Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Wayne Hertz takes Armadillo: Bald Faced Cowardice for the Win!

** 2029 Campaign Games 20 and 21 (October 17, 2009) **

Note: Game 18 (the Grenadier Motors Sortie Trials) and Game 19 (Team Amateur Night at the Retama Duel Center) were presided over by Earlburt without me.


After rereading the CAR WARS Compendium, Second Edition, I realized that our sequence of play was not from any particular rules set, but was somehow mashed together from several different editions in order to make our own quirky off-kilter version of the game.  We decided to give the official rules a try this time.  As no edition of CAR WARS ever outlined a concise, step by step, sequence of play, I will post our reading of the rules here:

I. Roll reflexes before the game… and break all ties.

II. At the beginning of each phase, players may secretly and simultaneously declare speed changes.

III. Vehicles are moved when called… in order of speed from fasted to slowest. If any cars are going the same speed, ask each player from best reflexes to worst if they want to move. Drivers with better reflexes may pass, but the driver with the slowest remaining reflex cannot pass. Repeat that procedure until all drivers have moved. [Jeffr0 recommends that vehicles be marked with green dice representing to-hit penalties for hazards and maneuvers acquired during a phase.]

IV. If a vehicle fails a control roll, the crash table result takes effect on his next move BEFORE he executes his movement. Again, note to-hit penalties immediately and remember to keep them when a vehicle skids over a turn break. A vehicle cannot execute a mid-turn speed change while out-of-control. [Jeffr0 recommends that vehicles be marked with red dice representing to-hit penalties for being out-of-control.  Multi-phase to-hit penalties are marked with an extra black die representing the phase in which the penalty is removed.]

V. Players declare fire secretly and simultaneously. Results are applied simultaneously after all fire for the phase is resolved.

VI. At the end of the turn, all players regain handling status equal to their vehicle’s handling class. [If you’re following Jeffr0’s recommendation, then you will remove dice tallying to-hit penalties except those that are marked to expire on a later phase.]

There are a handful minor flaws in the game that are significant enough that I feel they deserve house rules to fix:

A. Handling status bonuses due to reflex rolls are pretty unfair and few players have used them in competitive play since the nineties.  Having the choice of when to move when two or move vehicles are moving the same speed is a significant edge without being completely overwhelming.

B. Declaring mid turn speed changes secretly and simultaneously is too much work.  I think it makes sense to allow players to declare them while they are making a move, but have them take effect after they complete their movement.

C. Front mounted ATG’s should not cause cars a D1 hazard when they fire them.  [Note: I don’t see this rule in the Compendium at all, though other duellists feel this is due to an editorial oversight.]

D. Vehicles with an HC under three should still regain 3 points of handling status per turn.  (HC 1 and HC 2 cars practically become un-drivable without this fix.  The cost savings of “bad” HC cars does not match the pain of the official penalties– and having just your maximum handling status be lower seems to be about right.  The HC of a car represents how much maneuvering they can do without going negative on their handling status.  Punishing HC 1 and HC 2 cars by requiring them to spend effectively forever to recover from dropping to -5 or -6 just doesn’t make sense.)

E. If vehicles are in position to fire, anyone can ask to switch to declaring fire with cards phase by phase.  (Some cards would have “no fire” on them, others would state a target.)  Otherwise, for each separate battle currently going on the board, the first person to declare fire first is the only one that may shoot during that particular phase.

F. The official speed and range modifiers should not be used.  A GURPS, Fourth Edition style combined speed/range modifier should be used instead.  We have a chart for this.  If time is running short, players may agree to just using the original -1 per full four inches and +4 for point-blank instead– ignoring speed modifiers all together.  (Our chart was rigged to approximate those original rules for the most common situations.)

G. A society capable of cloning would have an extremely effective medical technology.  As arena duellists are insured by sponsors and are likely to get immediate medical attention, they may save against death by rolling 3d6 and getting a result equal to or greater than the total damage done in the hit/ram that killed them.  If they survive, they are hospitalized for a number of weeks equal to the difference between the damage done and their saving throw roll.  Characters that are in a vehicle that explodes die immediately and do not get a saving throw.  Arenas should have a medical rating that serves as a bonus or penalty to the saving throw roll.  Note that this rule makes it nearly impossible to die from MG and SMG fire… while RR’s, RL’s, and especially ATG’s are dangerous.  [Perhaps laser damage should be halved and flame damage doubled for the purposes of making the saving throw?]

