Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Four Killer Karts Set Fire at the Amex Proving Grounds

We played the third of our series of 14 planned Amateur Night games this weekend. Last session, in the first round of the 4 on 4 Killer Kart events, we’d disliked the way that the teams drove in formation for the first several seconds. In the second game we’d disliked the way that ramming became the key tactic.  By taking note of several easily missed rules and moving to the Amex Proving Grounds arena, we hoped to get a more interesting and cinematic event. It turned out that the rules changes would overcompensate somewhat, resulting in surprisingly large impacts on the tempo and tactics of the game. But even with power plants getting set on fire almost every turn, the game would still take almost 3 full hours to play out.

The Amex Proving Grounds is a single map sheet sized arena with four corner sections and a central cross shaped area with a TV bunker in the middle. We agreed to enter in pairs in the four gates with each vehicle heading into a corner. I thought this would result in four separate dog fights in each corner, but what happened was that all four pairs kept driving right past each other to meet up with a second head on pass against a second vehicle. (I actually made a silly error on the first turn– I ended the round with two of my cars unable to target their opponents. This essentially gave the enemy drivers a free shot; this didn’t turn out to me significant, though.) Because of this style of opening, we essentially had a dry “die rolling competition” during the first few turns.

One of my opponent’s cars took a tremendous amount of damage in these first few seconds and caught fire due to power plant damage. Lucky shot! On the other side of the arena, two cars met at 30 mph. (Under these rules, the sweet spot for any weapons fire is the sides of the cars. With only three points of armor there on the Killer Karts, you have a chance of taking out the car with a single hit!) The two cars traded shots to the sides at point blank range. I turned to the right sharply to head towards the TV bunker and the other cars. My opponent immediately turned the same direction and pulled right next to me. I think the very next turn he went ten miles per hour or so and ended up half an inch ahead of me. I went 5 mph and pivoted toward him, getting a chintzy free shot in with some slightly heated discussion about how exactly this should have played out. The next second, I stopped while he pivoted. The second after that, I went in reverse and got in another free shot in.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the arena, two high speed passes were going down. All four vehicles took power plant damage and we all had to check for vehicular fire. Each of us lost a car because of fire! I angled two of my surviving cars against one of the survivors and did minimal damage while taking a lot stray hits. Our SMG armed pedestrians left their flaming wrecks after taking a point or two of fire damage to their body armor. They braced themselves against the arena walls and fired at enemy vehicles. These were essentially free shots doing a point or two of damage– the peds weren’t worth targeting if an actual car was in arc. (My opponent said several times that he actually felt safer out of his car!)

My pink Killer Kart (the one that scored the first lucky kill) hurtled across the arena and took a point blank shot at the enemy vehicle that had been pinned early on in the game. A point blank hit through the side resulted in another vehicular fire. The single point of fire damage at the end of the turn was enough to knock the driver unconscious. We agreed that the driver had somehow managed to throw himself out of the car even though it didn’t make much sense. Other than him, the event was fairly safe. (Playing some of those overlooked rules makes for amateur night events with much higher survival rates.)

This left three vehicles on my team to take down the remaining car. A lucky shot by even the pedestrians could kill one my cars, though, so we still had to carefully play out each phase for a few more seconds. I regrouped and repositioned for the final shots. The yellow Killer Kart that had gotten tangled up in the low speed dog fight got the lucky shot that knocked the last driver unconscious. This would be the only kill that was not caused by vehicular fire.

The rules changes had a tremendous effect on the game. We’d agreed not to reset handling tracks each turn. This eliminated the annoying D6-right-angle-maneuver-every-single-second approach that we’d seen in our second Amateur Night event last session. We also drove slower– and as a result, no one died due to a wipe out on the crash table. Any time we did an extreme maneuver, we had to go straight for a full second afterwards in order to get back in full control. This leads to combats that are less like a WWI dog fight and more like a series of high stakes “jousting” engagements.

The other big rules change was to play the 1 in 3 chance of vehicular fire each time the power plants took machine gun or submachine gun damage. This ruling would obscure all other tactics in the game. At the same time, it actually increased the chances of the duelists to survive the event. If your car caught fire, you simply got out of your car. This led to many a pedestrian picking up a prestige bonus even after effectively being taken out of the game.

There were a few minor rules that we still managed to mess up this time. We were probably adding back the reflex bonus to handling status each turn when we should only have been adding back the HC of the cars. Also, it’s -2 to hit the side of a vehicle when you’re not in that side’s arc. (We’d been playing just a minus one penalty.) Finally, to prevent the argumentative simultaneous action type arguments like the one we had this game, we should move vehicles going the same speed in the order of their reflex roll results– with ties being broken before the beginning of the event. (Oh yeah, and we need to fix that infamous missing column five on our speed/range chart.)

The only tweaks I’d suggest for the next game would be to possibly a) Move the useless top and under Killer Kart armor to the vulnerable sides, b) Give the drivers the use of a portable fire extinguisher (along with their BA and SMG) for the duration of the event, c) Use a larger and asymmetrical two map-sheet sized custom arena, and/or d) Possibly switch the ammo to just ten shots of high density rounds. We should also comb back through the Compendium 2e for any other obscure rules that we should try to remember. We should test out the entire set of rules one more time… and then we should lock it all down for the next four duels. These radical changes from one game to the next have to stop!

