Saturday, 29 December 2007

Lightning: Midway

Lightning: Midway is a 2-player card game about the battle of Midway, between the USA and Japan, during World War II. It appears like a medium complexity game on first play, but once you know it, it is quite an easy game to play. It only feels complex at first because most cards have special text and special powers, so it can be a little overwhelming at first to absorb all that. However, once you have played a few times, it becomes quite quick and simple.

Both players start with 4 objectives. The Japanese have four aircraft carriers, and the Americans have 3 carriers and 1 island - Midway Island. Both also have some force cards - I'll just call them planes here. To win, you need to destroy all four of your opponent's objectives. You choose one of three actions on your turn. Firstly, you can refill your hand up to 9 cards. Secondly, you can play up to 3 of your planes onto the table. Only planes which are on the table are availble to be used for attacking or defending. Lastly, you can choose to attack one of your opponent's objectives. To start the attack, you select a number of your planes on the table. Then your opponent select a number of his planes to defend his objective. Each plane has a number indicating its strength, and most have special conditions which increase their strengths. After that you take turns to play cards to modify the strengths of your attacking fleet and your opponent's defending fleet. There are three types of cards which do this - tactics cards, leader cards and event cards. There can only be one of each type in play during battle, so if you have played leader card, and your opponent plays another, your leader card will be discarded. These cards usually have special powers to modify your fleet strength. You, as the attacker need to have a total strength larger than your opponent's in order to destroy his objective. Your opponent only needs to match your strength to defend successfully. Card play continues until one side concedes, and if the attacker wins, the defender's objective is destroyed, and any planes which are dependent on that objective are out of the game.

After a battle, all the attacker's and defender's planes go back to their hands. This is the most interesting twist in the game to me, and this captures the feeling of the war in the Pacific theatre. planes in your hand cannot be used. They have to be played back onto the table, at a rate of at most 3 per turn. So, if you commit many of your planes in an attack or defense, you won't have enough planes for a subsequent attack / defense. However, if you do not commit enough, you may lose the current battle.

The Japanese cards. The top row (yellow side bar) are the objectives. The ones below are the planes or Force cards (green side bar). There are different types of planes - fighters, torpedo bombers, dive bombers, level bombers.

Close-up of some of the American cards.

I first played Lightning: Midway with Han, my regular boardgame kaki, early last year. We played two games. Recently I played this against my wife Michelle. I let her play the Japanese, as it is supposed to be easier. She beat me in both games, both 4:1. She enjoyed trouncing me. It was her first time playing. She had some difficulties absorbing all the information on the cards, since almost every card has some special text. However it didn't stop her from thrashing me.

Lightning: Midway is a quick and simple game, once you get past the initial learning curve and get familiar with the cards. There is some luck, since this is a card game, but it's short and interesting and exciting, so I don't mind the luck. One thing that surprised me is how I managed to play this with Michelle and not have her dislike the game (I guess winning helped). She doesn't like war-themed games. This reminds me of Memoir 44, another war themed game about World War II. I played it with her twice and she beat me soundly twice.

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