Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

5th Edition: Dragon Lightly Kills Light Strike

My eight-year-old son noted the other day that we hadn’t played CAR WARS in a long time, so this weekend we broke out the 5th edition tote to see how it would go over. He knows how to read now and actually understands the nuances of a game like Ingenious, so I was hoping he’d have a little more grasp of what was going on. I let him pick the cars for the fight: he chose the Dragon for himself and selected the Light Strike for me.

CAR WARS 5th Edition

Second pass: Lightstrike exchanges a blown tire for two fire markers and a chunk of front armor.

The fifth edition of CAR WARS was not well received, but really, if there was anything they could do to make the game more accessible or faster playing they did it. The movement chart is gone thanks to a switch to a three-phase upscaled system. The remaining charts fit on the turning key. Ram damage was changed to 1D6 for each ten mph of speed and weapons fire hazards were reduced to D1 for each full ten points of damage. It’s a lot easier to get around in the game because (as in the original pocket game) handling status is reset at the end of each turn and (as in ADQ’s Advanced Maneuvering System), 15 degree bends are lowered to D0. The delightfully clunky reflex rolls are gone… and to get people in play quicker, the lowest acceleration is now ten miles per hour. Any rule I ever had an argument about was eliminated in its entirety… including speed modifiers and penalties to to-hit rolls for maneuvering and taking hazards.

The Dragon is probably one of the best cars in the Division 15 sets. Twin heavy duty flame-throwers (which can be front mounted now) are pretty fearsome. The Light Strike has a pitiful medium laser… though it is harder to hit one. That’s really the only edge it has except for the extra armor. I chose to drive it as a tire shooter in order to spice up the game.

CAR WARS 5th Edition

Head on Collision: that "insignificant" fire damage means that the front weapon and driver are toast.

The first couple of passes were pretty tough for me. I took withering damage to my front and took on two fire markers that I couldn’t shake off. Against the tires, I missed once and rolled a two for damage another time. Finally, I took out both a tire and a wheel in once shot after blowing out one of his other tires. I figured I had the game in the bag at this point, but my son limped around and after we exchanged fire one last time, he managed to ram me for 43 points of damage. Thanks to his solid hits to my front and the five points of burn damage I’d racked up, I was toast.

So my son is back in the game with his new character “Bob Bob.” He’s got two driver skill points, two gunner skill points, and three prestige. He’s got a patched up Dragon ready for another round. (If someone ever reworks these 5th edition designs, the Light Strike needs to be seriously revamped if the Dragon is not toned down a bit. The Dragon really shouldn’t have that ultra-low profile, in my opinion. If my son saddles me with this car again, I think I’ll go with the Pure Energy variant for a little more of a slugfest.)

My son doesn’t quite have a grasp of how much to push his luck in the maneuvering system. He really liked being able to shoot something on the phase following a pass– not being able to fire every single phase is not something he’s taking to. Probably the perfect car for him would have a gunner, a turreted weapon, a ram-plate, and a variety of secondary weapons around the other sides. Rolling the big mess of dice at the end of the game was, I think, the highlight for him– especially since it won him the game…!

It’s hard to believe, but he is almost as old as I was when I first bought the CAR WARS black plastic pocket box. I used to feel bad about having bought it and then taking years to figure it out… but even with me here coaching him, he’s a good ways from being able to take it and run with it.

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3 responses to “5th Edition: Dragon Lightly Kills Light Strike

  1. RogerBW November 14, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I think my objection to CW5e was twofold:

    (1) the big scale. I’m in the UK, and many of us don’t have huge tables. Even the old scale sometimes led to running out of space; with the new one I’d be limited to very close-quarters fights. Not so bad for the arena, but for a highway duel with real weapons?

    (2) no design system. I like being able to customise units.

    (2a) nothing but cars – which means nothing but arenas, really. I can see that they didn’t want to go the way of Aeroduel and Boat Wars all over again, but I’ve always found random highway combat at least as interesting as arena fights.

    If what you want to play is small-scale arena fights with pre-built cars, it’s certainly not a bad system…

    • jeffro November 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

      I like that in the 5e Arena Book and the 5e Design Guide, they included a counter not just for each vehicle, but each variant as well. Of course, that only made the fact that they did not do that with the base sets that much more conspicuous. (Presumably, to hobble the game so that people would be “forced” to buy more books to get a more-usual 4-6 player game out of it.)

      CAR WARS is, in my mind, first and foremost a role playing game, even if 80% of the games actually played are arena duels. I could deal with losing the design system if the vehicles had been more balanced and/or presented more interesting tactical mismatches. Finally… the extreme variety available to anyone with a pack of CAR WARS blank map sheets is not to be underestimated. No support for road adventures, minimal arena variation due to scale/table issues, and too many “turkey” vehicle designs make for a very lackluster game when compared to the original.

    • Johnny Mnemonic May 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      What broke it for me was no grid. It just broke the suspension of disbelief; also it was hard to keep straight.

      Without looking at a map, it just looked like you were pushing counters around a table and were absolutely dependent on the turn counter instead of being able to fudge and “even out” to the lines.

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