Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Promising Duelist Meets Fiery End In Climax of “Best American Duelist” Season Finale

Ever since I was in the third grade– back when I bought the original Car Wars black plastic “pocket box”– I’ve always wanted to have a legitimate ongoing Car Wars character that worked his way up from nothing, through a series of Amateur Night events, and into a career as a professional duelist. I can now finally say that I have achieved this life long dream. Almost.

After playing 11 “team amateur night” events consisting of two teams of 4 cars each duking it out at the Armadillo Autoduel Arena, the Amex Proving Grounds, Southtown Autoduel Arena, the Rubberway, and the Waco Double Drum, we were ready for the season finale of our special American Idol style campaign. We’d each started 32 Car Wars characters in each of 8 Killer Kart events. We then played our best 8 characters in a Stinger round. The best four of those graduated to a Joseph Special event. Finally, we played a couple of side games to give some border lined characters a chance to squeak ahead– in each of a 3 player Stinger game, a 3 player division 15 game, and a special 2029 “Rush Hour” Firehawk scenario. Our continuing characters in the Division 15 event drove vehicles pieced together from their salvage– they took their heavily damaged Joseph Specials, removed the destroyed ATG and RL, and retrofitted 5 Killer Kart and Stinger MG’s into their place. Both of our characters damaged their hard earned vehicles and had little to show for it, but our best characters were now aces, just on the edge of getting new skill levels in Driver and Gunner, and ready to pick up their first corporate sponsorships for the pro duel circuit. All they had to do was survive the next event and they’d be tooling around the freeways in a nice easily modified luxury sized death machine!

So finally, eight Hot Shot’s rolled into the Double Drum and began firing at each other. I made an incredibly stupid tactical error. I focused my fire on my opponent’s tough front armor where he fired mainly against my weak side armor. I also fired MG’s more often than FT’s. In three seconds, Buck Lescinsky was knocked unconscious with a clean shot through his right side armor. In four seconds, Tanaka found himself with no right side armor and wide open to easy attacks. He jerked the wheel in order to get fresh armor facing his opponent, but lost control and rolled into the wall. After five seconds, Fernando’s power plant caught fire and all his vehicular weapons burned up along with what was left of his power plant. Finally… after six seconds, my best character took a double blast of flame thrower damage through the right side… and using an off-the cuff application of the fifth edition fire rules, we declared that she’d taken four or five fire markers as a result. We checked for explosion… and in the final second of our campaign, Yahoo McScandle’s care exploded in the most cinematic moment of our 15 games.

I was stunned. Not only had I been completely shut out of the final event (I’d hoped to pick up at least one Hot Shot as a salvaged kill) but my best character in all my years of gaming had literally just gone up in smoke.

I tried to be gracious, pointing out that my opponent had clearly outplayed me… and also… that for the characters to matter, death had to be a factor… and also… that so many of the characters had survived other near death experiences up until now. The exceedingly dramatic nature of the death was epic enough to make it worth it. (Wasn’t it?)

So long, Yahoo. We had a good run.

Yahoo McScandles
Pres 16 (Career high of 21)
Dr 10
Gn 9
HG 3
Kills 5

4/24/09 Team Amateur Night Game 12: Hot Shots at the Double Drum: Took a double blast of FT damage with at least four fire markers and then died in a massive fireball explosion.
2/14/09 Division 15 (3 Car Event): Custom Cars at the Double Drum: Drove a MG armed Joseph Special built from salvage. Narrowly survived driving over an Iron Horse’s mines, but was killed by a lucky shot while out of control.
1/17/08 Team Amateur Night Game 11: Stock Joseph Specials at the Double Drum: Yahoo crossed the Drum with Cornelius on his tail. Put paint sprayer on automatic. Ducked into the hideaway and stopped to take out a pedestrian shooting his SMG. Fired all RL ammo into Cornelius. Got out of reverse and slowly accelerated… finally killing Cornelius with an ATG shot. Cornelius’s car still got the head-on collision to take Yahoo down to exactly zero DP.
1/16/08 Team Amateur Night Game 10: Stock Stingers at the Rubberway: After a pass, her first opponent turned to go up a ramp, but because we came at each other from the left side of the map, we were both set up for such a turn. Because he rolled really poorly for his reflex roll, he went second… and Yahoo was able to turn with him—but on the outside! Yahoo turned in a little more to close the distance—at first just to try to get his target in arc for hits without the risk return fire. But then Yahoo rammed his opponent, knocking him off the ramp for a 12.5 foot drop with a 40 mph ram against the central platform to boot! It took him forever to cross the arena. Pastor Halfix had lost his power plant in an early pass and had coasted back into the action by cutting underneath the overpasses. Yahoo sped in, slowed down, and took him down with a final coup de gras.
12/29/08 Team Amateur Night Game 8: Stock Killer Karts at the Rubberway: Tailed an opponent early on… shot through the back to make a clean kill on the driver. Went up top as the last cars exchanged their weapons/vehicles. Slowed down to get back in control and was tailed by a weaponless opponent… rear ended and pushed across the board at 90 mph. Across the arena killed that the tailgating idiot, causing him to ram the wall at high speed in a spectacular crash.

