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Speculative History Series Pt. 3
Torch Flare
by Paul Rohrbaugh

Overview

The Allied invasion plans for North Africa, Operation Torch, had a number of unknown elements. Chief among these were what would the Vichy French forces do when their colonies of Algeria and Morocco were invaded?

The French fleet although outnumbered by the American and British fleets, as well as being short of fuel, was still capable of inflicting serious damage. Compounding the issue were the widely scattered Allied beachheads (some in the Atlantic, some in the Mediterranean) meant the Allied Armada would also be scattered. This could provide opportunities for the Vichy government, should they choose to resist, for them to inflict serious damage on the forces comprising the first Anglo-British offensive of WWII.

Maps:
Use both all-sea maps. There are no land/island/shoal overlays.

U.S Fleet

1x USS Washington
1x St. Lo
1x SBD Dauntless
1x USS Boise
2x USS Fletcher
1x Jeremiah O’Brien

Vichy French Ships

1x Richelieu
2x Gloire
3x Terrible

Deployment

The Allied player sets up first as follows:

  • The Jeremiah O’Brien must set up in Area A, adjacent to the land airbase. This is the Objective Area.
  • All other US ships set up anywhere in rows A through E, inclusive.

The French player sets up all of his ships in any area of row K.

Scenario Rules
The following special rules are in effect for this scenario:

Special Cargo: The Jeremiah O’Brien may not move from its set-up Area (it is unloading troops and cargo). Note: This unit actually represents a number of transport ships.

Vichy Resolve: Starting with Turn two, following the initiative DR, the Vichy player another two dice to check the Vichy Fleet’s resolve. Add one to the DR for each of the following:

  • Each Damage Point incurred by the Richelieu. Note: Add 5 if the Richelieu is sunk.
  • Each Vichy French ship other than the Richelieu that is crippled or sunk.

Subtract one from the DR for each of the following:

  • Each Allied ship that is crippled or sunk.
  • If any Vichy French ship is within secondary range of the Jeremiah O’Brien.

If the modified DR result is 12 or more the game is immediately over (the Vichy Fleet has been recalled and ordered back to port).

Target Priority: A Vichy French ship must target/fire upon an Allied warship with all of its weapons, if one is within range, before it targets/fires upon the Jeremiah O’Brien.

Winning the Game

The Vichy French player wins the game if the Jeremiah O’Brien is sunk or damaged and still has at least one ship in play by the end of the game. The US player wins the game if the Jeremiah O’Brien is undamaged and he has lost fewer points of ships than the Vichy French player. Any other result is a tie.

Designer’s Notes

Historically, no ships of the Vichy French Fleet came out from their anchorages, but there were admirals and captains of their fleet who were longing to avenge the British attack at Dakar two years earlier. There were others who also felt some sort of “demonstration” was required to assuage French “honor” in defending their colonies. It was only through the combination of behind the scenes subterfuge, adroit propaganda, an overwhelming display of force, and skillful diplomacy that hostilities were avoided. Things could’ve easily gone the other way, however.

As players will discover, the Allied fleet commander is between a “rock and a hard place” with Torch Flare. There is little room for maneuver or falling back as the transports must be protected. As the Allied player, do you seek to “prune the enemy’s fleet” by crippling/sinking the Vichy cruisers and destroyers, or do you go “head to head” battleship to battleship? Driving up the Vichy Resolve DR modifier may be the ideal way to end the threat to Operation Torch, but will you have the time to do so?

For the French player, difficult decisions must also be confronted. Your problematic Resolve check may dictate you go for all the marbles and a mad dash for the Jeremiah O’Brien. However, if you are not successful with your guns and torpedoes early-on, you may just end up in a trap from which there will be no escape.

For all who play Torch Flare, learn and enjoy!

Additional Reading

Funk, Arthur Layton. The Politics of Torch: The Allied Landings and the Algiers Pucsh, 1942. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1974.

Moran, Charles. The Landings In North Africa, November, 1942. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, 1993.

Tomblin, Barbara. With Utmost Spirit: Allied Naval Operations in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004










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