Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/10/02/tabletop-review-horror-on-the-orient-express-digital-edition-call-of-cthulhu/
After more than TWO YEARS since being funded, a final version of the Horror on the Orient Express remake has been sent to the 1,374 Kickstarter backers that made it happen. Sure it was originally scheduled to come out in August of 2013, but it’s very rare that tabletop games make their estimated release date. It’s part of the industry. What matters is that it is here now – at least for Kickstarter backers who pledged at least $20 to the project. For everyone else, you can get this massive PDF collection for a “mere” $499.95. Now don’t worry – this price will drop after the official release of the physical product in a few weeks. This hefty price tag is to make sure that the Kickstarter backers (or those who have Sanity Points in the single digits) have a few weeks to themselves with this. Considering the physical product can be preordered for about $120, it’s safe to say the PDF collection itself will be under $100.
Now if you joined me back in January of 2014, you already know that I’ve extensively looked at the first four books in this collection (Chaosium sent me the proofs – that’s why I could cover it nearly a year before the actual release) and did a photo collection of some of the many ancillary items that can be obtained with (or separately from) the physical edition of the game. I won’t be rehashing those. Instead I’ll be covering everything but those parts of the collection in this review. For those interested in reading very long and detailed coverage of the first four books and some physical swag, here are the links:
Add-on & Ancillary Items (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/10/tabletop-preview-a-look-at-horror-on-the-orient-express-ancillary-and-add-on-items-call-of-cthulhu/)
Book I: Campaign Book (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/03/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-i-campaign-book-call-of-cthulhu/)
Book II: Through the Alps (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/10/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-ii-through-the-alps-call-of-cthulhu/)
Book III: Italy and Beyond (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/17/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-iii-italy-and-beyond-call-of-cthulhu/)
Book IV: Constantinople and Consequences (http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/24/tabletop-preview-horror-on-the-orient-express-book-iv-constantinople-and-consequences-call-of-cthulhu/)
I should also mention that I will also do a review of the physical product when that is finally release, although that will be more a pictorial of all the bells and whistles. I will review the story collection Madness on the Orient Express that was a stretch goal funded by the Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter as well. Man, you are probably getting sick of all the Horror on the Orient Express coverage I’ve done this year but honestly, I’ve been waiting for a new version to go with my Fifth Edition version since I was in high school, so I’m even more excited for this than the Seventh Edition books coming my way. Now, let’s look at what else is in Horror on the Orient Express besides those core four books we looked at in January and February.
Book V: Strangers On the Train. This is the final core campaign book for Horror on the Orient Express. I didn’t cover it in my original preview pieces, mainly because Chaosium had not sent it to me. Now I have a copy and can delve into some detail about what you’ll find in this ninety-four page booklet. As this is the biggest piece I haven’t covered, expect this to be the largest section of the review.
Strangers On the Train starts off with a look at famous people who could be found riding the Orient Express. This two page brief is broken into three sections: 1890-1900, Around 1900 and After 1920. From there, the book goes into a list of non-essential NPCs to populate the train with. This list of over forty characters (more if you count the “entourage” each NPC has with them) includes both passengers and staff and also can make for potential PCs once one of the original characters dies in the campaign. You’ll have to flesh the stats out a bit in this case, but if there’s a particular NPC a player gravitates toward, this might be a fine option for you. The “List of Passengers” is quite long and it’s arranged not by page order but by alphabetical order. Of course alphabetical order is by first name or beginning of a title, so take a good long look at the list or you’ll get confused thinking the actual layout of this section is in alphabetical order as well. Much of “List of Passengers” is a direct reprint from the original campaign, although the list was in a small loose leaf (Unstapled) pamphlet. There is new art in this re-release of the campaign though.
Book V then concludes with “Investigators.” There are twelve premade characters here for your use. The first six come from the Bradford Players recording of Horror On the Orient Express, which can be found over at Yog-Sothoth.com and the other six were created by Kickstarter backers. All characters are given Seventh Edition stats, so you’ll have to do a bit of converting if you want to use with an earlier edition.
