An Exhaustive List of the Good, Bad, and Indifferent 'MIDWAY' Articles that Appeared from 1964-79 in the Avalon Hill General
MIDWAY is a historical simulation of the crucial carrier battle between the naval forces of Imperial Japan and the United States that occurred in the Central Pacific near Midway Island, on June 4, 1942. In this aircraft versus ship engagement, the Japanese advance across the Pacific was decisively defeated and turned back by a few hundred intrepid American naval airmen. More than any other single fleet action in the long Allied struggle against Japan, this battle — in which the surface vessels of the two opposing fleets never came into view of each other — represented the strategic turning point in the Pacific War. In the course of a single day’s combat, four of Japan’s best fast carriers were sunk at the cost of a single American flat top. It was a blow from which the Imperial Japanese Navy would never recover. MIDWAY was designed by Larry Pinskey and Lindsley Schutz and published by the Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1964.
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I still remember, after almost four decades, my first attempt at playing MIDWAY. It was during my Junior Year at college. A Friday marathon session of DIPLOMACY had just broken up at about 11:00 pm in the student “commons” and, since I still had a couple of hours to kill before I had to pick my girlfriend up from work, I was pretty much at loose ends. One of the other DIPLOMACY players — who also happened to be both a regular opponent and a friend — suggested that we try something completely different. When I agreed, he trotted off to his dorm room and returned a few minutes later with four Avalon Hill games under his arm: ANZIO, BISMARCK, GUADALCANAL, and MIDWAY. Since I had never played any of these titles before, it took a few minutes for me to decide on a game; but, after briefly looking over the different rules and game boards, I quickly chose MIDWAY as the least offensive of the four.
In our first match, I took the Japanese. My American opponent effortlessly dodged my searches and, with my planes readied but sitting on their flight decks, I saw all four of my carriers sunk before the end of the first day of action. This first game, I reassured myself was just a learning experience. So, having so far spent more time sorting the game pieces than playing, I took the Americans in the rematch. This game turned out to be a little more interesting, if only because it was a little longer; the end result, however, was pretty much the same: by mid-morning on the second day, all three American flat tops had been bottomed and only the Japanese Hiryu had been sunk. And so it went. I think, all told, that we played four games, and I got (deservedly) shellacked in every one of them. Naturally, at the end of this session, I was completely hooked and, with a freshly-kindled desire for cardboard vengeance burning in my heart, I couldn’t wait to get my own copy of MIDWAY. However, since revenge was my ultimate goal, I also decided that it might be a good idea for me to read every article in the General about the play of the game that I could get my hands on. And that is what I proceeded to do.
Interestingly, in the course of my study of the game, I quickly discovered that the usefulness of the different articles presented in the General tended to vary inversely with their publication dates. The early pieces were usually of little real value, and occasionally even counterproductive. The later articles, on the other hand, were, with a few notable exceptions, much more instructive. The writings from acknowledged MIDWAY experts like Harold Totten and William Searight were particularly valuable in helping me to grasp the nuances of this classic title. And even Don Greenwood — who, before he decided to specialize in losing at BREAKOUT: NORMANDY, was a fearsome and diabolical MIDWAY player — provided many useful insights into the finer points of evasion and maneuver on the search board. And the end result of all my study? I freely admit that I didn’t win every one of my subsequent games, but I did win quite a few; and most importantly, I never again suffered the types of crushing defeat that I had endured during my first late-night attempts at MIDWAY.
Which brings me, finally, to the purpose of this list: my hope is that some of my readers will be inspired to revisit this great old title; and further, that they will benefit, as I did many years ago, from the expert analysis contained in the insightful articles written by some of the best players to ever sit on one or the other side of a MIDWAY search board. So, for those of you who still have a pile or two of old issues of the General gathering dust somewhere around the house, or who have a friend who has a lifetime’s stash of gaming magazines stacked up in his game room, this list is for you. Even if you read all or most of these General articles a very long time ago, I encourage you to go back and give them another look. You might even find it hard to put some of these old Generals down, once you start turning through their pages!
For no particular reason, I have arranged this rather long list in chronological order, from the oldest (1964) to the most recent (1979).
