Critical Hit (2019)
Country of Origin:
56-page magazine, 25 scenarios (as pages of the magazine, NOT on cardstock), 6 nonstandard 12" x 18" unmounted geoboards (AN1-AN6), 3.5 5/8" countersheets (related to Arab-Israeli Wars) with 616 die-cut counters total.
CH Annual Issue 5 is the latest iteration of Critical Hit’s house mag for ASL players. The theme for this issue is on the Arab-Israeli Wars, in coordination with other products Critical Hit released the same year involving those conflicts. Critical Hit claims that Annual 5 includes a full “Suez Crisis/Sinai ’56 module INSIDE. With new counters, maps, scenario and rules – the works.” This is part of the Genesis III series of Arab-Israeli War products that Critical Hit began releasing in 2018. Eleven of the scenarios of Issue 5 deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of interest is the fact that Annual 5 includes a set of the “HELO” (i.e., helicopter) rules that are required by many of the Genesis III series of products.
As Desperation Morale has often observed, Critical Hit has no business publishing a magazine, as its principal can neither write nor edit, nor does it have any remaining connections who can. Critical Hit tries to evade this problem with CH Annual Issue 5 by padding the magazine with everything but the kitchen sink, including returning to the Bad Old Days when scenarios appeared as pages of the magazine rather than on separate sheets of cardstock. So, purchasers will have to scan, photocopy or remove the scenarios from this magazine.
Article content includes “Incoming Fire,” which passes for a “Letters to the Editor” section but which is actually just random e-mails sent to Critical Hit, including–we shit you not–“Hi there, Please could you add me to your Friday Emailer please. Many thanks. Josh P.” All ASLers should be grateful that Critical Hit decided to take up space in the magazine by relaying these key thoughts. There is also a report by former Critical Hit developer Dave Lamb of a playing of a Sword Beach scenario at a Texas ASL tournament, designer’s notes by Abraham Edelheit on three of the included scenarios, designer’s notes by Scott Holst for an included scenario, a historical article by William Wilder on the Israeli 7th Armored Brigade, and an article by Ray Tapio on “Air Power during the Sinai War.” There’s a lot of useless filler in the form of random rules from historical modules printed on various pages. The bulk of the magazine is taken up by two things: the 25 included scenarios and Critical Hit’s Helicopter rules. However, all the charts and tables that go with the Helicopter rules are scattered throughout the pages of the magazine rather than appearing together, which is beyond aggravating.
The product also contains some scenarios set in World War I and the Russian Civil War (which, it should be noted, require various GWASL modules), as well as East Front and West Front World War II scenarios. Including the “bonus” scenarios, there are 25 scenarios total, which is a fair amount. However, some of these may be reprints from older publications; certainly the “bonus” scenarios are all recycled from previous scenarios (2 of them altered to use the included AN6 board instead of their original boards).
Here is the ASL Scenario Archive list of the included scenarios:
Most of the scenarios use the included geoboards (AN1-AN6), but 7 of them use official AH/MMP geoboards, which was rare for Critical Hit at the time this product was published. None of the scenarios give any designer credit, which is strange considering that two designers actually wrote about their scenarios for the magazine. The scenarios overwhelmingly tend towards the large in size, with 18 large scenarios, 3 medium-sized scenarios, and 4 smallish scenarios. The Arab-Israeli scenarios are almost all large and, not surprisingly, are typically extremely vehicle-heavy. Five scenarios have OBA, eight scenarios use Air Support rules, and three scenarios are Night scenarios, although one of them uses a simplified set of Night rules.
Annual 5 includes 3.5 5/8″ countersheets. The half-countersheet is a set of markers for use with the included Helicopter rules. The first full sheet of 5/8″ counters is all aircraft and helicopters, mostly Israeli, but also Egyptian. The second sheet, except for a handful of markers, has all Egyptian AFVs. The third sheet, except for acquisition markers, is all Israeli AFVs. Oddly enough, there are no Israeli guns and only a handful of Egyptian guns. The Egyptians come in Soviet colors, the Israelis in a sort of lime green color (it may be Critical Hit’s “khaki” color).
The product also comes with 6 unmounted 12″ x 18″ nonstandard geoboards, four of which are desert-themed. Some of the desert boards are used for scenarios set in southern Russia and just look out of place there. AN1 is mostly open but is dotted by various terrain features (the nonstandard CH artwork is not described in any rules pages, so unless players have another CH desert product, they may have some issues figuring out some of the terrain). ANA2 has a sort of desert hamlet but is dominated by a large set of orchards. AN3 is quite open. AN4 is dominated by three 2-level hills. AN5 is not a desert board; it is used primarily by two Russian Civil War scenarios set in Tsaritsyn–which is the pre-Soviet name for Stalingrad–so this is basically a sort of proto-Stalingrad board and uses Red Barricades-like coloring. It is also used to represent Port Faud in a 1956 scenario. AN6 is a bocage board designed for the Normandy scenario by Scott Holst, but two of the “bonus” recycled scenarios were converted to play on it as well (but almost certainly not re-playtested).
The desert boards (but not the others) are designed to mate with each other but they are not trimmed, so they cannot be placed adjacent to each other like normal boards; rather, one must overlay the other, which is very irritating, to say the least, especially for multi-board scenarios.
Annual 5 is currently priced at $99.95, which is pricey, even leaving aside all other considerations.