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In the Q&A section of the "rulebook," questions were asked about how to "handicap" the game in favor of either the Japanese or American player. The answers were to increase the "search" capabilities of the Japanese player, and to allow the American player one or two "B-17" (special bomber) attacks a day. I found these changes unsatisfying, because neither Japanese search capabilities nor B-17 attacks seemed to play a part in the real battle.

My "handicaps" include the following:

  1. In favor of the Japanese: Start the game on June 4th rather than June 3rd. This allows Japan to bring three "waves" (out of four) ships on the first turn, with the remaining wave of five ships arriving at 5:00 p.m. the same day, thereby eliminating the "first day" disadvantage encountered by Japan's first wave. This was a plausible scenario that would be an improvement on the plan that Yamamoto actually followed, and would have been a clear "handicap" in Japan's favor, compared to the game.

  2. In favor of the Americans: Triple (or at least double) Midway's plane complement (to 6 torpedo and 18 dive bomber squadrons in the basic game, add 18 fighter squadrons in the advanced game). This reflects the (superior) airpower actually available to the Americans at the beginning of June 3rd. The game totals were actually available on June 4th, after a day of Japanese bombardment, and were intended to create a "play balance" of both sides having similar number of ships and planes on the first day. But a restoration of the actual status quo ante would have been a "handicap" in favor of the Americans (relative to the game).

  3. Use both changes to create a "matchup" of more Japanese ships vs. more American planes.

Do my "handicaps" improve the game by

  1. following history closely
  2. creating more variety and/or
  3. creating a "good imbalance" of ships versus planes?

Edit: In answer to another question, one poster noted that because of the difference in cultures, the Japanese were more likely to launch "suicide" attacks (one way air attacks that did not have enough fuel for the round trip) than the Americans. While the original rules allow both sides to do this, maybe only the Japanese should have this privilege. Would this be a viable "handicap" that is also historically accurate?

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Depending on the edition (60s or 90s), you can handicap for the Japanese by:

60s:

  • allow Japanese player to start a day (or partial day) sooner than the American player

90s:

  • allow Japanese player to bring forces onto the board closer to Midway (ie, shorten the time available to sink them)

Handicapping for the American player really isn't needed in the 60s edition, since all you have to do is kill the Atago (iirc). You might be able to add an additional search zone, but that'd be pretty minimal, in my experience. The only other thing I could think of would be to force carrier battle groups to not combine / join-up (or force them to all sail together).

In the 90s edition, you could handicap for the Americans by:

  • shortening the Japanese search distance
  • adding a searchable zone to the American side

The basic rules (ie, no CAP, no funky optional rules, etc) make it more-or-less impossible for the Japanese player to guarantee victory, unless they hide their "flag ship" very well and don't attack until they're right atop Midway (don't even search - just go full steam ahead).

When you add CAP, optional rules, and other variants, any form of "handicapping" is going to be pretty hit-or-miss, in my experience.

If both players have read the rules, the Americans are handed a whopping big advantage in that they "know" where the fleet is coming from - and while a game has to make some changes to make it playable, the historical battle didn't provide that much information (which makes the 90s version better (plus it uses hexes instead of squares (which means planes can fly more "realistic" paths, instead of having to convert 5 diagonal squares into 7 straight ones (the distance being nearly equal) for out-bound and in-bound operations))).

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