Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Category Archives: Boardgames

Tabletop Glory with Formula D

In the first place, tournament grade board gamers are cold-hearted, merciless lot. They play flawlessly, too. They’re quick to read the board and they just don’t make blunders. The kicker, though, is that racing games are doubly brutal. You might lead the pack, but everyone trailing you has every incentive to take on risks that can propel them ahead. You’re just not going to walk into a convention and do well against these people unless you’ve played the exact game hundreds of times already.

I sat down at the Formula D heat anyway. I’m not even clear on the finer points of the rules, so I was doubly out of my depth. The game is rightfully a classic, extremely accessible to all ages and yet difficult to master.

Somehow I got the pole position. This was actually bad for me because I couldn’t copy other people’s moves! I drove through the first three turns like a maniac, burning through my tires and wearing out my brakes. I was still in the lead, though… but then I missed a roll with exactly the wrong amount. It was extremely unlikely… but it was just enough off to send me into a spin-out.

Somebody at the other end of the table piped up: don’t have to worry about him anymore!

An absolutely crushing remark that put me way down on the tabletop hierarchy. It rolled right off of me. See, this isn’t 2016 Jeffro we’re talking about here. This is 2018 Jeffro… whose very brain has been rewired to accommodate his top lobster mindset. That tail-flick reflex that would normally steer me safely away from conflict and potential humilation? It was nowhere in sight. Flushed with high levels of serotonin, I calmly set myself to taking consistent, moderate risks with essentially no margin for error. And over the course of the two lap game, I found myself passing one tournament-grade player after another until I was in second place.

I was barreling toward the penultimate turn of the game. I needed to land inside it in order to maintain my position and threaten to win. It came down to a two-in-three chance that I could pull it off. If I’d had more of the brakes that I had carelessly spent it the opening phases of the game, it would have been far more likely to succeed. But I throw the dice… and I find myself spinning out for the second time in the game.

It was still awesome. Guys at the table that might have looked right passed me congratulated me on my climb from total irrelevance to “my gosh, he could actually pull this off.” I wasn’t going to the final on this one… but I was awash in a feeling of tabletop glory anyway.

Clawing my way up through this particular bucket of crustaceans was flat out exhilarating.

More CAR WARS Kickstarter News!

More odds and ends so that you don’t miss a thing:

  • Wired’s Geek Dad is a CAR WARS fan and is promoting the Kickstarter here. When you go over there, go ahead and subscribe to his blog so that you don’t miss his upcoming Retro Review of everybody’s favorite game of vehicular combat!
  • Kenneth W. Scott is on board with the Kickstarter– autodueling fans will remember his hovercraft designers notes and his overview of the changes that were made when the 2nd edition Compendium was released. He also put together the second vehicle guide which is available here.
  • Andrew Metzger was one of the more prolific contributors to Autoduel Quarterly back in the day. He has purchased one of the $4,500 Ogre counter sheets– stay tuned for more information on what units it will contain and how to get a copy!
  • CAR WARS fans are coming out of the woodwork to buy t-shirts— and in some cases, people are buying shirts for their entire AADA dueling clubs! (There’s even some indication that the infamous River City Autoduel Association may reform…!)
  • Okay, it’s not a done deal, but we are clearly on track to have a CAR WARS Kickstarter in 2013. Time to party like it’s 2039!

Kickstarter CAR WARS May Be a Refinement of Compendium 2.5

This image came from the survey in Ogre Kickstarter Update #27,

When the Ogre Kickstarter first began, there was a surprising amount of people clamoring for CAR WARS to get the same treatment. It looked to me like when it was indicated that the project would develop from the ill-fated 5th edition of the game that the talk of CAR WARS rapidly tapered off in the Kickstarter comments and on Board Game Geek. A few ardent fans of the old game argued a different point of view and it appears that the folks at Steve Jackson Games are considering all of their options as can be seen in the CAR WARS stretch goal on the Kickstarter front page:

$700,000 – Drive Offensively! We will launch a Kickstarter project for Car Wars! We *think* this will turn out to be a refinement of Car Wars Compendium 2.5, but you’ll tell us. Our supporters at the [new] $23 level and higher will be invited to join an exclusive Car Wars forum, where we’ll build the new edition from the ground up – issues like “which classic cover do we use?,” “10 phase, 5 phase, or 3 phase movement?,” and “do we include boats?” Once the project launches, surveys will be open to the public, but only supporters of the current project will get in on the preliminary planning. And we’ll take everything we have learned from our Ogre Kickstarter project to make the Car Wars project even better. If we make this goal, the private Car Wars forum and surveys will launch before the end of 2012. The game will be published in late 2013.
    (PS #1 – And we will add staff as necessary to make sure that the Car Wars and Ogre projects don’t compete for attention!)
    (PS #2 – To make sure this is clear: Supporters of Ogre are not receiving a copy of the new Car Wars. You’re just making us DO it. Thank you . . . we think!)

Realize that this process of developing Ogre on the fly with Kickstarter and SurveyMonkey is unprecedented. It’s insane. Vocal minorities have demanded everything from flat 2D Ogres to classic counters and they are getting them one way or another.

When you go buy a CAR WARS t-shirt, you will get access to the forums and surveys that set the course for the future of this classic game. This is not just a marketing gimmick. (Though to be sure, without something like Kickstarter, it is unlikely [in my opinion] that CAR WARS would have been seriously developed again for the usual distribution channels.) And note that… if you’d rather have lotsa Ogre stuff, you do not have to buy the shirt to get in on this– you’re already on board!

So please… if you love classic microgames, please join the Ogre Kickstarter today. There’s only a few days left for you to be a part of gaming history. Do your part to preserve our rights to vehicular arms!

If You Want to Kickstart CAR WARS in 2013…

Then please go buy the shirt! Go to the Ogre Kickstarter and select one of the following reward levels:

$23 – Car Wars Supporter Level. You get the multicolored shirt that says “I Made Steve Jackson Work On Car Wars.” And, of course, access to the private forum if we hit the stretch goal! US only, please – but see $30.

 $30 – Car Wars Supporter Level, International. You get the multicolored shirt that says “I Made Steve Jackson Work On Car Wars.” And, of course, access to the private forum if we hit the stretch goal! The shirt will fit in a USPS International box and we can ship it anywhere at all. It will be possible to tuck the small extras, Ogre dice or lapel pins, into that box for no extra shipping.

If you are already buying Ogre stuff on Kickstarter, then please go increase your pledge by $23/$30.

The CAR WARS t-shirt will have artwork from the pocket box edition– and I think the text on the shirt will depend on a soon-to-be-released survey, so keep an eye on the Kickstarter updates. Buried in the comments on update #25 is Steve Jackson’s  explanation of why they are doing things this way:

“Will Kickstarter CW happen in 2013 no matter what?” Nope. As those of you who play both games know, they’re very different. CW is more complex and takes longer to play a normal scenario – so playtesting is much more time-consuming. The rulebook is what, ten times as long? Everything interacts with everything else, though we can automate the math part of the vehicle-building and save a lot of time compared to 1981. If it’s done right, a new edition of Car Wars will be way harder for us than Ogre has been. Phil has made it clear that the initial funding goal would not be the token $20K that we set for Ogre; it would be well into the six figures. WHICH six figures depends largely on what the planning surveys tell us you want. (If you ask for a reissue of the Pocket Box edition, with no changes, then okay, not so hard. But that won’t be what you ask for.) 

Even the planning run-up, months before the project launch, will take a lot of management man-hours and some coding man-hours, which will be well covered if Ogre hits another $100K from right now, but not if it stalls. $700K was NOT a randomly chosen number . . . At any rate, both Phil and I want to revisit Car Wars someday, but it is not the kind of foregone conclusion that Ogre was. Nor are we willing to start another big initiative to get in the way of Munchkin (and now Ogre!!), unless we know that we are making what the market wants AND that the market is out there.

