Thursday, October 04, 2007

TAP1 First Impression

by Zeb Doyle

The Total Axis Pack is classic Critical Hit: a really cool concept that needs a lot of thought and skill to get it right. In this case, CH has come up with a pack of 12 scenarios and includes 6 new maps to play on. I love the idea, because bigger non-geomorphic maps are much more fun to play on (IMO), but it obviously is asking a lot of CH to do something so ambitious in a well-executed and cost-effective fashion. Well, in this case, I'm happy to say that CH seems to have done a pretty good job although they are far short of perfect.

I got TAP off Ebay for 29.99, which I feel is pretty reasonable for 12 scenarios and six maps. It must be admitted that only one of the maps is the 24"x36" size mentioned in the product description, and one of them is really tiny, but the other four are a decent size and look like fun to play on. So far, well done CH. On the negative side of the ledger, I got it on sale. The CH website indicates they plan to sell it eventually at $49.95, which seems quite steep for what you get. Additionally, the print quality is rather low, with a few paragraphs running so close to the margin that a letter or two of each line is cut off. There are also some unsightly ink stains on several of the scenario cards. None of these are vital issues and won't stop me from playing the game, but they are annoying...hopefully I was just unlucky and caught part of a bad print run.

Another annoyance, and something that has nothing to do with luck, is that the maps don't come precut and are printed with rather tight tolerances, so I've got some pretty tricky work ahead of me with a straight-edge and an x-acto knife before I can play. Again, this isn't a huge deal, and the maps themselves look excellent (no bad printing there), but if I paid $50 for this, I'd be feeling like I really overpaid. One last minor gripe: several of the scenarios use counters from a previous CH product, Finland At War, so if you don't have that, you'll either miss out on some of the contents or have to substitute other counters for the required Finnish tanks and 5-5-8 squads. All in all, TAP looks like one of the better CH releases: cool-looking scenarios, very nice maps, production quality not up to MMP but not horrible, and a bit of work and some hassle required before playing. The other historic bane of CH, rules issues, hasn't made an appearance...a
quick skim of the scenarios and maps raised no questions, which is great. Now, on to the scenarios:

TAP1 Balkan Suicide: Partisians and Bulgarians and Russians attacking SS Police. This one looks really cool, with 4-6-8 SS backed by Tigers defending against an onslaught of motley east front allies including some IS-2s and M3A1 scout cars. It should be a very nice combined-arms fight and has jumped up near the top of my play-list.

TAP2: White Death: Finns attacking Russians. This is some Winter War action, with a bunch of 8-3-8s butchering a herd of 4-2-6s and tanks. Takes place on the teeny tiny map, which is (from memory) something like 5 hexes by 20 hexes. I guess that works for simulating a long-strung out convoy like the Russians have, but I wonder how tough routing is going to be in that space. Seems a little strange.

TAP3 Die A Bitter Death! Russians attacking Germans and Romanians. This one looks rather amusing, with the Germans trying to use the hapless Romanians as a speed-bump while they escape from the attacking Russians. As I look at this one a bit more, I now have a minor rules question on several of these scenarios. Bummer.

TAP4 Streets Afire: Germans and Hungarians attacking Russians. This one is on deluxe maps, and has the always fun situation of a trapped garrison of Axis troops surrounded by Russians. Can reinforcements break through and save the day? Add some Zrinyis and FT halftracks, and this one is also on my play list.

TAP5 Cross-Check: Romanians attacking Hungarians. Looks like a fun combined-arms battle. T-34s against Zrinyis.

TAP6 Viku Baptism: Finns attacking Russians. Another Winter War scenario, and it actually has armor on both sides. The Russian crews start outside their tanks though, and the Finnish AFVs have Red MP and Stall on any start-up roll of 9 or higher, so the infantry will be involved too.

TAP7 A Vicious Melee: SS Germans attacking Bulgarians. Another interesting situation, with the SS using captured French tanks against Bulgarian PzIVs. Some variable OB adds to the fun.

TAP8 Ghastly Sojourn: Hungarians attacking Russians. Turans and Nimrods do battle against towed AT guns.

TAP9 Edelweiss In Decline: Finns attacking Germans. Obviously late-war, this scenario may have the latest appearance of a PzIB in ASL. I can only imagine what the German crew did to be banished to Finland and drive a PzI at this stage of the war...

TAP10 Bertalan's Bridge: Hungarians attacking Yugoslavian. A simple all-infantry scenario involving a struggle over a bridge.

TAP11 Pescara On The Bug: Hungarians attacking Russians. A Barbarossa brawl and another chance to use those Toldis.

TAP12 Petrescu's Cadets: Hungarians attacking Romanians. Another armored force taking on some dug-in Romanians backed by a 47L AT gun.

All in all, it's not a perfect product but given the price I got it at and the fact that I'm a sucker for new maps, I'm quite happy. I think I'll be planning to play several of these scenarios as soon as possible...any takers?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FWIW, my copy of CH's Stonne had a couple scenarios with those ink stain blobs as well.