Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

All-Day CAR WARS Action

Suffice it to say, this was a very special game session for me. I hadn’t gotten to play five-player CAR WARS since I was in high school. MattV travelled all the way to North Carolina from Maine to join us. Der GrossFahrer had bought the game back in the eighties, but never played until now. Bill isn’t even a gamer, really, but was a good sport while we hashed out crash table effects and to-hit modifiers. By all accounts, a good time was had by all. (All of you, I owe y’all each a hefty algae based alcholic beverage. You are all great!)

As far as we know, the world’s three biggest fans of the game were finally gathered together in one place. Earlburt had his map collection laid out around the room. We all gathered around the Autoduel America map sheet to review the background history of the setting. I had my nigh-complete run of ADQ on hand and MattV showed us his miniatures and his Vassal map for a Japan-based scenario. To our knowledge, ours was the only ongoing old school rags-to-riches campaign currently being run in the entire world.

MattV kindly gave me a copy of the Hobby Japan edition of the Armadillo Autoduel Arena. This thing is awesome– the cover art is fantastic. Thanks, Matt!

Without further ado, here is a complete run down of the day’s games:

*** Campaign 2029: Games 16 & 17 ***

The first Amateur night event featured four Arden Motors Barnabas compacts at the Grand Rapids Municipal Arena. This is a single map sheet sized arena with four barrier “stripes” in the middle that block line of sight for everything except turreted weapons. We played CAR WARS Compendium, Second Edition with 5th edition fire rules and a combined speed/range chart derived from GURPS 4e rules. MattV suggested we allow mid-turn speed changes and Earlburt eagerly assented.

Barnabas , designed by Jeffr0
An Arden Motors 2029 release that was discontinued when the company folded after its headquarters were looted by a mass cycle gang attack late in the year.
Compact, Standard Chassis, Medium Power Plant, Heavy Suspension, Puncture-Resistant Front & Rear Tires, Driver (Targeting Computer), front: RR, right: HR, back: SD, Armor F37, R25, L25, B30, T10, U10, Accel. 5, HC 3, 3697 lbs, $ 7932

A full view of the Grand Rapids Municipal Arena. Id drawn up that map after getting a free copy of LOutrance with my all-new Deluxe Edition back in the nineties, but wouldnt play on the map for over ten years.

A full view of the Grand Rapids Municipal Arena.

I started across from MattV and turned away from him and put the spike dropper on automatic while I drove through a “tunnel”. This took me out of the action temporarily. Earlburt came from the other side of the arena to tangle with MattV. They got in close as Earlburt pounded Matt with his recoilless from behind– but MattV’s spikes were on automatic and deft maneuvering on his part put Earlburts’s tires in trouble. Earlburt managed to complete the kill by taking out the driver with a shot through the side armor in spite of Bill and Jeffr0 driving by and toying with “vulturing” it from him.

After that, I went to deal with Bill. I hit his front armor and rammed him, taking out his front weapons. I couldn’t pursue him without risking spike damage and I didn’t think I had enough ammo left to work though another facing. When Earlburt started taking MattV’s body out of his car, I drove over to point the RR at the wall behind him and threatened to take him out with the burst effect if he didn’t leave the car alone. Bill ran up the clock at that point and left the arena when the gates went up.

Earlburt (Grey) was imobilized by MattV's spikes, so he'd gotten out of his car to try to get into MattV's still driveable wreck. Jeffr0 (Blue) has just taken out Bill's forward weapons, so he rolled over to the two cars, covered them with his recoilless rifle, and threatened to take out Earlburt's continuing character if he didn't leave that car alone.

We play that you keep your car if you can drive it out– and also, you keep your kills as salvage. Here are the stats for each character:

MattV — Deceased

Bill — 1 Driver skill point, 1 Gunner Skill point, 1 Prestige point. One Barnabas (no front armor, RR destroyed, one hit to power plant, HR expended, SD has six shots left).

Earlburt playing Luc Gumberry — +1 Driver skill point, +2 Gunner skill points, +2 Prestige points. One Barnabas (2 hits to front, no right armor, HR expended, SD empty, RR has nine shots left, tires each took two points of damage). [Luc had previously scored one kill at a Killer Kart event at the Amex Proving Grounds. Before this event he was Prestige 1, Driver Skill 2, and Gunner Skill 2.]

