On 26 May, 1942, Erwin Rommel, with 332 German and 228 Italian tanks, attacked the British forces in the “Gazala Line.” This Allied defensive zone stretched approximately forty miles inland from Gazala on the Mediterranean Coast to Bir Hachim in the Libyan desert. The Gazala-Bir Hachim Line, besides being long, was also a ten mile deep integrated system of minefields and defensive “boxes” (strong points). Each fortified British box was occupied by a brigade with its own artillery and other heavy weapons, and with sufficient supplies to hold out for ten days if isolated. The operation did not begin particularly well for the Afrika Korps. After nearly running out of fuel on the second day of the offensive, Rommel’s armored forces found themselves very precariously placed. Fortunately, Axis troops finally managed to defeat the British infantry in the center, and the commander of the Afrika Korps was able to restore a supply line through Trigh Capuzzo to his exposed tanks. Slowly, the tide of battle began to turn in Rommel’s favor. After ten days of bitter fighting, the Free French Brigade was finally driven out of Bir Hachim. British armor renewed their counterattack on June 12 and 13 in a last desperate effort to halt the Axis advance, but after two days of fighting, the surviving 70 British tanks — now outnumbered by German and Italian tanks more than two-to-one — were compelled to retreat. Rommel had won the Battle of Gazala, and on the 18th the British Eighth Army was forced to begin a complete withdrawal back towards the Egyptian border. After more than a year of campaigning, the greatest prize of all, Tobruk, fell to the Axis just two days later, on 20 June, 1942.
THE FALL OF TOBRUK is a tactical simulation of Rommel’s attack on the heavily-fortified British positions on the Gazala-Bir Hachim Line from late May to late June 1942. The ultimate objective of the German attack was the port city of Tobruk: the key (for both armies) to Egypt. Given this fact, the victory conditions for both players are relatively straight forward: the Axis must capture Tobruk; the British must hold it.
The game mechanics of THE FALL OF TOBRUK, while familiar in their general outline, are nonetheless somewhat unusual. The German player acts first, and his turn proceeds as follows: reinforcement phase; artillery fire phase; movement phase (during which two antitank fire segments may occur: defensive first fire option, and simultaneous fire); and the combat phase. The British player then conducts his part of the turn in the same order as the German player before him. This turn outline, however, is a little deceptive. Unlike other “move-combat” type games, THE FALL OF TOBRUK differs in that all movement need not take place before all combat. Thus, some units may move and engage in combat, after which other units that have not yet moved may move and fight. The player sequence, however, does hold for individual units: each unit must complete its own movement before engaging in combat. This turn sequence, combined with the game’s overrun rule, can make for a hair-raising battle area; and once the action moves beyond the minefields and fortified boxes, the player with the better grasp of mobile tactics will have a significant advantage. Given the history of armored warfare in North Africa, that is as it should be.
THE FALL OF TOBRUK offers only the historical scenario which starts on the May 26th game turn, and ends at the conclusion of the June 26th turn (32 game turns). There are no optional rules. However, increased complexity and realism is provided by the advanced rules, some examples of which are: British command paralysis; British Matilda Tanks; (German) break-off from engagement; towed guns (deployment rule); and tank repairs. Not surprisingly, the designer recommends that the advanced rules be incorporated as soon as players become familiar with the game system.
- Time Scale: 24 hours per game turn
- Map Scale: not stated
- Unit Size: company/battalion
- Unit Types: infantry, Italian motorized infantry, panzergrenadier/bersaglieri/mechanized infantry, machinegun, artillery, reconnaissance, tank, German 88 mm gun, self-propelled gun, engineer, and information markers
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 8-16 hours (depending on players’ experience with game system)
- One 19” x 25” hexagonal grid mounted Map Board
- 352 5/8” cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” Set of Rules
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Advanced Rules Sheet
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed combined Combat Results Table, Antitank Table, Artillery Table, Minefield Chart, Turn Record Track, and Terrain Effects Chart
- One 8½” x 11” combined Axis Reinforcement Chart, Refitting Chart, Reserve Tanks Track, Wrecks Track, and Refitted & Destroyed Units Boxes
- One 8½” x 11” combined Allied Reserve Tanks Chart, Wrecks Track, and Refitted & Destroyed Units Boxes
- One 8½” x 11” Italian Order of Battle Chart
- One 8½” x 11” German Order of Battle Chart
- Two 8½” x 11” Allied Order of Battle Charts
- One 8½” x 11” Initial Positions Sheet
- One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (10 September 1975)
- Two six-sided Dice
- One 10” x 13” x 2” bookcase-style cardboard Game Box (with six card board counter trays)
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles which I recommend for those visitors looking for additional historical background material.