Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

CAR WARS at “THe PLACe” Hobby Shop in Charlottesville, VA

I was asked to demo CAR WARS at a game store this week. After mulling over the various options, I finally decided to roll with my existing campaign system and house rules. 5th edition is cute, fast, and fun… but it simply doesn’t capture the totality of CAR WARS awesomeness– if people are going to judge the game based on a few plays, I figure they may as well get to experience the real thing with all the known issues already addressed. That mainly includes 5 phases for a goodly granularity, simultaneous fire for sanity, 5th edition fire rules for the fun of it, partial handling recovery to prevent D6 bends from happening every second, and a combined speed-range modifier because that’s what the game needs.

I didn’t spend a lot of time teaching the rules, but I did notice that people did not quite seem to grasp my inane mumblings about the handling track. Next session, I will carefully walk people through a three second drive so that they can clearly see the gradual recovery and the steadily increasing risks. The push-your-luck aspects of the game are a major part of what makes it so much fun. It’s like Farkel or Zombie Dice… but with lots of chrome layered on top.

I wish I had started the games a bit sooner now, but we all needed to chat and drink our sodas and stuff. I was glad that we got to see a full range of CAR WARS standbys, though: one car rolled due to wreckless driving, both a t-bone and a head-on collision were executed, and finally… a car demonstrated the basic tactic of running 5 mph pivots to keep a penetrated armor facing in sight. There’s a lot more to the game than just Killer Karts and Stingers, but if you haven’t seen and understood these basic moves, I don’t see much reason to dig into any of the more complex vehicle designs that use flame weapons, mines, and funky James Bond type gadgets.

People new to CAR WARS ask lots of questions about the back ground. They want to know all about Beruit, Star Wars, the civil war, the grain blight… everything! I required everyone to come up with a stage name for their characters just like current era wrestlers do and I explained how they hoped to make it big in what was essentially reality television “Thunder dome” death sports. When I awarded skill points for players that made their first to-hit and control rolls, they asked lots of questions about the continuing character rules and seemed to get even more attached to their personas. All smack talk was done in character.

Stock Killer Karts at Dumbarton

First round Killer Kart match: Elwood Blues discovers that speed kills while Grimm Nails pivots in order to win the match with continuous machine-gun fire through Dark Cowboy's breached side armor...

Here are the final stats for the night’s game:

The Dark Cowboy
Driver Skill Points: 1 + 0 = 1
Gunner Skill Points: 1 + 1 = 2
Prestige: -1 – 1 = -2
Killer Kart Event 3/30/2011: Drove around Grimm Nails at high speed… then got killed via continuous fire through the exposed side that had gotten t-boned.
Stinger Event 3/3/2011: Played chicken with Grimm Nails… then was killed by the resulting head-on collision.

Grimm Nails
Driver Skill Points: 1/1 + 0/1 = 3
Gunner Skill Points: 1/1 + 1/0 = 3
Prestige: 4 + 3 = 7
Kills: 2
Vehicles: One Killer Kart
Salvage: One Killer Kart (three hits to power plant, side armor destroyed, four shots fired)
Wealth: $385
Wins: 1
Killer Kart Event 3/30/2011: Won event by t-boning and ramming his own son after Elwood wiped out.
Stinger Event 3/3/2011: Called his son on his chicken gamit, scored a kill with the resulting head-on collision, then conceded salvage rights to Elwood. [Note: Another player finished out the game for Grimm’s player and when these results were reported the referee was asked that the 1 driver skill point and the associated 2 prestige points for this event’s kill not count for campaign purposes.]

Elwood Blues
Driver Skill Points: 1 + 0 = 1
Gunner Skill Points: 1 + 1 = 2
Prestige: -1 + 3 = 2
Vehicles: One Stinger
Wealth: $1054
Wins: 1
Killer Kart Event 3/30/2011: Rolled into the arena wall after executing sharp turns at 60 mph.
Stinger Event 3/3/2011: Won the event by default after Grimm Nails collided with Dark Cowboy.

Second round Stinger match: Grimm Nails prepares for a head-on collision with his son, The Dark Cowboy. Grimm chalked up his second confirmed kill, but conceded the match to Elwood Blues.

Dumbarton Amateur Night Salvage rules: Winner gets his car fixed up for free. “Hulks” may be traded for 10% of the value of the car if the duelist elects not to salvage it.

Skill point rules:

Driver: You gain one driver skill point per event if you successfully make a control roll in an event. You score one driver skill point for successfully killing an opposing car with either weapons fire or ramming.

Gunner: You gain one gunner skill point per event if you successfully hit an opposing vehicle. You score one gunner skill point if you kill an opposing vehicle with weapons fire.

Note: Duelist skills “level up” with each achievement of ten skill points.


4 responses to “CAR WARS at “THe PLACe” Hobby Shop in Charlottesville, VA

  1. Runeslinger March 31, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    It sounds like you made good use of your recent, frustrating con experience to set up and run a very good gaming experience~

  2. jeffro April 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Hopefully the players will agree with you.

    But yeah, I intentionally stuck with simple and identical cars as a result of the CAR WARS event at MACE and the BattleTech event at Madicon– a set of unusual designs favors the game-nerd far above the casual players… and (as I say above) the choices are laregly meaningless without a basic education with regard to the rules and design system in place for all the players. (Also, the designs are rarely balanced.) Also… con games largely ignore the rpg aspect of these games… and instead try to present a large, sprawling, chaotic “boardgaming” face. Finally… most rpg people tend to want to “waste” the first session with planning, character design, and so forth– while my theory is… even the simplest demo can produce colorful game-world background history.

  3. Runeslinger April 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    It’s true in my experience. Some of the most memorable sessions I have had with any new system tended to be those where we leapt right in with basic characters and let the dice, and resulting banter shape characters or spawn the desire for rematches/ongoing campaigns, etc.

    As long as it is abundantly clear from the outset what people are there to do (and a title like Car Wars is hard to misinterpret) time at a demo should be spent on using the basics of the game and enjoying a typical sample of what they have to offer.

  4. jeffro April 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    To improve the demo I should have done the following:

    1) Do not change vehicle designs or arenas if I happen to get a second game in. Just do quick instant replays of the key action and review the relevant rules underlying the game winning decisions before running the exact same car designs. (This assumes the crowd is all new players.)

    2) Three player games are not great; this is well known. Come with cycle sheets for a Pack Attack scenario where two of the players have to “cooperate” to take down the car. Note that… if players risk having to leave mid-game for whatever reason, this type of scenario is *much* easier for the referee to finish out fairly.

    3) Go ahead and explain the three ways players are likely to throw the game as “green” duelists: pushing HC to -6 at 60 mph for no reason, showing a weak facing to someone that can either tail you or pivot to keep it in arc, and (finally) capricious head on collisions. Don’t expect players to listen to this advice… but it is better for them to have a chance to avoid the mistakes the first time through than to expect to them to pick this up by playing five games. Understanding these as being game losing “un-tactics” is more important than them understanding any rules nuances. (Note: these points can be illustrated with “instant replays” from this pair of duels.)

    4) Use a small arena… but make sure there is some kind of obstacle in the middle. You don’t want any players spending half the game driving across the board– that’s idiotic in a six second event. But you also don’t want them just driving straight towards each other, either– some sort of bunker that can provide temporary cover and/or breaking of the line of site would be good.

    5) Mid-turn speed changes open up several key tactical possibilities in a Killer Kart game– it’s probably worth the hassel of laying that rule out early on.

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