Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

GURPS Autoduel: When Steve Jackson Pulled Out All the Stops…

Denis Loubet got tapped to do the cover for GURPS Autoduel. It is maybe not as iconic as his cover for the Deluxe Car Wars box set. Nevertheless, it is the right cover for what this was. The focus, of course, is the duelist character… standing in a world in flames. But the game isn’t just about the people– a pack attack combat rages on the bottom third of the image. This perfectly encapsulates the product: you get fully realized characters with a lot of detail, but you also get a complete Car Wars game built on top of the GURPS game engine.

The Car Warriors supplement would follow very much the same approach. Its single-color cover was a bit tacky, but this style would be repeated many times again with the large-sized ADQ and the later, more magazine-like Roleplayer. But just like the GURPS Autoduel cover, you have invididual duelist characters taking center stage… and yet you still have an actual road duel getting played out in about the bottom third of the picture.

Each of these products came with a full sheet of counters. GURPS Autoduel had turning keys, Cardboard Heroes, a smattering of Car Wars sized counters, and… almost unbelievably… two GURPS scale car counters. And just to show that the last thing there wasn’t due to a moment of overzealousness, the Car Warriors book brings on huge counters for a trike, a pickup, a bus, and a couple of cycles. (The tripod MG, the tripod RR, and the LAW were a nice touch, I have to add.)

The  joyride was short lived, however, as these would be the last time that 5x scale Car Wars counters would be produced. Admittedly, playing out battles with them was quite unweildy. But the worst thing about it was in that they didn’t quite match up with the Cardboard Heroes. While it never took off, I have to admit… there was something pretty cool about dropping these full-sized counters onto the GURPS Basic Set hex map. Granted, you couldn’t move more than a car length… but it really communicated the change in scales in a way that a Car Wars player could relate to…!

Opening up the Car Warriors supplement, you see fully statted character sheets for all of the counters that were released in Cardboard Heroes set 18. This was a smorgasbord of Denis Loubet art. The characters are given the exact same treatment as Dai Blackthorn, Corwin Bearclaw, Robyn of the Meadows, and Katrina from Basic Set. The vehicle designs are all adapted to the GURPS Autoduel system, but with record sheets done in the style of The Combat Showcase.

That is, probably, the thing I like best about these supplements. There was no question which way was forward. No, you just take every cool idea that Steve Jackson ever had and you put them all together at the same time: Car Wars, GURPS, and Cardboard Heroes. That they literally dripped with Denis Loubet artwork was the icing on the cake. There was just no doubt that Steve Jackson Games was pulling out all the stops to make the best gaming products that they possibly could. But this high-octane conglomeration couldn’t last. Car Wars and GURPS were about to go their separate ways. The Carboard Heroes line was about to go on hiatus. Denis Loubet, even, was about to move on to other gigs.

When the third edition version of GURPS Autoduel got put together during the nineties, all of this stuff got relegated to the past. GURPS Vehicles was the hot new thing at that time, and the game systems had diverged so much at that point that there was no need to include even just the turning keys. Times had seriously changed. But I never get tired of looking at these old products that were being made when Steve Jackson Games hadn’t yet nailed down their formula for the GURPS line. I don’t know what might have been– and of course, the market probably made it clear which way they should go– but just the way that they synthesized every awesome thing that they could come up with into one package amazes me to this day.

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7 responses to “GURPS Autoduel: When Steve Jackson Pulled Out All the Stops…

  1. Charlie Warren June 24, 2013 at 8:09 am

    I remember those early days of GURPS fondly. I had GURPS Autoduel and Man to Man at the time. I really miss the old black boxed set of GURPS. I have not looked at 4th edition at all.

    • jeffro June 24, 2013 at 8:15 am

      I enjoy the Fourth Edition rules a lot. They work really well at the table. (You just have to be disciplined enough to pull a subset of them out for your game.) I just wish I could have them with second edition style packaging and artwork.

      • Charlie Warren June 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm

        Cool. What are the absolute must have books for Fourth Edition if I wanted to run fantasy? Yes, the old packaging and artwork was freakin’ awesome!

      • jeffro June 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

        Basic Set is all you need to start. Find out what the table “wants” before you go throwing new books at it. Low Tech, Dungeon Fantasy, and Martial Arts all have their fans. I would try using just the minimal spell system and the advantages from Basic Set before getting GURPS Magic. If you genuinely want MOAR! then peruse Powers and Thaumatology for rolling your own stuff. Basic Set is so powerful and effective on its own, though. It’s hard to believe but it really is all you need for a huge range of games. (And you don’t have to learn all the extras at once, either– they are generally set up as Encyclopedias of Gaming that you can use piecemeal or as a reference.)

  2. Charlie Warren June 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks! That is good to hear. Some of the genres needed a lot of work with some of the old editions of the Basic Set. I am glade to hear that Fourth Edition is pretty much all you need.

  3. owenmp June 26, 2013 at 10:18 am

    The GURPS Autoduel Designer’s Notes article in Autoduel Quarterly Vol. 4, No. 4, written by Scott D. Haring, is a nice explanation of the gaming mechanics of GURPS Autoduel First Edition.

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