H. In order to equalize the value of Driver skill and Gunner skill levels, the driver’s Driver skill level should be added to the Handling Class of the vehicle directly.  Note that this will also increase the amount which the driver recovers in handling status each turn.

I. For our campaign, we operate under “stingy” skill point rules.  You have to actually do something to get the usual skill point for “entering combat.”  You have to make at least one control roll to get a driver skill point… or hit something to score a gunner skill point.  Duellists only score a single point for Driver if they successfully score a kill by ramming– in order to discourage excessive use of the tactic.  Finally, general skill points should not be used unless the referee chooses to do so in a role playing adventure.  (If characters need any of the specialist skills available, they can make sure they have a passenger seat for NPC’s with those skills to sit.  This game is about duelists, truckers, and cyclists– not body building special forces journalists!)

J. In executing skids, we play that you move the amount specified in the original direction of the car, then move one inch minus the skid amount in the direction the car is currently going.  This may not be the correct physics, but people seem to agree that this feels fairer than other interpretations of the rules.  Instead of applying to-hit penalties for being out of control until the end of the turn, we slap an even five phases of penalties on everyone starting on the phase that the skid/fishtail is executed.

K. We use the 5th edition fire rules.  They are infinitely more fun than either of the iterations that were used back in the eighties!

L. Some versions of the Amateur Night rules give all salvage to the winner.  We prefer to let each duelist salvage their kills.  This seems to encourage every one to take risks while going for a killing shot, but also encourages duelists to preserve the dollar value of the vehicles they’re shooting at.  Also… every body has a chance to take some salvage money from the game.

Whew!  That covers both the sequence of play and our house rules.  I feel it is important to review both now because the new duellists that have joined us deserve to have this all laid out clearly.  Also, those that are playing along at home can play the exact same game we do by using the above along with the CAR WARS Compendium PDF that has recently become available on e23!

GAME TWENTY: 23 Apr 2029 Four Killer Karts at the Armadillo Autoduel Arena

Our first game for the day was going to be a plain vanilla Killer Kart affair.  We had two more-or-less new players that needed to experience the canonical entry level dueling scenario of the game… plus we kinda like old school dueling.  Here are the characters that were playing in the event:

This was Alonzo Swartz’s (played by Jeffr0) second duel at Armadillo.  In his previous event, he successfully killed on opposing Killer Kart, but was rammed to death a second later.

Snake Pliske (played by Mike) previously was the gunner in a Bombardier in a team amateur event at the Retama Duel Center.  He successfully killed an opposing Hot Shot by setting with on fire with heavy ATG fire to the power plant.  After exchanging fire with the opposing team’s Bomb, he was rammed and then pinned to the wall by the now weaponless vehicle.

Eagle Claw (played by Bill) was engaging in his first autoduelling appearance.  He’s not really a Native American… he just thought it’d make him sound cool.

Bipitie Bathhurst (played by Earlburt) is also returning to Armadillo for her second event there.  Previously she drove a Killer Kart in a four-on-four Team Amateur Night Event.  Her car was killed by MG fire, she caught fire, and she was injured after bailing out.  She also was an SMG toting foot soldier in the Grenadier Motors Sortie Trials in Fort Worth, Texas.

Duelling Facts:  Alonzo Swartz participated in the same duel in which Pastor Molestor Halifax heroically fought on foot with hand weapons after being “killed”, refused to surrender to opposing vehicles, shot an opposing vehicle while taking three full seconds of MG fire and even a ram, killed the opposing vehicle and set it on fire… then… miraculously pulled his opponent from the flaming wreck, saving his life.  Halifax was killed in his second team amateur duelling event by Snake at the Retama Duel Center!  (Solemn voice over while the clips are played: “We’ll never know how many more lives he might have touched with his ministry of God’s love and the purifying clarity of death sport.”)

We rolled randomly for our gates.  That put me facing off against Eagle Claw on one side of the arena while Snake and Bipitie drove in towards each other at the other.

