Tank Battles at Tobruk

This Harold Hock design, published by Avalon Hill, dates back to 1975. I think this is the first time I have played it since then…

It’s a very detailed game about tank v tank warfare. There are detailed charts which show you how many times a weapon can fire in a turn (which varies according to whether the target has been acquired), the chance of a hit, the hit location, and the type of damage, all while taking into account target aspect. Since you roll dice for each shell, each hit, and each potential penetrating hit, you roll a lot of dice. This is not for the faint hearted.

The playability is further dragged down by the lack of markers. So, for example, you have to keep track of which targets have been acquired, which tanks have suffered mobility or firepower kills and so on.

I played scenario one. A group of nine Grant tanks take on a mixed German force of Panzer IIIh and IIIj tanks with a couple of Panzer IVe’s thrown in as extra targets. Around a dozen turns later there were five Grant tanks still in one piece and one immobile but still firing and no more German tanks, the desert being littered with burning wrecks. The German tanks were shot up as they tried to close in to more effective range. The surprising aspect was that of the Grant two guns, the smaller 37mm seemed to do the most damage.

The game is chock full of great ideas but is a real drag to play. You can see, looking back, how it was an inspiration for others. In fairness, the slow play may be down to the scenarios which are too big for the die rolling required. The other handicap is that the charts were all weapon and vehicle specific. So, it wasn’t like you could (or can) instantly develop versions for other vehicles and weapons that were not included in the box.

I enjoyed it as a diversion and a trip back in time. Forty-five years ago, this was the height of gaming sophistication. I may never go back to it, though.