So buy the shirt!

Doom Wheel and Roaster Trade Tire Shots, Collisions

My son asked for CAR WARS again and I wanted to try to avoid falling in a rut, so this time I randomly selected two “Division 5 Pro” vehicles from the Division 5 Vehicle Guide. This yielded the Doom Wheel (good acceleration, horrible tires, a wimpy incendiary machine gun and a gunner, fireproof armor) and the Roaster (poor acceleration, decent tires, two flame throwers, a flaming oil jet, and a fire extinguisher.) My son chose the Doom Wheel– I think because he wanted to go fast, control the tempo, and ram me to death. We both choose to allocate the extra armor to the front in order to make the vehicles into ad hoc ram cars. Here’s the complete play by play:

Turn 1: Accelerate towards the center of the table and take a pot shot at each other’s tires.

Turn 2: My son moved in and took his shot and I moved in just to the side of him to take a point blank shot to his front left tire. This killed it and put my son at -6… he failed the control roll, then fishtailed at a ninety degree angle… but this caused him to slam into the front of my car… which resulted in a T-bone! This brought his side armor down to a single point and caused him to pivot away from me. (In the heat of the game, I forgot to implement a similar pivot for my car and nearly forgot to halve my speed.)

A point blank tire shot is sure to hit, but the obstacle produced by hub getting blown off is sure to be a hassle-- so don't get too close!

Turn 3: My son slowed down and did lots of D0 Bends because his HC was so much lower. I had to roll over the obstacle and couldn’t get into a good position either.

Turn 4: We closed in for the second pass. My son had just enough speed to force a head-on collision before I could react.We traded fire and he wore me down to my last hub point while I missed a roll and took out his tire. The damage wasn’t enough to be decisive and we pivoted away from each other. My son maintained control and rolled past me.

Turn 5: We both pivoted and traded shots. My son lost his second tire/hub combination and was immobilized. I could easily drive to the side before he could immobilize me, so we called it a game.

A few observations about fifth edition CAR WARS based on this session:

  • The Division 5 Pro vehicles in this supplement have good armor, lousy weapons, and crappy tires. This means the game comes down to whoever can coordinate rams well– but the 3 phase system means this is kind of arbitrary. If a car has 4 DP tires and nobody has a ramplate, then the game comes down to a tire shooting contest and even rams don’t matter.
  • 5th edition is supposed to be simpler than Compendium 2.5… but if your vehicle designs yield a game that focuses on rams and tire shots, you will end up dealing with the most complicated and fiddly rules in the system constantly. A Compendium 2.5 game with Killer Karts is actually simpler and faster playing– and it allows for more player skill to boot.
  • Flaming oil slicks burn immediately and indefinitely in 5th edition CAR WARS. Heh.
  • The lack of a unified equipment list in 5th Edition is a big fat pain. And note that because the Gunner’s +1 bonus is sometimes incorporated into the stats on the record sheets, it isn’t immediately obvious what the base to-hit of a particular weapon is. Argh!
  • Maybe having five players would make it more fun, but… these tend to break into separate one-on-one duels that converge into feeding frenzies when one car suddenly gets close to death. That sort of thing is inherently fun, but the basic tactics (or lack of tactics) remain consistent.
  • Maybe making the arena layout more complex would make it more fun, but… in my experience, that just increases the number of turns between passes. More turns with nothing happening isn’t really fun. I’m not sure what the answer is here… but more passes and more players would maybe turn the game into a crazy duck duck goose kind of game….

I was looking at the Division 5 Vehicle guide again the other day and my son and my son immediately picked out the ram car loaded with six heavy rockets as being the best one. Based on how these games tend to go, I’d have to agree with him– especially for the one-on-one sessions we’re running lately.

More 5th Edition CAR WARS session reports are at the links below!