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Age of Cthulhu 3: Shadows of Leningrad $8.99
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Jeffrey V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2010 14:20:50

Another good product from Goodman Games. This one pulls us into the Soviet Union and as such makes it a little more difficult to suspend disbelief than the other products in this series have. Not to bash the scenario -- it is well written, well thought out, and follows the usual Goodman approach of great flexibility, permitting the players to wander where they will and where the clues they discover take them. There are a couple of key bits of information in this one that the Keeper may even have to "cheat" in order to ensure the players get in a timely manner, but overall it has a good design and good pacing. The antagonist chosen for this one is perfectly appropriate to the locale and the servitor races will make for some very interesting scenes from time to time. Admittedly, this one requires a somewhat more "pulp-ish" approach to it, though Goodman had the excellent sense to provide some alternate play info to permit players who rely less on their fists and guns to do a job to play it through too.

The biggest problem with this one is the entire concept of the Soviet Union -- this is in the midst of Stalin's collectivization drive and foreigners are held in great suspicion throughout the Soviet Union -- but most ESPECIALLY in places like Moscow and Leningrad. Yet, oddly, though the OGPU (later the NKVD, and still later the KGB) make occasional appearances in the game, there is little feel for what that would have really been like had a group of foreigners suddenly appeared in Lenin's city and started running around investigating things. In reality, they probably would have simply disappeared into Lyubianka or the Gulags and that would have been the end of it all. In this game though, the OGPU is almost benevolent, and no Soviet citizen appears to feel much hampered in chatting with the foreigners. Goodman tried to give a good reason for all these foreigners to show up, and did the best they could with the premise, but overall it just feels kind of forced, and highly unlikely. Despite that, it's a fairly fast-paced and fun scenario, and worth playing if everyone can suspend disbelief long enough to play it out. (As a side-note, my original play group was filled with people taking Russian language and history classes in college, and it would have been extremely interesting to see how they would have played this one out. In their case though, it probably would have been better to have played Soviet characters instead of foreigners (or, at most, one foreigner) and done a lot of the role-playing in Russian instead of English!)

Anyway, DriveThru did their usual excellent job of reproducing this one, and the text, art-work and handouts were easily usable and legible. There are a couple of ties to the previous adventures in the series, as well as a couple of plot hooks that may be designed to foreshadow additional future products in the series, or may simply be something the Keeper can use to trigger off a scenario of his own design. Either way, they are a nice touch. The pregenerated characters, again, provide some useful motivational examples to help the players figure out why they got involved in this one, but overall, due to the difficulties in travelling to the Soviet Union, the even greater difficulties in returning to the United States and/or Great Britain AFTER such a trip, and the lack of genuine menace from the Soviet Government (and yes, I know that an organization OF the Soviet government invited the foreigners -- but that still wouldn't have prevented the OGPU from doing their thing), I can only give this one a "4."

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Age of Cthulhu 3: Shadows of Leningrad
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