Critical Hit (2015)
Country of Origin:
140 die-cut counters, 2 scenarios
Turretmaker 1: German/Italian Western Desert (hereinafter Turretmaker 1) is a counter accessory published by Critical Hit, which has already published a Turretmaker 2. A third, featuring Americans, would later be published in CH Annual Issue 3.
Specifically, this product is a set of 140 1/2″ diecut counters (including 96 German, 40 Italian, 4 markers) representing tank turrets for AFVs that fought in North Africa. In official ASL, of course, AFV turrets are represented by generic turrets on white markers for use by every nationality, with a Buttoned Up version on one side and a Crew Exposed version on the other. Some third party publishers have gone a bit further, creating nationality-specific turret counters (green for Americans, etc.).
In 2011, a short-lived Chinese third party publisher, Countersmith Workshop, went a step further, designing tank-specific turret counters that would have relevant useful information on the counter, as opposed to merely a drawing of a turret. Their Steel Master series, which only saw two products, provided turret counters for German, American and British tanks. The counters were 9/16″ in size and provided information relevant to the turret only (so a CMG factor appears on one of their counters but not a BMG factor). It was an interesting notion, and innovative, though doomed at best to be very much a niche product. In the end, because Countersmith Workshop is apparently nonactive now, they will primarily be items for collectors.
Fast forward four years, and Critical Hit has entered this domain with turret counters of their own, very similar in nature to the Countersmith Workshop counters. As with the Chinese counters, there is no reason why anybody would actually need the Turretmaker counters, but armor aficionados might possibly like having a bit of AFV-related swag.
In some ways the Critical Hit counters are better than the Countersmith Workshop counters, but in some ways they are worse. Overall, the physical quality of the printed counters is better with the CH counters. However, the Critical Hit counters are only 1/2″ counters, not 9/16″, and furthermore, they pretty much contain all AFV-related information rather than just some AFV information. So, in essence, these counters are smaller but complete AFV counters designed to placed on top of of AFVs. The combination of more information on the counters, combined with the counters being smaller, makes for distinctly crowded and hard to read counters.
Another issue is that the BU and CE indicators are so small and hard to read. For most such counters, the notations appear on the upper left corner of the counter, in small print. These indicators are harder to read for the darker-colored Italian counters than for the light blue German counters. Indeed, even seeing the CE and BU indicators on the backs and fronts of the counters is so difficult that Critical Hit had to make all the BU indicators red in color (by the way, the BU side is on the back of the counters and the less often used CE side is the front of the counters).
In order to go to a 9/16″ size, Critical Hit would probably have had to pay for a new counter die, which can be expensive. This is likely the reason why the turret counters are only 1/2″ in size.
The other major drawback is that so few different vehicles are represented. The Germans get only 96 counters and 24 of them are devoted to Panzer IIIHs. Only a handful or so of different vehicles appear; the same is true for the Italians. According to Critical Hit’s website, this is because these counters are “keyed” to two recent desert modules by Critical Hit: Gazala Monster and El Alamein Monster. However, as few ASLers will even own either of these modules, the small countermix here will make it difficult for even those people who like the counters to actually find ways to use them.
In all likelihood, it would be easier to pick up a regular AFV counter to check one of its values than to pick one of these counters. The design of these counters was probably not very optimal.
Turretmaker 1 also comes with two scenarios, thrown in as added enticement to purchase. Despite this accessory product being tied in with the Gazala and El Alamein games, the scenarios are ordinary geoboard scenarios that seem to be modified from scenarios appearing in an earlier CH product: Afrika Korps: Second Time Around.
It is probably worth noting than an asking price of $29.95 for a half-countersheet and two non-original scenarios is very steep indeed. The price, combined with the relatively user-unfriendly design execution, will probably make this product a pass even by those ASLers interested in the basic concept behind the product. Perhaps AFV turret counters that only had the gun size and ROF information on them would be practical. But Turretmaker just seems to be a notion that works better in theory than in practice.