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Review: Call Of Cthulhu Cairo Guidebook

Reviewed By Joseph Teller

"The Understanding of an Arab is in his eyes." - Old Arabic Proverb

(ISBN 1-56882-025-9; Chaosium, Inc.) Although designed for use with the Call of Cthulhu game and background, the Cairo Guidebook can be of use to nearly anyone interested in running a roleplaying game in that city before 1930.

The book is well research, and has a solid bibliogrpahy at the end to prove this. Marian Anderson (with Phil Anderson & Mark Ryberg) have done an excellent job on the research end and this is the heart of the usefulness of the book to folks both using and not using the COC system.

It not only covers Cairo, but some other details about Egypt from the turn of the century onward, a useful concept since the city does not exist except as part of the whole of the land and you really need understanding of a land and its people to properly portray it.

Besides maps, tourist information, a nice timeline for Egypt that covers the important points from 3200 BCE thru mid-1930 AD, and a good who's who of historic figures, there is also a collection of Arabic Proverbs, Phrases, Glossary and some basic English to Arabic translations to add the proper air of color when dealing with the natives.

Theres also some nice information for COC fans about secret organizations, cults, Tombs and temple ruins and the various states of political unrest during the English Period of control of the area.

Whats missing? More detail about the religious beliefs of the native people may have helped the color and understanding of the unrest. Also it could have included a bit more information about Port Said (a major point of entry into Egypt in general during the period), and on more local 'flavor' in regards to locale foods, dance, and artwork. It could also have used a bit more historical detail in regards to its graphics, but here its understandable that the budget may not have allowed this.

I also would have liked more information about the prescence and involvement of the other European Powers in the area, especially in regards to 'The Great Game' of Espionage. Theres enough of a taste of this that it left me wanting more.

Have I found the book useful? Yes, I used it for a recent scenario of characters in the British Secret Service (MI6) who were sent to retrieve a German Spy from Cairo, traveling back and forth on the Orient Express. It worked well, but I could have used more of the details I mentioned above to improve the color and feel of the city. I couldn't have run the game without it, as the amount of research I would have to do to match it would take more time then I have to invest in a scenario.

So I consider the book worth the money, but would have liked more than was covered in its 101 pages. Maybe someday someone will be able to afford to do larger detailed books, or will supplement their books with CD-Roms of supplemental material (or include the material left out on their web site for us details junkies).

Overall the book gains a solid B+ grade and is definitely recommended.

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