Why Midway Deluxe?
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
May 2021

We’ve published an enormous number of games, expansions and such at Avalanche Press, well over 300 depending on how you want to count second editions and such. Even by a strict accounting, it’s a great many.

Some of those came and went and even I have trouble remembering them, including some that I wrote or designed. But others become what we call “foundational games,” the centerpieces of the company’s product line. We keep them in print, we sell them for years and even decades, and we lavish them with books and expansions because that’s what the people want.

Usually, we have a pretty good idea when a game is going to become one of those. It catches the imagination of our hard-core Gold Club during its Early Order period, and we can see signs of a really solid design and very nice artwork during the development and production process. Second World War at Sea: Midway Deluxe Edition is going to be one of those games.

There are only a few of them: Panzer Grenadier: Elsenborn Ridge, Great War at Sea: Jutland and Second World War at Sea: Bismarck. They’re all very fine and very attractive games, and they’ve all retained their popularity for a very long time (fifteen years for Jutland, thirteen for Elsenborn Ridge). We’ve been needing to add to that list with newer games, and Midway Deluxe is one of them.

We did a Midway game back around the turn of the century; Midway Deluxe has little relation to it. The map, scenarios and pieces are all brand new, and so is the rulebook. There’s no Kludge Kit to modernize the old game; every piece of it has been made obsolete.

So what changed in the intervening years to make this new Midway Deluxe so special?

At the heart of the game, like any Avalanche Press game, is the scenario set. A few years ago, I set out to re-make the way we craft our scenario sets, to use them to tell a story. We call this the story-arc format, and though it began with Infantry Attacks and Panzer Grenadier games, it works very well with Second World War at Sea as well.

Second World War at Sea games have two types of scenarios: operational scenarios take place on the operational map (with the potential of moving to the tactical map), whole battle scenarios just take place on the tactical map. By their nature, battle scenarios move much faster than operational scenarios. In the story-arc format, they’re used to enhance the narrative and keep the story moving. Each operational scenario in Midway Deluxe (there are 11 of them) is accompanied by at least one battle scenario (there are 25 of those in all) showing the battles that arose from, or could have arisen from, those operations.

Midway Deluxe has four chapters: The Midway Campaign, Wake Island Campaigns, Midway Alternatives, and Pearl Harbor. You don’t have to play all of the scenarios in a chapter, and you don’t have to play them in order. But you can play out the full campaign if you want to, covering all the key moments.

With longer operations (like Midway), I’ve started designing shorter scenarios that pick up the action at key moments. So we have the full Midway campaign, but where the fleets end up depends on the actions of the players; there’s no guarantee that Fletcher and Nagumo with trade airstrikes on the morning of 4 June 1942.

So we have scenarios that pick up the action on the morning of 4 June, before either side has launched a strike. And on the morning of 5 June, when the First Air Fleet has been devastated and Admiral Yamamoto tries to find victory among the wreckage. And afterwards, when the Japanese considered returning with fresh (though less capable) carriers, and the Americans had added reinforcements of their own.

And then we have the alternative scenarios, allowing the Americans to summon their battleships (kept away for lack of fuel oil), or bring forward the Saratoga and Wasp carrier task forces early. For the Japanese, they can cancel the Aleutians operation and add those forces to the First Air Fleet, or include the carriers damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea.

All of this presents enormous play value. And the new maps help with that.

The operational map is 43x28 inches, large enough to stretch from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands. Which is important, because in those Wake Island scenarios the Japanese are based there, and the Americans will attack those bases. Most of it is blue, because while Hawaii is a very friendly place, it’s also a very lonely one.

When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, they do so on a special Pearl Harbor display that shows the location of every American ship on the morning of 7 December. This is the first time we’ve included a special tactical map in a Second World War at Sea game, but not the last (South Pacific and Norway 1940 have them, too).

Midway Deluxe includes 560 pieces, all of them the new-style die-cut and silky-smooth ones we’ve been using for a while now. They’re cut by a new process that uses steel blades so microscopically sharp that that can’t be touched by human hands – they’ll slice right through flesh and bone in a wink. When they touch cardboard, they only have to be pushed through gently. That means there’s no damage from the pieces being struck by a die with elephantine force. You remember those deep, bathtub-like gouges in the back of wargame pieces made the old-fashioned way? Yeah, these don’t have that. These games are supposed to be fun and you shouldn’t have to play with mangled pieces.

All of the artwork on the pieces is new: the printing process is as sharp as those blades, which means that we can’t use the old ship drawings. Every flaw that once was blurred by indistinct printing would now be absolutely visible. The new pieces are beautiful, they have a great feel to them, and they’re just more fun to play with.

Midway Deluxe is an extraordinary game. We’ll support it with expansions and Content just as we have Jutland, and you’ll play and enjoy it for years. This why we publish wargames, and this is why you play them.

You can order Midway right here.
Please allow an extra two weeks for delivery.

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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published countless books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold. Leopold likes catching lightning bugs.

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