Eagle Claw hit me in our first pass doing four points of damage to my front.  Another 4  point hit would take out my machine gun!  My shot missed badly.  Things did not look good for me, but having better reflexes I was able to cut hard to the left without tipping my opponent off as to what I was trying to do.  The following turn, Eagle Claw slowed down– he didn’t think he could make that sharp of a turn at forty miles an hour.  Elated, I turn sharply again to position myself right behind him and going the same speed.  This required two control rolls: one for the bend maneuver and one for the deceleration.  I made them both, then declared fire on my opponent’s three points of back armor.  The to-hit penalties were not that bad on the following phase and I managed to pull it off.  I rolled a five for damage– just enough to knock my opponent unconscious.

On the other side of the arena, Snake and Bipitie exchanged fire and each did minor damage to each other’s front.  Snake sideswiped Bipitie for two points of damage as they passed.  Bipitie cut sharply to the right and then went straight for a phase in order to clear the movement penalty.  Snake was crossing Bipitie’s “T” and I couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t turned sharply as well to bring his weapons to bear.  He didn’t have a chance to fix it, though.  Bipitie struck and the damage penetrated Snake’s right armor and knocked him out.

Bipitie and I then accelerated towards each other for the final pass.  As we closed, we both missed shots to each others’ fronts.  On the next turn we closed to point blank range and exchanged fire simultaneously.  Bipitie missed while I hit….  As this was the side that had gotten sideswiped, it didn’t take much to penetrate.  Damage (again!) went directly to the driver and knocked her out.

This was, intentionally, a very quick game.  It only took 45 minutes to play out.  I don’t think it was quite fair for Earlburt and me to get to face off one-on-one with relatively new players– we had previously played eight four-on-four Killer Kart team events and had a tremendous advantage because of that.  We could have perhaps rigged the game such that Earburt and I took each other out before dealing with the other players, but I’m not even sure the new guys would have accepted such an offer.

Final stats for the event:

Alonzo Swartz– Driver Skill: 0 + 3 = 3, Gunner Skill: 2 + 3 = 5, Kills: 1 + 2 = 3, Prestige: 3 + 10 = 13, Wealth: $5,343 in salvage money from three Killer Karts

Eagle Claw– Driver Skill: 1, Gunner Skill: 1, Prestige: -1,

Bipitie Bathhurst– Driver Skill: 0 + 2 = 2, Gunner Skill: 1 + 2 = 3, Kills: 0 + 1 = 1, Prestige: -1 + 1 = 0, Wealth: None, Salvage: one Killer Kart (2 shots fired, no right armor, 2 hits damage to left, 1 hit damage to front)

Snake– Driver Skill: 1 + 1 = 2, Gunner Skill: 33 + 1 = 4, Prestige: 4 – 1 = 3, Kills: 1, Wealth: $1150, Salvage: None

GAME TWENTY ONE: 23 Apr 2029 Four Acme Chimaeras at the Armadillo Autoduel Arena

Four drivers were given the chance to try out Acme’s new 2029 Chimaera.  While costing less than seven thousand dollars, the vehicle manages to feature a different weapon on every facing.  Its light armor could not survive a pair of its own heavy rocket hits, but once they’re shot, they’re gone.  The drivers were unprepared to fight with primarily side mounted weapons.  While all of us could destroy any other car with a single point blank pass, none of us were eager to divest ourselves of our deterrent.  (FNORD Motors currently has litigation against Acme for the use of the name, Chimaera.  FNORD has previously marketed a Hot Shot variant under that name featuring heavier armor, two front mounted RL’s, two rear mounted FT’s, and an MD with an extra magazine.)

Mid-Sized.  Standard Chassis, Medium Power Plant, Improved Suspension, Heavy Duty Front and Rear Tires.  Driver, front: 3 HR, left: VS, right: FT, back: PS, 2x Weapon Link (2 or 3 HRs).  Armor F15, R15, L15, B15, T8, U8.  Accel. 5, HC 2.  4193 lbs, $6916.

Here is the run down on the drivers competing in the event:

Wayne Hertz (played by Jeffr0) narrowly survived a four car melee in his first event.  (It was the same Killer Kart event that Alonzo Swartz and Pastor Hallifax participated in.)  After losing his side armor to a shot fired by a heavily damaged vehicle, he set himself up for the final “joust” style pass of the match with the only remaining survivor.  His opponent missed while he in turn rolled a natural twelve!  In a four-on-four Stinger event at the Rubberway, Wayne was killed by Ho Ho Gingwain after a major skid put him into the worst possible position.

Angelo Mozillo (played by Bill), a new driver.

Laser Bob (played by Earlburt) was returning to Armadillo after being killed there early on in a four-on-four Killer Kart event.  He also carried an SMG in the Grenadier Sortie trials.

Ricky Bobby (played by Mike) was the driver of the Bombardier that famously killed Pastor Hallifax.  Before that, he drove a Sortie in the Grenadier Motors trials in the ruins of Fort Worth, TX.  He earned a small bonus for fancy action there.

Random starting positions ended up pairing Laser Bob with Angelo Mozillo on one side of the arena… while Wayne Hertz tangled with Ricky Bobby at the other.

Wayne drove straight into the arena so as to hug the mall as he closed range with Ricky Bobby.  Ricky displayed a little more panache: he drove such that he could get a shot of with his vehicular shotgun while Wayne’s weaponry was all out of arc.  Ricky then turned so as to get his flamethrower set up for a shot on the following turn.  Wayne and Ricky exchanged flamethrower fire for three full seconds before passing each other by.  Wayne manage to hit and roll fairly good damage every single time, while Ricky missed consistently.  This brought Ricky’s side armor down to only maybe six points or so….  In spite of Wayne’s above average damage rolls, no fires were started.  Wayne did not want to close to point blank range with anyone just yet, so he triggered his rear paint sprayer.  Ricky’s flamethrower was outside of its effective range, so this was perhaps a wasted effort, though it maybe encouraged him to temporarily give up the chase and head towards the other duelists….

Meanwhile, Laser Bob was giving Angelo Mozillo a hard time on the other side of the arena.  Laser Bob was hitting more often and also scoring damage.  He set two fires, but they both went out quickly.  Angelo Mozillo then failed a control roll and ended up skidding towards the wall.  This put him under some pretty strict to-hit penalties at a really bad time.  Laser Bob continued to harry Angelo Mozillo with flamethrower hits… and the D2 hazard caused by a particularly fearsome six point hit caused a fishtail that would keep Angelo Mozillo underneath a horrible to-hit penalty for the rest of the game!

Ricky Bobby then arrived to the scene.  Strangely enough, Laser Bob chose to fire at Ricky instead of Angelo Mozillo.  The hit dropped Ricky’s handling status ever so slightly.  Then…

Laser Bob T-boned Mozillo!  The damage was enough to take out the remaining facing armor for both cars.  Laser Bob’s heavy rockets each took one DP of damage.  Angelo Mozillo and his power plant each took a hit of damage… but then we rolled to see where the odd damage point would fall and it went to the driver.  Angelo Mozillo was unconscious!  The first kill of the game….  Ricky Bobby sped past the collision and triggered his paint sprayer for cover.  Laser Bob… now without any front armor… closed in menacingly.  Ricky executed a minor thirty degree bend away from the arena wall, but the D1 difficulty dropped his status enough that he was required to make a control roll.  He failed the roll and entered a spin out.

Laser Bob, undaunted by the bright pink paint clouds, continued to close.  The spin out, however, brought Ricky Bobby’s rear in contact with the arena wall.  He was now stationary– with his rockets facing his opponent!

Laser Bob and Ricky Bobby exchanged rocket fire simultaneously.  Laser Bob fired two rockets and hit with both.  This was enough to destroy the power plant and put Ricky Bobby in the hospital for nine weeks.  Ricky Bobby had fired all three of his rockets, but only one hit.  It was enough to knock Laser Bob unconscious, though… and set his car on fire due to power plant damage.

Unaware of the events on the other side of the arena, Wayne Hertz continued his multi-second drive towards the grandstands as the crowed booed him and opened up with small arms fire.  Wayne gets to keep the car, but… it is imperative that he participate in some seriously aggressive combat soon in order to retain some semblance of honor.  The fact that he was taken down by a *girl* in his last game does not help him much right now– this guy is in for some serious razzing.

