Alternative Titles/Edition History:
1st Edition, 2006; 2nd Edition 2007; 3rd Edition, 2009; 4th Edition (Berlin Final Days), 2011; 5th Edition (Berlin: Final Victory), 2014
Critial Hit (2006; 2nd Edition, 2007; 3rd Edition, 2009; 4th Edition, 2011; 5th Edition, 2014)
Country of Origin:
1st Edition: 2 24" x 36" historical maps, 2 sets of die-cut counters (each set containing 1 sheet of 280 1/2" counters, 1 sheet of 112 5/8" counters and 100 1/2" counters, 1 strip of 24 5/8" counters and 50 1/2" counters, and 1 strip of 24 5/8" counters), 16 scenarios on cardstock, 20-page rulebook, 2 Platoon Leader campaign games.
2nd Edition: included a revised rulebook with errata incorporated, changes to scenarios 1-6, and changes to the countersheets. In addition to the 2nd Edition, Critical Hit released a 2nd Edition Upgrade Kit for people who already owned the 1st Edition. This Kit included the new rulebook, three scenario cards with scenarios 1-6 on them, and two 2nd edition countersheets.
3rd Edition: In 2009 a 3rd Edition rulebook was created which incorporated errata and clarifications, but also made some significant changes (see below). It was included in a reprint of the module.
A combined Fall of the Third Reich/Tyrant's Lair rulebook, presumably based on the above 3rd Edition rules, is included in the Tyrant's Lair sequel, released in 2010.
4th Edition (Berlin Final Days) contents: In 2011, in an attempt to make this product as confusing as possible to the consumer, Critical Hit released a brand new edition of the module under a new name, Berlin Final Days. This edition contains 2 24" x 36" historical maps (with different artwork than previous editions), 17 scenarios (the packaging material claims 18 but this is incorrect), 4 Platoon Leader campaign games, 2 play aids, 28-page rulebook, and 2 identical sets of counters. Naturally, the counter sets are nonsensical and confusing. Each set contains BFD Counter Sheet #1 [56 5/8" counters], BFD Countersheet #3 [56 5/8" counters and 50 1/2" counters], BFD Countersheet A [56 5/8" counters], BFD Russian Personnel Countersheet [280 1/2" counters], BFD German + Russian Infantry and Weapons Sheet 1 (with no Russian counters, by the way) [280 1/2" counters], and BFD Supplemental Countersheet [124 1/2" counters and 24 5/8" counters]. Each set thus includes 926 counters, for a grand total of 1,852 counters.
5th Edition (Berlin: Final Victory) contents: 18 12" x 18" heavy paper/light cardstock map panels, 15 scenarios, 1 page play aids, 18 pages of rulesCommentary:
Commentary (for 1st Edition; see below for commentary on later editions): Critical Hit’s largest (and what would become its most popular) historical module to date, Berlin: Fall of the Third Reich (BFTR) is actually just the first of a two-part massive set of Berlin modules (the second module, Tyrant’s Lair, adds two more linked Berlin maps). The module is not cheap, but it is a big game with a lot of components.
Designed by Mark Porterfield, BFTR is built around a large, detailed and reasonably attractive (given the glum terrain) attractive historical map of the area of Berlin surrounding the Reichstag. Much of the terrain is the same terrain features in the Heat of Battle module Berlin: Red Vengeance, although the BFTR maps cover a much larger area. Although folded in the frustrating style of latter-day Critical Hit historical maps, the maps are nevertheless impressive. They represent the biggest lure that BFTR offers.
In its marketing of the game (which, as usual, is a port of a game originally produced for the ATS system), Critical Hit strongly emphasized the color counters that came with the module. Though they are indeed more colorful than the 1970s era counter graphics of official ASL products, the MMC counters have figures that seem somewhat static, and counter values that are small and close together. In addition, the counters use awkward methods to represent certain features–assault fire, for example, is represented by a little SMG silhouette. The vehicle counters, moreover, are still rendered in the non-intuitive and unattractive variant format they pioneered with Genesis ’48. However, the counters are attractive enough. There is some counter errata, but it is actually fixed by the small counter strips that come with the module (the explanation of this fact is buried in the rules booklet). Some of the countersheets were not very well die-cut, with some of the counters having torn corners, so it is a good thing that Critical Hit provides a duplicate set of the countermix.
Many of the 1/2″ counters represent new units. These include SS Tank Hunter Teams, Volkssturm Tank Hunter Teams, Soviet Red Banner Infantry (which have inherent but detachable Red Banner Heroes), Gestapo Troops, Hitler Youth Troops, and Liberated Prisoner Squads. Counters also represent the massive 128mm guns of the Berlin Zoo Flak Tower, which can be used for direct fire with a ROF of 3 (!), or as indirect fire as 150mm FFE and onboard rocket artillery. New SMC include Gestapo Leaders and Hitler Youth Leaders. One possibly handy thing about the counters is that ostensibly, except for markers, all the SMC/MMC/SW counters needed to play the game are included.
In addition to rules for the new counters (the rocket artillery takes up a fair amount of space), rules detail the terrain of downtown Berlin, including the Reichstag, the Kroll Opera House, elevated railroads, subways, Moabit Prison, the Ministry of the Interior, and other terrain types. Overall, the terrain rules seem reasonable at first glance, but the mass of all the terrain rules is a lot to take in and keep straight, and some of them (like the subways) are complicated.
Sixteen scenarios are included in the module. Of these, one uses a geomorphic mapboard, but the remaining 15 use the historical map. In size, the scenarios definitely lean towards the large. Two scenarios are smallish; the remainder are either medium-large or large. There are a lot of meaty scenarios here. Because of the module’s recent release, none of the scenarios have had time yet to develop a reputation, good or bad.
Of the two included Platoon Leader campaign games, the first, PLBER1 (Götterdämmerung in Berlin), pits elements of the Soviet 79th Rifle Corps against a variety of German remnants, including men from the SS Anhalt Battalion, the 9th Fallschirmjäger Division, naval infantry units, and Berlin Volkssturm. It is 11 campaign dates long; to win, the Soviets must place a Red Banner on the Reichstag and maintain it there for an entire campaign date. The second campaign game, PLBER2 (Race to the Reichstag), features the same combatants but a slightly different time frame. It is 9 campaign dates long. Both sides have a wide variety of purchase options, from Volkssturm platoons to Tiger tanks, from companies formed from hastily liberated prisoners to Stalin tanks.
After Berlin: Fall of the 3rd Reich sold out, Critical Hit printed a new 2nd Edition in 2007. This was substantially the same as the 1st Edition, except that it incorporated discovered errata and clarifications into the rulebook and scenario cards and had new countersheets. Critical Hit also made available for sale a 2nd Edition Upgrade Kit for people who already owned the 1st Edition but wished to get the latest versions.
Critical Hit also made the new versions of the scenarios and rules freely downloadable, so that people who had purchased the 1st Edition did not have to purchase another product in order to get the errata. However, these were later removed are are no longer available.
Update (2009): In early 2009, Critical Hit reprinted BFTR. It was a straight reprint, but included an updated, “3rd Edition” rulebook, containing updated errata, but also a number of changes (some perhaps not for the better; see below).
Update (February 2010): In February 2010, Critical Hit released Tyrant’s Lair: The Battle of Berlin: April 1945, the “sequel” to BFTR, containing two more maps (which mate with the original maps in a large ‘L’) and a massive scenario that combines both modules. It also contains a new version of the BFTR rulebook, making them technically the 4th Edition Rules. This rulebook includes two more campaign games, FOTR3 (In the Ruins of the Reich) and FOTR4 (The Downfall). Both use FOTR maps; the latter also uses TL maps.
