Tobruk (game)

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Tobruk is a board wargame set in the North African Desert circa 1942 and was published by Avalon Hill in 1975. The game is largely focused on the armored forces available to the British, Italian, and German forces, with infantry, artillery, and air aspects of combat present in secondary, reduced or abstract form. The game scale is section level, with each counter representing a section of infantry or individual vehicle or artillery piece.

Historical basis[edit]

The historical basis for the scenarios are the 1942 actions collectively known as the, Battle of Gazala and Battle of Bir Hakeim, all occurring near the city of Tobruk. German and Italian forces under Erwin Rommel succeeded in driving the British forces back. This is not to be confused with the Siege of Tobruk, during an earlier phase of the highly mobile desert war. The game's scenarios condense or selectively reproduce portions of key engagements that occurred during these battles.

The game designers made efforts to determine the penetrating power of the various weapons systems: from the lowly Boys "anti-tank" rifle to the feared German 88mm anti-tank gun. This was then compared to the actual steel thickness/angle of armor plate and also the profile/design of the various tanks. Specific weaknesses of the various tanks are also taken into account, such as the poor armor surrounding the hull machine gun on the Italian 13/40. When confronting infantry and light targets, certain weapons lack a good high-explosive shell, while others (howitzers & mortars) can wipe out infantry, but cannot confront tanks at long range.

Various historical scenarios are presented, often with one side "dug in" on one side of the map board and the other side entering from the opposite edge. Some of the more advanced scenarios allow a limited number of air strikes, but air power is not a strength of the game system.


The game board itself is a featureless hex grid, to simulate the flat desert terrain. The only defenses are man-made, such as slit trenches, bunkers, wire entanglements and tank revetments. Advanced rules allow units to seek cover by simulating attempts to find random local terrain variations.

Unit counters represent single vehicles or guns, or section of infantry. The map scale is sixty-nine yards to the hex. Turns represent thirty seconds of real time.

Game play is simple compared to some later tactical games but, as with many games in the wargame genre, quite complex compared to typical mass-market board games. As an example, an infantry platoon would have a sheet upon which each individual casualty of each section would be checked off. The rule book is thirty-six pages long. The rules are introduced gradually, and the first scenario can be played using only a small part of the rule set. By the final, ninth scenario, the entire rule set has been introduced.

In the game, each different tank type has a basic movement printed on the counter. Each weapon has a maximum range, and tables show the dice roll (two six-sided die) required to hit the target vehicle at a given range. Once a hit is determined, the attacking weapon is cross-referenced against the target vehicle to determine what damage, if any, is done to the target. Typically an additional roll of the dice is needed to determine the specific damage done. In many cases, the attacking weapon simply lacks the power to punch through the spot on the enemy vehicle it has hit. Otherwise, minor damage (track destroyed or machine gun disable) or more catastrophic (causing casualties amongst the crew and/or killing the tank) damage results.

A later game, Advanced Tobruk, was a new system closer in feel to Advanced Squad Leader.

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