Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

CWQ&A: Why do You play CAR WARS on a grid?

Erik Twice writes, “I noticed that you seem to use a grid to play Car Wars. Why don’t you use a turning key to play it, or rather, do you use both a grid and a key when playing? Why?”

I use turning keys for all maneuvers. The use of old school maps with the grids is usually because of one or more of the following:

  • nostalgia– it’s just an arbitrary tradition to some extent
  • it is easier to make hand-drawn arena maps on a grid
  • straight-line movement and range determination is easier to deal with in some circumstances
  • purists like me play only with Denis Loubet painted counters on vintage maps most of the time anyway
  • ramps made with grids on them demonstrate Pythagorean triples in a rather striking way

This is an example of someone using an upscaled grid with a super-sized turning key!

From a game mechanic standpoint, the grid really doesn’t do much– although fishtails are technically implemented via the grid all the way up through Compendium second edition. It is the one remaining artifact in those rules from the dark days before the turning key. (See page 14 of the CAR WARS compendium from e23 if you don’t believe me!)

If I upscaled to 3x Hot Wheels games, I would probably be too lazy to draw all those grids. Surprisingly… a significant portion of people who do upscale make giant-sized grids to play on. That strikes me as taking things a bit far, but it does illustrate how many long-time CAR WARS players get unaccountably attached to their grids…! (You can see more of Michael Owen’s epic CAR WARS pics of upscaled grids and Hot Wheels cars over on his flickr stream.)

Note that, if you’re looking for an original turning key that is 100% compatible with your Compendium Second edition, the best place to get it is actually from any of the editions of Boat Wars. Not only do they have double-sided turning keys, but they can also be gotten on the cheap because nobody plays with the boats! (The big box version actually has two single sided and one double-sided turning keys.) Of course, all the 5th edition Division Sets came with a large Hot Wheels scale turning key… and most old Deluxe sets came with a couple of small-scale turning keys. Both of those will have slightly different difficulty class markings for each maneuver that won’t be consistent with your rulebook.


4 responses to “CWQ&A: Why do You play CAR WARS on a grid?

  1. RogerBW January 16, 2012 at 5:24 am

    I think you’ve covered my reasons – tradition, convenience. (And, given the lightness of the card, it’s handy to be able to say “hang on, before you sneezed we were there“.)

  2. Erik Twice January 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Hey, thanks for the post!

    It’s true that fishtails are handled with the grid, which is rare considering how everything else isn’t! Not that it’s a big hassle, I plan to upscale the game already so it’s just a little bit more work here and there.

    I was surpsised, I took the manual to a local convention where they play nothing heavier than gatewy eurogames and many recognized Car Wars! It truly was popular and I plan to get it back one explosion at a time =P

    In the end, I think I might try using a grid in my next game to see how it goes. I’m not in a hurry, Micromachines don’t grow in trees! :)

    I specially dig those upscaled Car Wars pics you linked to, they look so much fun just resting there!


  3. Austin Searles February 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    hello all – The Pic shown and the photo stream from “owenmp” is of my set up. Why did I put in the Grid? well there is defiantly the nostalgia of it. but there is a more practical reason and that is time and speed of the game. I build sever levels with my set up and a turning key is not always easy to apply. Being able to align to the grid does speed up the game play. I run a allot of New People through Tournaments. Having the grid is a Huge Win for them as well. They can see future moves easier and play better relating to a much better “first time” experience.

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