they are in some of the rougher Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy books. In fact, you have to go out of your way to find some of these fights!

Finally, there's a passage or two that caught my imagination, like the one where you get SO hopelessly lost in Moria that you fail ("No amount of back-tracking and searching will show you the way back out again. Hunger and darkness take your life"). Yikes!

All that said, this one has its share of weaknesses, too. It definitely could have used tighter gamebook design. There are a number of places which offer pointlessly lethal outcomes, like a passage where you fail to avoid a troll's hammer, and you are checked to see if the damage incurred exceeds your Endurance. Of course, you die if it does, and that's fair, but if you have the Endurance to cover it... the impact knocks you off a ledge in the next section and you die anyway! This is Gamebook 101 stuff, writers should never waste sections making branches where both outcomes are lethal. Or there's another combat where you can run away... which again results in a death outcome anyway. A point loss would have been more fair. Or you can loot some Burn Powder which can heal any one wound from fire... too bad there are no fire attacks in the entire book. By now, you get the idea - this book's pathing definitely needed some more love before it went out.

The book's writing and atmosphere are decidedly average, too. Your dwarf companion's banter is a high point, and there's some nice use of Tolkien lore in spots (particularly the beginning), but there's also a lot of short sections or just places where you're doing pretty much the same stuff as any other fantasy gamebook. The writer definitely could have done a little more to make Moria stand out from the hordes of other dungeon crawls out there.

The half-assed continuity of this series is another thing that has always irked me. You CAN bring in a character from other Tolkien Quest books, but there's no continuing story or saga like in Lone Wolf or Grailquest - another area where this book (and series) could been more than they were.

So there you have it, some good things, and an equal number of bad or just plain average things. This isn't a disastrously bad gamebook by any means, but neither is it among the cream of the genre.

More reviews by TheSector

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary and to Guy Fullerton for the alternate front cover scan.
Users Who Own This Item: Alatar001, AlHazred, angriestmonster, Arkadia, B0N0V0X, BarefootJimmy, bigcobra, Braldt, Citanul, Crazyscotsman, dave2002a, Demian (coverless), dodgingcars, Eamonn McCusker, Ed, Erikwinslow, firefoxpdm, Florik, Fullerton (Berkley), Gamebook, GBC (new), hoops4ever, jdreller, Jubal, katzcollection, kinderstef, knginatl, le maudit, lek (PDF), lugh, Malthus Dire, mlvoss, nelsondesign, Oberonbombadil, ooklathemokk, outspaced, Pseudo_Intellectual, Robert Mammone, rowns, Sabreman, Sheridan77, Sir Olli, sireeyore, spragmatic, StagQuests, strawberry_brite, TheSector, Tremendez, twar, waktool (US 1st), Xelforp, Zolika
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Users with Extra Copies: greyarea13
twar - 2 copies.1 copy has pen/pencil markings on character sheets and some pencil circles on section numbers. 1 copy in good condition except for light scratches across front cover, and crease on back cover.

Known Editions

ICE edition, 1st printing
Berkley edition, 1st printing

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