Final Stats for the Event:

Wayne Hertz– Driver Skill: 1 + 0 = 1, Gunner Skill: 3 + 1 = 4, Kills: 1 + 0 = 1, Prestige: 6 + 3 = 9, Wealth: After salvaging his Killer Kart and Acme Chimaera, he has $5,157.

Angelo Mozillo– Driver Skill: 1, Gunner Skill: 1, Prestige: -1

Laser Bob– Driver Skill: 1 + 2 = 3, Gunner Skill: 1 + 3 = 4, Hand gunner Skill: 1 + 0 = 1, Kills: 0 + 2 = 2, Prestige: -1 + 6 = 5

Ricky Bobby– Driver Skill: 3 + 2 = 5, Gunner Skill: 1 + 2 = 3, Kills: 0 + 1 = 1, Prestige: 2 + 4 = 6


The big lesson this time was that Amateur Night events work better if they are either in a much more confined space or if there are lots more cars involved.  The new guys got stuck facing off against an old grognard in both of their games this time as well.  If I could do this over again, I would have perhaps played the Killer Kart game with each player having two cars each… and the second game I would have confined to one end of the arena.  Also, four players seems to be just about the perfect number of players for a CAR WARS role playing adventure: a set of ongoing characters pooling their funds and setting off to battle outlaws with only having had a handful of amateur duels in which to scrape together some random low end vehicles?  Perfect!  (Say… if Wayne and Alonzo get together, they could probably get a Conestoga station wagon….)

We did run a complete duel with four players in forty-five minutes– with the full-on Compendium rules at that.  That was pretty cool.  A Killer Kart event at J. Random Arena seems like the perfect way to kick off just about any game session.  Flamethrowers and Paint Sprayers saw a lot of use in the second game: I really like breaking the dropped weapons counters out like that.  If the arena had been really small we might have filled the entire place up with smoke in five seconds, though….

This was my second session using mid turn speed changes.  I sort of dreaded those because I thought they would over complicate the sequence of play.  It turns out that they are not hard to adjudicate– especially if people are restricted to calling them when they are executing their movement.  The rule gives the feeling of a lot more control– you can break exactly when you need to, for example– and it takes out the blocky low-res feeling from the turn break.  Similarly, being fastidious about applying to-hit penalties from weapon hazards means that people are much less likely to fire on phase five and then immediately follow up with fire on phase one of the next turn.  Making a point to apply to-hit penalties for crash table results likewise adds a lot of flavor to the game, and makes losing control at low speeds a lot more dangerous to boot.

As far as tactics are concerned, free for all duels appear to fall into a pattern of individual and group passes… some of which end up in entanglements that last longer or are more decisive that what the participants expect.  Before now, I referred to these intense short range melees as “fur balls”, but black holes may be a better analogy. Duelists think they can slingshot around the worst of a fight, but they too often come too close and get sucked into a terminal orbit of sorts.  The ram option and the point blank fire bonuses are the culprits here.  You need to close in order to obtain these benefits, but your opponents get them as well.  Making things worse are the feeding frenzies that are spawned when a vehicle is damaged or off balance enough to appear to be an easy kill.  Reckless driving and greed are more dangerous than enemy bullets.  The lust for easy salvage, prestige, and kills overwhelms the average duelist’s strategic impetus to hold back so as to gang up on the less damaged “leader” that happens to be staying out of the blood bath.  The logic of the knife fight must be followed to its bloody conclusion… and only taunting, honor, and pride can be counted on to keep wimpy duelists fully engaged in the blood letting.

