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Category Archives: Vehicle Designs

On the Table: Car Wars Compendium Second Edition

I love this game.

It’s easily among the best values in gaming history and one of the greatest “everything you need in one book” games of all time. It was played to death and then revised… played to death again, revised again… and then played to death some more only to be tempered into one of the great achievements of gaming history.

There are many editions and variations of this game. I have tinkered with the rules a great deal myself and chased after many attempts to simplify what people tend to think of as a moderately overcomplicated game. But this weekend I decided to come back to my old flame and revisit the game that I originally fell in love with a long, long time ago. Not as it was in the small black pocket box edition that was the very first hobby games purchase I had ever made. But rather, as the end all be all, supercharged Second Edition Compendium release that was, perhaps, the last thing I would ever be excited to receive on a Christmas day.

That means playing with the “Advanced Collision” system that was first released as part of the referee screen– and the variant fire rules (“All Fired Up”) and a development of the “Advanced Maneuver System” from the pages of Autoduel Quarterly. Further, it meant going back to the original rules for ramplates– the days before some line editor decided to nerf the most efficient means in the game for converting a hot rod into piles of debris and obstacles. Finally, it meant embracing the Compendium’s speed modifiers as well!

How did it go…? Well, I’ll tell you.

I selected for our first scenario a Challenge Night event where two hot headed amateur duelists would get a chance to kill each other in the Dumbarton Slalom arena with sponsor-supplied Scorcher compacts. These have two flamethrowers in the back and a ramplate on the front. The idea was to get to a decisive and dramatic ending fairly quickly. The session did not disappoint!

The opening started straightforward enough. I managed to edge ahead by a quarter of an inch in the opening moves before we sped into the part of the drum where we’d gain the ability to fire. I cut right and let loose with my two flame throwers, but because my target was speeding across my back arc I had to eat serious enough speed modifiers that this shot was pretty well wasted. (Granted, a lucky hit could win the game if I set my opponent on fire– neither of us had fire extinguishers!)

My opponent then kicked it up to 60 mph while I dropped down to 40. His additional speed gave him a great deal of initiative. If he got to move at just the right moment, I was dead. But then… just as he was arcing toward me for a potential kill… he lost control and started to skid!

We exchanged shots and I put enough burn modifiers on him that he was in danger of catching fire. He then lost control again and skidded into the arena walls. His driver bailed out of the flaming vehicle and I ran the guy down before he could make it to a safe zone.

At this point I proposed changing up either the arena or the vehicle design or both, but this was evidently an intriguing enough match-up that it was worth another go. This one saw my opponent skid into the wall yet again even though he had slowed down a notch this time. I then accelerated and came in for the ram. He scored multiple flamethrower hits on me as I closed, but the ram completely destroyed his car. My driver was able to bail out of the flaming vehicle and escape before it had exploded.

Now… this was pretty exciting for me. I love love LOVE having a continuing Car Wars character that has earned all his wealth by defying certain death in the arena. My guy “Duncan Idaho” had a brand new Scorcher that had had only 2 shots fired from each flamethrower and was merely nicked on the back with four points of damage there. Compendium Second Edition is pretty generous with the “general” skill point awards, so while he didn’t gain any salvage from this event, he did gain enough skill points to go to Driver-1. This would give him a better chance for starting an event with improved reflexes and help him recover better than normal handling status at the end of each turn!

Going into the third and final event of the weekend, I had to ask… should I set this guy aside so what we could have a fair match where everyone was started the game with equal amounts of skill? My opponent didn’t think that was a problem. I mean hey, if you have a cool continuing character in a Car Wars campaign, you should get to use him. If he comes out of his third Amateur Night event with enough salvage that he actually stands a chance on the freeways, so much the better.

We did agree to change up the vehicle design and keep the same arena layout. Here’s our all-new low end vehicle we whipped up:

S’most — Medium Reverse Trike, x-hvy chassis, hvy. suspension, large cycle plant, platinum catalysts, 3 PR tires, driver, FT left linked to FT right, fire extinguisher, targeting computer. Armor: F 20, R 15, L 15, B 20, T 4, U 4. Accel. 5, HC 3, 2,518 lbs., $7,986.

Division 10 option — Make tires and armor fireproof and add heavy duty brakes. Equip driver with body armor and a grenade. $9,997.

We played without the Division 10 options, hoping for another short and decisive event. Rolling in, I took a stray flame thrower hit early on and caught fire. My fire extinguisher failed to put it out until the next turn– everything on my car had taken one hit of damage! Things did not look good for my awesome continuing character, but on the next pass, my opponent found himself in the exact same shoes. Suddenly, every single die roll we made began to matter a whole lot!

I admit, my opponent had done much better than me in terms of dishing out the damage in this round. I was the better driver and cruised around the arena with no chance of losing control. Meanwhile, my target veered away from me toward the arena wall and the damage that I had done was just enough to make this hazardous. He made one control roll after another… then needed to make just one more. His luck ran out, though, and he crashed into the wall for the third game in a row!

Now things were serious. My opponent has just gone into a skid and so was at -6 to-hit for that until the end of the turn. I had continuous fire bonuses and could control exactly how the pass played out. I managed to get my hit against the stationary target. Time to check for fire one last time. I needed 8 or less on two dice to light him up. I got it! My opponent needed 4 or less on two dice. Not likely! But then… he got it anyway. Doh!

Now to check for fire extinguishers…. My opponent made his roll of 3 or less on one die and his vehicular fire went out. Me? I failed… and my car went up in flames along with my continuing character!

Absolutely brutal!

Now my opponent’s character “Borf” is the guy with a promising future. He has two skill points in Driver and six in Gunner. He has a very beat up reverse trike with two points of damage to each of the tires, one point of damage to each internal component, 7 points of damage front, 8 points of damage left, 7 points of damage right, one point of damage top, and 1 point of damage to the underbody. (Whew!) Though if it was up to me, I’d rule that the event sponsors would totally give him a brand new division 10 model of that vehicle to drive home him.

The game play for this round was much more random due to the loss of the ramplates. In order improve this design in terms of how it plays fighting itself, here are the changes I would make:

S’most II — Add bumper spikes and upgrade fire extinguisher to IFE. Armor: F 18, R 13, L 13, B 14, T 4, U 4. 2520 lbs., $8,402.

(We did get to one rules question game. Obviously, the fire modifiers stack up as are explained in the rules. What we wanted to know was what happened to the fire mods when a fire extinguisher puts out the fire. Do they disappear or do they stick, continuing to set fires on later turns again and again…? We went back and forth on this until we agreed that it would be more fun to have the FE wipe them all out when the moment a fire extinguisher puts out a fire. Your mileage may vary!)

But how do things set in the aftermath of three quick playing duels…? “Borf” now respects the control table enough to slow down a little but… but not enough to persuade him to put extra skill points into driver skill. He is eager to get back into the arena for a chance at nabbing enough salvage that he could pimp out his ride in a substantial manner. He is liable to want to fireproof everything if he has any say in how the next cars are designed.

But most importantly… he can’t imagine playing Car Wars any other way than with the Super Advanced™ rules accretions that 1980’s gaming addicts laid down in order to strike just the right balance between simulation-feel and smooth game-play.

If you’re in the camp of those that think they want simpler rules in order to open the game up to more casual play, think again! Everything you need in order to speed things up can be addressed by playing with identical makes and models a la Amateur Night events, restricting dueling vehicles to driver only, outlawing pedestrian equipment, and greatly increasing the ratio of weaponry to defense in the vehicle designs.

Drive offensively!

A Shadow From the Past, Part Two

Note: Part one is here. These designs were some of my favorites of all the ones I made back in the day. Note that the smart link was at some point declared not to work with a SWC or HRSWC; this made one of my favorite design tricks invalid.


Bunker Blocker — Luxury, x-hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, large plant with superconductors, 4 plasticore tires, driver only, 3 linked RL’s front, HRSWC for RL’s, PS back, 2 linked PDG’s left, PDG linked to RL’s front, HD Shocks, IFE, roll cage. Armor (sloped): F 50, B 30, L 30, R 30, T 9, U 9, 2 10-point wheel hubs front, 2 10-point wheel guards back, 10 points CA around driver. Accel. 5, Top Speed 90, HC 3, 6,600 lbs.; $24,776.


Zipper Zapper — Luxury, x-hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, large plant with superconductors, 4 solid tires, driver only, turreted laser, 8 laser guided Heavy Rockets (4 linked front, 4 linked back), laser guidance link. Armor (sloped): F 65, L 35, R 35, B 25, T 9, U 10. Accel. 5, Top Speed 90, 6,600 lbs.; $25,438.

Division 25 option — Remove one rear HR and link, rearrange HR’s as follows: 4 linked front, 1 right, 1 left, 1 back. $24,988.


Cowboy Stretch II — Pickup, x-hvy. six-wheeled chassis, hvy. suspension, super power plant with 2 extra power cells, 6 solid tires, driver, passenger, 2 linked MG’s in turret, 3 FOD’s linked to MG’s, 3 SkD’s linked to MG’s. Armor: F 25, R 15, L 15, B 25, T 20, U 10, 2 10-point wheel hubs front. Cargo capacity: 1070 lbs., 11 spaces. Accel. 5, top speed 100 without cargo, 90 with cargo, HC 2, 6,730 lbs.; $17,390.


Calamarian — Station Wagon, x-hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, sports car power plant, 4 solid tires, driver, passenger, RL front, turreted RL smart-linked to RL front, explosive tipped SD back linked to turreted RL, SWC. Armor: F 40, R 25, L 25, B 35, T 30, U 15. Cargo capacity: 1025 lbs., 7 spaces. Accel. 10 with up to 425 lbs. of cargo, 5 with more, HC 3, top speed 112.5 mph with full  load of cargo, 5,575 lbs.; $18,050.

Defense option — Downgrade plant to large, add 4 10-pt. wheelguards and a second explosive SD to the right. Move the other SD to the left and link the SD’s. Cargo capacity: 890 lbs., HC 2, top speed 90 with full load of cargo, 5,710 lbs.; $16,100.

Tow option — As basic Calamarian, but add super conductors and a standard hitch with 10 points of armor. Cargo capacity: 965 lbs., 7 spaces. Towing capacity (with full load of cargo): 3,300 lbs. Accel. 10, top speed 120 without trailer, accel. 5, top speed 90 with fully loaded trailer, 5,635 lbs.; $21,550.


Gypsy — Luxury, hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, super power plant, 4 solid tires, driver, passenger, RL front, SS linked to SD back. Armor: F 35, L 20, R 20, B 30, T 8, U 9, two five point wheel hubs front, two five point wheel guards back. Cargo capacity: 6 spaces, 850 lbs. Accel 10 (5 with cargo), HC 3, 5,200 lbs.; $11,990.

Q-Gypsy — Upgrade SS to PS and chassis to x-hvy. Add laser in pop-up turret, two HR’s left with blow-through concealment, HRSWC, 33 points of armor, and laser guidance link for all rockets (including the rockets in the front RL.) No cargo capacity. Accel. 5, top speed 100, 6,600 lbs.; $29,940.

A Shadow From the Past, Part One

Note: These vehicle designs were developed over years of early Compendium era CAR WARS gaming and were printed out long ago with an Atari ST and a huge daisy wheel printer.  They encapsulate everything that I thought was cool about CAR WARS way back before I became a snobby connoisseur of gaming that babbled opinions incessantly on the internet.  In honor of the many games that were played with these cars, I’m leaving these designs exactly as they were and posting them here with only minimal commentary.


