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Subject: 10 Reasons that Critical Hit Killed ATS rss

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Eric Walters
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I too have had my issues with Critical Hit! But I lay the blame on the uneven physical production (sometimes it's great, most times it's not) and customer service first and foremost, with the expense coming a close third. That said, I'm not sure what keeps this series afloat for as long as it's been. Somebody has got to be buying this stuff.

Because of that, I don't consider that the ATS system has failed or is dead. Far from it. There's a lot to like in it. The fact that its been unevenly implemented hasn't been enough to kill it off. Sure, there are far more ASL players than ATS players. But ATS was never meant to be a serious rival to ASL--if anything, it was supposed to be ASL-"Lite" in the days before the Lock 'N Load "Heroes" squad level series, before Valor & Victory, Band of Brothersseries (such as it is), and even before Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit. In that, it was successful at the time and still seems to be since.

Another series that one could say had suffered similar treatment by its company was the platoon-level WW II Tactical game, Panzer Grenadier. Suffered from uneven production, poor customer service, some real issues with play balance, but it attracted and has retained a loyal core of players who won't give up on the system.

So I don't think ATS is dead. I strongly suspect it will soldier on, even if with a heavy limp.

I will make one quibble with the OP's characterization of ATS. The old Tobruk: Tank Battles in North Africa 1942 has practically nothing to do with Advanced Tobruk or the Advanced Tobruk System -- it isn't that Hal Hock's "great rules system" was tweaked and infantry added by Tapio. Hal Hock's system was really picked up by Jim Day and tweaked into his WWII tactical armor games. The armor system in the original and the system in ATS have very little direct relationship. The only thing that seemed to carry over from the original AH game and CH! "Advanced" version were the scenarios. Infantry wasn't added by Tapio--it was there in the original game but executed completely differently. ATS actually evolved from an earlier CH! tactical series as embodied in Combat! Stalingrad and Combat! Normandy...which themselves were reincarnations of ASL Comp products.

Just one more nit-pick--Advanced Squad LeaderRulebook and the first module, Beyond Valor: ASL Module 1 came out in 1985, not in the 1970s, although this inaccuracy does not invalidate the OPs proposition that the older game enjoyed a huge advantage in players before ATS came onto the scene. While the old Squad Leader "gamettes" were published back then, ASL actually chased many of those players away during the playtest and even in its first few years of publication. Don Greenwood himself has said he considers ASL to have been a mistake of his, amazingly enough, because he helped it get too complicated.

It was that "too complicated" aspect that ATS--and its Combat! predecessors--was intended to address. Time will tell whether it will keep going. Somebody must be playing this series; somebody must be buying it.....
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ATS has a lot going for it as an effective system for squad based skirmish actions with not too many units on either side. I'm keeping it as I am concerned that in my rapidly approaching dotage there will be no room for ASL's endless campaign games, multiple rules folders, billion scenarios, mega raaco storage boxes and other examples of excess.
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Robert Hawkins
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Unfortunately, I have to agree with most of your points. "TT" did it for me. I never could truly figure out what it is/was or if the products they were selling on their site were actually in production or not.

Over the last few months, I sold most of my ATS collection. I didn't see myself making any further purchases from CH, and the the titles I kept will certainly keep me busy should I decide to throw ATS on the table again.

No doubt small companies have problems with production, but customer service should not be problematic. While I don't want to disparage (oops) them any more, I'm pretty much done and hope others have better luck getting missing pieces and/or whole orders.

is it really dead? If so, that's the most unfortunate thing about this whole post.
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Martin Gallo
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I think the biggest reason ATS is not more popular is that Ray T. has a less than stellar reputation amongst ASL players. This bad word of mouth hurt him early on and combined with the "ASL momentum" hurt sales and prevented the system from gaining traction in the "small and crowded market" for this type of game. Following that is the uneven customer service and product quality.

Personally I love the ATS system above any other tactical system. Traffic game, played the original basic game once and got happily hooked. The games have been great fun to play and that has not been enough to whittle away at ASL to a significant degree - Which actually does surprise me.

I think I appreciate the intent of the TT system (smaller maps = more playing area and the idea of "play to contact") but the execution kept me from getting really enthusiastic. "Having to buy all the games again" is not something I really wanted or could afford and the "play to contact thing" did not really "work" for me. I do like the "bigger" maps, though.

I have never met Ray but have spoken to him on the phone a couple of times and they were good conversations - Interesting guy.
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Here's the thing:
My copy of the original Advanced Tobruk game with the first four expansions still plays great. I don't have to mess with the other stuff... I have, learned my lesson, I don't buy from CH anymore

But a game isn't a creed. Well ASL is a creed but no other gamers are like that....I don't have to be married to it.

