Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Car Wars I Never Knew

In the latest MADHAT Car Wars podcast, Jimmy Logan asks, “what are HTM’s?”  Me, I have no idea what the answer to that one is….  I presume it must be a part of the Car Wars I never knew.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s some sort of tricked up power plant accessory that resulted in numerous rules changes and arguments at the national championships….

I notice that most newcomers to the game are directed to buy something called Compendium 2.5 and Uncle Alberts Catalogue from Hell.  (A guy just wrote to the MADHAT podcast to say as much.)  I also notice that most of the designs floating around on the web utilize Tanks era equipment– and the 1 space/2 die HMG weapon in particular.  I see this sort of thing and feel distinctly out of touch.

For me Car Wars was all about the development of the game from the Pocket Box to the first Deluxe Edition to the two Compendiums.  It was about incredibly cool products that made me jealous when my friends owned them but I didn’t: products like Dueltrack, the Uncle Albert’s Catalogues, The Combat Showcase, and the ADQ featuring Microplanes.  (Of course, the compendiums included most of the material I was too cheap to buy, so us cheapskates had our day eventually….)

The Car Wars material from the latter days generally suffers from lower production values and a diffused emphasis.  During the first five years of ADQ, the game was about duelists, cycle gangs, highways, truckstops, and interesting folks in a rugged future.  Even critics like Herb Helzer would get caught up into thinking about the consequences of the setting and future history.   In the last years, “Road Warrior” style role-playing content dissipated and we mostly got articles centered on boats, planes, and tanks.  You know… material that had little or nothing to do with… CARS….

As I said, I feel a bit out of touch with Car Wars fandom.  Am I the only one out here that’s obsessed with the iteration of the game that folks like John Nowak wrote for and played to death?


2 responses to “The Car Wars I Never Knew

  1. Herb Helzer June 19, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Wow, it’s been 23 years since I wrote in to ADQ, along with a Road Atlas entry for Fresno, California (my first published work outside of my college paper).

    Thanks for the shout-out! I hadn’t thought about Car Wars in a very long time, so rereading this stuff brought back memories — even the long letter criticizing my letter was fun (Hovel & Garden? Pedestrian World? Cute…).

    You’re absolutely right — for the first few years the Car Wars future history was minimal, and wide open for interpretation and argument. Eventually, as happens to all games with a backstory, things got complicated as more and more writers and designers weighed in and more niches were filled (the boats, planes and tanks you referred to). It’s about that time that I lost interest in Car Wars and went on with my life (I didn’t give up on gaming, though).

    Anyhoo, glad someone away from the big boards (WOTC, EnWorld, KenzerCo, etc.) is keeping the torch of gaming fandom lit. Thumbs up, Jeffro!

  2. jeffro June 20, 2007 at 7:44 am

    Yeah, the Herb Helzer plausibilty proto-flame-war was great. Much better than the later and much more brutal Leslie Fish anarchy flame war. (Even then we had all of the joys now associated with internet message boards– but at least much of the pointless stuff got edited out.)

    It’s a bit sad how things ended up in the end, but at the same time, people were sending letters in asking about Tanks from very early on. (As a fourth grader, one of the first things I did after buying the pocket box was to carefully cut out a home-made tank counter out of five-sqares-to-the-inch graph paper. Go figure.) By the time they gave us what we thought we wanted, we’d mostly moved on…. It was a good run, though.

    I looked up to the mostly older and savvier crowd writing in to ADQ back-in-the-day. You guys were sorta the cool imaginary big brother types for me. Of course, nowadays our age differences aren’t near as significant as they were then, but it’s still cool to hear from those folks today. Thanks for writing in, Herb.

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