Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Battle of Midway with Miniatures?

Can the Battle of Midway be played with miniatures?  This was the question I posed to myself three years ago after running the Operation Pedestal Malta Convoy game.

I have since purchased a number of Midway boardgames and looked through the miniature rules I own.

Here are the boardgames related to the Battle of Midway I own:

  • Midway (1964)
  • Midway (1991)
  • The Battle of Midway, 1942AD
  • The Battle of Midway (HBG)
  • Victory at Midway (Command magazine)
  • Midway (Avalanche Press 1st ed.)
  • Battle of Midway (Louis Coatney)
  • Fires of Midway
  • Fury at Midway
  • Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific

These are the miniature rules I've played or read through:
  • Nimitz/Halsey
  • Seekrieg V
  • Sea Wars Fleet Actions
  • General Quarters (1975)
  • Naval Thunder
  • Midway Campaign (David Manley)
  • Victory at Midway
  • Command at Sea
  • Find, Fix and Strike

The miniature rules were either too complicated or lacked a simple map.  I chose to not focus on miniature rules mainly because of wanting a good map system that boardgames offer.

After testing the boardgames each at least twice, I came up with three main criteria for what is key during the battle that has to be well represented in the game:
  1. Search for your opponents Task Forces.
    • Dice roll (or random chance) to see if search planes detect Task Forces.
  2. Damage to Midway by Japanese planes.
    • Midway has to see some sort of recordable damage from each wave of Japanese bombers.
  3. Damage to carriers.
    • Something more than just a two hit damage result to sink a carrier.
As you can see from my long list of boardgames, I have had not much luck finding a game that meets the three criteria above.  This was until I recently bought Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific and played the Midway scenario.  It met all three and is a quality game.  Midway by Avalanche Press is good, but the damage to airfields rules is not great.  Victory at Midway and The Battle of Midway, 1942AD are not bad.  I recommend Task Force: Carrier Battles in the Pacific by Vucasims.  I look forward to trying out the non-Midway scenarios (i.e. Battle of the Coral Sea).

Task Force rules Midway scenario.  Japanese and Americans can not 
deploy closer to Midway than their corresponding lines on the map.

Recently the Nimitz/Halsey rules by Sam Mustafa was published.  There are two rules published together in one PDF.  Nimitz is the surface miniature rules and Halsey is the campaign level rules.  The Halsey rules is also recommended for the Battle of Midway.  There is even a Midway scenario included.  I think the Halsey rules have an edge over Task Force: Carrier Battle in the Pacific when it comes to the display/use of miniatures.

Halsey Midway scenario map.

Ship Miniatures:

Looking at the Order of Battle for the Midway naval campaign there is a large number of Japanese and American ships involved.  The focus of the battle mainly involved the Task Forces of four Japanese carriers and the three American carriers.

GHQ 1:2400 miniatures would look great, but a bit too expensive for me.  I can see myself buying 1:3000 miniatures to use in conjunction with the previously mentioned rules.  1:6000 miniatures are just too small.  I recommend 1:3000 ships (i.e. NAVWAR).

Air Miniatures:

I have used 1:600 for some recent naval battles.  I have found that this scale is a good one to use for either 1:2400 or 1:3000 ships.  I recommend Tumbling Dice Miniatures and Pico Miniatures for 1:600 WWII planes.


The Battle of Midway is doable using a map system with miniatures.  I think the real question is, does it make sense running the historic battle?  It is tough for the Japanese to win.  The U.S. reconnaissance is a lot more extensive than the Japanese.  The Japanese have a very low probability of spotting the U.S. carriers before they are spotted.  I have no problem putting together the scenario.  I would enjoy painting up the ships and solo playtesting through the scenario.  Would actual players be okay playing the Japanese and be ready for losing all their carriers?  Maybe I would have to run the Japanese and two or three players play the U.S. Task Forces and Midway island.


  1. This idea fascinates me. I’m trying to see whether I can set up the Coral Sea with 1/3000 ships and 1/700 aircraft.
    The challenge with Midway is indeed that there’s no way to recreate the Americans’ knowledge that the Japanese were coming and the Japanese confidence that the American fleet would be at least two days’ steaming away. That makes Nagumo’s decisions in the morning hard or impossible to replicate. It would help to have rules that replicate the stream of American attacks that so disrupted the Japanese carrier operations.
    I think it would be fun to play the Japanese, even knowing you would lose, to see whether the Japanese could have done better. But it would hinge on having rules that replicate the dilemmas the Japanese command faced that day - so I enjoyed your rules overview too.

    1. I have run Coral Sea a couple times now with the Halsey rules. It runs well, but will reduce the number of dummy markers. It just takes too long to spot the Task Forces. The next scenario I'm going to put together is the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Midway, I'd hate to buy/paint all the minis, run the game and people have no fun, if the game always has the same outcome. I had this happen with the Battle off Samar.