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[Let's Play] Vous êtes Napoléon (You are Napoléon)


Friendly Stranger
Validated User
Our journey through gamebooks rages on...

So we more or less recently concluded, rather satisfyingly, a long, shambling trek through the Demonspawn saga. It was fun at times.

The main item that hindered our fun was, clearly, the gaming element: combat rules were too harsh in the first two books, then most fights became a breeze, then it was awful all over again. So I'm of a mind to play a book with little to no game rules besides the basics: choose your path and stick to it.

I'd like you to join me on a trip through history. See, when gamebooks were all the rage in the 80s, all manner of books were published with more or less success. Most were oriented towards teens, some towards children, and a few even went for serious topics. So is it with Livres-jeux historiques ("History Gamebooks"), a three-book series written by Patrick des Ylouses, proposing to literally "be" Napoléon, Charles de Gaulle or John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The subtitle went, "Remake history and change the fate of the world" (the exception was De Gaulle, who merely changed the fate of France instead of the whole world).

I never ever even got near buying De Gaulle or Kennedy, but stumbled upon Napoléon in a second-hand store decades ago. I remember an interesting book, so I wanted to try it again, this time with you.

(By the way, the original publisher was Solar, who also published the french versions of various TSR gamebooks from Endless Quest, Advanced D&D and 1 on 1 series. So they had respectable experience in this field.)

Now, a note of warning: it so happens that the book has been published again a few years ago, by Bouquineo. So I contacted the publisher and asked nicely if I could still play the book.

After some pondering, they answered very nicely that they were all right with it, provided I included a link to the book on their Web site. This is the link above. I'd like to point out as well that they have published no less than four books by the same author, Patrick des Ylouses: they're listed here.

(Note that one of them appears to be another historic gamebook, Vous avez vingt ans en 1789 — "You are twenty years-old in 1789". In case the year does not ring a bell for the non-French among you, who are a likely majority, 1789 was the year of the French Revolution. Trouble and turmoil all around.)

On first contacting the publisher, I volunteered the following restrictions:
  • I will not use the original text, only my english translation thereof.
  • Contrary to the custom of these threads, there will be no review of alternate paths after we reach victory, so as to keep some of the book unrevealed.
  • Actually, even if we don't achieve the optimal path, I am fully prepared to end the thread on a semi-satisfying ending if we get too close to revealing the whole book.
Without further ado, let's open the book and find out what it has in store for us!

Added per the poster's request:
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Friendly Stranger
Validated User
As serious books are wont to, this one has a foreword. Not an introduction, not a "(Hi)story so far". A serious foreword.
Few men ever had a fate comparable to that of Napoléon Bonaparte. Few men left such a mark on the history of the world...

Yet Napoléon's life has been but a series of chances taken, some of them extraordinarily bold, and crucial choices that wholly altered the fate of France and Europe.

You are Napoléon Bonaparte.
Pleased to meet you.
What will your choices be, and your destiny? Will you become emperor of the French people and die in Sainte-Hélène?

Will you, weary with the Revolution's excesses, try your luck in Orient or in the United States of America?

Will you perish on a battlefield, a casualty of ill fortune?

Or will you succeed in avoiding the illustrious character's mistakes whose role you will be playing, to die peacefully in your bed, in imperial France, prosperous and at peace with the rest of Europe?
Admit it: doesn't this sound exciting?
Most choices offered in this book only rely on your common sense or your strategic assessment of the situation. Sometimes, though, the risks run by Napoléon were such that failure or success were as random as a dice roll.

This is why you are invited to provide yourself with an ordinary, six-sided die. Or you can make do without it by using the "Chances table" on the last page of this book.
I'm not reprinting that one. It's equiprobable, and thus serviceable, but I have plenty of six-sided dice with me, thank you very much.
Your story begins August, 15th 1769, the day the emperor-to-be was born, in your family house in Ajaccio. Napoléon Bonaparte's fate is in your hands. Remake history and change the shape of the world...
You were born on August, 15th 1769 in Ajaccio in Corsica island, second of eight children from family of minor nobility, of honorable reputation but little wealth. Despite a tradition of independence, your small homeland, Corsica, just went from being administered by the italian republic of Genoa to the kingdom of France. This followed from the battle of Ponte Novu where the french royal troops soundly defeated the corsican independentists led by general Pasquale Paoli, among whom stood your father, Carlo di Buonaparte.

Despite this, your parents had thereafter a friendly relationship with count de Marbeuf, commander of the french troops in Corsica. The count's supported three scholarships for Buonaparte children, among which one to the military academy at Brienne-le-Château for you. You are viewed, in Brienne and thereafter at the Royal School in Paris, as a half-foreigner, poor, reserved, but energetic, brilliant in mathematics, and an avid reader.
Aside from that 'energetic' thing, we sound like a nerd. Why not after all, we're reading a gamebook.
Actually, without fully realizing it yet, you are a born leader, and your dominant characteristic is ambition and the will to succeed. The decisions you will make throughout your adventures will hence be guided towards living an exceptional fate. Which shall not prevent you from feeling other emotions, and from adding other objectives to your personal ambition if you so wish.
Again, the notion that we can improve upon known history, or take it into a wholly different direction.
For the nonce, you are about to become the first corsican officer of the french army, and must choose one specialty as your military studies come to an end.

Will you prefer:
  • Infantry, the most classic choice, with the greatest number of available commands?
  • Cavalry, whose costly uniforms seem the most prestigious to you?
  • Artillery, a technical, modern arm, whose role in battle will keep increasing in your view?
This choice has no immediate consequence. Don't read section 2 and turn to 74.
Note that since the book doesn't have an explanatory page about the peculiar structure of gamebooks, the author thoughtfully reminds us that sections aren't to be read in numerical order and leaves it at that; presumably if we're going to play Napoléon we're smart enough to figure the rest out by ourself.

Now, time for our first choice already. Which specialty should we choose?

Francis Helie

RPGnet Member
Validated User
This looks fascinating. My vote goes for Cavalry, both for the importance of prestige, mobility and shock...and well I like horsies :)


Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Thirding artillery. Our opponents won't see it coming !


Almost determinedly non-useful
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Another vote for artillery. Because explosions are cool and even better when they happen safely away from you, and we might as well not change history too much yet...
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