A Terrible Resolve

Fast Play Rules for the Battle of Midway

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by Matt Fritz

Background: The Japanese hoped that World War II would make them the masters of the Pacific. They recognized the industrial might of the United States. Their strategy was therefore to destroy the American Navy with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The plan almost worked. The Japanese ran wild in the Pacific and seemed invincible. The most devastating weapons in their navy were their aircraft carriers. In 1942 the Americans had been driven from the Philipines and Australia was in peril. The next step in their campaign was to seize control of the American controlled island of Midway. The Japanese admiral, Yamamoto, also hoped the attack would bring the remnants of the American Navy out to fight so that he could finish it off.
The Americans had different ideas. They had cracked the Japanese code and were routinely reading their secret messages. They uncovered the Japanese plan to attack Midway and decided to gamble everything on ambushing the Japanese carriers. The Yorktown was rapidly repaired and sent to join the Enterprise and Hornet. The Japanese air strike hit Midway Island hard. But then the Americans locating the carriers and attacked. The shocked Japanese retaliated but lost all four of their carriers. Pearl Harbor had been avenged (The Japanese carriers had participated in the surprise attack). The Americans lost just one carrier, the Yorktown. In one battle the tide of the war in the Pacific had turned. The Japanese would never regain the initiative. Yamamoto had once said that he was afraid that the United States was a sleeping giant, which would awaken with a terrible resolve. He was right.

Player Briefings
Your plan is to drive the Americans from the Pacific and force them to sign a peace treaty that leaves Japan in control of the region. You have enjoyed a string of successes. You hurt the American Navy with your surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. You drove them from the Philippines. The next target is Midway Island. Your spies tell you that the American Navy has only two functioning carriers (you sunk the Yorktown at the battle of Coral Sea) and zero battleships to oppose you. Better still, the carriers are many miles away! Your objective: destroy the defenses on Midway Island, seize control of her airfield, and destroy any American ships that try to interfere.

Americans: The Japanese seem to be unbeatable. First the disaster at Pearl Harbor sank the battleships that were the backbone of your Pacific Fleet. A long list of defeats followed, including the loss of the Philippines. You have one ace up your sleeve: you have broken the Japanese codes! You have learned that the Japanese plan to attack Midway Island. You have decided to gamble everything on ambushing the Japanese carriers. You have three carriers (the badly damaged Yorktown has been repaired in just three days) against the four Japanese carriers, but the element of surprise is on your side. Objective: Find the Japanese fleet and sink the carriers.

Set Up: Two gaming tables are needed. They should be some distance apart and covered in blue felt, if possible. One table will hold the Japanese fleet, the other will hold the American fleet. Print out the Japanese and American carrier groups and all of the boxes. The various Japanese boxes and American boxes should be laid out as illustrated. Check the table listed below and print out enough Japanese and American airplane counters for each carrier. You should color code the carriers and squadrons so that the players can easily locate their counters. The easiest way to do this is to print each carrier and its planes on a different color of paper. Another way to do it is to lightly color the counters with crayons or colored pencils. Eight bombers from each Japanese carrier should be placed in their "Ready to Land" box. This is the first wave returning from the attack on Midway Island. They must be landed before new planes can be launched. If you laminate all the game pieces they will last a long time. During the battle you can mark the counters with erasable markers.

Number of squadrons on each carrier:
Enterprise: Torpedo Bombers (3), Dive-Bombers (8), Fighters (5)
Hornet: Torpedo Bombers (5), Dive-Bombers (8), Fighters (3)
Yorktown: Torpedo Bombers (5), Dive-Bombers (8), Fighters (3)
Kaga: Torpedo Bombers (6), Dive-Bombers (5), Fighters (6)
Akagi: Torpedo Bombers (4), Dive-Bombers (4), Fighters (4)
Soryu: Torpedo Bombers (4), Dive-Bombers (4), Fighters (4)
Hiryu: Torpedo Bombers (4), Dive-Bombers (4), Fighters (4)

