TOBRUK, as the game's introduction explains, recreates, in a realistic fashion, the tactical-level combat problems encountered by the British Commonwealth, German and Italian forces confronting each other in the North African desert in May and June of 1942. Through a unique set of procedures not found in other AH games for resolving combat, players learn through experience the scope and depth of these problems and gain insight into the difficulties of handling small unit actions. In essence, TOBRUK is a miniatures simulation for those players who (like me) don't want to invest in and paint all the little figures necessary to play out a combat action, but who are interested in the extraordinary detail that such simulations, when well-designed, can provide.
The game turn sequence for TOBRUK in the first scenario is simplicity itself. Each turn is composed of two segments: the Movement Segment and the Combat Segment. During the Movement Segment the first player (designated by scenario) moves any or all of his units, marking each with a counter as he finishes its move; the second player then repeats the same process. At the start of the quasi-simultaneous Combat Segment, it is the second player who acts first: he fires one of his units, resolves the result of the fire and then marks the unit with a counter to indicate it has already fired; the first player then repeats the same process with one of his units. The players continue to alternate firing in this manner until all combat is concluded, ending the game turn. As players progress through the different scenarios, new rules are introduced that steadily increase realism and complexity by incorporating, among other things: Off-board Artillery, Stukas, Melee Combat, and Morale into the Combat Segment. The miniatures character of the game design, however, really shows up in the details of combat resolution; and those details are most obvious in the Hit Probability and Damage Tables which are specific to the various armored vehicles represented in the game. In addition, the designer offers a series of experimental rules that players can incorporate to adjust play balance and/or enhance realism. The differences in the various armies' armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) and anti-tank weaponry become all too apparent in the course of only one or two scenarios. This is one aspect of the game that players will either love or hate: the tactical "nitty-gritty" of maneuvering for a flank or rear shot without exposing your own tank to a lethal riposte.
TOBRUK offers nine scenarios as part of its programmed approach to teaching this unusual game system to those new to the game. These scenarios are based on actual engagements; they are:
- The Clash of Armor (27 May, 1942)
- The Group Cruwell Feint (26 May, 1942)
- Action at Point 171 (27 May, 1942)
- The Panzer Thrust is Slowed (27 May 1942)
- Destruction of the 150th Brigade (late May - 2 June, 1942)
- Aberdeen (5 June 1942)
- Crisis at Knightsbridge (12 June 1942)
- Bir Hachem: The Fall of Point 186 (9 June 1942, and
- Tobruk Falls(20 June 1942).
These scenarios run between 30 and 50 game turns, or 15 to 25 minutes in real time. This illustrates a little-known fact about armored engagements of the sort simulated in this game: tank battles tended to be short, violent affairs. Fuel capacity and limited ammunition stores, as well as the sheer lethality of the tank's main gun, dictated that, without reserves or the ability to refuel and rearm, armored actions would tend to be quickly decided. For this reason, Rommel strongly argued that the side that engaged the enemy first would almost always gain the advantage.
TOBRUK offers the player who is interested in a detailed tactical simulation of the campaign in North Africa the opportunity to put his theories about tank versus tank combat to the test, and in the process, perhaps gain renewed respect for the men who actually fought these battles almost sixty-seven years ago.
- Time Scale: 30 seconds per game turn
- Map Scale: 75 meters per hex
- Unit Size: vehicle and weapons counters represent individual vehicles or weapons; personnel counters represent from 1 to 11 men
- Unit Types: headquarters, infantry, armored fighting vehicles, transport and other soft-skinned vehicles, artillery pieces, machineguns, mortars, anti-tank guns and anti-tank rifles, anti-aircraft guns, Stukas, and indicator counters
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: medium/high
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 3-6 + hours (depending on scenario and players' experience)
- Three 8" x 22" geomorphic hexagonal grid Map Boards
- 504 back-printed ½" cardboard Counters
- One 8" x 11" Rules Booklet with Scenario Instructions
- Two 8" x 22" back-printed Hit Probability/Damage Tables (one British and one German/Italian)
- One 8" x 11" back-printed combined British Gunfire Factor Table/German Gunfire Factor Table/ Italian Gunfire Factor Table/Casualty Table/Melee Table/Off-Board Artillery Direct Hit and Fragmentation Table/Off-Board Counter-Battery Matrix
- One 8" x 11" back-printed Infantry and Crew Roster Pad
- Two six-sided Dice
- One 5½" x 6½" Avalon Hill Customer Registration Card
- One 8½" x 11½" bookcase-style Game Box