The Hotness
Games|People|Company
The Hotness has gone cold...
Recommend
14 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

ATS TT: LZ X-Ray» Forums » Reviews

Subject: LZ X-Ray and ATS TT - first impressions rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Canada
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
What Is It?
In the spring of 2011 Critical Hit introduced the first two entries in its "TT" or "Table Top" line of Advanced Tobruk System (ATS) games series. What follows is an attempt to share what I've learned about one of these games, LZ X-Ray, after a week of counter pushing.

What distinguishes TT entries in the ATS realm is primarily their size. The maps are meant to be able to fit on a modest sized table, perhaps in response to the ATS players who lamented not being to make use of the previous year's opus Bloody Omaha: D-Day 1944, with its seven feet of maps.
Controversially, the hex sizes of the maps are smaller than is typical in ATS and, even moreso, the counters have been downsized from the ATS standard sizes. I'll talk more about this later on.

LZ X-Ray seeks to depict the actions of the US 7th Cavalry in the vicinity of the Chu Pont Massif, Vietnam, in the fall of 1965. Having enjoyed the first ATS adventure in Vietnam, Dien Bien Phu, and also being a big fan of Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam this was a must try.

What You Get
First, this is not a complete game, but very nearly so. Players will need to produce a standard ATS rulebook along with several of the playaid cards, ATS markers and two ten-sided dice. That said, the game contains:
- A new map, measuring approx. 13" x 20" or 18 x 23 hexes
- Seven new scenarios
- ATS TT Rules and LZ X-Ray battlefield walkaround
- One sheet of counters "plus a second BONUS copy of the counter sheet"
- Two ATS TT playaid cards
Since Critical Hit have taken some knocks over the years for either not stating or incorrectly stating what other products are required to make use of a game I can assure everyone that everything needed to play LZ X-Ray is either in the package OR indicated as required. The reference to the "Bonus" counter sheet is a little disingenuous, however, as you will have to punch both sheets to fill out the OB in most of the scenarios.

What's New?
Plenty. It's not all change but there are some significant differences between standard ATS and what is presented here. First, and most significant, is the Advance To Contact Sequence of Play, which augments the usual impulse-activation based SoP that ATS is well known for. This is how the modified SoP works:
- Players begin the game designated "Offensive Player" and "Defensive Player"
- The Offensive Player conducts attacks in the Combat Segment, incorporating Smoke, Aircraft attacks, Indirect and Direct Fire.
- The Offensive Player then conducts movement, with the Defensive Player using Opportunity Fire where able.
- The Offensive Player conducts infiltration and resolves any melees that may result.
- In the End of Player Turn Segment non-permanent markers are removed and the Offensive Player attempts to rally broken units, as required.

At this point the Defensive Player then follows the above procedure.

Having completed the Offensive and Defensive player turn segments the Offensive Player then rolls for Escalation.
Escalation is based on a percentage of casualties; players add up the total losses on both sides as expressed by GF (Gunfire Factors) and make a roll on the Escalation Table. When and if Escalation occurs the Advance To Contact SoP is discarded and players then revert to the standard ATS SoP (i.e. impulse activation). As the game turns tick off and casualties mount the "Escalation Point" becomes easier to reach. In our games we reached escalation on Turn six (Scen. #1) and Turn five (Scen. #2) and, frankly, it didn't really feel like we were playing ATS until we reached that point.

Another significant change to the usual ATS routine are a new melee table which, while still odds-based, is a great deal bloodier for 2-1 odds and higher attacks, and also features opposed rolls rather than a single roll on the melee table.
ATS players will also be surprised to learn that column shifts almost entirely give way to die-roll modifiers (DRMs). I have not yet carefully compared the TT Casualty table with the standard ATS Casualty table to try to determine what the impact of this may be.

There are also three new things to think about when using machine guns; Traversing Fire, Grazing Fire and Opportunity Overwatch, each of which, in their own way, attempt to model the manner in which machine guns could be used as a defensive weapon by discouraging movement within their area of influence.

