One World/Annihilator Review
Review By Dennis Loubet
The Space Gamer #28 (May/June 1980)
ONEWORLD / ANNIHILATOR (Metagaming);
Designed by W.G. Armintrout / James E. Tucker.
Two games in one package.
ONEWORLD: 1 8 1/2" x 14" map, 86 counters, 16 4" x 7" pages of rules.
ANNIHILATOR: 14" x 12 1/2" map, 45 counters, 7 pages of rules.
Each is for 2 players
Playing time 1 hour each.
ONEWORLD is rather abstract. At first glance, it appears to be a thinly-disguised version of "paper-rock-scissors." Fog takes the place of paper and blade takes that of scissors; rock stays rock. When you read the rules, you find you were right. Despite that, it is actually a lot of fun if you take it lightly.
ANNIHILATOR is more a standard-issue wargame. One player sends a small force of space soldiers inside a huge, Saberhagenish robot planetkiller. The invasion force sets off demolition charges, battles robot security drones, and tries to reach the central computer core to kill the thing.
ONEWORLD is fun and simple. That's about all once can say on it. The diceless combat system, though unoriginal, is very fast and several rounds can be played in less than a minute. The board is nicely laid out with some give-and-take terrain, and the whole flavor of the game is relaxed.
ANNIHILATOR plays pretty fast, too. The demolition charge system is neat and easy to use. The small number of pieces keeps the game pretty desperate.
ONEWORLD seems to take itself seriously, and I don't know whether to believe the introduction or not. The counter mix is sort of unbalanced; the fog counters are of little worth, while the blades are the main attacking force.
ANNIHILATOR is just too small a game; there's not enough there. If there were more and different counters and a more complex and varied map, it might have the popularity of Ogre, but as it stands, it's too small. It has possibilities, and might have been better as a full micro.
If you like small, rushed games, with little to offer, then this is the package to get. As the rules state, they were meant as "beer and pretzle" games. But beer and pretzel games are not going to sell as well as G.E. V. or Sticks and Stones. Half-micros don't make it.
Review By Glenn Williams
Dragon #40 (August 1980)
Produced by: Metagaming
Retail price: $2.95
ANNIHILATOR is a Metagaming Microgame packaged wtih One World. The game simulates a human commando raid on the interior of a gargantuan, cybernetic planet-killer which is threatening Earth.
I purchased the package to get Annihilator, as it seemed to fill a gap in science-fiction games. Unfortunately, I found both the rationale and the mechanics of the game were poorly developed. In fact, Annihilator illustrates the importance of a good interrelationship of rationale and mechanics very well.
The planet-killer has kilometer-thick armor and a "dispersion field" that reduces missiles or beams to irrelevant waste. The solution is specially shielded assault boats that crash into the surface, then detonate special-shaped thermonuclear charges which create paths into the interior for assault and demolition squads. To accomplish their task, the humans carry "milliton" fusion charges. Opposing the intruders are security and repair robots.
The interior of the Annihilator is a single level, hexagonal in shape. The terrain consists essentially of equipment of varying density, and the more packed a hex, the more it impedes human movement. At the center are the human objectives, two brain cells, surrounded by auto-defend hexes which attack anyone who enters them.
The components are typical of the small game format: strip-cut counters, a one-color map, and rules in Metagaming's Micro-format. Unlike other micros, artwork is minimal, being limited to half the cover and a lone half-page interior illustration.
The game mechanics are straightforward. The game sequence is I-move-I-fire-you-move-you-fire, with an interphase for emplacing nuclear charges. Combat resolution is by odds ratio with destroyed, disrupted, and no-effect results, except that disrupted robots are destroyed instead. The victory conditions are simple: The human must destroy both brain cells or he loses. There is no time limit, but my experience has been that games are very short.
The game's problems begin with its rationale. If the specially shielded boats, with their ability to punch a hole through one thousand meters of armor, succeed, why bother with a commando raid? A second warhead, purloined from an ICBM or its 23rd-century equivalent, could be injected and reduce Annihilator's interior to burned insulation and fried silicon. Conversely, the infantry carry nuclear weapons whose explosive power is equal to a contemporary Claymore mine. but those two pounds of TNT cut a swath four hexes long.
The nuclear weapons raise a very critical issue. Nowhere are we given the game's scale. If a nuke equal to two pounds of TNT can destroy a path four hexes long, the ground scale must be very small. Unfortunately, infantry have no capability for ranged combat and can only attack robots in their own hex. That indicates that ground scale is very large, a conclusion reinforced by the stacking limit of three human squads per hex. The rules specifically allow a nuclear charge to be emplaced in any hex surrounding a human squad. Consequently, humans can "throw" nuclear weapons farther than their own weapons can fire. Not only that, but such a charge can be placed in hexes the humans can not enter. Since there are fifteen nukes, proliferation is a problem: There are so many nukes and their effect is so devastating that the game is seriously imbalanced. The imbalance is compounded by an advance-after-detonation rule that allows the humans a 5/6 chance of destroying both brain cells on the third or fourth game-turn. The auto-defend hexes are useless against a nuclear onslaught, so the only defense Annihilator has is its robots.
Those robots are not so formidable. The disrupted-means-destroyed rule for robots significantly alters the probability of destruction. In addition, the robots simply are not very powerful. The best attack the robots can get against a human assault infantry squad is 3:1, with a kill probability of 2/3. In contrast, the worst attack a human assault infantry squad can make is 1:3, but the game rules do not say if such an attack is permissible as the worst odds on the combat resolution table are 1:2. In the latter case, the probability of destroying a robot is 1/2. This disparity in combat effectiveness is increased since the robots' best attack also requires that 60% of the security robots be committed to a single attack.
I believe the real problem is not the cramped size of the "demi-micro;" rather, there is a clear failure to integrate the rationale and game mechanics into a single entity. One of the most enjoyable aspects of science-fiction games is that they are a form of literature in which the players create a story as they play. Good plot development requires that the playwright/designer have created an entire world and technology from which the game has emerged. Annihilator lacks that feeling precisely becuse the game's rationale was not translated into game mechanics. This is more striking when it is compared with its mate, One World, the other game in the package. The degree of integration in One World shows that size does not limit quality.
The omnipotent Annihilator is a pussycat, and the game is not equal to Metagaming's other products. However, there is a way to play Annihilator not considered in the rules and comfortable for most readers of The Dragon. Except for the basic problem with the game's rationale, Annihilator can be effectively treated as a dungeon. There are no changes in game mechanics, except that the attacker does not have an opportunity to observe the map. He maps the interior as he goes. The other player is a controller or game master, whose function is to run the robots and tell the attacker what he sees. By removing perfect intelligence from the game, the problems of balance are restored, and the pure simplicity of the game system can be allowed to do its job: entertain.
There is no doubt that Annihilator can be fun. Its greatest virtue is the adaptability of its game system. In fact, Annihilator variants might prove a greater boon to the hobby than the basic game. While I obviously feel the game could be better, I also feel it is worth the price. Play the game a few times to learn it, then start making your own versions.
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