About Me

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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Countdown to Midway

Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu! For me, these are some of the most evocative names from the Second World War. They roll off the tongue with a kind of mysterious beauty; the distillation of raw Japanese aggression - the Samurai spirit. As a youth I recall watching the film Midway again and again, enthralled by the drama that unfolded before me each time. This was a battle full of mistakes, luck, bravery and myth and for those reasons it has always stayed a favourite, much like Rorke's Drift and Waterloo (due in no small part to their respective films, too!).

On the first Tuesday of every month my club puts on large multiplayer game that is open to anyone that turns up and in 2010 I ran a series of five Check Your 6! Battle of Britain games to commemorate the 70th anniversary. These were pretty successful and one of those nights holds the joint record for participants at a whopping 17 players. Since it has been more than a year since I organised a First Tuesday Game (or FTG as they are known), I was thinking about putting a one-off CY6! game together and the decision was instantly made when I realised that June would see the 70th anniversary of Midway. I also thought it might make an interesting series of posts to follow the assembly of the forces and the scenario design leading up to the game and an AAR once the dust settles.

So, let's start with the battle itself and some reading suggestions. I'm not going to go into detail as most people will probably be familiar already, but for those few that aren't, the Battle of Midway was fought on June 4th in the Central Pacific between the First Mobile Strike Force (Kido Butai) of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) under Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi and two American carrier task forces under Admirals Frank J Fletcher and Raymond A Spruance. The Japanese committed all four fleet carriers available after the Coral Sea debacle against three American carriers and the aircraft available on the Midway atoll itself. The end result of the ensuing chaos was the loss of all four Japanese flight decks to just one American, the USS Yorktown. If you would like more information on the forces involved and the events that unfolded then you could check the Wikipedia entry and the BBC websites, although both are understandable quite thin on detail and, in fact, a bit wrong in some places. For a more detailed overview, then you can't go far wrong with the Osprey Campaign volume on Midway. However, by far the best book I've ever read on the subject is Shattered Sword, by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully. This book goes into great detail and focuses primarily on the Japanese side of things, which is really the most interesting, as it was they who made all the mistakes and suffered from a real malaise in their operational and strategic planning. It also goes to great pains to dispel the 'overwhelming odds' and other myths associated with the battle.

As for the game, my first issue was exactly what to try and recreate in a single game. Clearly the number of ships and planes involved and the distances covered are not in the scope of a single game of CY6!, so I had to figure out what slice of the battle is appropriate. My initial, gut reaction was to game the final American attack on Hiryu, but the problem with that is that only the American SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers attacked the ship and I think that this provides a limited amount of tactical scope to the players. All we end up with is a simple 'stop the bombers' scenario, with the Zeros trying to shoot down the bombers while avoiding the US Wildcats. What I think will work better is to have an attack by both high level dive bombers and low level torpedo bombers, so that the players need to consider splitting their forces and losing height to defend against the ultimately more deadly torpedoes. Well...that's where we fall flat on our face with American naval aviation at Midway. Of the 50 odd TBD Devastators that attacked the Japanese carrier group, almost all were shot down and not a single torpedo struck any ship, never mind a carrier!

So I think we need to turn our attention to the Yorktown. The Hiryu's counterstrike against the Americans isn't really perfect, either, as there was about an hour or so between the first dive-bomber attacks and the follow-up torpedo bomber attacks, but I think that I think having the two waves in the one game, one slightly later than the other, will be acceptable. I also think that this will make a slightly better scenario for the simple fact that the Japanese Type 91 torpedo was an excellent weapon and poses a much more deadly threat than it's American counterpart. In all honesty, if we were to do the American attacks on the Japanese carriers then I'd be compelled to impose such severe penalties on the torpedo attacks that the Japanese players would probably leave the Devastators to it! However, on the day, Yorktown was struck by two Japanese torpedoes which was the crippling blow to her, so gaming this attack makes more sense. Also, Yorktown was the only carrier that wasn't out-and-out destroyed on the 4th of June. In fact, she was being escorted back to Pearl Harbor a couple of days later, with hopes of repairing her, when she was struck by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine which finished her off. So, the damage to Yorktown had little effect on the battle as the Japanese fate was already sealed, so it seems a bit more fitting to see if the American players can save this tough old warhorse! The only downside is that I don't get to paint up any Dauntlesses, which is one of my all time favourite WWII aircraft!

The next step is to gather the models necessary and paint them up. Rather than going for the usual 1/300 planes I will use 1/600 models instead, as there are a few options for 1/700 models of the Yorktown. At that size, the difference in scale should be negligible and looking at smaller models on a big flat, blue surface should lend a slightly more panoramic feel to the game. Hopefully I should get my hands on a suitable model from the nice folk at Jamieson's Models in Glasgow and I will post some pics when I do and my progress in building it.

That's all for now! :)


  1. A really good blog. Enjoyed reading it. Years ago I was into WW2 naval wargaming, having made all the ships I wanted from lollypop sticks in 1:1200 scale. My two sons, who were barely teens at the time, used to battle it out with me on the living room floor. Many of the models I made were of Japanese ships, and I agree that there is a certain something in the way the names roll off the tongue. BTW are you anywhere near Airdrie?

  2. Hi Geminian! Thanks for the comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. I'm actually on the other side of Glasgow from Airdrie, in Cardonald. However, the Phoenix club meets quite near St George's Cross and this Tuesday's FTG is actually a pacific naval engagement in 1/3000 using modified Victory at Sea rules (I believe). You're more than welcome to pop along and take part.

    1. Thanks for the invite. I actually came to the Phoenix club meeting one time, when I was unemployed for a wee while. Had intended to make it a regular thing, but I found work again which made it impossible for me to get there for a game. Say hello to Paul (Caliban) for me.

  3. Its almost impossible to recreate the actual Midway battle in wargaming (every time the US navy have recreated the battle and attempted to wargame it, that Japanese have won hands down).

    You've identified the key issue regarding the battle. The American torpedo bombers - supposed to arrive at the same time as the dive bombers - actually arrived early and in dribs and drabs. This brought all attention from Japanese fighters and AA fire - and (as the Japanese had no radar) - they allowed the Dauntless bombers complete surprise and the devastating attacks that followed.


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