Update (July 2011) BERLIN FINAL DAYS (BFD) Comments: The release of Tyrant’s Lair, which used a new style of artwork, rendered the BFTR maps, if not obsolete, then at least outdated. Also in 2010, Critical Hit debuted a new style of vehicle/gun counter artwork, which was far superior to that used in previous CH products. It comes as no surprise that, based on these two considerations, Critical Hit was eager to release an updated version of BFTR (not that they usually need much urging to issue new editions of things). The result was Berlin Final Days, which is in effect a de facto BFTR 4th Edition, with de facto 5th Edition Rules. Given the multitudinous reprints and editions, perhaps it is just as well that they started fresh.
The good thing about BFD–in fact, what might make it a “bfd” to some–is the updated physical components. The map artwork is nicely done and compatible with the artwork in Tyrant’s Lair, while the 5/8″ vehicle and gun counter artwork is vastly superior to the incomprehensible layout style used in earlier CH products. Also, some of the rules have been improved, such as reducing the power of the Flak Towers. Unfortunately, BFD also contains other differences from previous editions that are arguably or definitely negative.
The map artwork, as mentioned, is nice. Overall, map issues are minimal. However, there are changes in the terrain from earlier versions of the map, including an entire building missing. Publisher Ray Tapio explained these changes as saying that buildings were eliminated “that broke ASLRB rules” and that “what was represented as a building here or there was turned in some cases to multiple single hex, or multi hex, to fit the immutable hexagonal laws of the game.” There was no explanation as to how some streets became misspelled from one version to the next.
The counters are more problematic. As noted, the new 5/8″ counter layout is superior. In other respects, though, the counters could have used more quality control. First, it should be noted that the Germans come in two different shades of blue. This was apparently noticed before release, because the module comes with a statement apparently intended to forestall complaint: “Please note, minor tonal variations in color are a normal part of the offset printing process as are slight shifts in die cutting. Blue counters are Germans and Brown for Russians.” Second, the marketing for the module claims that its counters include all the counters needed to play all the scenarios in the module. This, as it turns out, is untrue; there are missing counters.
Moreover, the counters that are there include quite a bit of errata. Some of it was caught before release. For example, all of the 6-5-8 Waffen SS squads have erroneous smoke exponents, so a second set of them was included in a “supplemental” countersheet. Of course, this countersheet itself contained counters like 8 turret counters with CE on both the front and the back (instead of BU). One mysterious turret counter has “BY” on the back. One 8-0 leader has a 7 morale on the back, while the adjacent 7-0 leader has an 8 morale on the back. There are several black Waffen SS counters with blue backs. It’s not often that a countersheet created largely to fix counter errata contains so much errata itself. Other countersheets also have some errata’d counters. There is a Tiger VIE(L) with red MP numbers. There are dm SW counters for the black Waffen SS but not for normal German SW (or for Soviet MTRs). There are 40 German 4-4-7 squads in the module, but no half squads for them. A number of the Soviet half squad have duplicate IDs (or quadricate IDs, if you think of the double set of counters). A couple of German leader counters have their +/- sign missing (they would seem to be +’s), while there are multiple Colonel Blaus on the countersheet (must be like Agent Smith in the Matrix Reloaded). Publisher Ray Tapio dismissed the counter errata in a statement as “nothing earth shattering.”
Lastly, and probably most importantly, there are many changes to the scenarios from previous versions, and a lot of the changes are serious ones. Moreover, the new versions of the scenarios were not playtested by the CH playtest crew that worked on the original versions. It is unclear whether or not the new versions were actually playtested at all. Some of the changes are essentially arbitrary, but a number of changes are consistent. All German Gestapo and Hitler Youth units are removed from all the scenarios (incomprehensibly). All rocket units are removed from both sides. Lastly, in most of the scenarios, the Soviet side is consistently downgraded in strength.
Here is a characterization of the changes. All of the scenarios also feature changed (usually streamlined or clarified for the better) language in their SSRs; this is not a problem.
- The Last Fire Mission. Minor changes; Soviet HMG becomes .50 HMG. SS 3-3-8 half-squad changed to 3-4-8 half squad. However, the SSRs still refer to a (now non-existent) 3-3-8 half-squad. Now version 1.2.