With an influx of new players, our campaign is getting a second wind.  We had tried playing a classic corporate style campaign at first, but allowing me to design cars every game was not good for Earlburt’s chances.  The prep work of vehicle design was hard on family guys like me as well.  We then tried another set of six game sessions, with Earlburt running a team of characters rpg style.  We ran Convoy, the big Midville scenario, and Badlands Run.  I ran out of steam on that one when I let Earlburt pick up his second $100,000 adventure completion prize.  Looking back at the games, the most fun we had was in the simplest situations– salvaging a laser from a wreck, then defending it in a Pack Attack scenario… or chasing down a van that dinged your car in a parking lot.  I think we sort of agreed that stretching out the climb from nothing to owning a $20,000 car was where we wanted to focus our next series of games.  We played an impossible series of twelve four-on-four team amateur night events after that: eight with Killer Karts, two with Stingers, one with Joseph Specials, and one with Hot Shots.  Only the best duelists got promoted to the better cars in the later rounds.  By factoring out vehicle design and big money, suddenly… the focus of our games highlighted the significance of a dozen oft-overlooked minor rules.  Instead of being “car design snobs”, we evolved into “arena aficionados.”  We could never convince ourselves to make the move to 3D layouts and model cars after that because we just loved laying down a new map and seeing who could figure out the key tactics for it first.

You can control how much money is being injected into a campaign by controlling the dollar value of the cars that compete in the Amateur Night events.  Any character that can survive five duels is likely to own a cheap car, be an ace, have a sponsorship, and also will probably have advanced to Gunner-1.  Something strange and cinematic is likely to have happened to him as well.  This iterative process of developing a character through arena combat yields an unexpected amount of color, in my opinion.  The fact that the other guys in the game group actually witness such things transpiring (as opposed to just rolling them up) makes it even better.  We haven’t yet made the leap from Amateur Night combat into Role Playing with any of these characters, but I look forward to doing so soon.  There are few things more fun than getting to drive around in a pimped out stock car that is loaded with weapons that you’ve physically taken off of your arena kills yourself.

For myself, I have always wanted to work up a character from nothing through the original default rags-to-riches campaign premise from the CAR WARS pocket box.  (I was very close to achieving this with one character, but totaled his $15,000 car in one game and got him blown up real good in the next.)  At the same time, you don’t want new players to have to compete with advanced characters.  In order to play in whatever event ends up on the schedule, you’ll need characters with appropriate levels of experience and that live in similar regions.  As a consequence, each player ends up developing a small troupe of characters.  As a rule of thumb, your worst characters are going to be stuck in the cheap Killer Kart events while your better characters have a chance to drive the more expensive cars.  I’m not sure how we can handle the transition to running “pro” events.  I would want $15,000 to buy a car and handle repair costs before I stuck my neck out in a series of Division 5 games.  It could take several sessions to get everyone up to that level!  Sponsorships are the key to making it possible for pro duelists to handle their expenses and stay in the game, but rules for that were never really developed in the old game.

Anyways, we’ll see how things transpire.  That’s all for now… until next time, keep on dueling!

6 responses to “Wayne Hertz takes Armadillo: Bald Faced Cowardice for the Win!

  1. Jimmy Anderson October 21, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Very cool write up! The FAAAAANTASTIC ad is one I’ve never seen before… :)

  2. jeffro October 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I remember it from the Doppelganger issue of ADQ with that awesome Denis Loubet cover…. Good stuff!

    I think every one of my friends got that deluxe edition back then. It was a very big deal.

  3. Martin October 31, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Great read. Your enthusiasm for the game really comes across well and is contagious. I’ve just started playing again after 20+ years!

  4. jason walters December 9, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    hey, i thought that i would tell you that i have a link on my blog that i did in the side to this site and here is the link if you want to see what i am up to. very cool stuff and making me want to break out cars wars again very soon.

  5. JellyfishGreen January 14, 2010 at 8:23 am

    My toddler was making Heavy Machine Gun noises and suddenly I had to get an idea off my chest! In arena games with fixed budget, as at a con, the GM could have a number of pre-rolled pre-named mercenary gunner (or driver) characters for hire. Of course this money comes out of your car budget; minimum bid $1000 and highest (sealed-bid?) bidder wins.
    To differentiate them you might give one a specialty (+1) in machine guns, another specialty in lasers, etc. Similar to the Infernal Bazaar in Solium Infernum (

  6. Michael P. Owen February 15, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Steve Jackson Games has posted all of the Car Wars articles from the electronic version of Pyramid Magazine on its Web site. These articles include Uncle Albert’s 2050 Catalog Update, a document previously available only to subscribers of Pyramid. Visit the SWAT Pyramid Magazine Car Wars Article Index to access these files.

    SWAT HQ – Links to Links – Car Wars Articles in Pyramid Magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: