Rommel: Battles for Torbruk (GTW64 highlight)

A highlighted review from the archives

1987 Games Designers Workshop

Rommel: Battles for Torbruk by Games Designers Workshop (GDW) was planned to be a war strategy game, based around four battles fought between the WWII German commander Rommel and the British in North Africa.

Our evidence for the game comes from a full-page advert by the games designers, who give a detailed description of the game and the combat system used, detailing features such as hidden movement, tactical and strategic maps and details of your armies morale. An in-game screenshot is also present, suggesting the game at least reached a playable level.

The game was clearly a full-budget game, as it was planned on being sold for $40, which was about average for a big game in the US market, where GDW was based. It came with complete documentation and extensive historical notes suggesting a rather deluxe package and certainly value for money. There was definitely a market for strategic war games on the C64, the website GB64 has over 290 entries under that genre, so any reason for pulling the game from release most likely wouldnt have been due to potential lack of sales.

GDW had a fine pedigree in board games, especially war games, and existed from 1973 until 1996 and on average produced a product every 22 days for 22 years. As such it makes sense that during the boom of home computing in the 1980s they would try breaking in to that increasingly lucrative market. As well as Rommel, they also planned on releasing another war game called Chickamauga, which is a fellow Games That Werent 64 entry. The only game they did manage to release was another strategy game called Road To Moscow, with similar features to Rommel and Chickamuaga with rules covering weather, supply and reinforcements.

So, what happened that stopped GDW from breaking into the computer market? They certainly had a pedigree in war gaming, so would already have benefited not only from a pre-made customer base but also from experience in putting together quality products, as it seems Rommel certainly could have been and Road to Moscow possibly was. As one game was actually released, its possible that it didnt make GDW as much money as they hoped, perhaps even lost them money, and they quickly pulled the release of the other games before it endangered the rest of the company.

Wikipedia states that the founders of GDW attributed the collapse of the company as much to burn out than financial problems, so possibly the attempt to expand into the computer market was a stretch too far for the company, and they decided to pull out before they stretched themselves too thin financially and creatively. Considering GDWs background, its a shame the Rommel and Chickamauga were never released, as it seems there was a lot of effort made to produce a quality product. Sadly they may not have had the required media savvy to make an impact on the ruthless computer games scene. Perhaps if anyone from the company can be contacted then we can find out just how close the games were to being released and what stopped them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *