Double Trouble Pt 1 – The Tobruk starter

Lee takes a look at making use of the new starters.  First up, he looks at Tobruk.

So, North Africa starter set pre-orders are up at my LFGS and, as always I’ve been a model of restraint.

Pictured – restraint

Whilst the starters are, as the name suggests, an excellent way for new players to quickly get a very effective core of a force with a friend (or two for themselves!), they are also a very handy was for older hands like myself to start a new force in a cost effective manner, especially if the cost is split with a friend.  In this article I’m going to take a look at building a few forces using one or two of the each of the Tobruk starter.

British Armour

A single box gives us six Crusaders. three M3 Grants and three M4 Sherman II.  The Crusader can be configured into 2pdr armed Mk.II, 3” howitzer armed CS and 6pdr armed Mk.III variants which gives plenty of options out the box.  The contents lend themselves to:

  • A HQ platoon of Crusader II and two Crusader CS tanks
  • A platoon of three Crusaders
  • A platoon of three Grants

Then, in formation support, a platoon of Shermans.

That makes for a 55-57pt force depending on the number of 6pdr armed MkIII in the Crusader platoon.  It gives a new player plenty of scope to learn the game and a foundation to build upon to add support elements like 25pdr and recce but the obvious criticism is that its quite a brittle formation with only three platoons, two made of thinly armoured cruiser tanks!  Thankfully the formation has more slots for Crusaders so we can add mass.  Now, we could buy a box of five crusaders for £35RRP, but that leaves us one tank short of two platoons.  Instead, lets buy a second Tobruk box (RRP£40), getting us the sixth tank for £5 extra and also throwing in some more Shermans, Grants.  Even better, lets team up with a friend and swap our Italians for his allies!

At this point we can put the lend lease tanks to one side and add an extra two platoon of crusaders (10-14 pts).  We now have:

  • A HQ platoon of Crusader II and two Crusader CS tanks
  • Three platoons of three Crusaders
  • A platoon of three Grants

Then, in formation support, a platoon of Shermans.

All up, that’s 71pts if we ensure each Crusader platoon is maxed out on 6pdr for a proper ElAlamein force (3RTR A squadron with reinforcements from B squadron – Grants and C squadron – Shermans).

To this we can four 25pdr, a motor platoon and a couple Universal Carrier patrols for about £43.50RRP (bringing total outlay to £123.50RRP).  That gives us a nicely balanced force that can deal with German and Italian armour and infantry, though a Tiger could give some concern! 
This is certainly my plan for my British contingent form the two Tobruk boxes.

Alternatively we can make use of what two boxes gives us and got a for a two formation force of:

  • A HQ platoon of Crusader II and two Crusader CS tanks
  • Two platoons of one Crusader II and three Crusader III
  • A platoon of three Grants


  • A HQ platoon of three Shermans
  • A platoon of three Shermans
  • A platoon of one Crusader II and three Crusader III

All for 98pts. 

We can use the last two points to add a patrol of Universal Carriers, giving us a handy “Spearhead” unit for an extra £17.50 (bringing total outlay to £97.50RRP). 

Not quite the “apex predator” of Late War fame, but still useful

The force lacks some flexibility that artillery and infantry would bring but the Shermans and Grants have smoke rounds that can mask enemy anti-tank guns, or HE ones to dig them out, whilst the Crusaders keep the enemy armour occupied.  The Sherman formation is brittle but two platoons of the toughest “cruisers” available to the armoured regiments means we can risk it.  “Cautious” certainly helps.

Italian Armour

On the Italian side, a Tobruk box gives us two 88s and ten “tanks” which can be either the M14/41 tank or Semovente 75/18 self-propelled gun.  The latter sports better armour and a better gun but the M14 is a surprisingly punchy anti-infantry weapon. 

Both are used in the same “tank” formation so lets start with a max “point for pound” configuration of:

  • A HQ M14
  • One platoon of five Semovente 75/18
  • One platoon of four Semovente 75/18

In support

  • Two platoons of one “88”.

That’s 50pts straight away.  Certainly plenty to learn the game and take on the British side of the box (though they have a few points advantage!)  The formation is a little brittle with only two proper platoons and a HQ.  We could shuffle into a 1+3×3 formation but fewer bigger platoons is likely the correct way forward.  Platoons of two guns are a known weak spot (kill one, the other runs) but the 88 can be fielded singly and the Italians have two sots in their force chart so a pair of solo 88s work well.

Scaling up to 100pts and more mass for the formation is critical.  A box of M14/Semovente could be added for an extra five tanks but why do that when an extra fiver gets us double the tanks for double the fun! We even get some more 88s and a bunch of British tanks.  

We can use our two boxes to get:

  • A HQ M14
  • One platoon of five Semovente 75/18
  • One platoon of five Semovente 75/18
  • One platoon of four Semovente 75/18

In support

  • One platoons of one “88”.
  • One platoon of three “88”
  • One platoon of five M14/41

That comes in at 94pts so we can use the last six points to get an understrength rifle platoon to help secure ground and bring our total outlay to a fortuitous £88!

An alternative plan, and one I plan to do, is to go with M14/41 for the majority of my tanks.  This frees up more points for support like so:

The outlay here is increased by an extra $49 for the 100mm howitzers and AB41, but we gain a spearhead, some fixed artillery and increase the infantry strength.

Hopefully that provides some food for thought!

In the next part, we’ll take a look at what doubling up Kasserine give us.

7 thoughts on “Double Trouble Pt 1 – The Tobruk starter

  1. Good write-up and food for thought for newbies. I started playing Italians for the first time when the Avanti book came out. I’ve been in the hobby since 2006 also and never played them before in V2/V3. Though the plastic 88’s are part of the Tobruk starter set, I prefer “the look” of the Lancia 90/53’s. I like having both heavy AT options. The biggest difference I’ve noticed for the Italians from V3 to V4 was the change in the 8 Million Bayonets rule (ratings). I believe this alone gave the Italians the biggest boost in “playability” of any of the national armies. I’ve had a lot of fun with them, win or lose.

    1. Thanks Lee.
      Lancia certainly have a charm to them and would likely be my go to if I wasn’t getting plastic 88 for “free”.

  2. I’ve made the decision to buy both the Tobruk and Kasserine boxes with the intention of using the American half of Kasserine as extra Brits, Any recommendations on how to build the Italian/German half? I was thinking that Panzer iv longs might actually be viable if you can screen with the Italian armour and use Semoventes as artillery

    1. Hi Rory. I’d still think the points spent on upgrading the IV could be spent on Marders but certainly the Iralian tanks act as a good skirmish screen and the Semovente likely do better (as more for the points) as artillery. Something to try.

  3. I decided to go for both the Kasserine and Tobruk boxes, with the intention of using the American half of Kasserine as Brits. Any recommendations on how to build out the German/Italian half? I’m tempted by panzer iv long barrels and Semoventes

    1. Long barrels are too expensive. The short can bombard and you need units in panzer lists to do more than 1 thing.

  4. I hope there are many more versions of the Double Trouble series to come. It implies that BF will continue to provide great two player starter sets, and these articles always get me thinking, ooh, I could……

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