Battlegroup: Tobruk, covers the period 1940-41, from the Italian campaigns in East Africa up to the Operation Crusader and the Gazala line, as well as Operation Mercury and the German invasion of Crete.
Tobruk follows the now familiar format of a big hardback book, consisting of just under 200 glossy paper pages with a blend of photos, art work, history and gaming information. Special mention must be made of the photos however as the lads have put some time into finding previously unpublished photos.
Not massively important from a purely gaming perspective perhaps, but certainly adds massively to the feel of a high quality book. Bindings feel sturdy too, and the book should stand up well to the rigours of handling and transporting to games.
No index is included, however the contents page is very thorough, and the end of the book contains a quick reference sheet, pull out sheets of vehicle cards, and then appendices of references for vehicles and weapon stats making finding the information you need a simple process.
The initial part of the book covers the history of the eaerly desert campaigns, before the reader is brought to the special rules for playing games in the desert, to differentiate these from the other supplements. Briefly, these are;
- Combined operations for Afrika Korp and Italian forces.
- Mobile Warfare, where in meeting engagements infantry and gun crews need to be transported.
- Vehicle Wear and tear, reflecting the effects of the harsh desert conditions on the maintainability of equipment.
- Desert Dust Clouds, fairly self evident! This represents the increasingly poor visibility through an engagement.
- Low on Fuel, representing the logistical difficulties presented with desert warfare.
- Mandatory infantry restrictions are lower
- Rules for Portees ammunition capacity.
- Rules for raiding forces and paratroops
- Rules to represent the difficulty in communications, and adjusting artillery bombardments.
- Reproductions of other rules such as communications, mortar spotter, dispatch etc for ease of access.
Army lists come next, with lists for British Infantry and Armoured division battle groups, these are similar to those in Blitzkrieg, however come with updates and extra units suitable for the desert war. Particularly exciting (To me) are the addition of LRDG patrols to the reconnaissance section. Amendments are also included for playing the East African campain.
Italian armoured and infantry division battle groups are also included, and the infantry list provides options for regular infantry, Black Shirts, or Colonial infantry platoons, as well as an amendment list for the East African campaign.
The Italian armoured platoon provides options for both truck and bike mounted Bersaglieri for it's infantry support
The DAK platoon list is similar to the Blitzkrieg panzer grenadier platoon, though with less half-tracks, and some options for cool toys and lots of machine guns and anti tank weaponry. Options for captured equipment are quite prevalent too, with captured artillery, armoured cars and tanks available.
In addition to the previously mentioned British and Italian platoons, LRDG and Auto Saharana patrols also get army lists for light, raiding formations, these are designed to be used in games of 350 points or less. These offer some very interesting and exciting gaming options for light vehicle fun, as well as a scenario for a meeting engagement between a patrol of each.
For Crete, 2 further army lists are included, the first, unsurprisingly covers the 7th Flieger division full of air portable Fallschirmjager options, with a few Gebirgsjager thrown in too for a bit of extra fire power. These are very light infantry forces, but also highly motivated and quite tough.
Final army list is for the defenders of Crete, and covers both Cretan and Greek local forces, as well as supporting commonwealth troops. The force has a good selection of artillery and fire support, however armoured support is quite restricted.
Tobruk comes with 3 scenarios featuring historical re fights for the desert war in general, including one raiding force scenario for the LRDG and Auto Saharans. a 5 scenario mini campaign following the Tobruk siege, and finally 2 more for the Battle of Crete, though the Airlanding scenario and rules could be translated easily into other forces with a little light lateral thinking...
On Episode 20 of the Brit, the Yank and the hobby we chat to Piers Brand, one of the dark and devious minds behind the book, and you can find where to listen to it here.
Overall, this is a magnificent book, and a fantastic tool for desert gaming in the early part of WW2. I'm looking forwards to getting some games in, and am currently assembling some 20mm Afrika Korp at the moment...
You can find Battlegroup Tobruk, and the rest of the Battlegroup range at the Plastic Soldier Company site, and see more of my work at Volley Fire Painting Services.