Turn Sequence: The Japanese player goes through the turn sequence first. Then the American player goes through the sequence.
I. Move Planes: Planes that are being sent to attack the enemy move in a circuit. Planes may choose to stay in their box, or advance to the next box. The sequence of movement: Carrier Box, Moving to Attack Box, Ready to Attack Box, Attacking Box, Heading Home Box, Waiting to Land Box, Carrier Box. Note, however, that a carrier may not launch AND land planes on the same turn. Fighter planes that are put in the CAP box move differently. See the CAP section below for details.
II. Resolve Attacks
a. Attacks on Ships:
Each squadron must choose which carrier it will attack and must be placed in the appropriate section of the Attacking Box. All attacks against a carrier are resolved simultaneously for all the squadrons that have been designated to attack it this turn. All the squadrons attacking one carrier are called an attack wave. Each squadron can take five hits. Resolving AA: The player controlling the carrier under attack rolls dice to see how many planes in the attack wave are shot down. The dice are rolled only once against the entire wave, not against each individual squadron. The Carrier box indicates how many dice are rolled (Soryu 6, Akagi & Hiryu 7, Kaga 9, Hornet & Yorktown 12, Enterprise 12). The Carrier group scores one hit for every 4, 5, or 6 rolled. The attacking players may choose which bombers are eliminated. If they can't agree than the hits should be distributed evenly, with the player with the most attacking squadrons receiving any extra hits. The surviving squadrons in the attack wave then resolve their attacks against the carrier they are targeting. Resolving attacks on carriers: Escorting Fighters do not attack carriers. They are moved immediately to the Heading Home box. Dive-Bombers - Roll 1D6 for every surviving plane in the squadron. Every 5 or 6 scores one hit against the carrier. Re-roll any 6's and if it comes up 6 again score another hit against the carrier. Continue re-rolling 6's and scoring hits until there are no more 6's. Torpedo-Bombers - roll 1D6 per surviving plane in the attacking squadron. A roll of 6 scores 2 hits on the carrier. Re-roll all 6's, and score one additional hit for every 6 rolled. Continue re-rolling 6's and scoring hits until there are no more 6's. Carriers are crippled when they have taken 7 or more hits. A crippled carrier can no longer launch or land planes. Any planes on the flight deck may not be launched. A crippled carrier can be repaired during the Repair Damage phase. A carrier that receives 10 points of damage is sunk and cannot be repaired. Squadrons that have completed an attack run are immediately placed in the Returning Home box. They must land and re-launch before they can make another attack run.

b. CAP attacks: Fighter squadrons that are assigned to fly CAP are initially placed in the center circle of the CAP Box. Each fighter squadron may attack on enemy stack of planes on the fighter's home board. Resolving aerial combat: Roll 1D6 for each fighter in the dogfight. If the stack being attacked has escorts then the escorting fighters can shoot back. Roll 1 D6 for each escorting fighter in the stack. Bombers do not get to fire back and may not initiate attacks. All hits are considered simultaneous. Cross out one box on the opponent's squadron card for every 4, 5, or 6 rolled. If the target was a squadron of bombers escorted by fighters then the first hit is applied to the escorting fighters, the second to the bomber squadron, and so on, alternating hits. Several fighter squadrons may gang up on an enemy squadron. After a fighter squadron flying CAP has made an attack it is moved out to the next ring in the CAP box. Fighters in the last ring of the CAP box are moved to the Waiting to Land Box. They must land to refuel and rearm. They may be launched again on a later turn.

III. Planning Phase -The player controlling each carrier must decide what he will do during the next turn. A carrier may launch up to 20 planes OR land up to 20 planes in one turn. If the player is going to launch squadrons he must put them on the flight deck. If he wishes to land planes he must leave the flight deck empty. Torpedo and Bomber Squadrons may not stack together. Planes from different carriers may not stack together unless they were launched at the same time from the same carrier (because one of the carriers is crippled or sunk). If a bomber squadron is going to have a fighter escort the fighter must be launched with the bombers and they should be stacked together, with the fighters on top. Fighter escorts may not be shifted to a different stack after they are launched. The stack must move together until it lands.
IV. Repair Damage: Each carrier that has sustained damage may attempt to repair one damage point by rolling one die. A carrier may never have more than ten unmarked damage circles. Only one damage point may be repaired on each carrier each turn. A carrier that has been sunk may not be repaired. Japanese carriers may repair one point if they roll a 6. The Enterprise and Hornet may repair one point if they roll a 5 or 6. The Yorktown may repair one point if it rolls a 4, 5, or 6.

Special Rule: Finding the Japanese Fleet. At the start of the game the Americans are looking for the Japanese Fleet. When the first wave of bombers is ready to move into the Ready to Attack Box they should be divided into 4 search groups. One die is rolled to determine which of the four has found the Japanese Fleet (re-roll if the die reads 5 or 6). The lucky group is immediately placed in the Ready to Attack Box. The other three groups must stay in the Moving to Attack Box. During their next turn the planes may move normally.

Acknowledgements: Excellent suggestions and valuable playtesting were provided by John Burke, Will Horton, Phil Willows, Charlie Keller, Tom Gallagher, and John Lesko. Tom also was a great help with the research. The flags used in the graphics are from www.warflag.com. The ship and plane images are derived from www.combinedfleet.com, the Nihon Kaigun (Imperial Japanese Navy) web site. Another useful web site is the Department of Navy's Navy Historical Center: www.history.navy.mil/index.html.

Download the files individually, or all at once: midway.zip (320 KB)

US Carriers

US Boxes

Japanese Carriers

Japanese Boxes