- Jail Break. Minor changes; SS 6+1 leader changed to 5+2. By the way, this version and the previous version are both labeled “ver. 1.1” so be warned.
- Moabit Mayhem. Now version 1.3. Changes from 2nd edition version (1.1), other than a needed SSR clarification, basically include only a German 3/2 ELR (as opposed to a 2 ELR in the original).
- Clearing the Station. No changes.
- Standoff at the Moltke Bridge. Now version 1.3 (was version 1.1 in 2nd edition). German ELR raised from 5/2 to 5/3. No other real changes other than minor VC clarification.
- Send in the Fallschirmjägers. Now version 1.3 (was version 1.1 in 2nd edition). This scenario originally had a two player option and a three player option. The latest version eliminates the three player VC. The intent apparently was to eliminate the three player version altogether, but there is still a reference to it in SSR2.
- Himmler’s House. Although there is no version change number for this scenario, the BFD version adds a Soviet LMG and subtracts a Soviet DC. The Soviets may no longer Bore-Sight. A half turn is added to the scenario.
- Götterdammerung. There’s no version number difference in this scenario but in actuality there are huge changes. 4 SS 6-5-8 squads subtracted. All 4-4-8 squads subtracted. 2 4-4-7 squads added. All 4-2-7 squads subtracted. 4 4-3-6 squads added. Various leaders subtracted and added. German Wurfkorpers eliminated. German morale slightly changed. Soviet OBA subtracted. 4 Soviet 4-4-7s subtracted. 1 Soviet 50mm MTR added. 5 Soviet DCs subtracted. 4 Soviet 6-2-8s subtracted. 2 4-5-8s subtracted. 2 ATRs added. 1 Soviet FT subtracted. 2 Soviet trucks subtracted. 2 ISU-152s subtracted. 2 Soviet rocket launchers subtracted. 2 T-34s subtracted.
- Wagnerian Crescendo. Version 1.1 in BFD. German crew subtracted (so one gun will be missing a crew). German 8-1 leader subtracted. 4 German concealment counters added. 1 Soviet 6-2-8 subtracted. 1 4-5-8 subtracted. 1 3-3-8 subtracted. Soviets may no longer have breaches in interior walls.
- Clearing the Back 40. No different version number. All Germans 4-2-7s subtracted. 2 4-3-6s added. 1 Soviet 6-2-8 subtracted. 2 Soviet DCs subtracted. Victory conditions significantly changed.
- Over Open Sights. No different version number. 2 German 6-5-8s added. 1 German 4-4-7 added. 1 4-3-6 added. 1 German 7-0 added. 1 PSK added. 2 Soviet 6-2-8s subtracted. 2 Soviet 4-5-8s subtracted. 2 Soviet crews subtracted. 1 Soviet 8-0 subtracted. 3 Soviet DCs subtracted. Soviet rockets subtracted. Soviets no longer have Plentiful Ammo for their OBA. Smoke fire missions limitation eliminated. Soviets no longer have assault engineers or sappers.
- When Diplomacy Fails. No version number difference. 6 German concealment counters eliminated. 2 German fortified building locations eliminated. 1 German crew eliminated. German rocket launcher eliminated. 1 Soviet 4-5-8 eliminated. Soviet HMG changed to .50 cal HMG. 1 Soviet MMG eliminated. 1 Soviet LMG eliminated. 3 Soviet DCs eliminated.
- Raise the Red Banner! No version change. 2 Soviet 6-2-8 squads subtracted. 4 Soviet 4-5-8 squads subtracted. 3 Soviet crews subtracted. 1 Soviet 8-1 leader subtracted. 2 Soviet HMG subtracted. 2 Soviet LMG subtracted. 2 Soviet FT subtracted. 4 Soviet DC subtracted. 1 ISU-152 subtracted. Night rules changes are changed.
