SMITHEREENS, by TY BOMBA
Two 22" x 32 inch maps, 512 5/8" counters, 20 page rules folder, ziplock bag. XTR, POB 4017, San Luis Obispo, CA. $29.95.
Reviewed by ANDY MALY (with some help from The Editor)
Voice Over [VO]: Ladies and Gentlemen. You are all aware of the tragic explosion at our Crossfire studios last week. This week's program was never completed, and the search for a Bomb continues. We have reviewed the tapes of the show that was being taped when the explosion occurred, and we think that what you are about to see the actual session in which the explosion occurred, to which we have added some voice over will be most interesting. It might even help explain what happened.
Without further comment, The Last Crossfire.
Announcer [A]: Welcome, once again, to Crossfire. Tonight's subject is XTR's Smithereens, a mini-monster from Ty Bomba, covering the last days of the Third Reich, and the potential opening days of World War III. Here in a return try for the pro camp is Andy Maly.
Andy Maly: Thanks. Glad to be back.
A: That's a bold statement, given last month's rather acerbic dialogue, Andy, but it is good to see you putting yourself on the line. And, of course, familiar to all is our other panelist, Richard Berg.
Richard Berg: I Am Very Happy To Be Here.
[Slight pause, five seconds of Dead Air.]
A: Yes, well Andy, why don't you start by telling us about the packaging for Smithereens.
AM: Sure. Another set of solid components from the boys at XTR. Four full sheets of 5/8" counters, two full maps, a rules older, all packaged in a ziplock bag. The 512 counters are what we've come to expect from XTR.Units from the eastern half of the Grand Alliance are represented by armies. The Brits and Americans come in Corps, and the Germans and their few remaining allies are divisions. XTR uses their usual neo-NATO symbology, and, of course, they're big with bold print.
RB: I Like Big Counters. They Help The Gamer Play The Game.
AM: That's nice The two maps cover most of Western Europe at 20 miles to the hex. This is another solid effort from Mark Simonitch, wouldn't you agree, RB?
RB: Everything Is Functional And Logical, And Serves To Compliment The Counters, Providing An Aesthetically Pleasing Product.
A: Are you OK, Mr. Berg? You sound a bit funny.
RB: I Am Fine, Sir. I Also Liked The Rules. Didn't You, Andy?
AM: Ah, yes, yes ah, the rules exhibit the usual XTR consistency, well laid out, with plenty of sidebars explaining the "why's". They read very quickly, and the are nearly
error free. It all comes in a ziplock bag. Some may question the use of the ziplock, but it saves $5-10 dollars off the price of the game.
RB: It's Not Good To Question Others When They're Trying To Give Us Fun Things To Do. Isn't That Right?
AM: Well, that may be so, but the game does have some drawbacks in this area. Ziplocking does tend to greatly reduce impulse buying by customers who see it - or don't see it - in the store, although that's not a drawback if you already the game.
RB: That's Why That Comment Is Unfair, Mr Maly
AM: Perhaps, but there are other problems. The cover of the package is hideous, and what about these counters? Did Larry Hoffman get bored halfway through their preparation?
Let's have some consistency in presentation! And I can't say that I particularly enjoy the JUMBO SIZED, Neo-NATO symbology.
RB: This Is The World According To Mr. Bomba, And We Must Learn The New
Language, All Of Us.
AM: Well, this new language must include publishing games with cutesy titles. First we had Wahoo, now its the rather opaque Smithereens. What's next? A game on the Russian Revolution called Serf's Up?? And although the map is very nice, it would be even better if it used its eastern half. It's almost as if someone said, "Ooh, that's so nice. It'd be a pity to play a game on that." And let's not forget that the rules are glitch free because they're all boiler plate! There's more boiler plate here than in a law office!@!
RB: I Used To Be A Lawyer
AM: Shut Up Who Cares??
RB: Actually, Nobody.
A: Well, we seem to be wandering a bit afield here. Andy, why don't you expand upon your view of the rules.
AM: Certainly. For those of you unfamiliar with the Krim system, of which Smithereens is part, the sequence is Igo-Hugo, with each player turn consisting of a reinforcement phase, a movement and mobile assault phase, and a prepared assault phase. Supply uses the time-honored, John Hill, trace a line of any length and you are in supply, rule. There are some chrome rules to provide a feel for the period, while allowing players the freedom to explore different strategies.
RB: Combat Is Odds Based, With Modifiers. Losses Are Taken In Steps, And The Attacker Is Guaranteed To Take Losses No Matter What The Odds. This Is Very Interesting, Because While The Germans Are Getting Slaughtered, The Grand Alliance Must Be Concerned About Their Losses. The Krim System Presents The Players With The Ability To Create As Fluid Or Static A Situation As They Like.
AM: You got something in your throat want a cough drop? No? OK the system. I want to know who likes this system?
RB: I Like It! Lots Of People Like It! It's Fun!
AM: Please, spare us and also spare us the umpteenth application of the system with a different time and scale used at each approach. Since CFC's have been banned, you'd think the creative juices in San Luis Obispo would thaw from their current frozen state, but it appears there is no relief in sight.
RB: Repetition Is The Soul Of Wit.
AM: That's "brevity", you moron, of which, I might add, you've shown little in Your games!
RB: I'm Sorry If You Didn't Like Them. I Want Everyone To Like My Games.
AM: Don't we all, bubba, don't we all.