- “MIDWAY-Reworked” by Victor Madeja, Vol. 1, No. 3 (pg. 5)
- “The Japanese Have The Best Of It In MIDWAY” by John E. Curtis, Vol. 1, No. 6 (pg. 4)
- “Amercs Have It Made In MIDWAY” by Lou Zocchi, Vol. 1, No. 6 (pg. 10)
- “MIDWAY Solitaire” by Robert Olson, Vol. 2, No. 2 (pg. 2)
- “MIDWAY’s Hidden American Power” by Lou Zocchi, Vol. 2, No. 2 (pg. 12)
- “Thoughts On MIDWAY” by Carl F. Knabe II, Vol. 2, No. 3 (pg. 9)
- “Definite Edge To The Japanese” by Victor Gervol, Vol. 2, No. 4 (pg. 9)
- “MIDWAY For The Cautious Japanese” by Jack Donovan, Vol. 2, No. 5 (pg. 6)
- “MIDWAY, Bismarck Style” by Peter Harlem, Vol. 2, No. 6 (pg. 10)
- “Operation Atsui” by Bill Stone, Vol. 3, No. 1 (pg. 2)
- “MIDWAY By Mail” by Earl Hodin, Vol. 3, No. 1 (pg. 3)
- “MIDWAY-The First Day” by John Michalski, Vol. 3, No. 3 (pg. 13)
- “Gross Injustice To Submarines” by Richard Gutenkunst, Vol 3, No. 5 (pg. 8)
- “MIDWAY-Play-By-Mail” by Richard Giberson, Vol. 3, No. 5 (pg. 12)
- “How To Change A Dull Japanese Victory Into A Heartless American Win” by Richard Shagrin, Vol. 3, No. 6 (pg. 10)
- “MIDWAY Un-Stereotyped” by Mark Saviet, Vol. 4, No. 2 (pg. 7)
- “Mastery Of MIDWAY” by Jared Johnson, Vol. 4, No. 3 (pg. 11)
- “What Next? Destroyers At Midway ” by Steve Marston, Vol. 4, No. 4 (pg. 8)
- “MIDWAY-Equilibrated” by Carl G. Nelson, Vol. 4, No. 5 (pg. 10)
- “Surprise At Midway” by Chris Meagher, Vol. 5, No. 5 (pg. 7)
- “Five Fickle Factors” by Dough Hallet, Vol. 5, No. 6 (pg. 5)
- “One Ship Invasion Fleet” by Charles B. Pelto, Vol. 6, No. 3 (pg. 7)
- “Chicken Yamamoto” by Lincoln Clark, Vol. 6, No. 6 (pg. 4)
- “MIDWAY In Focus” by Kevin Slimak, Vol. 7, No. 4 (pg. 10)
- “MIDWAY And The British Home Fleet” by Richard D. Thurston, Vol. 8, No. 6 (pg. 11)
- “Mass Or Maneuver” by Monte Gray, Vol. 9, No. 3 (pg. 10)
- “The MIDWAY Thesis” by Harold Totten & Donald Greenwood, Vol. 9, No. 4 (pg. 3)
- “The Rest Of The Alphabet” by Lloyd Berger, Vol. 10, No. 1 (pg. 7)
- “SERIES REPLAY” — Bill Barr, Don Greenwood & neutral commentary by Harold Totten, Vol. 10, No. 2 (pg. 15)
- “Leyte Gulf” by Robert Harmon, Vol. 10, No. 3 (pg.3)
- “SERIES REPLY” — Mick Uhl, Don Greenwood & neutral commentary by Harold Totten, Vol. 11, No. 3 (pg. 18)
- “Back To Nuts And Bolts” by Harold Totten, Vol. 12, No. 4 (pg. 16)
- “SERIES REPLAY” — Mick Uhl, Don Greenwood & neutral commentary by Thomas Hilton, Vol. 13, No. 3 (pg. 24)
- “MIDWAY By Mail” by Tom Cragg, Vol. 13, No. 6 (pg. 32)
- “Away From The Combined Fleet” by William B. Searight, Vol. 14, No. 5 (pg. 27)
- “Pacific Theatre Via Midway” by Alan R. Moon, Vol. 15, No. 5 (pg. 3)
- “Advanced MIDWAY” by Mark Dumdei, Vol. 16, No. 3 (pg. 30)
I should probably note, by the way, that in addition to this batch of articles, there are actually a number of other MIDWAY essays and “Series Replays” that appeared in the General after 1979 but that — because of a lack of time (read: motivation) on my part — did not make it onto this particular list. On the other hand, who knows? I may yet get around to cataloging these remaining pieces at some later date. In the meantime, this compendium of early articles on one of Avalon Hill’s first naval games should be complete enough to satisfy most of the long-time gamers who, like me, still have a “soft spot” for this classic design. Sadly, MIDWAY, like a number of the other great old games, has been out of popular favor for some years now; which is really too bad because this title — despite its dated graphics, and its “baby” blue and “frou-frou” pink counters — was, besides being a fast-moving and exciting game, actually a ground-breaking design in its day; and, I may be old-fashioned, but I still enjoy playing it whenever I have the opportunity.
Finally, for those gamers who are relatively new to the hobby but who would, none-the-less, still like to check out some of these early MIDWAY articles, your situation is far from hopeless. Happily, there is an internet site (see my “helpful links” sidebar) that offers reprints from the General; alternatively, for those who insist on getting the “real thing,” there are also almost always old copies of the General and other hobby publications surfacing in the “board wargame section” on eBay. So, one way or another and with a little patience, interested gamers should still be able to track down quite a few, if not all of these early pieces, given enough time.