- In the Belly of the Beast. Version 1.1 in BFD. 1 German 6-5-8 subtracted. 2 German 4-3-6s added. Soviet HMG subtracted. Soviet MMG subtracted. Soviet LMG subtracted. 5 Soviet concealment counters subtracted. Soviet crew subtracted. Soviet artillery piece subtracted. German Ammo shortage subtracted. German Walking Wounded provision subtracted.
- Breakout from Hell. No version number change. All German 4-2-7s subtracted. 2 Civilian counters added. 1 German 7-0 subtracted. Soviet crew subtracted. 2 Soviet LMGs added. Two Soviet 8-0s subtracted. Soviet MMG subtracted. 2 Soviet ATRs added. 2 Soviet 50mm MTRs added. Walking wounded provision eliminated.
- (16 in original) Into the Lion’s Den. Missing.
- (16 in BFD) SU to the Slaughter. (no changes because wasn’t in original)
- Last Line in Berlin. (no changes because wasn’t in original)
Moreover, there is one scenario that is missing entirely: Into the Lion’s Den, available in the earlier editions of the module, was inadvertently left out of BFD.
While the changes to the wording of the VC and the SSRs was generally an improvement over previous editions, the other changes to many of these scenarios are questionable and can’t just be because of balance issues. Some of the new versions seem distinctly inferior to the old ones.
Ray Tapio’s reaction to some of the issues discovered with BFD, in the forums on the Critical Hit Web site, was to say that (ellipses in original) “in all due respect, today, there are important things on my desk to deem important. These ‘problems,’ noting that my fellow gamers do obsess over them…speaking to my fellow grown men…have easy solutions that will have same applied.” The reaction left a bit to be desired.
What this all means is that ASLers who already have earlier editions of this product and are considering upgrading may want to seriously think over whether having a cosmetically revised map and new vehicle/gun counters is worth the price of the whole module–because they may prefer earlier versions of the other materials.
5th Edition (Berlin: Final Victory) Comments: Critical Hit’s business model is substantially based on constantly recycling and reissuing its older products. Thus it was no surprise that in 2014 Critical Hit came out with new editions of its Berlin historical modules. What was originally Berlin: Fall of the Third Reich, then later Berlin: Final Days, is now Berlin: Final Victory (its sequel is now called Berlin: Führer’s End). Critical Hit also made both of these modules available in a combined product dubbed Berlin Über Monster; it simply combines the contents of the two separate products with no additional components.
The two Berlin modules have been among Critical Hit’s more popular products, so it perhaps is not too surprising that Critical Hit would choose to give them a treatment different than other products released during the same reprint cycle in 2014. What Critical Hit did with Berlin: Final Victory (BFV) and its sequel was to release them in a “monster-sized” edition–i.e., with an enlarged map. The BFV map is thus substantially larger in size than its previous iterations, with huge hexes that, while not quite reaching DASL size, are in the same ballpark (hexes are about 1 1/2″ across). Fans of large hexes will be much appreciative, while people who do not have an extremely large play area will be quite disappointed. The earlier editions, with their smaller hexes, already took up a lot of table space; the new edition takes up quite a bit more.
The artwork used for BFV is essentially the same artwork used in the previous version, with relatively minor changes. It is overall very solid artwork and holds up well to scrutiny even with the expanded hex size. Woods are unattractive, but they are few in number. Only with the Reichstag building are there some hexes where the graphics are a little fuzzy (perhaps non-vector graphics were used for those part of the Reichstag?). There are a few minor issues, such as the occasional road border, which also become apparent with large size hexes, but they are of such a minor nature that they are not worth bringing up. Otherwise, the artwork is crisp and clean and detailed.
The artwork is also brighter than in previous editions, which seems to be caused in part by some color shifts, but also because the map is printed not on a large sheet of paper but on a large number of 12″ x 18″ heavy paper/light cardstock glossy map panels. These 18 panels have to be fitted together to create the map in BFV. The good thing about the map panels is that they allow for bright, crisp graphics (though, because they are glossy, one has to worry about glare).