Falchion — Luxury, x-hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, Large power plant with superconductors, 4 solid tires, driver only, 2 ATG’s with APFSDS ammo linked F, 2 linked MD’s (one L, one R) each with an extra magazine, link for ATG’s and MD’s together, HRSWC to ATG’s.  Armor: F 40, B 30, L 30, R 30, T 6, U6.  Acceleration 5, HC 3, Top Speed 90; 6,600 lbs., $19,390.

Personal Items Pack — Take Body Armor, a Portable Fire Extinguisher, and a Rifle with 6 shots AV ammo.  $20,000.


Boromir — Pickup, hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, Super power plant, 4 solid tires, driver only, ATG front with APFSDS ammo, FCGS brack, SWC for ATG, spoiler and airdam.  Armor: F 60 (ramplate), B 30, L 35, R35, T 8, U 8, 2 10-point wheel hubs front, 2 10-point wheelguards back.  Acceleration 5, HC 3, Top Speed 95; 7,146 lbs., $19,652.

Personal Items Pack — Take a Portable Fire Extinguisher and a Rifle with 5 shots AV ammo.  $19,997.


Minelayer — Mid-sized, hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, Super power plant, 4 solid tires, driver only, FG front, MD back with 2 extra magazines, spoiler and airdam, HD shocks.  Armor: F 40, B 30, L 30, R 30, T 10, U 10, 2 10-point wheel hubs front, 2 10-point wheelguards back.  Acceleration 10, HC 3, Top Speed 120; 5,170 lbs., $15,000.

Division 20 option — As above, but upgrade to x-hvy. chassis, add superconductors, weapons timer, 5 PDG’s (2 linked L, 2 linked R, 1 linked to FG front), PFE, and Rifle with 8 shots of AV ammo.  Armor: F 50 (Ramplate), B 40, L 40, R 40, T 15, U 16.  5, 713 lbs., $19,996.


Hot Shot II — Luxury, x-hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, Large power plant with superconductors, 4 solid tires, driver only, 2 MG’s with incendiary ammo linked front, 2 linked MD’s (one R, one L) loaded with napalm mines, 2 FT’s linked back, fire extinguisher, targeting computer, rifle with four shots of AV ammo.  Armor: F 40, B 30, L 30, R 30, T 8, U 8, 10-points of component armor around driver.  Acceleration 5, HC 3, Top Speed 90; 6,600 lbs., $20,000.


Dark Sword — Mid-size, hvy. chassis, hvy. suspension, 250 ci engine with carborator, 4 PR tires, driver with Body Armor, ATG with APFSDS ammo front, SWC to ATG, 3 linked SD’s with explosive tipped spikes (1 L, 1 R, 1 B), weapons timer, overdrive, spoiler, airdam, 2 1-gallon diel tanks, HD brakes, HD shocks, PFE.  Armor: F 45, B 34, R 30, L 30, T 10, U 5, 2 10-point wheel hubs front, 2 10-point wheelguards back.  Accel 10 (5 with overdrive), HC 3 (4 at 60+), Top Speed 80 (100 with overdrive), 5269 lbs.; $19,959.

The FNORD Mulligan…

Dueling on a budget? Not sure whether to cut corners on firepower, cargo space, or safety…? But why should you have to cut corners at all?! For less than $8k, you can have twin rocket launchers, a roomy interior, *and* better durability than the competition.

The Fnord Mulligan– Firepower you can Afford!


Mid-Sized, Light Chassis, Medium Power Plant (10 pt CA), Heavy Suspension, Puncture-Resistant Front & Rear Tires, Driver, Passenger, front: 2 RL, back: SS, Weapon Link (RL’s), Armor F31, R20, L20, B20, T2, U2, Accel. 5, Top Speed 90, HC 3, 4,135 lbs, $ 8,000

LT option: Remove SS. 4,060 lbs, $ 7,650. Cargo capacity: 1 space, 140 lbs.

Arena Option: As LT option, but remove passenger.  Add FOJ back.  Armor: F 40, R 25, L 25, B 25, T 3 U 3.  4,198 lbs, $ 9,241.

Designer’s notes: At the risk of making a cheap knock-off of the Republic Motors Tomahawk, I built this car specifically to fill in for the lack of cars in the $8000 range in the first vehicle guide. The LT option is essentially a “supersized” Stinger, but it has room for a bulk ammo box and a spare tire. The component armor on the power plant is (perhaps cruelly) rigged for third round amateur night duels so that both early driver death and increased salvage values are more likely.

The FOJ variant is intended to be a viable division ten vehicle once a SWC and body armor are added. Note that under 5th edition fire rules, there is a pretty good chance of setting a vehicle on fire if high damages are rolled on any power plant hits with rocket launchers– the component armor on the plant helps to prevent or postpone that. Also, the standard and LT options can make speeds of up to 96 mph without cargo or passengers. (These designs were put together with Klaus Breuer’s design program.)

Promising Duelist Meets Fiery End In Climax of “Best American Duelist” Season Finale

Ever since I was in the third grade– back when I bought the original Car Wars black plastic “pocket box”– I’ve always wanted to have a legitimate ongoing Car Wars character that worked his way up from nothing, through a series of Amateur Night events, and into a career as a professional duelist. I can now finally say that I have achieved this life long dream. Almost.

After playing 11 “team amateur night” events consisting of two teams of 4 cars each duking it out at the Armadillo Autoduel Arena, the Amex Proving Grounds, Southtown Autoduel Arena, the Rubberway, and the Waco Double Drum, we were ready for the season finale of our special American Idol style campaign. We’d each started 32 Car Wars characters in each of 8 Killer Kart events. We then played our best 8 characters in a Stinger round. The best four of those graduated to a Joseph Special event. Finally, we played a couple of side games to give some border lined characters a chance to squeak ahead– in each of a 3 player Stinger game, a 3 player division 15 game, and a special 2029 “Rush Hour” Firehawk scenario. Our continuing characters in the Division 15 event drove vehicles pieced together from their salvage– they took their heavily damaged Joseph Specials, removed the destroyed ATG and RL, and retrofitted 5 Killer Kart and Stinger MG’s into their place. Both of our characters damaged their hard earned vehicles and had little to show for it, but our best characters were now aces, just on the edge of getting new skill levels in Driver and Gunner, and ready to pick up their first corporate sponsorships for the pro duel circuit. All they had to do was survive the next event and they’d be tooling around the freeways in a nice easily modified luxury sized death machine!

So finally, eight Hot Shot’s rolled into the Double Drum and began firing at each other. I made an incredibly stupid tactical error. I focused my fire on my opponent’s tough front armor where he fired mainly against my weak side armor. I also fired MG’s more often than FT’s. In three seconds, Buck Lescinsky was knocked unconscious with a clean shot through his right side armor. In four seconds, Tanaka found himself with no right side armor and wide open to easy attacks. He jerked the wheel in order to get fresh armor facing his opponent, but lost control and rolled into the wall. After five seconds, Fernando’s power plant caught fire and all his vehicular weapons burned up along with what was left of his power plant. Finally… after six seconds, my best character took a double blast of flame thrower damage through the right side… and using an off-the cuff application of the fifth edition fire rules, we declared that she’d taken four or five fire markers as a result. We checked for explosion… and in the final second of our campaign, Yahoo McScandle’s care exploded in the most cinematic moment of our 15 games.

I was stunned. Not only had I been completely shut out of the final event (I’d hoped to pick up at least one Hot Shot as a salvaged kill) but my best character in all my years of gaming had literally just gone up in smoke.

I tried to be gracious, pointing out that my opponent had clearly outplayed me… and also… that for the characters to matter, death had to be a factor… and also… that so many of the characters had survived other near death experiences up until now. The exceedingly dramatic nature of the death was epic enough to make it worth it. (Wasn’t it?)

So long, Yahoo. We had a good run.