Killer Kart salvage: 4 points armor damage (2 back, 2 left), 10 MG shots left. [Salvage Value = $3848 – 50 * 4 – 25 * 10 = $3848 – 200 – 250 = $3398. Cash value = $1699.]
Stinger salvage #1: No front armor, one MG destroyed, 3 power plant hits, and 11 shots left in his MG. [Salvage Vale = $5268 – 460 – 1500 – 250 – 9 * 25 = $2833. Cash Value = $1416.]
Stinger salvage #2: 6 hits front, 10 hits left, one hit to power plant, tire damage: (5, 3, 2), and 36 shots left. [Salvage Vale = $5268 – 460 – 50 – 4 * 25 – 3 * 100 = $4358. Cash value = $2179.]
Stinger salvage #3: One MG destroyed, 1 DP damage to remaining MG with 13 shots left, power plant destroyed, front armor destroyed, 1 hit to right armor. [Salvage Vale = $5268 – 460 – 1500 – 100 – 7 * 25 – 500 = $2533. Cash Value = $1266.]
Joseph Special salvage: No weapons or armor left. (A good power plant, though!) Tire damage: 3, 4, 5, 5. [Salvage Value: $10340 – 2024 – 2500 – 1350 – 650 – 400 = $3416. Cash Value = $1708.]
(Total Salvage Value = $3398 + $2833 + $4358 + $2533 + 3416 = $16538.)
(Total Cash Value = $8269)

Yahoo McScandal’s Customized Joe
(This car was built from the above salvage and somewhat damaged in the Division 15 event.)
Mid-Sized, Standard Chassis, Large Power Plant, Improved Suspension, Puncture-resistant Front & Rear Tires, Driver (Targeting Computer), front: 3 linked MGs, back: 2 linked MGs, right: PS, Armor F35, R20, L20, B20, T4, U10, Accel. 5, HC 2, 4797 lbs, $ 14994

10 responses to “Promising Duelist Meets Fiery End In Climax of “Best American Duelist” Season Finale

  1. earlburt July 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I didn’t know it hurt so much– you covered that well after that last game. At least it really was a tremendous cinematic moment. The three moments from the season that are likely to be most often replayed would be Hyena jumping into an abandoned and burning Killer Kart to take out an oppoent with the MG at Armadillo; Yahoo ramming one of my Stingers off the ramp at Rubberway; and Yahoo blowing up to end the season. Featuring in two of the three season highlights is pretty good.

  2. jeffro July 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    My characters demonstrating the 4 basic ways to lose at Car Wars was pretty bad. My best character blowing up was worse. BUT… it was cinematic as heck and an appropriate ending to a 15 game run.

    Best of all… we explored fully Steve Jackson’s original pocket box campaign assumptions– these were all but ignored by later generations of duelists.

    We also have full career and stat information for a successful amateur that *almost* became a pro. That’s valuable data from a world building standpoint.

    I’d guess that only one in ten duelists of this caliber go on to become successful pros. Of course… Yahoo was only one of 32.

    (If we do it again, I would keep the number of duelists on each team down to 10. That’d be easier to keep up with and there’d be more characters finishing the season with six or seven events under their belts….)

    • Matt V July 9, 2009 at 9:47 pm

      Also, what do you mean by this?

      Best of all… we explored fully Steve Jackson’s original pocket box campaign assumptions– these were all but ignored by later generations of duelists.

