CAR WARS was originally marketed as a role-playing game. By modern standards, it could be considered an extremely a lean, rules-light affair… but the more-or-less yearly adventure scenarios in ADQ (Convoy, Badlands Run, Grand Theft Autoduel, etc.) were pretty good even if they were somewhat linear. The more recent 5th edition of the game is currently classified by Steve Jackson Games as a board game and you’ll find both incarnations of the game on Board Game Geek and not RPG-Geek. It is really more of a set of miniatures rules tuned for TV action violence.
The kind of games you play in CAR WARS are not as workable in other role-playing systems partly because CAR WARS sets a compact car with a machine-gun as the baseline rather than a man with a sword. (The thing that is CAR WARS ceases to exist quickly as realism and detail levels begin to be cranked up.) Historically, the most common format for play is a three-hour long free-for-all battle between five to seven players that have designed their own cars.
In the final analysis, CAR WARS is a light role-playing game, a light miniatures rule set, and a fiddly sort of board game. It is a rare game that straddles all the classifications…. Its genesis was (just as with Star Fleet Battles) in the micro-game concept of the seventies, though it quickly exploded into a monster game. CAR WARS was a really good value for cash-strapped teens in the early eighties while meeting a demand for a particular type of game that computers would not be able to emulate until well into the nineties.
This blog was originally started when 5th edition was released– mostly because the Steve Jackson Games forums were only open to Pyramid subscribers back then. My primary goal soon became to represent the Old School approach to CAR WARS by running it in the role-playing rags-to-riches campaign that was outlined in the original
pocket box zip-loc baggie edition.
I had heard of older, wiser gamers playing in kind of a Road Warrior salvage-your-kills style and really wanted to experience the game in a way that was more closely aligned with the spirit of the Space Gamer magazine readership. I was aided in my goals when a long time gaming buddy bequeathed to me his CAR WARS collection (including a near-complete run of ADQ) when he went expat… and my life long gaming dreams came true when I met Earlburt, who would go on to play about fifty games with me in three separate campaigns. Michael P. Owen has provided me with a great deal of support in the form of rare autodueling items, and MattV even drove down to North Carolina from Maine to join the 2029 campaign in one of our most memorable sessions.
Today, CAR WARS is remembered fondly by most people who did any sort of gaming during the eighties. It is my hope that this blog could preserve many forgotten aspects of this classic game while contributing to the state of the art in table-top vehicular mayhem.