Jeffr0 playing Elroy McKnightridge — +1 Driver skill point, +1 Gunner Skill point, +2 Prestige points, +1 Event won. One Barnabas (no front armor, RR has six shots left, SD has six shots left, HR is expended). [This was Elroy’s second outing after a lackluster event at the Amex Proving Grounds. He had three prestige points from that event along with one Gunner Skill point.]

Der GrossFahrer showed up with the pizzas and we took a break to look around at the various map sheets Earlburt had brought for show and tell. The Autoduel America road map continues to be a favorite– so much history and detail to discuss looking at that one…!

Our second event featured five Arden Motors Lothario sedans at the Kettering Arena. Earlburt had gotten an artist to shade the gravel for us, so the map looked fantastic. The smaller size and the lack of barriers made it much harder for the amateurs to flee and run up the clock.

Lothario , designed by Jeffr0
A popular vehicle commonly seen in the Free Oil States in the late 2020’s.
Sedan, Heavy Chassis, Large Power Plant, Heavy Suspension, Puncture-Resistant Front & Rear Tires, Driver, front: ATG, right: 2 HR, back: RR, Weapon Link, Armor F41, R30, L30, B35, T10, U10, Accel. 5, HC 3, 5604 lbs, $ 12508

Our randomly assigned start positions turned out to match our existing seating arrangement exactly. Der GrossFahrer started in the middle at any facing he desired, tires squealing. (We decided it would be cool to let the guy in the middle get a smoke cloud behind him to disuade folk from ganging him.)

Der GrossFahrer cruised across my arc of fire. I shot at him with my ATG and missed. Earlburt cruised toward him next and (as usual) he set up a perfect shot and connected. If I remember right, Der GrossFahrer smacked him back with a pair of heavy rockets. The table then had to endure a constant stream of remarks about the efficiency of German engineering. Earlburt’s smack talk then goaded me into firing (and missing with) my second round of ammo at him.

On the other side of the Arena, Bill hugged the wall and stayed away from the gravel while ducking behind the TV bunker for cover. Bill was taunted mercilessly for his no-so-brave slinking around. MattV headed toward the bunker for a face off with him. An ugly mess of rockets and ATG fire was exchanged, but Bill managed to disengage and cut across the arena away from the mess that was developing.

Bill (Green) speeds away after trading shots with MattV (Red). Earlburt (Grey) bears down upon MattV after successfully hitting both Der GrossFahrer (Black) and Bill with precision ATG fire.

Bill (Green) speeds away after trading shots with MattV (Red). Earlburt (Grey) bears down upon MattV after successfully hitting both Der GrossFahrer (Black) and Bill with precision ATG fire.

Meanwhile, Earlburt closed in for a set of opportunistic shots against both Bill and MattV. Due to his superiour timing, he connected with each shot. Arthur dove into the “cubby” behind the TV bunker. I then caught up with MattV and dealt him a ram followed by an ATG shot. Things didn’t work out as I had planned– MattV’s rockets destroyed my front armor! Earlburt was then in position to steal the kill from MattV with a lucky shot. MattV had almost no armor left on both of his sides and I was on fire because of the power plant damage I’d taken.

This photo was taken just seconds before Jeffr0s car exploded. Jeffr0 (Blue) had tried to ram MattV (Red), but ended up on the side of the car with the heavy rockets. With heavy damage to his front armor, it was trivial for Earlburt (Grey) to damage Jeffr0s power plant and set it on fire. Earlburt is recovering from a spinout and Bill (Green) has just killed MattV, though Der GrossFahrer is about to set him on fire with heavy weapons fire. Bill will only narrowly escape death.

The Meltdown: This photo was taken just seconds before Jeffr0's car exploded. Jeffr0 (Blue) had tried to ram MattV (Red), but ended up on the side of the car with the heavy rockets. With heavy damage to his front armor, it was trivial for Earlburt (Grey) to damage Jeffr0's power plant and set it on fire. Earlburt is recovering from a spinout and Bill (Green) has just killed MattV, though Der GrossFahrer is about to set him on fire with heavy weapons fire. Bill will only narrowly escape death.

