Critical Hit (2016)
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Dutch Trucks Redux I Contents: 4 pages of Chapter H-style notes; 176 die-cut counters
Dutch Trucks Redux II Contents: Same as above.
Dutch Trucks Redux III Contents: Same as above.
Dutch Aircraft I Contents: Same as above.
Dutch Aircraft II Contents: Same as above.
NOTE THAT THESE PRODUCTS WERE GIVEN DESPERATION MORALE “CONSUMER ALERT” STATUS
For quite some time, the proprietor of this website and Your Dear Author was not going to include Critical Hit’s Dutch Truck products in the compendium, because of their nearly worthless nature and their high cost, but Your Dear Author eventually realized that he could use their release as an opportunity to talk a bit about Critical Hit counters as well as Critical Hit’s general business model.
Because Dutch Trucks I, II, and III are so very similar in virtually all respects, they are all written up here in one combined entry, even though they were released as three separate products. In all likelihood, they would be purchased together, except in those cases where a player wanted to try one before committing to buy all three. In addition to the Dutch Trucks, Critical Hit also released Dutch Aircraft I and II, which are similar in nature to the Dutch Trucks, only for aircraft. Critical Hit ballsily asserts that these products offer “almost unlimited” play value, but let’s be clear: these products, which cost $29.95 each, offer virtually no play value at all.
Do these products even have an audience? The answer is a very sad “yes,” as their audience consists largely of people who have so little willpower related to ASL that they will buy virtually anything, especially if it has counters in it, with no regard for quality or usability. Sadly, there are a large number of such people out there and they constitute a significant portion of Critical Hit’s audience. Theoretically, these products might also have a certain appeal to DYO enthusiasts, except that such enthusiasts really do not care about trucks (they might have some interest in the aircraft). In fact, virtually no ASLers care about trucks, so ownership of these modules really is proof that one simply has zero self-control when it comes to buying ASL-related stuff.
According to Critical Hit, these products originated after an unnamed person who had collected some WWII vehicle blueprints provided them to Critical Hit. For Critical Hit, such a thing represented an opportunity. These were the first of what has recently become a plethora of counter set releases by Critical Hit–and there is a reason for that. Or, really, two reasons. The first reason, perhaps the less important one, is that after years of producing awful counters, Critical Hit had actually finally improved the physical and visual qualities of its counters to the point where people actually might want to own them and use them. Indeed, Critical Hit eventually realized that it could make some extra money selling excess countersheets as standalone purchasable items, especially when “official” ASL counters of that type were in short supply due to out of print products. It was inevitable that, at some point, Critical Hit would become more aggressive in terms of selling countersheets.
The second reason why we see things coming out like the Dutch Truck products is because of Critical Hit’s business model. As a business, Critical Hit is limited by several very important facts. The first is that, for owner Ray Tapio, Critical Hit is a full time business. Unlike MMP and many other wargame companies, which are part-time endeavors for their proprietors, over and above their regular jobs, Critical Hit is the only job of Ray Tapio. He does not have the leisure or flexibility of the other companies in terms of releasing a product sooner or later, or even not at all. Critical Hit has to release and sell products or food does not get put on the table, kids do not get sent to college, etc. So here we see an immovable object: the need for Critical Hit to make a certain amount of sales on a regular basis.
Against this immovable object are thrust other factors with varying degrees of irresistible force. The first is that Critical Hit has not very successfully able to expand beyond its product line of ASL-related products. It does have its ATS-line of products, deliberately designed to have many components compatible with or easily converted to or from ASL, but its attempts to release other games or game systems have met with, at best, very limited success. The second factor, which combines with the first, is that ASL products take a long time to design, playtest and develop successfully. There is a reason that you had to wait X years for Favorite ASL Product Y. Even if one cuts corners, as Critical Hit is infamous for rather ruthlessly doing at times, it still takes time. The third factor is that, over the years, for one reason or another, Critical Hit has lost many of the people who previously used to work with it in some capacity. A particularly serious loss occurred several years ago, when the company’s main collection of playtesters and developers essentially parted way with Critical Hit. There are still several people who remain loyal to Critical Hit who submit projects to it, but they don’t do the playtesting or development. These factors have put considerable strain on Critical Hit’s ability to playtest and develop its new products–indeed, one wonders how much playtesting is even being done at all anymore, save whatever testing Ray Tapio himself might or might not give a product; Critical Hit typically no longer even lists any playtesters on its new releases, despite that being fairly universal among ASL publishers (who are very grateful for such playtest help). One reason may be that that there are no more playtesters, or barely any. All of this has hurt Critical Hit’s already damaged reputation.
The sum of all these factors is that, despite a need to get product out the door on a regular basis, it is not always that easy for Critical Hit to do so. For some years, Critical Hit has attempted to compensate for this not inconsiderable gap between need and ability by a strategy of constantly creating new editions of virtually its entire product line, changing their names each time, so that wholesalers, retailers and individual customers might not realize that a product was not new and original, or at least might not be sure that it wasn’t. And those ASLers without self-control might buy a new edition regardless, simply because they could not control themselves. Critical Hit has shown no real sign of stopping this strategy, but its sustainability in the long term is questionable.
Along with the stream of re-releases, Critical Hit has also recently been digging into its stock of old submissions and trying to release those, just to get new product out the door.