      • jeffro July 10, 2009 at 7:25 am

        There is an implied campaign structure and an implied world setting inherent in the very sparse rules of the original pocket box– IMO, it’s the sort of thing that sets Steve Jackson’s design skills apart from the follow up “splat book” people.

        Basically… it’s a game of slow skill development, high likelihood of death, free medical care, mediocre stock vehicle designs clashing in varied arenas, and an extremely slow climb from nothing to car ownership. And the car you end up with is not a perfectly designed custom masterpiece, but a hodge podge of whatever you can scrounge together.

        This is a very different sort of game than the usual “you have one hundred thousand dollars and six guys with one hundred skill points each”. (If I actually worked a character up to that level, I’d probably retire him!)

      • earlburt July 10, 2009 at 11:18 am

        To build on Jeff’s response, I’m not sure that Steve Jackson necessarily consciously thought out the impications of his system to the gameworld. That is, I’m not convinced that he knew that (or cared whether) the game he designed meant that in the implied universe behind it skill development would be slow and characters spend most of their time in the “rags” phase of the rags to riches timeline. By 1988 or so, players had already moved on to the corporate model of play, where all characters basically start at the “riches” end of that timeline.

        But whatever Steve’s level of awareness of it was, CW in it’s original form was a game where to go up a skill level, a character needs to survive about three to five duels, and do well in at least two or three of them. Given that the average duel probably had a 30-50% driver mortality rate, the odds of winding up with a beefy character are slim.

        In the CW universe, skilled duellists would not be common. They’d be big fish in isolated little ponds all around the country, whether as the local duelling club hotshot, a local bandit, sherriff, smuggler, pizza delivery man or whatever. The game mechanics of the early CW period lend credence to the tone of most of the fiction in the ADQ’s, which are generally tales of little guys, struggling to get through each day, winning small victories in a hostile world. Much more along the lines of, say, “Lonesome Dove”, than oh I dunno, say, “Star Wars”.

  3. Matt V July 9, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    The story of Yahoo reminds me of a scene in the movie Pulp Fiction where Butch the boxer “Bruce Willis” is talking to someone on a pay phone about killing his opponent in a recent boxing match.

    The person on the other line asks Butch how he felt about killing his opponent in the match.
    Butch replies “Hey screw him, if he was a better boxer he would still be alive, if he never laced up his gloves which he never should have in the first place he would still be alive.”

    I guess Yahoo should never have sat in the drivers seat.

    Great write up, I always enjoy them.

    Where are you two located anyway. I may have to make a visit to your area and play a few games.


    • earlburt July 10, 2009 at 10:22 am

      Yeah, that kind of blase view towards the life of one’s opponents is definitely part of the CW worldview. And really, that was a very non-lethal tournament. Of 64 original drivers, I think we only had half a dozen deaths. This was the result of our using a Gurps-type hospitalization saving throw system, whereby it was possible to go down to 0HP, or even a bit lower, and have a decent chance of surviving. It also helped a bunch that everyone had body armor, and almost all the weapons were only 1D. Still, had we used the strict CW rule that 0hp means dead, we’d probably have had about 40-60% mortality.

      And we’re in NC. I’m in Greensboro, Jeff is further west. CW partners would be great. The difference between a three player game and a two player is radical and much more fluid and fun.

  4. Joel July 11, 2009 at 8:08 am

    It sounds like your take on CAR WARS is very similar to my own. Too bad I’m out here in the Midwest. Have you had any luck playing via email or other long distance method? Darkwind just isn’t the same.

    • Matt V July 18, 2009 at 8:26 pm

      We were playing a game a week using Vassal online. Can’t seem to locate any of the old players now though. Any of you try Vassal?

      • earlburt July 31, 2009 at 11:21 am

        I haven’t yet. Vassal duels seem to take a pretty long time, from what I gather on the SJG boards. That’s ok in principal, but there are other things that compete for time. Maybe I’ll DL it and make sure it works for me, then maybe I’ll pay attention to when games are coming up on the boards.

        One thing that isn’t appealing is that I don’t especially get off on designing cars. And I especially don’t care for the later era of high-tech cars. I’d probably be more motivated to try Vassal if there were some old school Div 5/10/15 duels without a lot of fuss.

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