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Though it's certainly a card game, and one designed by a master of the genre, Dan Verssen, the whip snake action of Lightning: Midway is unlike any other card game you've ever played. Two players step into the roles of opposing fleet commanders in this history based recreation of the famous World War II battle between US and Japanese forces. At stake is control of Midway Atoll in the Central Pacific. The US player must risk his navy's three carriers to try to keep it; the Japanese player must risk his four carriers to try to take it.
The atoll and the aircraft carriers are each represented by their own card. Players throw reconnaissance cards to find and fix the enemy's location, then play other cards representing attacking squadrons. Some find their targets, others don't. Sometimes the enemy shows up over your fleet without warning. Everything often hinges -- literally and figuratively -- on the timely throw of one card.
The game contains 110 beautifully illustrated cards and one double-sided page of rules. You'll learn to play quickly, and can finish a game easily in 30 minutes. Be warned, though, one run-through will never be enough.
This is a great simple war game played with cards which manages to retain much of the historical flavor of this famous battle.
The rules are printed on one side of a page. On the other side of the page is a diagram of the correct card arrangement on a playing surface. After digesting the short rules page, it usually plays in 45 minutes to an hour.
The cards are divided into Objective cards, Force cards and Action cards. The Objective cards are the four IJN aircraft carriers for the Japanese side and the three USN carriers plus Midway Island for the U.S. side. The object of the game is to destroy all the enemy objectives.
The Force cards are the various aircraft for both sides: fighters, torpedo bombers, dive bombers and level bombers. They have varying offensive and defensive capabilities. It gives a wonderful feel for the forces involved. The Japanese aircraft are superior to the American's. The Zero fighter is superior to the Wildcat and Buffalo; the Kate torpedo bomber is better than the TBD Devastator; only the SBD Dauntless is the equal of the Val dive bomber.
The Action cards are subdivided into Event, Leader and Tactic cards. They are used to modify the attack and defense of the Objectives.
There is an initial setup of Force cards for each side. The remaining Action and Force cards are shuffled and dealt out with nine cards for each side. The U.S. goes first. Battles for each of the Objective cards are all out affairs since losing an Objective means losing all the Force cards assigned to it. For example, losing the carrier Akagi means losing all the fighters and bombers assigned to it.
With the card allocations specified in the rules, I consistently ended up with overwhelming Japanese victories. The rules call for a hand size of nine for both sides. I modified it with a higher hand size for the USN. I found that with a nine to eleven USN hand advantage, the game is much more balanced with the outcome decided between the last two enemy carriers. With a nine to twelve ratio the result is uncannily historical: the Japanese losing all four carriers and the U.S. losing the Yorktown.
This game would be a great teaching tool for a history teacher. The players by the end of the game will be familiar with the names of the four IJN carriers and the three USN carriers along with a number of famous and not so famous actors in this pivotal battle.
One minor trouble I have with the game is that with the furious battles for each objective, it’s hard to mentally keep track of the points added and subtracted by the various Force and Action cards thrown into the game. It is easier to keep track of the ebb and flow of the points on pencil and paper.
It also does not have a tremendous amount of depth but it is easy to get into and plays fast. All in all this is an outstanding, easy to learn, easy to play, exciting game with a lot of historical flavor.