Achtung! Cthulhu. RPG review

Achtung! Cthulhu, Modiphius Entertainment, Website

Review by Rick Hudson

I love Call of Cthulhu. Without a shadow of a doubt it is my favourite RPG and I have been playing the game since its first release in 1980 / 1981… whenever it was. In my view, the game works best when set it is set in Arkham and utilises the classic 1920s setting. I’ve played many variants of Call of Cthulhu, all of which have been absolutely fine; I’ve also played pulp versions of game which have descend into goofball antics, which Ok if that’s what you want – but it’s just not the way I do things. OK- so I’m a huge bigoted elitist purist snob when it comes to Call of Cthulhu. I was therefore somewhat equivocal, to say the least, when I heard about Modiphius’ Achtung Cthulhu, their World War 2 setting for CoC. Equivocal did I say? No. I wasn’t equivocal, I’d made my mind up about what Achtung Cthulhu was going to be like before I’d even read any of the material. I had decided that this campaign setting would be suitable for goofy madcap games of CoC, and that it would be little different from many of the other WW2 / horror cross-over games that are on the market at the moment. I was wrong.

Let’s cut to the chase, Achtung Cthulhu is presented to us in two books: the Keeper’s Guide and Investigator’s Guide. The Keeper’s Guide introduces us to the background of this setting, giving actual social, political and military background in addition to the particular take this campaign setting has on the Cthulhu mythos. This fantasy is very much grounded in reality, and history and fiction are blended nicely together in a plausible manner. Equally, the mythos and its relationship with Nazi occultism – which is, of course the essential essence of this setting – are intermingled in such away as to give the illusion of realism. Achtung Cthulhu adds its own lore to the Cthulhu mythos as Nazi occultism is a rich seam of dark and absurd ideas that can be mined endlessly by GMs / Keepers (whatever): Knights Templar; flying saucers; vampires; witches; werewolves and so on. There’s plenty of fertile ground to be exploited in game terms here, and whatever a Keeper comes up with it will probably no dafter than anything the Nazis came up with themselves. The Keeper’s Guide also gives us a number of historical and fictional personalities that add flavour to the campaign world. We are also presented with information on contemporaneous intelligence organisations and ‘real’ occult societies that all add to the game’s atmosphere of plausibility.

The Investigator’s Guide gives a huge – and I mean HUGE – amount of detail on character creation and character possibilities as well as introducing new skills, such as Command and Radio Operator – and an extensive equipment list and detailed reference section on useful resources such as films, books, TV shows and so on.
Overall, Achtung Cthulhu demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of history, and would work well as sourcebooks for purely historical games set during the 1940s. Both books demonstrate a greater level of analysis and sophistication than anyone has any right to expect from a product of this type, and the authors demonstrate, not just a passion and knowledge of Lovecraft’s fiction, but a thorough and erudite understanding of the military and civil world during the Second World War. The principal reason this setting works so well is that it avoids the trap of presenting the game world in way that encourages a ‘whacky’ approach to gameplay: sure, your Achtung Cthulhu campaign could be run along the lines of Iron Sky, if you so chose, but what we have here is a campaign setting that is more befitting to a more menacing and sinister type of gameplay. Additionally, and importantly, these books do not suffer the problem with poor and obfuscating writing that has often plagued many of Modiphius’ books in the past. These books are well written with clarity and are not the chore to read that some of the company’s other books have been in the past. Modiphius have also produced a short scenario – Under the Gun – set in Britain in 1940 between the fall of France and the Battle of Britain which serves as a neat introduction to the specific game world of both the Cthulhu Mythos and World War 2. The scenario inveigles the players into the machinations of the various covert parties convincingly and – while a well thought out and intriguing adventure in its own right – acts as a great starting point for further Achtung Cthulhu games.