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In Midway, the Japanese player gets only three (airborne) searches per turn. What's worse, he only only gets to search "areas" within 12 zones of his ships, while the American's Midway based planes get four searches per turn, across the whole board.

That means that the Americans can track the Japanese player's progress from the beginning of the game (first day), while the Japanese player doesn't have a chance find American ships until the middle of the first day at the earliest. And only if the American player isn't any good at hiding his ships.

One proposal was to give the Japanese player a fourth search. A second rule of the game is to allow "ship" searches. That is to say, that the Japanese player can search any area in which he has ships. Late the first day, he receives a reinforcement of four weak cruisers that are almost useless for defense, but can be used the second day (and later) for ship searches. That's potentially four more areas that can be searched by ships, to complement airborne searches.

A house rule that I played with years ago was to allow area searches by combat squadrons, that is one torpedo or dive bomber squadron per area searched. These units had to be put in a separate group, and could not be used for combat the same, or the following turn. And they were subject to the seven square distance rule. Nevertheless, they afforded the Japanese player the chance to "blanket" a portion of the board with searches.

What means have players used to compensate for the problem of the Japanese player having so few searches? Or are the better players so good that three searches is "enough?"

  • I assume there must be a reason for the differences in search. Maybe there's a way to benefit from another Japanese skill to compensate for the lack of search. – npst Aug 29 '15 at 21:44
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    @Npst: The difference in search reflected relative historical capabilities. The Japanese had the "option" of using their less valuable ships for "ship searches" but failed to do so. "Enhanced" air search (within the limits of the seven space rule) makes the most sense, since the Japanese have more airpower after the second day. – Tom Au Aug 30 '15 at 14:32
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There are some differences in play between the original (60s) and updated (90s) editions of Midway - not least of which is where ships come into the game from (the newer edition uses hexes instead of a uniform grid, too). Based on this question mentioning the 7 squares rule, I'll assume (and answer as if) you're looking at the older edition.

There's not really a "need" to compensate for the Japanese player's fewer searches. Using a T1 or D1 (or F1) to search, I suppose, could be done, but you should be able to extend those out to 14 squares (the limit of a plane's range) - and allow a kamikaze attack by that plane (or squadron, if you sent more than one) if they happen to find anything .. might even consider upping their AF by 1, reducing their die roll by one, decreasing the DF by 1 of the ship, or a combination of the three. Of course, if they find nothing, you've lost those aircraft.

You might cut the number of American searches to 3 from 4, but that's not a big difference either.

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The Japanese are likely to have inferior search capabilities. That's just based on a historical reality that can only be partially overcome by suggestions made in the question. What can be affected are the consequences of Japan's search inferiority by giving her a compensating advantage.

In the game, the maximum range for planes is 14 "squares," which imply 7 squares each way. In theory, both the Japanese and the Americans can "launch an attack from so far away (8-14 squares), that the planes cannot return to their bases."

But as Pieter Geerkens pointed out in his answer to another question, this option was far more acceptable to the Japanese, with their samurai culture, than to the Americans. So the equalizer could be: Only the Japanese are allowed to launch such "suicide" attacks. This would give them a "first strike" capability to compensate for their inferior search capabilities. Specifically, the American fleet would be within range of Japanese "suicide" attacks for three or four turns before they could launch air attacks on their own, assuming that the Japanese can find them during one of those three or four turns.

So if the first day Japanese strike force encountered the American fleet within "suicide" range, it might launch an attack as follows:

1) 15 torpedo squadrons against each of two of the American carriers. (Japan has 31, thanks to 3 extra squadrons on the Kaga.*) 2) 15 dive bomber squadrons against the third American carrier. 3) 12 dive bomber squadrons against the light cruiser Atlanta, with its superior anti aircraft capabilities (6 versus 3 for all other American ships.

The Atlanta can save one American carrier by applying her 6 anti aircraft factor to the 15 squadrons attacking that carrier, resulting in an air-ship ratio of 2 to 1 (round in favor of the defender).

The other two American carriers are automatically sunk by the application of 15 to 3 (5 to 1) odds.

The 12 dive bomber squadrons attack the Atlanta at 4 to 1 odds. (Since she has used her 6 firepower to save a carrier, some other ship has to use their firepower of 3 against 12, leading to air-ship odds or 4 to 1.) This means that the Atlanta receives three or more hits, and is sunk.

If she wishes, the Atlanta can use her anticraft fire to save herself (12 vs. 6, or 2 to 1 odds), at the sacrifice of the third carrier but that is an unwise choice.

The Americans lose two carriers and the Atlanta. If the Americans are smart, they will have stashed some of their carrier planes on Midway, and lose only the equivalent of one, not two, carriers worth of planes. The Japanese would lose all 57 squadrons in a suicide attack, leaving her to escort the Atago to Midway, using mainly the seven battleships. The Japanese carriers are basically "in the way," without planes.

*The historical capacity of the Zuiho (wave 3) was seven torpedo squadrons and four fighter squadrons (instead of only four torpedo squadrons). The "difference" provides three extra torpedo squadrons to the Kaga, allowing the "strike force" 31 torpedo squadrons instead of 28.

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