Other changes and addition are more flavour oriented, with special abilities given to the NVA and Viet Cong armies, a new routine revolving around M79 grenade launchers inherent in full-strength US squads and extensive rules for regulating the use of helicopters and resolving their attacks. At twelve pages this is one of the most extensive sets of game-specific stuff in the ATS world.

What's Good
The scenarios: we played the first two scenarios in their entirety as well as partially playing through a few others. In each case the situations were well laid out, interesting and reasonably competitive. It was nice to not see a lot of SSRs in the scenarios being as there is so much extra rules overhead inherent in the game itself.
New rules additions: we always enjoy nation-specific abilities and characteristics, and NVA stealth and the M79 chrome added some fun.
Helicopters: the rules governing helos are quite well done, I believe. There is a lot of new info here to absorb but it's remarkably intuitive and is well supported with examples of play and diagrams. Along with the helicopters there is also the AH-1 Skyraider ground attack aircraft and its formidable loadout, including cluster bombs and napalm, among the most interesting and fun units available.

What's Not So Good
Advance to Contact: I really do not know what the goal was with this. I assumed it would play some part in modeling the defender's reticence to fully engage the attacker until they had reached some tipping point, but it didn't really seem to shake out that way, as there is nothing in place to limit anyone's actions, but rather just the order in which they go about them.
A few aspects of the Advance to Contact SoP are not, in my estimation, fully thought out or at least not fully explained. First, at the end of each player turn segment players are instructed to remove all of their fire and movement markers. This just felt weird to me, as this takes away a big chunk of the decision making that I believe is vital to ATS. No longer does one have to be concerned about "using up" an impulse with opportunity fire, for example, because at the end of your opponent's part of the turn you'll get to "reset" your units and have them available for fire and movement, regardless. Conversely, your opponent need not worry about holding any units in reserve for opportunity fire, as they'll all be available even if they moved and/or fired during their portion of the game turn.
No mention is made of assault movement/fire and, in fact, the way the new SoP lays out the segments, with direct fire occurring first, followed by movement I was left wondering what the designer's intent was here. Evidently, assault movement/fire is still allowed, during the movement segment, there just happens to be no mention of it. There are three sentences devoted to how to carry out opportunity fire but not a word on assault movement, which just confused matters more, for me.
A major concern for me, also, are some of the physical aspects of the game, as presented.
The Map and Counters: This is a matter of personal taste but I do not like the material the map is printed on. The colours do "snap" and the contrast is quite good but I prefer the matte, softer paper maps that most of the ATS games feature. Counters are less likely to slide around than on this glossy material. Additionally, I have to question why the map was folded three times when two folds would have been perfectly adequate. That was annoying and peculiar.

Despite it's small footprint, as per the supposed mandate of the TT series, there's plenty of room to maneuver. This, of course, is thanks to the smaller-than-regular-ATS hexes, enabling more hexes to fit on the map sheet. This, naturally, necessitates smaller counters, as well, and this is where Critical Hit does themselves and fans of ATS no service whatsoever. The larger-than-usual hexes and counters are a huge part of the appeal of ATS and, no matter what the publisher may assert, the move to smaller components is a definite step backward. The principal of Critical Hit has pointed out that these smaller sizes are "industry standard" but I have to question the truth in that. Yes, the TT counters are precisely the same size as ASL/ASLSK counters, a fine game, albeit one with functional but unappealing counters, but "industry standard" is, in my view, the standard that had already been set with the first couple of dozen ATS releases, so I don't buy this rationalization one bit. It comes across as a bit of a bait and switch.

Alongside this complaint I'll point out that ATS counters have a LOT of information on them and shrinking the type to fit smaller counters does the game no favours. (I'll try to include a photo of some counters to illustrate this.) Critical Hit commissioned new counter artwork for this release but you literally need magnification to discern it, so they really needn't have bothered.



Conclusion
I can only surmise what is occurring here. Maybe Critical Hit guessed that their customers would prefer the more compact format of the ATS TT series. If so, I fear they've guessed wrong, as I've read several negative reactions to the new format, only a few neutral comments and absolutely no unreservedly positive remarks. The downsized components and the Advance to Contact SoP do not seem popular with the ATS veterans out there. If this is the case the experiment has failed.

Another very real possibility is that there may be considerable advantages to Critical Hit streamlining their printing/layout/manufacturing processes. Critical Hit, of course, is also a prolific producer of ASL-compatible products with many of the ATS releases soon followed by an ASL-comp counterpart, and vice-versa. If changing the size of ATS components to fall in with ASL standard is helping Critical Hit remain viable, well, I cannot argue with that.

I do find it curious and a little frustrating that ATS was originally touted as an alternative to ASL with nicer components and an interactive, impulse based SoP, yet here we are with an ATS game sporting ASL-sized components and the decidedly ASL-esque Advance to Contact SoP. If TT is the future of ATS I suspect we're seeing the beginning of the end for this fundamentally great series of games.

(Edit: added photo)

Edit: Over the last year+ I've come to terms with the rules changes. Since I last typed in this space most of the "TT" rules additions and the "Advance to Contact" Sequence of Play have been integrated into the main ATS rulebook. Once I became used to them I minded them less, even if I still forget some of the oddball MG rules. I really like the new method for determining if alternate ammunition is available. I am still not a fan of the new SoP EXCEPT for use with PBEM on VASSAL; in this environment the new SoP shines.
So, the sky didn't fall, after all. What's more, the #1 beef that ATS players had with the "TT" stuff, the smaller counters, has gone by the wayside, thankfully.
12 
 Thumb up
0.02
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Hawkins
United States
Mooresville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great info, Mo. The larger format counters and impulse turn sequence of regular ATS were key differentiation points from ASL. ATS TT looks and plays too much like ASL now, so its purpose is sort of a mystery... I'm not buying CH's explanation, either.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Martin
United States
Yuma
Arizona
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thank you for the great review. I am one of the people who prefered ats over asl because of the counters and ease of play. I can't even begin to say how much I prefer the 5/8" counters over the 1/2" counters.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Fook Ken Oath
Australia
ACT
flag msg tools
Thanks for the write up.

Just wanted to add my voice to the concerns over the new rule changes and the TT trend. I was curious about the new direction but after reading your write up, I must admit I'm feeling cold about the idea. The idea of having to learn another set of rules fills me with a sense of fatigue rather than enthusiasm.

I own many ATS titles - including Omaha, and other OOP titles - and the current TT direction that CH is pushing the system is unappealing to me. It's not so much the smaller counters..although that is a reason...but the 'rules creep' factor is more disconcerting.

It would appear that the smaller format enables CH to push out more product quickly. Much more of a business decision and hopefully not so much of a 'official new direction' for ATS. The CH website seems to have a lot more ATS (TT) stuff coming down the pipeline than the 'regular' large format ATS, so at this stage I think the concerns of the players are valid. I just hope RT is listening and sticks with the factors that made ATS great in the first place.

I'm perfectly happy with the 3.09 rules to be honest. I'm still not sure why there had to be a revision (or extra set) of the player impulses. The narrative arc of ATS games always felt somewhat realistic, you start out tentatively and then the action steamrolls out of control...with lots of casualties and difficult Op-fire decisions etc. Just what a tactical game should have.

Why more tinkering?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Astolfo Geremia

Genova
Italy
msg tools
[q="moly19"]What Is It?
This is how the modified SoP works:
- Players begin the game designated "Offensive Player" and "Defensive Player"
- The Offensive Player conducts attacks in the Combat Segment, incorporating Smoke, Aircraft attacks, Indirect and Direct Fire.
- The Offensive Player then conducts movement, with the Defensive Player using Opportunity Fire where able.
- The Offensive Player conducts infiltration and resolves any melees that may result.
- In the End of Player Turn Segment non-permanent markers are removed and the Offensive Player attempts to rally broken units, as required.

At this point the Defensive Player then follows the above procedure.

shake Exactly the classic SoP of ASL...
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.