We are steadily moving our game to a more-or-less “by the book” Compendium 2e approach. The only real difference is that we’re using a GURPS style combined speed/range modifier. (We feel that the official 2e rules for this give way too much of a bonus for high speeds. Our rules give more of a flavor like the original pocket box rules: -1 per full four inches (more or less) but with an extra -1 or -2 due to higher speeds. The biggest difference in the new rules is that you don’t always get a sure hit anymore on those point blank shots– unless your target is a “turtle”….) The only house-rule that came up for discussion during this game was to change the d6 roll to check for fires to a 2d6 roll with different targets for each weapon in the game: MG’s should be less effective than 33% and should certainly be less effective in starting power plant fires than, say, an RR. Also, Lasers should be less effective than flame throwers.

Here’s the results for my four winning characters which all have base level skills in Driver, Gunner, and Handgunner:

“Green”– Elroy McKnightridge
Prestige: 3
Gunner Skill Points: 1
Handgunner Skill Points: 1
Notes: 3/7/08 Amex Proving Grounds (KK)– Vehicle caught fire after two high speed passes against enemy Killer Karts.

“Yellow”– Arnold Schlamer
Prestige: 5
Kills: 1
Driver Skill Points: 1
Gunner Skill Points: 2
Handgunner Skill Points: 1
Vehicle: Killer Kart with 1 hit to power plant, 1 hit to front armor, 1 hit to right armor, and 2 hits to left armor.
Salvage: Killer Kart with 2 DP left on MG, 1 DP left on power plant, and no front, left, or right armor left.
Notes: 3/7/08 Amex Proving Grounds (KK)– Through devious rules lawyering and general sliminess, Arnold managed to “pin” an enemy Killer Kart. He effectively got two free shots at his opponent, even though it was a teammate the put in the killing blow. Arnold did however get the final lucky shot in that ended the event.

“Blue”– Buck Lescynski
Prestige: 5
Kills: 1
Driver Skill Points: 1
Gunner Skill Points: 2
Vehicle: Killer Kart with 3 hits to power plant, 14 shots left in MG, 2 hits to right armor, and 3 hits to left armor.
Notes: 3/7/08 Amex Proving Grounds (KK)– Buck set an opponent on fire during his second pass in the event. He failed to get any decisive hits in for the rest of the event.

“Pink”– Marla Zuckerton
Prestige: 7
Kills: 2
Gunner Skill Points: 3
Vehicle: Killer Kart with 12 shots left in MG, 3 hits to front armor, 1 hit to right armor, and 2 hits to left armor.
Notes: 3/7/08 Amex Proving Grounds (KK)– Scored first blood in the event by setting an opposing car on fire with a lucky shot. Crossed the arena at high speeds to nab a kill out from under her teammate, Arnold Schlamer.

4 responses to “Four Killer Karts Set Fire at the Amex Proving Grounds

  1. Brian Kelly March 17, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Hey Jeffro,

    I posted about 4 years ago (!) about playing some Car Wars 5th Edition with my friends. I’ve been getting the bug to play again (and more) so I’ve been re-reading the rules and writing up some cheat sheets to help the game go smoother. Hopefully we’ll be playing in the next week or so. I also finally ordered the Division 10 and 15 sets to get some more cars and turning keys.

    The idea of creating some “How To Play Car Wars 5th Edition” videos (on YouTube or a video podcast) crossed my mind last night and I was curious what you thought of the idea. Could it possibly help get more people playing the game? Is 5th Edition even worth explaining?

    And even if it did help bring more people to the game, I think Steve Jackson would freak over copyrighted information anyways.

  2. jeffro March 21, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Hey Brian; good to hear from you again.

    5th edition was a pretty fun game, in spite of its flaws. It got me playing again, anyway. But it really did die a miserable death in the depressed gaming market of the 21st century. I don’t see how any sort of fan efforts can do much to resuscitate it.


    The best use of your time, IMHO opinion, is in establishing solid long running campaigns.

    In the aftermath of 5th edition, I went back to playing monster Old School Car Wars games with a fellow grognard. I attempted to explore many of the role playing aspects in the game for a while, then melded the two themes in my recent 2029 Team Amateur Night series. (Just played another event last night and then again this morning. Woo-hoo!)

    (The current crop of online gamers seem to be more into the high end $30,000 ultra pimped out car designs in funky events. You can track them down on the SJ Games forums.)

    I agree that copyright problems could be an issue, but I think I’ve seen GURPS stuff on the web explaining combat examples step by step. They don’t give the whole game away, of course.

    Good luck in all of your future Car Wars endeavors!

  3. Pingback: Armadillo Autoduel Action! « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

  4. COCO February 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Have you had a look at this game ?

    I apologise if anyone else has bombarded you with this info .
    But we have many of the components of a CW campaign in a MMOPTBG.


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