A: Rather than get into this area, Andy, why don't you tell us what you' don't like here.
AM: First of all, while the system itself is well polished, each application needs special rules to ensure that the system functions properly at the chosen time and scale. When you
count up all the special rules required to provide adequate chrome, you've got a mess that even your die-hard, "La Bataille de -", Napoleonist couldn't sort through. How many times do you want to sift through these rules to see if the economic collapse has occurred, or what the conditions are for triggering the entrance of German flak units, or even what "Thunderclap" is?
RB: Wasn't Thunderclap A James Bond movie?
AM: No, it's what you get for fooling around in a storm. And speaking of "fooling around", what's with the Zones of Control in this system? In Poland '39 the scale was divisional and 16 miles to the hex, with stacking at 3 - 4 divisions per hex. And in that game, ZOCs are usually static. In Smithereens each hex is 20 miles across, with
stacking for the Western Allies at 3 - 4 Corps! and, for the Germans, 8 divisions to the hex. Yet, in Smithereens, entire armies can go bopping by each other without a thought or hindrance, as there are no ZOCs! One has to wonder about the application of a set of rules to a series. What are the boundaries? Consider Advanced Squad Leader or the
Gamers' "Civil War Brigade" series. Both are successful because they apply different situations to a common set of rules, using a consistent scale in every situation. However, when situations at various scales are forced to fit a given system, as SPI did with the Panzergruppe Guderian system, the result is not the system showing its flaws, it becomes an example of Gerrymandered Design.
RB: I Don't Think There Is Anything Wrong With This Approach. After All, I've Done It
AM: Yes, as the wild success of 1862 and 1863 can attest
RB: I'm Sorry, But They Both Sold Lots Of Games. Anyway, We Should Accept, No Challenge. We Should Be As The Romans. We Should All Be Tribunes, Not Censors, We Should All Be
AM: We should all be glad if you would stuff a sock in it for a few minutes, Berg.
A: This is all quite interesting, I'm sure, but our viewers would probably like to know more about how the game feels when you play it. Is it fun?
AM: I'd say that while the game presents the problems faced by the participants in 1945 in a realistic manner, one has to wonder how many times you'd be willing to sit through a 6 hour drubbing as the Germans. I mean, how much fun is it to watch as growing dead-pile of almost 200 "1-1-4" German counters? Realistically, as the Germans, you have to hope for some real good luck, or a really stupid opponent in order to catch a break. I don't know how many times I'd play that situation.
A: Does the German Player have any options, other than to fall back and die?
AM: Oh, yes. To Bulge or not to Bulge, that is the question.
A: Could you explain?
AM: During turn 1, December 1944, there is only the German combat phase. While the Sons of Siegfried could concentrate approximately 30 free deployment divisions to deal the Allies a nasty blow, they'll realize that such gains would probably be only temporary, and if unsuccessful, could put them into a world of hurt. On the other hand, they could play a more passive game and just defend. The third option would be to create fire brigades to rush to plug the numerous holes that will develop in their lines. A successful defense will need to be a balance of all three.
RB: But That's Not The Only Scenario, Andrew. For Those Into Alternative History, The Game Provides Lots Of Fun Try Testing Out The "George Patton was Right" Theory, Where Both The Western Allied Armies And The Russians Have The Capability To
Deal Out Severe Punishment, So Neither Side Is Stuck With That "Lost From The Start" Feeling. This Is A Game Where Alternate History Is Really Worth While.
A: Anything to add to that, Andy?
VO: Look, here's where it happens . . . watch this
AM: Hey, what's happening?
VO: If you look closely, you can see the Berg's left eye starting to twitch wildly.
AM: He's shaking! Somebody call 911 get some help . . .
VO: If you watch carefully we've enlarged this portion of the picture to bring it into focus you can see what both Maly and the Announcer discover as they try to help Berg
AM: My God!! Look at this!!
A: Unbelievable!! there's metal coming through his skin!! and he's got two buttons on his neck!!!
AM: Hey, this ain't Berg look at this on the back of his neck. A metal tag it says "Made in " can't make it out oh My God, Look at This!! " Made in San Luis Obispo!"
A: He's a Clone!! XTR Cloned Berg!! A damn clone!!
AM: Wonder what these buttons are for?
VO: Here it comes, see him touch the button on the left?
A: Maybe it turns him off, tr
[Silence, as screen goes blank]
VO: A tragedy a tragedy. The entire cast, blown to Smithereens by another XTR clone.
Graphic Presentation: A solid effort; however, both the cover and counters could stand some improvement to enhance the package.
Playability: Like most XTR games, it's strong point. Quite good, even solitaire.
Replayability: Several scenarios allow for different approaches to the situation, but you really have to be a WWII Buff to enjoy any of the historical scenario.
Historicity: True to form, even without the detail. Expect the Germans to lose their army and their country big time, and not enjoy themselves while its happening.
Creativity: Too much jury-rigged boiler plate here.
Comparisons: Krim; Son of Krim; Night of the Living Krim; Krim VII; Krim Lives, Nightmare on Krim Street . Far better, but much bigger, than the old SPI Battle for Germany. Omega's Victory in Europe is an interesting comparison, covering the exact same subject using a different (albeit neither better nor worse) approach. Bomba has made this subject into something of a cottage industry; viz., Germany, '45 and End of the Iron Dream.
Overall: Fans of Krim de La Bomba won't be disappointed.