Yahoo McScandles
Pres 16 (Career high of 21)
Dr 10
Gn 9
HG 3
Kills 5

4/24/09 Team Amateur Night Game 12: Hot Shots at the Double Drum: Took a double blast of FT damage with at least four fire markers and then died in a massive fireball explosion.
2/14/09 Division 15 (3 Car Event): Custom Cars at the Double Drum: Drove a MG armed Joseph Special built from salvage. Narrowly survived driving over an Iron Horse’s mines, but was killed by a lucky shot while out of control.
1/17/08 Team Amateur Night Game 11: Stock Joseph Specials at the Double Drum: Yahoo crossed the Drum with Cornelius on his tail. Put paint sprayer on automatic. Ducked into the hideaway and stopped to take out a pedestrian shooting his SMG. Fired all RL ammo into Cornelius. Got out of reverse and slowly accelerated… finally killing Cornelius with an ATG shot. Cornelius’s car still got the head-on collision to take Yahoo down to exactly zero DP.
1/16/08 Team Amateur Night Game 10: Stock Stingers at the Rubberway: After a pass, her first opponent turned to go up a ramp, but because we came at each other from the left side of the map, we were both set up for such a turn. Because he rolled really poorly for his reflex roll, he went second… and Yahoo was able to turn with him—but on the outside! Yahoo turned in a little more to close the distance—at first just to try to get his target in arc for hits without the risk return fire. But then Yahoo rammed his opponent, knocking him off the ramp for a 12.5 foot drop with a 40 mph ram against the central platform to boot! It took him forever to cross the arena. Pastor Halfix had lost his power plant in an early pass and had coasted back into the action by cutting underneath the overpasses. Yahoo sped in, slowed down, and took him down with a final coup de gras.
12/29/08 Team Amateur Night Game 8: Stock Killer Karts at the Rubberway: Tailed an opponent early on… shot through the back to make a clean kill on the driver. Went up top as the last cars exchanged their weapons/vehicles. Slowed down to get back in control and was tailed by a weaponless opponent… rear ended and pushed across the board at 90 mph. Across the arena killed that the tailgating idiot, causing him to ram the wall at high speed in a spectacular crash.

Killer Kart salvage: 4 points armor damage (2 back, 2 left), 10 MG shots left. [Salvage Value = $3848 – 50 * 4 – 25 * 10 = $3848 – 200 – 250 = $3398. Cash value = $1699.]
Stinger salvage #1: No front armor, one MG destroyed, 3 power plant hits, and 11 shots left in his MG. [Salvage Vale = $5268 – 460 – 1500 – 250 – 9 * 25 = $2833. Cash Value = $1416.]
Stinger salvage #2: 6 hits front, 10 hits left, one hit to power plant, tire damage: (5, 3, 2), and 36 shots left. [Salvage Vale = $5268 – 460 – 50 – 4 * 25 – 3 * 100 = $4358. Cash value = $2179.]
Stinger salvage #3: One MG destroyed, 1 DP damage to remaining MG with 13 shots left, power plant destroyed, front armor destroyed, 1 hit to right armor. [Salvage Vale = $5268 – 460 – 1500 – 100 – 7 * 25 – 500 = $2533. Cash Value = $1266.]
Joseph Special salvage: No weapons or armor left. (A good power plant, though!) Tire damage: 3, 4, 5, 5. [Salvage Value: $10340 – 2024 – 2500 – 1350 – 650 – 400 = $3416. Cash Value = $1708.]
(Total Salvage Value = $3398 + $2833 + $4358 + $2533 + 3416 = $16538.)
(Total Cash Value = $8269)

Yahoo McScandal’s Customized Joe
(This car was built from the above salvage and somewhat damaged in the Division 15 event.)
Mid-Sized, Standard Chassis, Large Power Plant, Improved Suspension, Puncture-resistant Front & Rear Tires, Driver (Targeting Computer), front: 3 linked MGs, back: 2 linked MGs, right: PS, Armor F35, R20, L20, B20, T4, U10, Accel. 5, HC 2, 4797 lbs, $ 14994