Lost Worlds (gamebook)

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Lost Worlds - Skeleton with Scimitar and Shield

Lost Worlds is a "combat picture book game" designed and trademarked by Alfred Leonardi and originally published in 1983 by Nova Game Designs. The game has had many publishers, including Chessex, Emithill, Flying Buffalo and Greysea. In 1984, Lost Worlds won the Charles Roberts/Origins Award for Best Fantasy Boardgame of 1983.[1]

In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Lost Worlds as one of the Millennium's Best Games. Editor Scott Haring described the game as a "great, short, take-to-a-con and kill a couple minutes kind of game."[2]


A minor resurgence in published books occurred in 2004, with five new titles published in 2004 (four of them by a new licensee, 1% Inspiration Games), a further two published in June 2005 (both with photo illustrations rather than graphics), and others early in 2007 and 2008. Many of the older books are now out of print, although Firelight Game Company has said they may be reprinting some of the early books.


Play requires two players and at least two "visual combat books", with each player choosing a character (i.e., a book) from those available. At the start of play, each player removes the character sheet for that character from their book and hands the book to his or her opponent. The character sheet lists the various combat actions which the character can take during the battle. The combat book lists the effects of the attacks in tables, and serves as a visual reference for what the other player is doing. Hence, each player views entries in the book from a first-person perspective, seeing only their opponent and not themselves.

During each turn or combat phase, players secretly select an action from those shown on their card, possibly influenced by the results of previous turns. Players then simultaneously reveal their intended action, by number, to each other. Using the character sheet to cross-reference their action with that of their opponent, players then turn to a specific entry in the book they are holding in order to determine the results. These effects may include hit point loss (i.e., a wound), as well as any restrictions on the opponent's next move (which is read aloud to them). The first character to reduce their opponent to zero hit points wins.

To add complexity and variety, certain characters have special abilities—the Cave Troll and the Unicorn, for example, can Regenerate; several characters (beginning with the Fighter-Mage) can use Magic Spells (although there are now 3 different spell systems, formulated by different publishers); several can infect an opponent with either poison or disease, which then cause damage automatically in every round of combat. Some characters can fly; others have magic weapons.

In addition to Magic (represented by cards), there are also cards for Tactics and Luck, with characters having differing access to these, depending on their statistics.


There is also a further series of books, of emphatically female fighter-types, under the collective title of Queen's Blade, published from late 2005 by Hobby Japan. With more than 20 books the books were generally new illustrations for existing combat matrices, rather than "new" characters (although at least one doujin has utilised what appears to be a "new matrix"). As of December 2007 a second series, Queen's Gate, was introduced, featuring characters from Japanese visual media, and in October 2008 Hobby Japan announced four further characters in a sub-set of the original series (Queen's Blade Rebellion).

Jill Leonardi, the daughter of the original game designer Alfred Leonardi, has been designing new character matrices for the Queen's Blade series since 2010. In 2012, Jill founded Firelight Game Company with partner Todd Broadbent with plans to release new characters under the brand of Legend's Gauntlet in a new but fully compatible format.

The Leonardi move-matrix system has also been "borrowed" by other publishers, notably BattleBooks and Games Workshop as the engine to drive their own combat picture book games.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Origins Award Winners (1983)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 
  2. ^ Haring, Scott D. (1999-12-24). "Second Sight: The Millennium's Best "Other" Game and The Millennium's Most Influential Person". Pyramid (online). Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2008-02-16. 

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