Every so often, there comes an adventure that is a mediocre in nature but contains fabulous insight that will impact many other games. Nowhere is truer than in this module, for it provides fabulous stats and rules for aerial combat in World War One but adventure itself does not carry the same excitement. As one may surmise, there is Mythos force helping the Axis (or as the play test comments allow for a reverse situation to be true) win battles. The rules are solid, as is the description and back plot. The problem inlays that Trail of Cthulhu is a game of investigative horror – and this one falls rather flat in that regard but as a sourcebook (or more accurately, a portion of a sourcebook – it would get flying colours – pardon the pun).
Investigators are pilots in the First World War when they were called upon to do a routine mission but in doing so encounter something all together unworldly. There is a gimmick there but when I ran it through with my players (two separate groups) neither cared for it nor was concerned with the back story, they just wanted to kill Germans. Thus, the adventure provides an excellent one-shot introducing some new elements into one’s Trail of Cthulhu game but not enough to string them out beyond the boundaries of the one-shot. Sorry, no more spoilers. And, because the narrative is rather obtuse and challenging, it is not for first time players. That said, there is one historical personage that the players get to meet and I was rather surprised to see his inclusion but what could be a memorable moment turns into just another NPC encounter unless the Keeper is a fan. Reading the description, I thought that the adventure would have a much larger scope akin to Paschendale or even Red Baron – instead, we get a pyrotechnics show and when the dust settles not much to show for it.
That said, the adventure was meticulously researched with lots of period pictures which add colour to otherwise bland descriptions and can be used as visuals for the game or another game set in World War One. The rules overshadow the adventure but solid and tight. The breakdown is such 6 pages of rules 8 pages of the adventure – the rest encompasses pregens** and pictures/illustrations.
So at the end of the adventure – players are no closer to gaining a special insight into the Mythos – they may have died not at the hands of the Mythos but real human enemies thus denying the Cthulhu punch of dying but with a larger knowledge of purpose denied to them. That makes the adventure rather bleak and cannot be reused or part of a larger canvas. It is sad, as the First World War seems to be ripe for a Mythos adventure that would weave together the horror of No Man’s Land, generalized insanity from the experience of the front and something lurking and watching the decent of Man with the calm indifference as we would watch betta in a common bowl. The adventure is so tightly scripted that it does not leave much room on the canvas for player/Keeper innovations which is good in a One-Shot but less good, if there is a regular group that meets to play. So, this game might be well suited for a Convention game or casual meetup rather than a regular group of players. So, it does come with a belated recommendation – it has excellent aerial rules and if your Trail of Cthulhu campaign is going to have action in World War One – then this should be a must buy. If you are just looking for something casual – then I might take a pass.
**Once again the pregens lack character portraits...