Advanced Tobruk is a game simulating small unit tactics in the desert (Libya and Egypt) during World War II featuring battles involving Italians, Germans and British troops. The dates on the 20 scenarios range from 1940 through 1942. The scenarios vary in size from three armored cars on each side lasting five turns to large battles involving infantry, support weapons, vehicles, off-board artillery and aircraft lasting 10 turns. Advanced Tobruk is a fun game that models these actions well; it has spawned five expansions (with a sixth being produced in early 2005) and several additional games, branded as the Advanced Tobruk System (ATS), set on the Western front (Against All Odds, D-Day Rangers, Scottish Corridor, Arnhem: Defiant Stand, Darkest December and Santa Maria Infante) and the Eastern front (Panther Line, Combat Stalingrad ATS Upgrade and Combat Kursk ATS Upgrade). In addition, games are being developed to bring the ATS into the Pacific Theater with Iwo Jima and Guam available for pre-order in March 2005.
Advanced Tobruk comes with two 22" x 34" maps featuring open desert terrain and a few scrub hexes. Each hex represents 50 yards. Many overlays are included in the game to add hillocks, deirs, wadis, roads, railroad tracks, villages and even a fort. Defensive improvements such as weapons pits, entrenchments and roadblocks are represented by 3/4" counters.
Each infantry unit counter is 5/8" square and depicts a squad on the front and a reduced squad on the back. There are counters for weapons crews, individual leaders and artillery forward observers as well. Vehicle counters are 3/4" square and depict individual vehicles such as tanks, armored cars, self-propelled guns, half-tracks and trucks. In addition, each type of armored fighting vehicle (AFV)(for example: Pz Mark IIIJ) has an AFV card that details its armor factor for the turret (if a tank), upper hull and lower hull from the front, side and rear. There are also several Stuka counters in Advanced Tobruk (expansion #3 adds Hurricanes for the Brits)representing 3 aircraft each.
The focus of Advanced Tobruk is tactical. With each turn representing 90 seconds and the counter representing individuals or squads, the objective of most scenarios is to take a certain terrain objective, destroy enemy units or exit units off of a map edge. There is not a lot of command and control in this game, you have an objective and you have a certain number of units to take it. With the short time frame of most scenarios, the action starts immediately, there's not a lot of time for large scale manuevers. However, the player that takes advantage of the terrain and the abilities of his troops will do much better than one who just bulls ahead and hopes for hot dice.
The sequence of play is very interactive. There is an indirect fire segment, a movement and combat segment, a close assault segment and an end-of-turn segment. Players alternate impulses during these segments, so the game is very interactive with little down-time. At the beginning of each segment, the players roll a die and the player who rolls lowest gets the first impulse of that segment.
During the indirect fire segment, players alternate laying smoke, conducting aircraft attacks and calling in off-board artillery missions. Since most scenarios don't have all (or in alot of cases, any) of these units available, this segment goes quickly.
During the movement and combat phase, players alternate activating one unit (or under certain conditions, up to a platoon of units) at a time. Each unit may move or shoot. The non-phasing player may conduct opportunity fire if the phasing player moves within their line-of-sight and spotting range. Once a unit moves or shoots, the player places a move arrow or fire marker on it to show that it cant be activated again.
After the movement and combat segment, players again roll for initiative for the Close Assault Segment. During this segment, units can either infiltrate one hex (possibly entering into a melee with enemy units) or conduct grenade attacks on adjacent units. The decision on whether to melee or conduct gernade attacks can quickly alter the game as both of these combat procedures are very deadly.
The morale rules for Advanced Tobruk are very easy. Each unit has a basic morale level printed on its counter. The morale level is lowered by the number of casualties it has taken during an attack, the presence of adjancent enemy or friendly troops, and any leaders stacked with the units. A unit may break, surrender or become heroic. Broken units may be rallied, surrendered units can be rescued and eventually rallied if a friendly unit moves adjacent, or they can be eliminated if an enemy unit is adjacent. The morale modifiers are included in one table on the player aid charts.
Combat is resolved using a number of different charts. There are separate combat resolution procedures depending on the firing unit and the target. While these attack routines take many pages to describe in the rules, they all fit onto several player aid charts. Thus, once you have read the rules and tried a scenario or two, you can play the game with just the charts and just refer back to the rules for those procedures that you may not be familiar with.
Each boxed game in the ATS series comes with a four page basic game that contains the basic infantry rules including the sequence of play, movement, small arms fire resolution,how casualties are marked and morale rules. This would allow you to play an infantry only (with support weapons) scenario within an hour of opening the box. In addition, Advanced Tobruk contains several scenarios that include only vehicles, so you could play those scenarios with just a few more minutes of studying the rules. So although the rule book currently is about 64 pages, a player could learn the ATS system very easily. As of March 2005, Critical Hit is selling Basic Game 1a which includes just the four page basic rules and a few scenarios set in Normandy, 1944.
Overall, this game is more complex that the Panzergrenadier (PG) system published by Avalanche Press but less complex that the Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) system published by Multiman Publishing. While it is essentially the same scale as ASL, it uses an impulse system like PG rather than the I-go, you-go sequence of ASL. It offers all of the variety of weapon types and terrain of ASL at a fraction of the complexity. It provides more detail than PG but most of the scenarios play faster than PG scenarios due the shorter time-frame depicted. If you enjoy World War II tactical games, Advanced Tobruk is worth a purchase.