The bad thing is that it is a pain in the neck to fit these boards together and to keep them fitted together. One will need to position them all precisely, then fasten them down or put them all under plexiglass (a lot of plexiglass). Generally speaking, up to 4 map panels isn’t too bad, but BFV comes with more than four times that many! A number of ASLers, even Critical Hit fans (yes, some exist) have said that they won’t be getting BFV because of the unwieldiness and inconvenience of the map panels. One can only imagine combining the 18 map panels of BFV with the 15 map panels of Berlin: Führer’s End.
Now, it should be noted that, in practice, the inconvenience may be somewhat less, because the scenarios do not use the whole map area. BFV comes with 15 scenarios, two fewer than the previous edition. One of the scenarios, BI-1 (The Last Fire Mission) does not even use the map; it uses a geoboard. Of the other 14 scenarios, not a single one uses the entire map area and only two even use much or most of the map area. Most of the scenarios use only a very small to small portion of the map. This fact makes using the map panels easier, though it also means that players have a very limited ability to fight over large portions of the map.
The scenarios themselves are drawn from the previous edition (minus a couple). All are marked “Ver. 2.0” and the rulebook claims that all known errata has been added. The quality of the scenario cards is better than that of previous editions, with the cards now even using some color. Only three of the scenarios are small or medium in size; the remainder are large, but only two are what one would consider very large in size (the two scenarios that use large portions of the map). This means that the counter density is typically not going to be so great as to actually really require extra large hexes–the hexes are large pretty much simply for those people who like large hexes period.
Four scenarios use OBA, while two scenarios use a portion of the Night rules; no scenarios use Air Support. The Soviets are on the attack in almost all of the scenarios.
Of the two large map area scenarios, the most likely to be played is BI-8 (Götterdammerung) (sic), which essentially represents the heart of the battle for the Reichstag. The Soviets have 70 squads (half of them elite in some fashion), a ton of support weapons, 20 guns (!), and 22 AFVs. The Germans have 73 squads (of a mix of qualities), their own department store full of support weapons, a lot of fortifications, 10 guns, 5 AFVs, and eight exploding tank thingies. They also have the Zoo Flak Tower. This is a scenario that allows for a lot of meaty play.
When it comes to meaty play, many ASLers prefer the campaign game. The campaign games from older versions of the module are simply nowhere to be seen, which is certainly disappointing. Oddly, though the campaign games are not there, the rules regularly refer to them as if they were present.
The rules themselves are 18 pages in length, which is quite long considering that there are no campaign games to worry about. The bulk of the rules deal with all of the different terrain issues, from flooded trenches to the subways. Some of these rules are fairly complex and, even if they weren’t, their collective weight is a lot for players to take in and remember, putting this game in the “advanced” pantheon of Advanced Squad Leader. As evidence, the rules also include 5 pages of Q&A and errata, most of it compiled from issues brought up by players trying to play earlier editions. The rules are printed as loose-leaf pages, hole-punched for inclusions in three-ring binders. They are in full color and are quite attractive.
In addition to covering the terrain, the main subject of the rules are the various special units and counters that the module requires. Note that, though these counters are in fact required to play almost anything from this module, no counters are included with BFV at all. Instead, players are directed to use the counters from any past edition of this module, or to purchase a set of Berlin counters separately from Critical Hit (at a cost of $50 for a mere six sheets of counters!!).
Berlin: Final Victory itself costs $79.95, so when one adds in another $50 for counters, this is quite an expensive game. And, while it has an attractive and large (though unwieldy) map, it contains no campaign games. It would seem that in many respects the previous edition of the module might actually be a better purchase than BFV. Berlin: Final Victory is recommended primarily for those people who have a huge man-crush on large hexes.
(it should also be noted that, as of this writing, players should NOT buy the combined Über edition. The two modules are currently selling for $79.95 each, but the combined edition is selling for GREATER than the sum of the two modules, at $179.95! In other words, if you buy them as one product, you lose money).