How to Play Car Wars
Playing Car Wars
If you loved movies like Death Race 2000 and The Road Warrior, youíre the sort of person who should learn how to play Car Wars. First published in 1980, this vehicular combat game from Steve Jackson has inspired numerous supplements, variants, and even a few computer games. Players build their vehicles from scratch, install the latest armor and weapons, and then have a blast trying to run down or blow up the competition.
Something else I like about Car Wars is the diversity of the destruction. While beginning players may be content to destroy cars, trucks, and motorcycles, rules allow for such diverse forms of transportation as semi-trucks, hot-air balloons, boats, helicopters, and tanks. Add on a radar system, computer targeting, and some missiles, and youíve got yourself a ride thatíll do a whole lot more than pick up the kids from soccer practice.
I remember learning how to play Car Wars for the first time on my living room floor while still in high school. My opponent was a buddy named Steve, and our cars were loaded down with oil slicks, flamethrowers, and hood-mounted machine-guns. I ended up losing in the end, but it did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the game.
Continue reading if youíd like to know more about how to play Car Wars. For those already familiar with the rules, weíve also included some Car Wars strategy to help you decimate the competition.
Car Wars Instructions
According to the Car Wars instructions, the game is set five decades in the future. Following a second American civil war and a brief nuclear exchange with the Russians, the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. But amidst the chaos, bloodsports arise as popular entertainment for the masses. One of the most glorified examples of this is autodueling, a sport managed by the American Autoduel Association that pits drivers against one another in frequently lethal vehicular combat. With advances in human cloning, drivers who live long enough can even be assured of having their memories downloaded into a new body.
Most editions of the game included small counters that represented various vehicles, fires, obstacles, and anything else you might need to wage war in an arena or on the open road. Later games would increase the scale to 1:60 scale, letting players use their favorite Hot Wheels or Micro Machines cars.
Car Wars expansions and supplements you might be interested in include:
Sunday Drivers/Crash City - Rules for blowing up buildings are included, as well as info on buses and pedestrians.
Truck Stop - A variety of semi-trucks are introduced.
The AADA Vehicle Guide - Off-road combat is introduced.
The AADA Vehicle Guide: Volume 2 - Sedans and SUVs are added.
Boat Wars - Boats, hovercraft, and amphibious vehicles are introduced.
Car Wars Tanks - Tanks and other military vehicles are added.
Car Wars Rules
Car Wars rules can seem complex at first, but youíll begin to get the hang of it after a few matches. Here are some of the basics:
Car Wars is played in turns, and each turn represents one second. The earliest editions of the game divided turns into 10 phases, but this has since been changed into three phases. There is no initiative to worry about, as all vehicular combat takes place simultaneously. Vehicles move a distance based on their speed rating, and they can also fire weapons at their opponents. All driving tests and combats are resolved with six-sided dice.
Players may also attempt a number a vehicular maneuvers during a game of Car Wars. This might be as simple as driving in reverse, or it could be as complicated as executing a hairpin turn while being riddled with machine-gun fire. Maneuverability determines if such moves are successful, and each maneuver attempted in a turn increases the chances that youíll lose control of your car and crash into something (or someone).
But the best part of Car Wars is slowly whittling down your opponentís defenses and then finishing them off with your weaponry. And when it comes to weaponry, the game has plenty to choose from. Recoilless rifles, landmines, cannons, and so much more are waiting to seek out the thin spots in your opponentís armor and reduce them to a smoldering or bullet-riddled husk.
Car Wars Strategy
Car Wars strategy can get complex when you take into account both the design of the vehicle and tactics during combat. While this list isnít comprehensive, it should give you some things to think about the next time you crack open one of the many Cars Wars products.
Spoilers - When maneuverability counts, consider going with a spoiler or airdam. They also have the added benefit of not affecting your HC, and youíll get free maneuvers with which to line up an attack.
Know Your Victory Conditions - Design your car around what youíll be expected to accomplish on the track. If kills are the primary goal, youíll want to emphasize weapons and armor. If youíre expected to maintain a lead for a set time during a race, then make the car lighter and faster.
Engine Power - Choose the right engine based on the type of autoduel youíll be participating in. If itís a race, youíll want something with more power. If itís mainly a shootout scenario, then engine power wonít be as important.
Know the Layout - Different arenas will have different layouts, and this can help you decide on the design of your car. For example, a car racing around an oval track will always have one side facing the wall. You can therefore skimp on armor for that side and either buy more weapons or bulk up armor somewhere else.
MOD - The MOD is all-important, as itís short for ďmethod of destruction.Ē This is a term I like to use for how Iíll destroy my opponents. Iíve placed the MOD into three categories: ramming, shooting, and dropping. Some players will use a combination of these strategies, although I suggest limiting it to two. Otherwise, none of your attacks will be strong enough to be effective. Hereís a little about each:
Ramming involves smashing into your opponent and trying to inflict damage. This is the tactic widely used in demolition derbies, which is where the in-game idea for autodueling first appeared. For this tactic, youíll need to get the following to be successful: ramplate, HD shocks, airdam, strong acceleration, spoiler, and sand (to counter ram defenses).
Shooting is where you outfit your car with as many weapons as possible and attempt to cut your opponent to ribbons. Some players prefer a single, massive gun, while others like lots of smaller guns. Players looking for balance may choose something in-between. Gun placement is also important. Firing at an opponentís side with front-mounted weapons incurs a heavy penalty to hit, while side-mounted weapons have no negative (although youíll have to keep driving alongside your opponent). If you plan to do the latter, youíll want to get an airdam and spoiler for greater control of your vehicle. Incendiary weapons will allow you to burn your opponent to a crisp, while having an onboard computer system gives you a better chance to shoot our the tires of opposing drivers.
Dropping occurs when you lay out spikes, mines, or other weapons designed to damage enemy vehicles. Some of the dropped items you may wish to consider include: smoke, flaming oil, paint, flame cloud, combustible oil, spikes, mines, ice, and oil.
After getting a chronic case of road rage, I decided to learn how to play Car Wars and blow off some steam. Now I hardly blink an eye when some jerk cuts me off in traffic; Iím too busy fantasizing about lighting him up with the flamethrower I wish I had mounted on the front of my Buick.
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