It made me think first of A Matter of Life and Death (the difference between monochrome and colour is used more interestingly there) but the very next neuron to fire recalled SPI's 1975 boardgame Sorcerer, in which wizards attuned to different colour frequencies vied for power by enticing each other to battle in zones whose hue favoured their own magic. Sorcerer created quite a stir among us boardgamers because it was SPI's first foray into fantasy gaming - which, as they usually catered for the hardcore wargamer, was a crisis of confidence brought on, no doubt, by the growing success of grungy dungeon games. If you're interested, you can get a glimpse of the rulebook here.
A few years after that, in 1986, Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson came out with the Duel Master series - for me, their best gamebooks, and probably my favourite gamebooks ever. The first (and best) of these, Challenge of the Magi, involved two duelling sorcerers of the Rainbow Land (part of which unaccountably overlapped with Warwickshire and/or the poems of Thomas Lodge) whose magic obeyed a chromatic taxonomy:
- Red for fire
- Black for death
- Blue for illusion
- Green for nature
- White for... um, "holy" stuff
To this day I never figured out how Mark and Jamie made those books work. There was some kind of crazed obsessive-compulsive genius at work in the amazingly detailed rules (which were, nonetheless, easy to use) and the complex intricacies of the flowchart (likewise). And they were meaty, these tomes: 800 sections each. And you got a solo option.
They should have been a massive success, but the tragedy of gamebooks was that the craze didn't last long enough to really support any of the interesting things they were evolving into. That's why it surprises me when some modern revivals of the medium seem to aspire only to setting the clock back to simple dungeon-bashing. By the late-'80s gamebooks were already way beyond that.
(For the sake of balance I should add that there are plenty of modern gamebooks that have continued to innovate in terms of rules, setting and, most interestingly, the depth and quality of the storytelling - just look at the quality of most Windhammer Prize entries, for example.)
Fabled Lands LLP has the rights to the Duel Master books and they are cherry-ripe for conversion to apps. A little bit of handheld tech is perhaps all they needed to get the success they deserved. Twenty-seven years on, we'll see what we can do.
* Although, as Mamet says, everybody makes their own fun; if you don't make it yourself it isn't fun, it's entertainment.