Ray can suck, CH can suck but... that original game was good.

So if I want desert and I want tanks I go to Advanced Tobruk, with 3.09 rules. If I want ww2 infantry I got Combat Commander and Up Front and some others...

I could give a f::ck what ASL players think
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Sorry
Overly strident
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Nerijus S.
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Being a fresh ATS player (1+ years), I strongly agree with most of the opinions expressed: shortcomings are hardly deniable, as are advantages.

It's hard for me to believe that I'll ever play ASL due to complexity, CC due to lack of control, LnL due to gameplay mechanics/ugly maps or BoB due to cartoonish graphics. Glad to know there are different games for different tastes and it's a sin not to try some of them before making decisions.

ATS won for me. And it's far from being "dead".
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I beg to differ with some of the points by the poster of OP:
"All Tapio did was use the exact same map from his ASLComp stuff and make new counters, eventually he did away the counters as well in favor of the exact same size as ASL."
That's not true. Different from ASL, ATS covers not just WW2 but also WW1, Vietnam War, Korean War, and even ACW.

"5. He never updated the graphics on the maps, they look like they are from 1970."
Wrong. Many (if not all) of the new titles (e.g. Omaha, Berlin, etc.) have redrawn maps and counters.

"...Or buying a 150 game and then being told a year later that version is outdated and you need another one."
Which one is that?

It may be an overstatement that the "big" ATS and the TT are incompatible. The TT mechanics is just a set of optional rules alongside the standard rules. You can simply play the TT modules without it, or you can play the big titles using TT rules (though I don't).

Locked and unprintable e-rules? Just use PDFill (great freeware) and do whatever you want.

Customer service sucks?
True. My simple solution is going to Ray directly whenever there is any trouble and I will get response and great support in 1 or 2 days. Doubt many designers/publishers are doing that.

"9. Quality control is non-existent, you order something from them, half the stuff is missing... "
Sorry to hear that. I know this happens to some ATS buyers. But I have never come across this myself. I did have a countersheet missing in my Stalingrad Large Hex edition. It was bought from a local game store a year before I broke it out for the first time. I told Ray about the case and he sent me a replacement right away.

Why should ATS players bother about how many ASLers look at ATS for their enjoyment?

I don't understand why and how the number of players that can actually "kill" a game. Most of my favorites remain the old (and perhaps forgotten by many) stuff: Victory in the Pacific, Origins of World War II (& I), Magic Realm, Knights of Camelot, etc., and quite a few obscure PnP title, e.g. Arcanum and Epic Adventure Dungeon Crawl. The overwhelming size of fanbases of ASL and Mage Knight Board Game (I have both) have done no magic to me.
I don't believe there is any real proof for a game being dead, except those that dropped off my radar or dropped dead on my shelf.

Why I don't play ASL:
- Solitaire ASL is a totally different game. No way to play solo with the historical scenarios in ASL.
- I have zero interest in geomorphic boards and psuedo-historical setups (which also applies to LnL).
- I hate the TT (ASL) size components.

Some reasons why I prefer ATS:
- The impulse system is tense and engaging. Zero downtime.
- The (short-lived) series of publications are excellent reads. New players can pick up the two Warfighting Guides and are ready for the Basic Games in short order.
- The ATS robot (included in Warfighting Guide #2) is imho one of the best solitaire mechanics in tactical wargaming. It is simple (compared with SASL and perhaps also CoH Solo) and minimalist in design (a deck of cards showing iconography arranged in different hierarchies), yet it is robust and challenging and allows you to play all the existing scenarios solo.
- I'm still having fun buying the ATS big boxes (Berlin: Red Victory is on the way).

L'nL sucks... Got expansions. But played it only once. Feel nothing so much tactical but a dice fest. Dead ... on my shelf.

Edit: Typos corrected.
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Berserker in peace
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I don't just play ATS solo as I also play it in my local gaming group every now and then (maybe I am one of the lucky few).

Surely, it is strictly a personal preference to play wargames (or board games in general) solo. Yet it looks like the trend keeps growing.

I don't enjoy playing wargames solo on PC at all as it is a totally different experience. I just feel too distant from the battlefield on the screen... which is much less fun than flipping a deadly card, sorting out the AI's logic, and finally having my units wiped out "in my own hands".

The greatest strength of the ATS robot is that it keeps the player constantly aware of the offensive/defensive objectives of both sides. The robot is always trying its best to achieve its objectives or to prevent you from doing so, just like what human players should do.

