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Midway Deluxe Edition:
Publisher’s Preview

By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
June 2021

Second World War at Sea is far and away our most popular game series, and the June 1942 Battle of Midway is history’s best-known naval battle. With Midway: Deluxe Edition, we have a game fitting for both. Let’s have a look at it.

Midway Deluxe Edition is a large game, by our standards. It comes with a 44x28-inch operational map, a 22x22-inch tactical map, a special 11x17-inch Pearl Harbor Tactical Display, 280 double-sized pieces representing ships and 280 more normal-sized one representing airplanes, small ships and a few markers (mostly, it’s airplanes). There’s also the scenario book, some airbase displays, and the standard Second World War at Sea rules and charts.

The core of any Second World War at Sea game (and pretty much any Avalanche Press game) is the scenario
set. We use these to tell the story of the campaign, in what we call a story-arc format; the story unfolds through the scenarios, letting you play along.

Midway Deluxe Edition has 36 scenarios grouped into four chapters, with each chapter telling its own story. The centerpiece is of course the 4 June 1942 Battle of Midway, when four Japanese aircraft carriers met three American carriers and suffered a catastrophic defeat. We have a campaign scenario, a lengthy affair covering the action from start to finish, another operational scenario picking up the action just as the planes are ready to fly, and a third beginning with the morning after, when surface action seemed imminent. And then we walk through Isoroku Yamamoto’s possibly insane notion of trying again with the two light carriers of the Aleutians strike force and the two light carriers initially assigned to his battleships for scouting and air defense. In each case, the operational scenario has associated battle scenarios (11 total in this chapter) with the air and surface actions that arose, or could have arisen, from those operations.

The Battle of Midway would be the first and last large-scale battle in the Pacific War in which the two sides
fought on even terms. While American propagandists at
the time and later would make much of the Japanese numerical advantage, it actually wasn’t much: four heavy carriers for the Japanese against three for the Americans, but the American carriers carried more planes each, 37 steps for the Japanese in game terms against 38 for the Americans. The Japanese do have an edge in surface forces, with seven battleships against none for the Americans, but if the battle ever comes down to warships shooting at each other, the American player has done something tragically wrong.

The battle could have unfolded very differently, with different mixes of forces. The Japanese left two of their heavy carriers behind, while a fourth American carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor just as the battle was ending. So we look at the various combinations of forces that could have clashed off Midway, including the American battleship task force left out of the theater for lack of fuel oil at Pearl Harbor (which allows some battleship-on-battleship action).

The battleships, at least the American ones, also see some use in the Pearl Harbor chapter. This is where you use the special Pearl Harbor Tactical Display, which shows the position of every American ship present on the morning of 7 December 1941. Line them up on Battleship Row, and let the Japanese try to sink them.

The chapter also includes the Pacific Fleet’s war plan at the time of the attack, WPPac-46, which called for an advance against the Marshall Islands in hopes of luring the Japanese into battle. As Chester Nimitz pointed out soon after, had it been executed the Americans could easily have lost 38,000 sailors instead of 3,800. But you can play it out and form your own opinion.

Finally, we have a chapter on the abortive relief of Wake Island in December 1941, and the American raid on Wake a few months later. In each case we see evenly-balanced forces on the board, in some unusual combinations – to pursue the American raiders in February 1942, Vice Admiral Shiro Takasu overturned supposedly iron-bound doctrine and operated a pair of battleships from the Combined Fleet alongside a pair of carriers from First Air Fleet.

Those operations take place on the far-left side of the map; the operational map stretches from the Marshall Islands to Hawaii, allowing for operations besides Midway and Pearl Harbor. It’s mostly blue, because there’s not a whole lot of land out there in the Central Pacific. The wide-open blue provides a lot of room for a fleet to hide, and not a lot of airfields for planes that can search for them. Aircraft carriers are vital assets.

And then there are the pieces. They’re produced with a cutting-edge process, with a cutting edge that’s so sharp that it can’t be touched by human hands – just a touch will lop off a finger or hand. That means that the blades can be pressed through the printed sheet and cardboard backing with so little pressure that there’s no damage from the die strike. The mangled back side of traditionally-made pieces – you remember those – is a thing of the past. This is the new standard. They’re smooth on both sides, so we’ve had to give the aircraft pieces a color bar across their flip side so you can tell which side is which at a glance. There’s not a giveaway smash pattern any more.

The printing process gives such sharp resolution that we had to create completely new artwork for Midway Deluxe Edition’s ships. Colors are bright and rich, and every line is visible. These pieces are tiny works of art. They’re been given a silky overcoat that will preserve those sharp colors, feels easy to the touch, and might repel at least some stains (don’t dunk them in coffee).

Lastly, we have our new-model box. The sleeved black box is no more. We like our new boxes; Midway Deluxe Edition is the first new game to receive them (the reprints of Road to Dunkirk, Parachutes Over Crete and Fire in the Steppe all have them, too). They have the same sharp print and nice coating of the playing pieces, and for our purposes they’re much easier to store.

Midway Deluxe Edition came out exactly as I wished, both the scenarios and the physical presentation. Games and books come and go, most of them swiftly forgotten, but Midway Deluxe Edition will be a centerpiece of our game line as long as there is an Avalanche Press.

You can order Midway Deluxe right here.

You can order Midway: Aftermath right here.

Rising Sun Package
      Midway Deluxe Edition
      Bismarck Playbook Edition
      Midway: Rising Sun 1940
Retail Price: $192.97
Package Price: $155
Gold Club Price: $124
You can experience the Rising Sun Package right here.
Please allow an extra four 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 a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and new puppy. He misses his lizard-hunting Iron Dog, Leopold.

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