Alternative Titles/Edition History:
Critical Hit (2015)
Country of Origin:
The Sweet 16 Geo Board Collection Winter 3 (Winter3) is a collection of winterized versions of geoboards of the sort featured in the Sweet 16 Geo Board & Scenario Collection and its sequels. Before continuing here, it may be worth reading the Desperation Morale write-up of that product, which received a Desperation Morale CONSUMER ALERT warning, as have most of the other “Sweet 16” products.
What Winter3 does is simply take the CH geoboard designs (themselves all derivative of official ASL boards) and “winterize” them–i.e., keeping the same layout and design but replacing the graphics with a greytone-ish version designed to evoke snow-covered ground, frozen water obstacles, and the like.
Many ASLers dislike playing a scenario set in January in Finland or Manchuria on boards that are bright green like a flowery field in June. It ruins the mood. The computer program VASL, which allows play of ASL on-line, has long been able to portray snow-covered ground (at level 0), while over the years a number of ASLers have come up with their own “winterized” versions of standard ASL geoboards and historical maps. The product that really showed how impressive a “winterized” ASL map could really look was Le Franc Tireur’s Kampfgruppe Scherer. It is not surprising that Critical Hit shortly thereafter began to implement the “winterized” look in appropriate products, starting with “winterized” geoboards in Fire & Ice: Finland at War, 1939-1945.
The graphics of the Sweet 16 boards will be discussed below. In terms of physical quality, the Winter3 geoboards continue a depressing quality control issue with Critical Hit, one that began with the original Sweet 16 collection and has extended to every geoboard issued by Critical Hit since then (up to the point of this writing). In short, these boards are neither mounted boards like the original SL/ASL boards, nor are they unmounted ASLSK-style boards on thin cardboard. Rather, these are “do-it-yourself” geoboard assembly kits. What this product actually contains–and, with the exception of some bridge overlays, ALL it contains–is 20 9″ x 12″ sheets of thick paper (equivalent in thickness to the sheets that official overlays are printed on), upon each of which is printed half of a map (i.e., an 8″ x 11″ map section). There is a white strip surrounding the entire map image, just as if it were a large overlay. Thus players must use scissors or a rotary cutter to trim away all four sides of each of the 20 sheets of paper–an irritating task. Even then, the maps are only on paper, not even the thin cardboard of ASLSK-style maps. This is about the cheapest way to produce an ASL geoboard and no ASLer should be happy or satisfied with the physical quality of these maps.
If that weren’t enough, the maps have other issues. First, along their narrow width, they are about 1/16″ too short (in other words, they are just shy of 8″ instead of being 8″ wide). All their “new-style” paper geoboards, from whatever product, seem to have this problem. This makes it impossible to line up cleanly with official geoboards (or any properly sized geoboards). “Luckily,” this is less important for the Winter3 geoboards, as because of their “winterized” status, they are only likely to used lined up against other “winterized” boards (after all, what is the point of mixing “winterized” and “summerized” boards?).
The second issue with the Winter3 geoboards has been a problem with all of the Sweet 16 geoboards: the maps use flawed building graphic depictions. Essentially, buildings on these maps look fine as long as their sides are lined up purely vertically or horizontally. However, whenever the edge of a building is arranged at some angle (which happens all the time, of course), the building graphics appear crude, jagged and pixelated. This made a number of the original Sweet 16 geoboards look amateurish, crude and ugly. Over the past several years, Critical Hit has made no effort at all to correct this problem. Consequently, the more buildings that geoboards have on them, the worse they look. What is worse, Critical Hit recycles and cannibalizes a very limited number of building graphics, using the same buildings over and over again, sometimes on the same page. There is really no excuse for this sort of cheap sloppiness.
So, here’s the deal. Leaving aside the small strips of bridge overlays, what you get when you purchase this product is 20 sheets of paper from which you must cut out half-map sections in order to arrive at a collection of 16 paper-printed, mis-sized geoboards with bad building graphics that are nothing but derivative “variants” of official ASL maps you almost certainly already own. Oh, and they have “winterized” graphics. For these 20 sheets of paper, Critical Hit charges $89.95. Yes, that’s right, close to a hundred bucks for 20 sheets of colored paper. Now, keep in mind that there are no scenarios, rules, counters, etc. Just 20 sheets of paper. Ninety bucks. For that amount of money, plus gas, I will drive to your house and dump actual snow on your old ASL maps.
Overall, the graphic look is inferior to the “winterized” graphics of Kampfgruppe Scherer, largely because that product had a better basic textures and, overall, more attention to detail (such as snow-speckled roads). Critical Hit’s basic snow-covered ground look does seem to be textured, but it is such a faint texture that to most players it will simply seem to be light grey. Any such texture does need to be a weak texture, but Critical Hit’s is perhaps a bit too faint. Higher elevations are rendered in grayscale, with darker being higher (it is not clear if there is any texture on these hexes or not); generally speaking, it works well.
The road graphics seem to have been improved somewhat from the original Sweet 16 Winter go boards, though the unpaved roads still look a little “sprayed on.” The woods graphics are okay; they seem to have a bit less detail (such as shadows) than Fire & Ice. It should be noted that the woods in these geoboards are not consistent with the woods graphics in some other winterized geoboards that appear in non-sweet products. The orchards are just dark grey blobs (as opposed to the more detailed versions that appear in other Critical Hit “winterized” map renderings). Brush is just a gray version of regular brush; the same goes for marsh. Gullies retain their green outline, oddly. Water obstacles have a special texture designed to evoke a frozen surface and this is actually the most attractive and effective graphic element of the winterized boards.
One of the main issues with this product is how, exactly, it can be used. These are winterized versions of Critical Hit geoboards (themselves derivative of official geoboards) that have had very few scenarios published to use them so far. So the winterized versions will have far fewer scenarios still. In essence, many people who buy these maps will be buying them either because they expect Critical Hit to release more scenarios in the future (not necessarily a great bet) or because they unthinkingly buy all products that have the letters A-S-L anywhere near them.
The poor physical quality of the maps (paper, assembly required), the significant graphics problems, the derivative nature of the maps, the low utility, and the high price combine to require that this product be given a Desperation Morale CONSUMER ALERT warning and a DO NOT BUY recommendation.