Indeed several titles are extremely pricey (e.g. Wake, Tarawa, Bloody Omaha), but they are truly monster games with 1k-2k counters and giant maps, plus dozens of scenarios included.
Most fall within the range of $60-$90, which is not unreasonable imho, e.g. Scottish Corridor, Kursk and Gettysburg. which are not really small games. Just for the record: I would not have bought Berlin: Red Victory if I hadn't had the promotional code (for $80 only) instead of the current $130. Added: I have to confess that I bought many new ones as bundles during CH's promotion.

Maybe it's just me. I do enjoy repeating playing the same historical setups to explore different tactics and to compare the outcomes with history. I can't see how geomorphic maps have higher replayability than historical ones here. The question applies to most wargames for their fixed maps and setups.

Anyhow, except for those highly favorite scenarios, players usually have a hard time catching up with the endless series of new battles and campaigns.

It will definitely be a great pity for such a good game to be brought down by a poor business model. But even if ATS becomes discontinued I still have enough for many gaming years to come.

My 2 cents.

Sorry forgot to add:
When I was about to order the 2015 edition of Berlin: Red Victory some months ago, I emailed Ray asking him about the compatibility of the new rule (4.x) systems and the old titles. Ray confirmed that there is no compatibility issue as all the games, old and new, are equally playable with any rulesets. That's how I suspect Bloody Omaha can become outdated. Perhaps it's just marketing strategy to suck bigger money?
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Sava Toufexis
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I like ATS. I really do. I like it better than ASL (which I used to play). It is, in my opinion the best set of rules for this scale. I just bought the new Desert Fox. Great counters. Lots of scenarios. Lots of maps and overlays. Steep price? Yes. Why, is ASL cheaper? The 4.X rules are very well done and easy to understand. All the Basic games introduce you to the system FAR better than the ASL SKs. The rules are third of the ASL rules and yield similar results and the play is continuous. No waiting around for your opponent to make his moves.

Ok, the service is not the greatest at CH. I buy from CH and I buy from Noble Knight (Excellent company). Have I had problems? Yeah. Have they all been fixed. Yeah.

Any other problems? I don't think so.

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11. Vassal.

Ray, no one's going to steal your damn games. Get the system out onto Vassal, proper, and you might find more people taking an interest.
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12. A website that doesn't look like it was designed by a committee of 11 year olds in grade seven. (Yes, I am talking about the new one).

I have three ideas for you as a designer of 25 years: usability, a much better visual look and feel, and a sensible and better information architecture. (And forum software that doesn't suck would also help.) Hire a designer/UX person, or at the very least, talk to one. Your current new website still makes the consimworld forums look like a good example of usability. The fact that you're using tables for layout and non-compliant HTML is embarrassing. The late 1990s called and wants their website back.

(Sorry to be harsh, but the CH website sucks something awful. I honestly haven't seen designs like that since the late 90s, and even then they were nearly un-usable. I wouldn't be surprised to see a GIF of spinning flames and an "under construction" animated GIF on that site.)
External image
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Karl Bown
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I moved over to ATS after selling off my complete ASL collection because of the larger counters, they're so much easier to read, and I think the system is better, and more interactive, than ASL. I recently tried to get back into ASL again but I started reading the rules and decided against it.

Things against ATS though are;
Constant rules updates - ugh! Pick a set and stick with it.
Lack of opponents - much easier to find ASL people to play against
Poor support - it's a small company but they seem to try to go in too many directions and can't manage everything
The TT experiment - I don't want small counters, if I did I'd have stuck with ASL and had people to play against
The website - it is horrendous, really, really horrendous, offensive even. Hard to read, hard to find info.
The recent boxed sets - this used to be good, buy a box, get everything you needed to play. Nowadays you need 1 item for box A, 3 from box B, rules version 43.1763z, etc. I haven't got the time for this sh!t

I love the historical maps, none of this use board C but pretend the trees are all kennels or whatever. I love the interactiveness, I love the reduced use of TLAs. It was worth getting into ATS just for Arnhem tbh.

I've still got most of my stuff, I've not played it in ages but I have hope that one day I will again.
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Lawrence Hung
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Regret to hear that. Yes, Maureen sucks. Maybe she doesn't know the business well enough. Maybe she just doesn't like what Ray does as a business and plot to screw it up behind his back. I don't know. But my experience told me that patience with CH and Ray do payback. All I wish of CH is that they can, like the French Hexasim, link up with GMT for its logistics support. All they can focus on is designing more modules, more scenarios and more stuff. The rest is handled by GMT staff. This is a dream......
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Nerijus S.
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
(...) Maybe she just doesn't like what Ray does as a business and plot to screw it up behind his back. I don't know. (...)
Exactly my thoughts, Lawrence!



Seriously - we can continue writing that long list of BUSINESS SIDE shortcomings but in the end are still left with a side that just simply matters more - a GAME.