- Last edited Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:14 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Mar 4, 2005 6:03 am
A few comments/additions:
1) Turn sequence
Nice job pointing out the turn sequence, which is one of the parts of the game I find fun. Each side takes turn activatings a unit/small group of units, and this can include moving or firing.
The early rules (incl. v 1.65 which I received with a copy Scottish Corridor) had a different sequence though, which seems far inferior.
The movement/combat sequence was split into two, with the combat segment first, then movement. You could still opportunity fire at moving units, but only if you had not already moved or fired your unit (or used all the RoF of a machine-gun). Allowing the alternating impulses to be fire or movement seems a lot better--more interaction, better chances that you'll actually have units eligible for opp fire.
Anyone know with which version the turn sequence changed?
2) No living rules
Older ATS reviews knock the game for bad rules, but the later versions are just fine, if you ask me. That said, it isn't always easy getting a current copy.
There's copies of ATS games floating around--trades, ebay, etc. If you buy an older game (like the first edition of Advanced Tobruk) and inherit an old set of the rules, how do you get a more recent set? You can't download them (though CH says they will eventually be made available, and at times you can download beta versions from the CH message board). That leaves you the choice of buying a brand new game (at this time, Berlin: Red Victory), buying an older title direct from CH (they will insert the latest rules), or buying the new rules/play aids, which list at $20.
I guess it's a business decision not to make living rules available, but I sure wish CH would change their minds on this one.
3) Bloody infantry combat system
The infantry combat system for ATS has been aptly described as "bloody." This is by design. To quote Ray Tapio's designer notes:
"Infantry in the original Tobruk was all about casualties. You shot at someone and something happened. The original Casualty Table simply listed the number of men that went down with each shot-—and there were few ‘0’ results on the table. And whenever casualties were absorbed, the personnel unit would have to ‘check morale’. This system is retained in the new game, albeit in a modified form."
I haven't played ASL, Lock 'N' Load or Panzer Grenadier, so all I have to compare ASL to is Squad Leader. (Well, there is the original Tobruk, but that's a topic for another post.) If you recall SL, you roll two six-sided dice and cross reference the column corresponding to the firing units' firepower. There were some "KIA" results, but the most common "hit" result is a morale check, with the more severe results adding modifiers making it more likely that the affected units will "break."
In ATS, there's a range of combat results as in SL, but a squad can take step losses (a fresh squad has 4 steps). Each step loss reduces the squad's firepower and morale, making the unit less effective both on attack and defense (higher propensity to break).
Thus, in a very close-quarters scenario in ATS, your front-line units are going to take a lot of hits, even if they're not eliminated or break to the point of being removed from the game.
I think it works, although IIRC, the SL system worked fine, too. (I assume the same for ASL, given its huge popularity with a demanding bunch of gamers.)
- Last edited Sat Apr 15, 2006 3:46 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat Apr 15, 2006 2:20 am
You can order the 3.0 version of the ATS rules from criticalhit.com
The current rules set (version 3.0) is available at this link:
The player aid charts aren't included, so you would need a set of those, but there haven't been any significant changes since version 2.0, published in early 2004.
If you have an older set of the rules (1.75 or earlier), the key changes are:
1. Movement rates for infantry have been increased by 1 (now 4 for assault movement and 7 for running);
2. The HPT modifier for firing with assault movement has increased from +3 to +5;
3. If you roll a "0" on the HPT, roll again. A second "0" results in a critical hit. Double the penetration value if a critical hit results.
4. Indirect fire is resovled using table new table C2. Not a problem for older games, just be aware that it's an easier procedure than used previously.
5. If six or more stacking points occupy a hex, roll twice for indirect fire results.
6. Ignore the rules for chain surrender. They have been deleted.
The big changes in the rules have been the way they've been written. The version 3.0 rules read much more clearly than previous rules versions. They've also expanded slightly to incorporate the Pacific Theater terrain and the special rules for the Japanese.
Also of important note regarding the casualty table -- yes, casualties will happen more often than in ASL. But they also don't have as much effect.
In ASL it takes only 2 casualty results to kill a squad; the first reduces it to a half-squad with significantly reduced combat capabilities, the second eliminates it.
In ATS, it takes FOUR casualties to eliminate a squad. The first places a "Casualties" marker, which reduces the squad's firepower and morale by 1 each. The second exchanges the Casualties marker for reduction to a half-squad. The third adds the Casualties marker to the half-squad, and the fourth eliminates the half-squad.
Also, ASL allocates casualties randomly among all personnel counters stacked in the location targeted. ATS allows the player controlling the targets to allocate the casualties himself. If you take, say, 2 casualties on a stack, you can choose to reduce a squad to a half-squad, or you can place a single casualties marker on two squads, etc.
It turns into a bloodier game, yes, but it also accounts for that, and stepping out of the IGO/UGO mode helps make it more fun, I think.
Doesn't hurt that the rules are a lot cheaper and easier to get than ASL's, which have only just gotten back into print after years of being totally unavailable.
And they're a lot easier to understand, too.