Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Perfect Car Wars…?

I’ve been mulling this over for some time: what would it take to make the ultimate Car Wars game book? How would one distill the very best of all that is Car Wars into a single tome?

Here’s my prescription:

1) The movement and combat rules from 5th edition. The 3 phase movement system is great, and the incendiary rules are a lot of fun.

2) We definitely need a good design system– and something besides cars in the mix, too. We don’t really need boats and hovercraft, but cycles, trikes, helicopters, and oversized vehicles are a must. Compendium 2nd edition is the place to go for all of this. There’s a few things to add such as sonic blasters, and ramplate/wheelguard changes, but this Classic edition pretty well had a good thing going. It went overboard with the funky hero tire options– and I can definitely do without laser guidance link in the game, too, but you just don’t have a real Car Wars game without a design system.

3) Car Wars was always a role-playing game. I tended to focus on arena duels myself, but the potential for rpg’s was very important to the color and feel of the game. Some of the most fun we had was playing “Grand Theft Autoduel” and other big role playing scenarios.

I suggest taking the work done in Gurps Autoduel 1e as the basis for most of this piece. The classic Car Wars system is a bit hokey and bland and needs to be replaced– but don’t go overboard with the GURPS stuff: provide stats for weapons in GURPS terms in addition to the Car Wars stats, but DO NOT go near the GURPS Vehicles rules the way they did in Gurps Autoduel 2e. Those new rules oversimplify key aspects of vehicle design while overcomplicating the actual design process to produce unreadable vehicle descriptions. (Yuck!) GURPS does characters really well, but it’s not a good system for vehicle combat. It just can’t compete with a system that is engineered from to ground up to work well for autodueling.

4) Take a tip from Classic Traveller and develop a neato “prior history” system for the game. Munchkinism belongs in the vehicle designs– not in the character design. None of my characters have ever survived more than three or four duels and I’d like to experience playing something other than the 30 point (CW) Amateur and the 100 pt (CW) Corporate duelist. Rolling up characters is the right solution for Car Wars— we need a quick way to come up with plausible characters derived from a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels. Going through the creative endeavor of the GURPS character design is waste because of the Car Wars death rates.

So… Take GURPS lite, add some special GURPS Autoduel rules, add a revised vehicle design rule set from Compendium, put in the movement and combat rules from 5th edition, and throw in a brand new prior history system… package it in a nice perfect bound book and I think you’d have a really cool product.

For the deluxe editon, I would have alternate rules that drop the scale from x3 down to x1.5 of the original scale so that road sections and city blocks could be brought back. The deluxe version would also come with revised versions of “Convoy” and the other big adventures from ADQ— along with random encounter generators. But leave out the Sunday Drivers/Crash City scenarios– those are obsolete thanks to Starcraft.


4 responses to “The Perfect Car Wars…?

  1. Laminator_X March 14, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Hey there (should you become aware of replies to four-year-old post). I’ve been thinking along these lines as well. However, I don’t think GURPS is the best way to go.

    I recently played in a one shot Lord of the Rings game with some buddies, the recent one using Decipher’s Coda system. As I sat there rolling two dice and adding my skill, all I kept thinking “This would take just a tiny nudge to blend with Car Wars.”

    You’re dead on with the 3 phase movement and so fourth. I never had a huge problem with laser guidance, as I felt the high cost-per-shot ballanced it’s effectiveness well, but I suppose that depends on the budget you’re working in.

  2. jeffro March 15, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I haven’t seen the Coda system….

    (Thanks for dropping by… even if you’re 4 years late… ;))

  3. Laminator_X March 16, 2008 at 9:09 am

    They (Decipher) used it for their Star Trek and LotR games. Of course they’ve hit money troubles and development is basically suspended. A guy’s been putting together a leagcy reference (

    Very loose and flexible. Cinematic without being silly. I’ve been working on CW-ifying it for a week or so. I’ll let you know when I’ve got some results. I’m looking forward to being able to play without every crewman being an interchangeable component.

  4. Laminator_X November 18, 2008 at 9:15 am

    I finally took my franken-rules for a spin this past weekend, playing through a Chassis & Crossbow take on the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai plot.

    It was pretty wild. The Characters were very different. Differing social backgrounds and professions gave different flavor to characters beyond “Driver +1, Gunner.” The low-tech setting especially let them shine apart from the vehicles. Bar-fights, reconnaissance, snipers, and culture clashes all came into play.

    The finale featured villiagers pushing a semi-crippled luxury into firing position, and a character sacrificing himself to ram the bandit-leader’s RR-armed camper. (The RR was the only 2d weapon in the whole game. Everything else was giant crossbows, handweapons, light FT’s, and a few MGs and light rockets.)

    The rules themselves were sort of CODA-light with the numbers re-scaled to match CW’s numeric curves. If you’re interested, I’ll send you my notes once I pretty them up a bit.

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