Book VI: Handouts for the Investigators. This is a 196 page book and a new addition to the campaign from previous printings. Previously the campaign was only numbered up to Book IV and the handouts pamphlet was about sixteen pages in length. This is a greatly expanded booklet with a page count worthy of being considered a full campaign book in its own right. The production values are also greatly increased. It is all stuff you have seen before though. It’s just a collection of all the handouts and maps in the first four books, collected for easy use and printing. After all, you don’t want to show the players one of the handouts in a campaign book and let them see snippets of content they aren’t meant to view! I really like this addition, especially the PDF version, because I don’t cut up my books and I hate folding/creasing them on a Xerox machine or scanner to make actual handouts for players. This is a great move by Chaosium.
Le Guide du Voyageur: The Traveller’s Companion. This is another new piece for the updated and expanded 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu version of Horror on the Orient Express. This fifty-two page supplement is meant to really enhance the look and feel of the campaign for those that want a more immersive experience. The piece is written completely in-game and it acts as a little booklet from the Orient Express and its concierge to its travelers. You get travel advice, menus, information about the routes, sites to see and so much more. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the Horror on the Orient Express remake as it’s so well done. Sure some gamers won’t appreciate or even make use of this, but this little travelogue is pretty fantastic and it’s something I’ll give to each player who takes part in this campaign the next time I run it to really help them get a feel for what the level of class and care the Orient Express was known for in its heyday.
Air Routes of Europe in 1923. This is a one page PDF and it’s exactly what the same suggests. It is a map of Europe complete with air routes that were used back then. This should help players who are trying to circumnavigate the region or who might have missed the Orient Express and are trying to catch up quickly. It’s worth noting that Italy, Portugal and Ireland lacked air routes at this time – at least according to the map.
Routes of the Orient Express. Another self-explanatory one page PDF. This is a full colour piece showing the routes of the five different Orient Express routes throughout Europe, along with a sixth “lesser services” route. Each route is assigned a different, distinct color so you should be able to follow the map quite easily. Unless you are colorblind or only can see in black and white. Then you’re screwed. The map also a nice little legend details major cities, capitals, and locations important to the Horror on the Orient Express campaign. There are also close-ups of three regions to let you and your gaming troupe better see these areas which will come into play as you go through the campaign.
Orient Express Bumper Sticker. Exactly what you think it is.
Sedefkar Simulacrum. A print and play version of the McGuffin that the campaign revolves around. A VERY different version from the one in my old 5e set. I like the new design.
Train Car Plans. Five pages of diagrams showcasing the layout of the Orient Express cars. You have a dining car, a sleeping car, a cathedral car and more. Everything you need to give a visual representation of the train is right here.
Scroll of the Head. This is a one page PDF describing what the Scroll of the Head is and how to use it in the campaign. It also gives some neat ideas on how to make the scroll look aged and weathered. It also references a “How to Use Supplemental Items” sheet that should be in the boxed set, but unfortunately, it’s not in my PDF collection. Boo-Urns.
Overall, the updated and expanded version of Horror on the Orient Express is truly fantastic. If you missed out on the original back in the day for whatever reason (Age, lack of funds, didn’t play the game), you really need to pick this up to see just what an incredible job Chaosium has done on this boxed set. Sure the original version was terrific in its own right, but this new expanded version really makes the overall experience that much more immersive and entertaining. Unless you are dead set against Seventh Edition for whatever reason. Even then, it’s worth picking up Horror on the Orient Express because it contains a conversion guide. It’s also cheaper than trying to buy an unused version of the original edition on the second hand market. Of course, you’ll want to wait for a price drop on the digital because five hundred dollars is insane, even for a terrific job like this, but once the Kickstarter backers have everything in their hands, expect the price to drop to something far more reasonable. Of course, you can still pre-order the physical version if you missed out on the original Kickstarter campaign. You won’t get as many bells and whistles, but it’s still a fantastic deal for anyone even remotely interested in Call of Cthulhu. I can safely say that Horror on the Orient Express has been worth the wait.