Operation Torch – PC Game Review
Operation Torch an expansion pack to Gary Grigsby’s War in the West. PC game review. Publish by Matrix Games and Slitherine, Inc. Develop by 2BY3 Games. Download cost: $19.99; Boxed edition and download cost: $29.99
Passed Inspection: Massive scale and depth; Flexible game play; Excellent manual and instructional videos.
Failed Inspection: Ultra steep learning curve and clunky user interface
Operation Torch is a major expansion pack for Gary Grigsby’s War in the West. Operation Torch cannot be played without the base game. See Armchair General’s review of War in the West at http://armchairgeneral.com/gary-grigsbys-war-in-the-west-pc-game-review.htm.
Operation Torch is a wargame that has a level of depth and breadth that is both impressive and daunting at the same time. On any given turn the player must consider the application of air power, the logistical situation of their units, the skill of the units’ commanders, their operational and tactical positions on the map and the condition of enemy units. Then the player must decide which units get priority of supply, whether or not to revise air operations priorities and whether attack, or defend, or withdraw.
Attention to Detail
At first glance the User Interface (UI) appears overly busy, somewhat confusing and by no means user friendly. Fortunately, an extensive game manual, as well as a short quick reference handbook are available and may be referred to at any time during the game. I highly recommend not only reading the manual, but also viewing all five of the tutorial videos and playing the introductory scenario (“Operation Husky”) a number of times before attempting to play the game. Once the player is properly prepared, the confusion about the UI is much reduced.
The game’s unit scale is division and brigade, although some units may also split into battalions. The time scale is one week per turn.
The game’s graphics are very clear and functional. The unit markers, which use standard NATO symbols, are well-defined and easy to read, as is the terrain. There is no flash here. But then, likely anyone playing Operation Torch is not looking for a lot of chrome, but rather for solid and efficient design that enhances game play.
The player can decide just how much detail they wish to deal with, or not deal with, by assigning the AI to work on logistics and by setting priorities of the air war and letting the AI run that as well. Or the player may dig into every detail of the war by directly managing the supply situation themselves and also by directing the air units much like they do the ground units. The player is rewarded for paying attention to detail regardless as to what level they wish to manage the particulars of the game.
In any case, the player will find themselves go over a lot of information about the status of their various units, such as supply and casualty reports. Also the player will review intelligence reports, if any, that has been gathered on the enemy, prior to making any moves. The number of reports and amount of detail provided might have the player wishing for an actual battle-staff to help digest it all.
Battles and Campaigns
Operation Torch includes ten new scenarios, and despite the title, they are not limited to the Allies’ North African campaign of November 1942 to July 1943.
Three scenarios do take place in North Africa: “Torch to Tunisia” is the longest of these and runs for 37 turns from November 1942 to July 1943. “The Battle for Tunisia” goes for about 20 turns, but can be shorter if the Allies do well, and my favorite of the shorter battles, “Rommel Attacks” which covers the famous German counter-attack at the Kasserine Pass.
“Operation Dragoon” covers the relatively small Allied invasion of Southern France in August 1944 and goes for 6 turns.
Two battles take place in Italy: “Operation Diadem to the Gothic Line” which covers the Allied advance up the Italian Peninsula from Fourth Battle of Monte Cassio and the Liri Valley, to the German’s last stand in the north along the Gothic, or Green Line. Also taking place in Italy is “Breaching the Gothic Line” which goes from August 1944 to May 1945 and covers the Allied attacks on Germany’s final defenses in Italy.
“Weakest Link” is an air only campaign which runs 20 turns and covers the air war against the German oil and fuel industries. Also an air only scenario is “Pointblank Directive 1944” which covers the initial strategic bombing campaign conducted by British Bomber Command and the United States 8th Air Force in 1943 and 1944.
“1945 Campaign” begins with the Battle of the Bulge and includes the entire western theater of operations from that battle until the German surrender in May 1945.
Lastly there is “The 4th Supreme Command” which is a massive scenario of 109 turns that goes from July 1943 to August 1945 and is a hypothetical campaign that supposes that Hitler was killed in March 1943, and that the Axis armies were in a much improved situation by the summer of 1943. The scenario further supposes that the Germans rationalized their production of both aircraft and armored vehicles. This scenario is very challenging when playing as the Allies.
Also, all scenarios may be played from either side and there is a nicely done play by e-mail (PBEM) feature as well.
The wide scope of scenarios greatly adds to the flexibility of the game. Have just an hour or so to play, pull up “Operation Dragoon” or “Rommel Attacks.” Want to forget get about real life for a week or so, then stock up on caffeine and frozen meals and play “The 4th Supreme Command.”
The Bottom Line
Operation Torch is an impressive addition to War in the West with a lot of value added for the cost. At a mere $19.99 US dollars, the expansion pack gives the player ten new and very well-done scenarios. If you already own the base game, then the relatively small additional cost is good money after good money. If you don’t already own War in the West, than Operation Torch gives you even more reason to buy and play both games.
Armchair General Rating: 94%
Patrick Baker is a former US Army officer, currently a Department of Defense employee. He has degrees in History, European History and Political Science. He cut his war-gaming teeth on Squad Leader and Victory Games’ Fleet Series. He bought his first PC in 1990, a Wang PC-240, specifically to play SSI’s The Battles of Napoleon (much to the displeasure of his wife). He continues to use all his education to play more games and annoy his family.