Thursday, July 21, 2016

(Review) The Cthulhu Wars: The United States' Battle Against the Mythos

When I review the recent gaming solicitations from Alliance in my monthly post,  The Apathy of New Releases, I repeatedly state that I'm no longer the demographic that any but the most peculiar of gaming companies shoot for.  While there are a few items that reach my "Money is no object" list, the list of items I actively pre-order with the FLGS is quite small.  By comparison, the number of RPG-related books that I order is minute. 

Osprey Publishing's The Cthulhu Wars: The United States' Battle Against the Mythos by Kenneth Hite and Kennon Bauman is one of those rare books. 

DISCLAIMER: I've been waiting seventeen months for this book to come out.   Kenneth Hite likes to put more on his plate than an offensive lineman football camp at a Golden Corral,  but everything sees the light day... eventually.


Hite and Bauman collaborate on the American government's involvement with the Mythos, starting with pre-Colonial megaliths, moving in Early American History, the World Wars and all the way to modern War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many stops in between.

Each of the five chapters address multiple Mythos threats of that era, from the traditional Lovecraftian stories of Joseph Curwen and Innsmouth to the modern Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green style involvement of MAJIC, to post-modern Delta Green interpretations of actions in Vietnam in the 20th and Western Asia in the 21st Centuries. 

The mere aside of a Harry Houdini-Teddy Roosevelt collaboration made me giggle.  There must have been some team-up of the two figure in book or comic form before, but it has alluded me (or left my memory).  In a section know as the The R'lyeh Upheaval the authors successfully weave numerous works of history and fiction(?)  into the increased human and Mythos activity, first in the Pacific, then spreading worldwide.

It was to my great delight that they managed to put a  Mythos angle on the fiasco between Western naval powers during the First Samoan Civil War, a pet project of mine.

As in comes to this book and other titles written by Kenneth Hite, be forewarned that the facts may not all align properly. Mr Hite himself has said there would be discrepancies, specifically between actions in Southeast Asia and his The Fall of Delta Green for Trail of Cthulhu.  Or perhaps they're simply the same story from two horrifically different points of view. 

Single page Threat Reports, covering Ghouls, Deep Ones, Mi-Go, NRE (Neconomicon Related Entities), Elder Things, and Pre-Humans (Serpent Men, Tcho-Tcho, etc) dot each chapter, covering some base government knowledge on the creatures and how the threat is being (mis)handled.  The idea of a Cold War Shoggoth arms race with the Soviets might be the only thing more frightening than nuclear escalation itself. 

The book is well illustrated, with Darren's Tang's solid depictions of Human-Mythos interactions, including the raid of Joseph Curwen's farm, a Civil War encounter with ghouls, and even an encounter in a certain building in Innsmouth, circa 1928.    There are also tons of pictures connecting the reader to the actual locations.  Although some may claim these pictures Photoshopped, I say ask the reader to consider that these may be, in fact, the original un-doctored photos. 

The great thing about most effective tin-foil hats?  They fit both ways.

On the ever-popular Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome scale, it's my pleasure to give The Cthulhu Wars: The United States' Battle Against the Mythos, Five out of Five Gnomes.

Are there problems?  Certainly.  For starters, it's the traditional size of an Osprey Military book, at 80 pages at a traditional Osprey price point ($18.95).  Much too small for even the general overviews of events.  I certainly don't want Mr Hite to go all The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted on us with 476 pages of gooey goodness , but I wouldn't mind paying more for 20 or 40 more pages of material. 

Despite the broad strokes needed to cover all the material there's plenty of  new and exciting seeds for scenarios.  There's enough to work with to allow a GM/Keeper lots of rooms to customize things to fit their own needs. 

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