So we have been playing a lot of RPG’s. I purchased the Steve Jackson’s Car Wars game earlier this year. Now I had this game back in 1982 or so, and had a lot of fun playing it with my high school and college friends, but I haven’t played it for something over 25 years.
I wanted to know if it held up over time. A lot of older games were amazing and fun at the time, but there have been a lot of major advancements in gaming theory and play since they came out… Many times, other than the nostalgia factor, they don’t hold up, compared to what we are used to with modern games. Sometimes they do.
I won’t hold you in suspense. Car Wars Classic is just as awesome in 2016 as it was in 1982. Death, destruction, schadenfreude, horrific crashes… If you are the type of person who loves to play games that are gonzo and don’t care if you live or die in the game, Car Wars is awesome.
But, just like in 1982… If you are the type of player who needs order, control, or really hates losing, Car Wars is not for you. It is way to gonzo and over the top for people who need to play chess.
Mike brought a bin of his old Car Wars equipment. Now we didn’t realize it, but Mike is a legend in the Car Wars world. He was the one who sent in the proposals to Autoduel Quarterly to add reflective armor (foils lasers), and bumper triggers (when the bumper is hit, the bumper automatically triggers the weapons systems). We were all very impressed. Loren said that these were some of her favorite bits in the game.
Mike also showed me some very pertinent artwork.
So… Seven of us were playing on one board. Most everyone at the table had played Car Wars in the distant past. Some people were new. I figured that the best way to learn again was to provide a choice. A Killer Kart, or a motorcycle with the same dollar amount. It turns out that the motorcycles were a lot of fun, as they had lots of front armor. Now, how a motorcycle has front armor is not described, but it just does.
The vehicles came from an Internet resource at:
Combat Garage allows you to custom build cars pretty quickly. The two vehicles I selected were:
and the Popper motorcycle
Now what the Popper sheet doesn’t show is that it had 34 armor on front, along with another 14 armor on the back.
So we all looked over the books and tried to figure out the game again. It took a while, but my idea was to start with something very simple, and then allow people to go nuts with their own design at the next game.
Mike, Brian and I chose the Popper motorcycles. Robert, Loren, Sue and Eric chose the Killer Karts. We started out on the standard Figure 8 track in the base set. Now the rules for this arena said that the players should choose if the track is an oval, or a figure 8. We decided that it should be both.
After some time of figuring out how to start, we decided to place our vehicles on the track and declare our starting speed. Now Eric wanted to start out where he and I were a half inch away from each other in a head on collision… hahahahaha. It turns out that may have been an awesome way to start, given what happened later.
So the group started out. It is important to note that while learning the game, we actually played for about 4 and a half hours, and covered about 6 and a half seconds of race, which is pretty consistent with Car Wars.
It took a while for us to figure out the basics of play. Now I mean basics. Things like, well, the arena mat has wrinkles, and that makes playing tough. So we found a clear lexan plastic plate to put over the arena. Then we had to figure out not to move the lexan over the map. I drew some markers on the lexan plastic to mark the edges of the play area, so if it got moved, we could move it back to the correct place. Otherwise the cars may be in the wrong place. It took a while to figure out how to move the cars with the template, without accidentally moving cars or debris.
Now the template is nice but it would be even nicer if it were made from clear plastic. Also, each box came with one template. I have two base boxes, so I have two templates, but with 7 players, that ends up taking some time to trade the template around.
So we started. It didn’t take long before things got nasty.
For the first second of game play, no one entered combat. Now everyone seemed to want to meet in the middle of the figure 8.
Everyone had the same car, or motorcycle, but we all had individual markers. Loren took the VW Bug, Robert took the pickup truck, In the upper left hand, you can see Eric’s car, racing around, desperate to get into the action. Mike is heading from the upper right hand corner to the center of the X. Brian is going from the upper left hand corner towards the center of the X. I am behind Eric, off the picture.
Things started getting nasty. Loren tried to shoot at Robert as he passed in front of her, but she missed. Then Mike (Blue Bike) wanted to shoot at Robert. And for some reason, Brian (red bike) also wanted to shoot at Robert. Everyone missed.
About this time, Sue’s Killer Kart (the white car) got into the action. Robert tries to complete a controlled skid, so he can shoot at Sue. He took some major tire damage from trying to skid sideways at 50+ mph. He also missed Sue. Brian decided that the best thing to do was to fire his missile into the front of Sue’s car, then perform a head on collision. Loren is buzzing on behind, wanting to nail Robert’s rear quarter panel.
Then it got bad. Brian shot his missile, and drove through the front of Sue’s Killer Kart. It was not a complete kill, since Sue only lost all of her front armor, her machine guns, her power plant, her driver died, and then the resulting damage took out all but two of her armor points of her rear armor.
We were all hoping that it would be a Hollywood moment, where the motorcycle would come crashing completely through the car, erupting in a ball of flames behind the car.
But no. Brian survived. He took a huge amount of damage to his front end, but he still survived. The 34 points of front armor helped save his bacon.
Now a little explanation is in order here. Car Wars has very specific rules regarding how combat occurs. A sidewsipe, T-Bone, front end collision etc has a lot of steps to figure out. Normally if a motorcycle were to hit a car head on, even a Prius would win. The Prius might not drive well afterwards.
But in this case, the motorcycle had 34 points of armor on it. The Killer Kart had 5 points of armor. Even going through the quasi-physics rules, for balancing the damage based on weight of vehicles and approach speeds, the motorcycle won.
Now Car Wars really doesn’t explain how a motorcycle can have 34 points of armor on it.
So I asked Sue to pick which wrecked vehicle would represent her (former) car. She chose, then picked the appropriate amount of debris, and dropped it from 12-inches above the table to represent the debris scatter.
About this point, Robert came to a complete stop.
Then Loren hit the back of Robert’s car while firing the forward facing machine gun. It wasn’t pretty. The machine gun chewed through the side armor. The resulting crash killed Robert. Loren survived, with only front end damage. A lot of front end damage.
Loren turned the corner, and I came racing towards her. I drove my handling class to -7 to swerve over to hit her head on, and made my save roll! Knowing that she had no front armor left, she tries to sideswipe me by performing a bootlegger.
I fired off a missile at 1-inch, and the resulting crash had a 115 mph addition of speed (I was going 80 MPH, she was going 35). That resulted in a 16D6 damage roll to spread out between the two of us. I let Loren choose the dice, and roll them. It wasn’t pretty. I completely killed her and her car. She took out all but 6 of my front end armor.
I didn’t get any pictures of it, but Eric and Mike were in the middle of a grudge match. Eric was desperately trying to survive, as Mike pounded him with missiles. Eric sideswiped the motorcycle with his Killer Kart. In the end, the motorcycle won out.
In the final battle, I had a -14 handling class (yes, a negative 14) after the collision with Loren. I tried to slow down from 80 before hitting a wall. I slowed and eventually hit the wall. My driver was down to 1 hit point. and I hit the wall, effectively killing off my front armor, but I stopped. I then increased speed to 5 mph, and swiveled around to face Brian. Brian and I shot rockets at the same time. I hit, Brian missed. He was hurt. Then he hit me, and drove me sideways into the wall, killing me. Brian made his concussion roll, and ran away.
Mike came in with his motorcycle and unleashed the hellfire of 6 missiles into the two remaining bikes. My dead bike, and Brian’s abandoned bike.
So in review. Car Wars is awesome. It may not be something we play every week, but it is something that we will play many times over the coming months.
If you want a really fun game for $20, this is a good one.