But another option has recently begun to dawn on Critical Hit. Maybe it doesn’t need to release full products like HASLs or scenario packs, or at least not near so many of them, if it can release components such as map boards and counters. Theoretically, Critical Hit can design and release an infinite number of new boards, for example. It can (and has) released them as standalone board sets, or it can design boards that are somewhat similar to existing ASL boards, substitute those into previously printed scenarios, and re-release them together as scenario/map packs. It has done that, too.
It can do the same with counters. Critical Hit can find new vehicles or weapons or units that have not appeared in ASL and do them up. It can create variants of existing counters, like “winterized” squads to represent winter camouflage, or German counters with different artwork to represent Afrika Korps uniforms. It can even create and release variant color schemes, like Black SS or Red Soviets. It is now doing all these things. And the advantage of such releases is that they need no playtesting, no development. They can be churned out–and priced high, because many ASLers will pay a pretty penny for precious counters. Releasing things like new counters and maps is a way to ease the irresistible force/immovable object conundrum that is a fact of Critical Hit’s existence. This is the reason for Dutch Trucks.
So let’s get back to the products themselves. The first thing to understand is that the Dutch Trucks and Dutch Aircraft counter packs have nothing to do with the Dutch. Their title is an obscure reference to an ancient ASL joke. Avalon Hill published The Last Hurrah, which introduced Minor Allied infantry and support weapons to the ASL system, in 1988. But Allied Minor Guns and AFVs did not appear until almost a dozen years later, when Doomed Battalions was published in 1998, one of the last Avalon Hill wargames ever published. During this very lengthy interval, ASLers jokingly called for the publication of Doomed Battalions by saying “We want Dutch trucks!” The joke, of course, was that Dutch trucks were the part of the product that they cared the least about.
Why Critical Hit would name these products after this ancient joke is not clear, especially as Critical Hit never bothers to explain the reference. So there may be some purchasers of Dutch Trucks I surprised to discover that all the counters in the product are German or Soviet. The Dutch are (almost) nowhere to be found. There is not even the whiff of a Dutch oven. What players will discover is that their $29.95 bought them a single countersheet and 2 sheets of paper. That’s it. A product that should have cost perhaps $7.95 is being sold for four times that. And keep in mind you won’t really be able to use it, either. The included vehicle notes say “an open-minded spirit of investigation is suggested for using this collection of vehicles to the utmost,” which is code for “we don’t know what the fuck you can do with these.” The best they can come up with is substituting some of these trucks for the trucks that appear in existing scenarios. I know what you are thinking: “Wheeeeeeeeeeee!” Hold on to your hats, boys, it’s that type of wild ride.
Dutch Trucks I. The countersheet contains 176 die-cut counters. The die does not cut all the way through either the top or the bottom of the counters, depending on their row, which is irritating. The majority of the counters, 154, are German; the remainder Russian. The Russian counters include 28 trucks of various types, 6 trucks with AA guns on the back, and 6 Limber 52R counters, which is apparently some sort of cart, but the vehicle notes do not adequately explain how it moves or is used.
The German counters are also mostly trucks, though there are a few “fighting vehicles,” including 6 unarmored vehicles with AA guns mounted on them, a few jeep-like vehicles with machineguns, and some tank recovery tanks. There are also several trailers, which have to be Towed. One tank also appears, the R35/45, which apparently was a French R35 tank in German service that had been mated with a T-26 m37 turret.
The four pages of vehicle notes sometimes seem incomplete (indeed, the last sentence is literally unfinished) but fairly seriously try to provide rules for some of the weird features of some of these vehicles, such as refueling vehicles.
Dutch Trucks II. The countersheet contains 176 die-cut counters. A handful of counters (6) are British; 66 are American; 32 are Minor Allied (including, we admit, some for the Dutch), and 72 are German. Once more, the counters are mostly trucks, from ambulances to radio vans to regular old Chevrolet trucks. There are also a few tanks and other fighting vehicles, a few of which are even interesting. Also included is a one-off, Rommel’s command vehicle Mammut.
Dutch Trucks III. The countersheet contains 176 die-cut counters. These include 16 British counters, 16 French counters, 16 American counters, 32 Italian counters, and 96 German counters. The American counters include Harley-Davidson motorcycles, so you can create your own biker gang, and the M29 weasel, sort of a snow-jeep. The British counters include a truck-mounted gun for the Free french and a never-used-in-combat armored car. The Italian counters include a 90L AA gun mounted on a vehicle; it looks like it could PaK a punch, and a bridgelaying vehicle. Finally, Italian bridges. The French vehicles are boring trucks and staff cars.
The German vehicles include a variety of trucks, a few AA vehicles, a Dollar Store halftrack, and an experimental ammo carrier (provided in ridiculous numbers and with the non-armed version nevertheless sporting the same boxed 3 ROF as the armed version).
Dutch Aircraft I. Desperation Morale did not purchase a copy of this product because for crying out loud. Like the vehicle products, it comes with a 176-count countersheet and notes. The counters are apparently not all aircraft, as Sturmboots are also featured.
Dutch Aircraft II. Desperation Morale did not purchase a copy of this product because Ray Tapio does not need another pair of low-cut jeans. It contains a couple of sheets of “vehicle” notes and 176 die-cut counters, which apparently include boats and gliders as well as planes.
Don’t, folks. Just don’t.