Wasteland: Reviewing a Post-Apocalyptic Gamebook From Savage Realms Gamebooks

If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic settings like the ones from Mad Max and Fall Out, and love gamebooks, I think you will enjoy Wasteland by H. L. Truslove. This is the fifth release from prolific publisher Savage Realms Gamebooks. You begin the story as an orphan who grew up in a community of survivors. Now reaching adulthood you’re given a choice of staying to help protect the village or going out to scavenge supplies. There are few post-apocalyptic titles in the fantasy-dominated gamebook space so I found this pleasantly refreshing.

Your choices propel you into different storylines with additional branches from there. Your character will likely encounter nasty creatures with nasty mutations, fellow survivors, and various tricky situations. Oh and death. Lots and lots of death. Some characters you encounter may be friendly. Others might help you in exchange for completing some side quest. Some might even invite you for dinner — not necessarily in a good way. You’ll find several entertaining and frequently challenging encounters. There’s loot to be found too that can help you along the way. The writing is fast-paced, entertaining, and flows well. The descriptions aren’t overly detailed, but you get enough to visualize the setting and the other characters. It’s a fun and relatively quick read. Size-wise this title has 206 numbered passages. This is on the shorter side for a gamebook. Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf titles usually have ~400 passages and more recent Destiny Quest titles can be 600-900.

The art is always a high point for me with Savage Realms Gamebook titles and Wasteland doesn’t disappoint. The cover by Helge C. Balzer features one of the nasties you can encounter in the book. It also features interior illustrations by Gary Trow throughout and some filler pieces that are frequently re-used that I enjoyed as well. It would have been nice if there were more different filler illustrations to provide more variety but the ones they have are solid. The copy I received was from a Kickstarter. It also includes several pages of concept art. I think the regular copy has this too but, if someone knows, please comment below. While the art itself is great, the technical preparation has some issues. More on that later.

Game Mechanics

The game mechanics are more complex than “Fighting Fantasy” but straightforward. Characters have a Life Force (LF) score. It begins at 25 and drops as your character is injured. I couldn’t find where in the rules they explain this but I’m assuming that if a character’s LF drops to zero or less, they die. FYI — they die a lot. Your character’s Combat Skill Score (CSS) ranges from 3-6. In combat add their CSS to the result of a 1d6 die roll and compare the sum to your opponent’s Combat score and die result to determine who wins a round. The loser receives 1d6 of LF damage. One-on-one combat can involve a lot of rounds of dice rolling. You can recover LF with rations and medicine but neither are plentiful. Many opponents have 25 LF (or higher) and Combat Skill Scores near your character’s. Combat can be lengthy and deadly to your character. Fortunately, there are some situations where you can get a helper to participate in your battles. That will greatly increase your chances of success.

Characters also have a Stealth Skill and four basic attributes (Strength, Agility, Charisma, and Luck). To use one of these, you roll 1d6. If you roll under the character’s score it succeeds. If you fail an attribute or Stealth roll you get to increase that score (up to a maximum score of 5). I didn’t see anything about increasing a Combat Skill Score or LF. The game is very combat-heavy, which is typical for a gamebook.

Production Quality

Some technical issues detract from the book’s overall appearance. I am reviewing the Kickstarter version of the book but these issues have popped up in their other titles, so I suspect they’re still out there. These are fairly easy to address so hopefully a future edition resolves them. The margins are uncomfortably tight. The font size is larger than comparable titles and there’s a lot of dead white space. I like that each passage begins on a new page but when you have several short passages, it leaves large chunks of empty space on many pages. The word count is lower than many books with smaller page counts.

There are several spots (more noticeable with some of the filler art but there are some less noticeable ones with the main images) where pictures appear blocky and jagged or fuzzy. I’m including a sample so you can see what I mean. These do not take away from the enjoyment of playing the game so don’t let it deter you from buying it, just be aware that the technical execution of the printed edition is a weak spot to an otherwise very professional quality game.

Readers of the PDF versions may be disappointed to learn that they do not appear to have hot-linked passages. You can’t click on the “… turn to XX” text to automatically be directed to passage “XX”. This is not a deal breaker but most of the e-copies of gamebooks and solo games I’ve played in the past couple of years include this feature. I hope this gets added in a future edition.


Wasteland has several engaging storylines set in an interesting setting with fun locations and creatures. The rules are simple and easy to follow if somewhat deadly. There are enough choices to allow for some replayability. Combat will be brutal unless you fudge some rolls. You’re probably going to go through a lot of characters. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the art. Other than a few lengthy combat sessions, it’s a fairly quick playthrough. I had a lot of fun playing it and I think you will too.

You can find Wasteland and other Savage Realms Gamebooks titles on Amazon for $18-24 as paperbacks or $4.99 on Kindle. The best deal I’ve seen is to buy the PDFs on DrivethruRPG for $3 each.


Please note. I use affiliate links where possible and may earn a small fee if you use one of these to purchase a title.

Art that appears in this article is photographed from a copy of Wasteland by Savage Realms Gamebooks.

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