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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mauled at Midway

This evening after work, my colleague Frank H. and I met for a reprise of our customary (if infrequent) game of Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Last time, we'd introduced a few rules modifications from the Wargamers Guide to Midway, most notably a variable order of battle (OOB) based on a chit draw.  Well, apparently that inspired Frank dramatically, because he spent quite a bit of time researching and revising the possible alternate OOBs as well as other optional rules, so that the game we played today was a considerably souped-up version of the Avalon Hill classic.

Sinking Japanese destroyer Yamakaze, torpedoed by
USS Nautilus, 25 June 1942.  USN photo.  Public domain
Submarines:  Instead of B-17 attacks, Frank proposed a rule whereby each side would get a finite number of opportunities for submarine engagements with enemy fleets.  (This rule seems loosely based on the article "Gross Injustice to Submarines," by Richard Gutenkunst, in the WGtM, which first appeared in the magazine The General Vol. 3 No. 5.)  The Americans would have seven opportunities, and the Japanese three, to declare a submarine engagement after completing searches and before noting air operations.  The opponent would then state whether his fleet included a task force eligible for a submarine attack - i.e., a group of three ships together in a zone that was not in Column 'A' (the westernmost column of areas) nor in the zone containing Midway.  If so, the opponent would secretly select such a group, and the player declaring the submarine attack would roll the die.

  • A '1' would result in the sinking of the submarine and the loss of all future submarine engagements.  
  • A '2' through '4' would require the opponent to list all ship types and the number of each in the target group and state the area (but not the zone) in which the group was located.  
  • A '5' would result in the same intelligence report plus one point of damage to a carrier of the defender's choice in that group.  (If there was no carrier, then a battleship; if no battleship, any ship.)  
  • A '6' would result in the intelligence report plus three such points of damage spread among three ships, the first of which must be a carrier (or else battleship).    

In today's game, I had some lucky early rolls and damaged the Hiryu, Soryu, Kirishima, and Haruna in two attacks, but otherwise the rule had little effect on the course of the game.

USS Lexington, 8 May 1942
USN photo.  Public domain
Variable OOB:  Here is where Frank really went to town:  We had twelve chits numbered '1' to '12' in increasing value.  We would each draw one chit and cross-reference the result to a table that might add one or more carriers, battleships, cruisers, or transports, or even bonus planes on Midway for the Americans or an early arrival of the Yamato group for the Japanese.  In our case, I drew a '7,' which gave me the aircraft carrier Lexington, the battleships Maryland and Colorado, and twelve bonus planes on Midway on 3 June as well as the battleship Tennessee on 4 June.  Frank drew a '9,' which gave him the aircraft carriers Shokaku, Ryujo, and Kamikawa and the cruisers Maya and Takao (which were historically part of the Alaskan carrier strike force that was separately involved in the Aleutian invasion attempt).  My '7' chit gave Frank seven points, and Frank's '9' chit gave me nine points, so I started the game with a two-point advantage.  It would be not nearly enough.

On the first day (3 June), I was way too cagey trying to avoid the Japanese search pattern, thinking that my success would come from outfoxing Frank in the search board game and getting an unanswered strike on him early in the game.  But I was too cautious, and ended up out of range when sundown came without an opportunity to attack him on the first day.  Meanwhile his carrier strike force doubled back and rendezvoused with his reinforcements, so that when I finally did conduct an air attack, he was well-defended.  I was too cautious in the execution of my first attack as well, avoiding his anti-aircraft screens rather than engaging multiple carriers in a single strike.  I sunk Soryu but did little other damage.

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero taking off from Akagi
USN photo.  Public domain
Much of the rest of the game involved the two of us trading blows almost toe-to-toe as his reinforced fleet made its way toward the island of Midway.  His fighters outnumbered mine, which meant that he had generally more excess airpower to engage my strike planes with his Zeroes on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) to blunt my attacks.  He sank Yorktown and the light cruiser Atlanta and damaged Hornet on his first strike, so that in the next two successive attacks he managed to sink Hornet and Enterprise and inflict 80% damage on Lexington.  My attacks were meanwhile largely ineffectual; I sank Hiryu and damaged Shokaku but otherwise had little impact on the Japanese fleet.  By sundown of the second day, he had sunk 32 points of ships to my 16, and my severely depleted air wing meant that the Japanese Navy was well on its way to planting the flag of the Rising Sun on the island of Midway.

I resigned, and we projected the the final score would look something like this:

Frank H. - IJN
  7     chit draw
  2     Atlanta
10    Enterprise
10    Hornet
10    Yorktown
15    capture of Midway (projected)
54    total

Paul O. - USN
  9     chit draw
  8     Hiryu
  8     Soryu
  4     holding Midway until 1100 June 5 (projected)
29     total

So it was a resounding success for the Japanese Navy as well as a fun exercise of Frank's variable OOB.

We are thinking that the next engagement will be one of the "Pacific Theatre via Midway" scenarios from the Alan R. Moon article in the WGtM.  Frank has the corresponding Coral Sea variant map, so it will be new territory for both of us.


  1. Paul was very aggressive on day 2, engaging in 3 battles even as his carriers became more and more vulnerable. He had so reduced my attack plane total that it may have taken a few more turns to reduce Midway. -- Frank H.

  2. Sounds like a fun game with some neat variables.

  3. Midway is always fun, made all the more so with variation on the OOB.