In fear of taking explosion damage, Earlburt jerked the wheel to get away. He failed a control roll and began spinning out, but as his speed was pretty low, he wasn’t in danger of wrecking too badly. MattV accelerated away from Earlburt to try to get away from him. Der GrossFahrer showed up and everyone told him that Earlburt was an easy target because he couldn’t shoot back. Der GrossFahrer ignored our advice and let him be so he could swing away from the action for a few seconds. Bill took a sharp turn to come after MattV. He lost control and spun out as well. Bill and Earlburt both regained control, though… and somehow had their guns pointed in the right direction. They’d both achieved inadvertant bootlegger reverses!

Bill gunned MattV repeatedly and was threatening to take him down completely. The smell of blood sent Earlburt into a frenzy and instead of targeting the bigger threat, he focused his fire on MattV as well. Earlburt succeeded in stealing the kill while Der GrossFahrer managed to take down Bill. (Bill had to crawl from his own flaming wreck to survive.) The heavily damaged Earlburt fled from the fierce German competitor that never seemed to miss to-hit rolls and that always rolling high for damage rolls. A few well placed shots to Earlburt’s rear armor was enough to take him out of the game.

Final stats for the game:

Bill– 1 kill, +2 Driver skill pont, +2 Gunner skill points, +1 Prestige point. One Lothario (No front or rear armor, 21 points left on front, RR gone, power plant has five dp, eight rounds left in ATG, HR’s expended).

Der GrossFahrer– 2 kills, 3 Driver skill points, 3 Gunner skill points, 4 Prestige points, 1 Event won. One Lothario (power plant has eight DP, ATG has one round, R 8, L 15, F 34, T 10, U 10, four damaged tires 8/7/7/2 dps left), one Lothario (tires damaged with one hit each, front has 18 hits, left has 13 hits, right has 18 hits).

Jeffr0 playing Bobby Drake — Deceased. [This was Drake’s second duel. In his previous event, he scored no kills in a Killer Kart event at the Rubberway.]

MattV — 1 Driver skill point, 1 Gunner skill point. Hospitalized for one week.

Earlburt playing Joseph Apronfields — deceased. [This was Apronfields’ second duel. In his previous event, he’s wrecked himself in a Killer Kart event at the Southtown Arena.]

Note that, with two vehicles each in their possession, both Bill and Der GrossFahrer can salvage one of their cars to repair the other. They may risk those cars in a role-playing adventure, or bank them in order amass funds for a professional dueling event.

Before the next game we want to review the crash table results and especially the durations of the various targeting penalties as these are key. We will also introduced a new “save versus death” rule– roll higher than the damage roll that killed you on 3d6 to survive.

Game Over: Der GrossFahrer puts Earlburt out of his misery. We wondered why Earlburt was running away, but checking later we noticed he was down to a single shot of ATG ammo.

Game Over: Der GrossFahrer puts Earlburt out of his misery. We wondered why Earlburt was running away, but checking later we noticed he was down to a single shot of ATG ammo.


Once again, it appears that symmetry is the enemy of exciting autoduel action. Grand Rapids Municipal arena would probably be more fun with cars that have turret weapons, but that first game was hampered somewhat by having the four players break off into paired combats. I thought the armor was a little bit heavy for the event, but Bill said he enjoyed having to really work for a kill by making three or four successive hits. (Of course, he was still alive after losing his weaponry, so it’s no surprise that he felt that way!)

Kettering was a much more successful event, in my opinion. The pairs of heavy rockets added a lot flavor and inspired a lot of smack talk. The more confined space kept everyone together. The fifth combatant threw everything off balance and shredded the last chance for any boring symetrical activity.

I think the preference for compacts and subcompacts hurts the tempo of typical Amateur Night games. That extra -1 modifier for a small target really changes the game in a bad way. The perfect amateur duelling vehicle will be a mid-sized car and have linked weapons. (Linked weapons increase the likelyhood of killing a vehicle that has lost an armor facing.) To spice things up, there should be room for heavy rockets, dropped weapons, or a rear mounted flame thrower as well. Armor should not be maxed out– the chassis should probably be light or standard sized. Side armor should be intentionally kept light so that the people that make kills have a higher chance of picking up a driveable car. An acceleration of 10 would be a big plus, as well.

Finally, sponsors might outfit cars with equipment that the duellists won’t get a chance to keep– this can allow for interesting designs while still keeping costs down for the arena managers. Also… sponsors will probably hand out special favors to duellists that use their equipment in a creative way. For instance, rocket manufacturers might hand out $500 for dealing to killing blow to a car using a pair of heavy rockets. Also, if the duellist rolls double his prestige or less, the manufacturer offers to sponsor the duellist permanently by paying for his heavy rocket reloads at any major truck stop.  The sponsors will be more likely to reward duellists that get their hardware on the evening news!

7 responses to “All-Day CAR WARS Action

  1. Timeshadows September 15, 2009 at 11:39 am

    This post cheered me greatly.
    –I’m glad you guys had so much fun.


  2. Earlburt September 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    The 1st match in Grand Rapids was still quite fun. Having Matt actually score a kill with his spike dropper was worth it right there.

    I agree that comps and subs impede the flow of what should be a quick and dirty Amateur Night death fest. They’re cheap though, so they do make sense used in that capacity. In-game logic aside… low armor, high damage mids with no frills (like fire extinguishers) are the way to go.

    And I’ve always wished that the CW universe was populated by more light and std chassis vehicles, and by more normal and improved suspension. I mean, in real life, people buy totally crappy cars and are motivated largely by price when it comes to car shopping. I don’t think the consumers of the 2020s and 30s will be any more wise or forward-thinking than those of today.

  3. jeffro September 15, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I can go with light chassis equipped cars… but if HC 2 cars only gain back 2 Handling Status points per turn, then I won’t run them.

    Perhaps the HC 0, 1, and 2 type cars should gain back 3 handling status points per turn… but still have their maximum status remain at their usual levels. I’m not sure that the rulings made in the Deluxe Edition had these sorts of cars in mind– especially given the fact that Haring was so keen on raising the average speed of dueling vehicles!

  4. Matt V September 16, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Guys, meeting up with you two Car Wars fanatics was the highlight of my gaming career, seriously. I had a super time playing and talking about Car Wars. You two take this game to a whole other level and it makes me enjoy it all that more.

    We as players select cars more for playability than what actually would have been. We want constant action and a fast playing experience. Both compacts and low HC cars go against that as there are more misses with compacts and much more large looping turns with low HC cars. Both these things wouldn’t make a difference for people watching a match in real time, in fact longer duels may have led to more anticipation for the final climatic moment which was enevitable.
    On the road HC may not have been as important as in an arena as there isn’t as much turning. So there is a good chance that cars would have saved the money for other things, dropped weapons or armor or weapons that would ward off attackers. Most drivers on the road were looking to get away or survive from an attack, I don’t see HC being more important than other things in doing so. You can get quite a bit more armor for the money saved on not upgrading HC.

    I did like both games equally. Both had a different feel, and both had different tactics to think about.
    I’d really like to play a game where it means something and a time limit isn’t important. I wonder how our tactics would change.

  5. Rich May 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Just got back into some offensive driving after not having played for 25 or so years. The good ole boys of Indiana shot it up with Div 25 vehicles, using the old rules. We used the Evansville 4-way, with no shooting till your first lap is done. Everyone sped around the track on their first lap to get a chance to shoot at someone without getting shot back at. One guy even blew a tire pushing it too hard. Six players, race went 5 laps, and there were still four mobile vehicles when the winner crossed the finish line. Those mid-sizes in Div 25 can take a heap-o-punishment. Can’t wait till the next time I go down home and try again. Really enjoyed hearing your game and glad people are still at this game.

  6. PatG October 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I’m getting back into Car Wars after a 20+ year absence. Reading these reports has been very enjoyable.

    Perhaps the chassis and bodies could be donated/specified by sponsors with everything else provided by the arena or player budget. That way you get your sedans (or luxuries) with decent HC and no to hit minuses

  7. Earlburt October 8, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I have had a bit of a change of heart about suspension. Decent HC is pretty important for the game to flow smoothly, at the meta-game level. I think my designs from now on will generally favor improved or heavy suspensions, even for low-end autos.

    And Jeff and I have codified handling recovery as always being at 3, even if base HC is lower (or higher).

    As for an amateur Night appropriate midsize, with ok damage output (enough to be interesting), low to moderate armor, and possible 10 accel, the price range is pretty much going to be $6-8K. That’s a little higher than I’d like to see a generic arena-provided car to be, but it’s not expensive by any means. And the price jump is worth not having the -1 to-hit penalty for a sub or comp.

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