Very sorry to hear you leave, Nick.
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stephan jacobi
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nicky_longbranch wrote:
Yea me too, Thanks for the love Guys! May ATS live long!

judging by CH`s service and ethics its long dead...

2 Examples( one old, one new)

1Old; a couple of years back I bought a module designed by Pedro Ramis. One of the maps was missing. So I write to CH several times. This is how it ended: Pedro read my complaint on CH`s message board after weeks of not hearing from them and did send me a map on his own expense....I am still waiting for an answer by CH. BTW THANKS AGAIN PEDRO!

2 New: if you order the new electronic version of the rules CH charges a 7.95 $ delivery....I think that says it all...

I guess when CH newer games/modules get about 10 votes and or comments and about 30 people max mark each them owned (look at the ASL action pack numbers they run between 400-700 for the mainstream ones) here on the geek I think its save to say it is dead...

But I understand the fans urge to defend this ever changing mess called ATS. If you have sunk a lot of bucks in this (like I have done myself) it kinda hurts.

If you enjoy ATS well, more power to you, but don't degrade ASL ...that just looks desperate ;-)

Greetings and happy gaming

Stephan
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nicky_longbranch wrote:
Just wanted to offer my thoughts on why the system failed.
1. ASL was out in the 70's meaning that when ATS game out in the early 2000's it was already at a severe disadvantage in players, decades worse. The 70's was the War-gaming hay-day and as such ASL got a lot of exposure and huge fan base.

2. Critical Hit produced ASLComp stuff first and gave it priority. All Tapio did was use the exact same map from his ASLComp stuff and make new counters, eventually he did away the counters as well in favor of the exact same size as ASL.

3. He switched back from TT to regular about three times.

4. He charges $70 for the rules printed and $50 for the E-rules which come locked and unprintable.

5. He never updated the graphics on the maps, they look like they are from 1970.

6. He's charging too much and giving too little.

8. Customer Service sucks at CH (Marueen).

9. Quality control is non-existent, you order something from them, half the stuff is missing, and because of point 8. very hard to get right, and no standardization, every version is different.

10. No support to the community, No CONSIMWORLD, no ATS convention, ZIP ZERO. He wants to maximize profits and that is truly all.

So with a great rules system primarily designed by Hal Hock in the 70's and tweaked and infantry added by Tapio, now we can clearly see why ATS is Dead and unless picked up by another company is likely to remain so. I wish you a lot of luck, I have tried for years to get some interest sparked in the game, ITS not happening brothers. Again God Speed, You'll need it...

Warmest Regards
Nick

Just quoted this with the points separated out. The wall of text was difficult to parse. Also, it appears there was no point "7"!
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Quote:
2 New: if you order the new electronic version of the rules CH charges a 7.95 $ delivery....I think that says it all...
No. The $7.95 is some kind of goofy placeholder. You won't actually be charged for this unless you order some physical product, as well.

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stephan jacobi
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No...they billed me for the 7.95 (and i did not get them back...)....when i asked why i got a semi-threatening mail saying that they think i was downloading without paying...mind you the deal was done via PayPal

So as far as i am concerned they killed ATS

greetings

Stephan
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Martin Gallo
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How odd. I had my $7.95 refunded after I messed up and paid for the free material.
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OK, so now could THIS be the death knell for ATS??????

www.brl1192.com
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Jherek Carnelian wrote:
OK, so now could THIS be the death knell for ATS??????

www.brl1192.com
I somehow doubt that the re-release of Hal Hock's Tobruk game is going to amount to much. I know the original game was an eye-opener for game mechanics and has a loyal following but ATS is just so much better.
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1) Re-publishing the same stuff and , IMO, not providing clarity as to what the products are
2) TO many rules changes, gotten to much like ASL
3) NO ATS clubs
4) TO expensive, charges a lot, new business models is to split modules into two modules and overcharge
5) to much of the same old counters
6) TT, cost money to buy modules we already had in regular size
7) Killing TT, thus invalidating hundreds of invested dollars
8) Making Wake TT. Probably to cheap to print the map in big size, IMO. Ha Ha, they killed TT, now they brought it back, good luck using Wake counters with other Pacific kits
9) Now charging for the rules
10) They don't accept criticism.

cool
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Lawrence Hung
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I do like they wake up TT again so that my invested money wouldn't be wasted.
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For a dead system ATS seems to be doing very well. Besides the historical line of modules, there are now 3 separate lines of generic map based are series (Steppes, Teutonic Terror, and the new Hot Stovepipe series), and CH is producing the only set of tactical games covering continuously all 5 Normandy beaches, and producing a large selection of monster hex maps, scaled to the images on the AFV counters.
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