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Monday, April 15, 2013

Reinventing the wheels. Car Wars

Reinventing  the wheels.
I was thinking about Car wars the other day. When I was younger I had Steve Jackson Game’s car wars deluxe set, and I have to say it was pretty awesome, for the time. I recently dug it out of the attic because I want to play it again, for old times’ sake and because I think a couple of the guys I game with would dig the theme.
Then I started to look at the components, and I remembered how fiddly the whole game is. I understand that the good folks at Steve Jackson Games fixed some of these issues with the scaled up 5th edition.  I never bought that edition simply because I hated the packaging, and by the time it came out I was on to the next thing, car wars was simply not on the menu.
All of that has me thinking about Car Wars and car based combat in general.
What would I do first off?
I think I would focus a bit on the driver. Traditionally it has been about the cars, and rightfully so, but I think the driver was given perhaps too little attention in original car wars. I am thinking that the driver can have one stat “SKILL” that covers the gamut of what a guy in a car covered with spikes and guns might have to do. Driver skill would be equal to a number of dice that the driver would have in his die pool each turn. At the beginning of each turn, the die pool is to be split amongst the tasks DRIVE and SHOOT. For example your diver has a skill of 5, you can place 3 dice into driving tasks and 2 dice into shooting tasks.  Or 1 die into driving tasks and 4 into shooting, or any other combination. This splitting of dice could even be a blind exercise where other players can’t see how the dice are spilt before the players turn.
Next I think I would base driving and shooting difficulty on a sliding scale. The more actions a player takes the harder things get. The player can choose to roll (spend) as many dice from the appropriate side of his pool as he wants to achieve an action. For example if the driver needs to negotiate a sharp turn at high speeds and he has dedicated 3 dice to driving that round, he might want to roll two of them for just that action and then hope that things don’t get harder from him by the end of the turn as he only has one die left in driving.
NOTE: I was just thinking that if d6’s are used as the pool dice why not say that any die that comes up a 6 is not spent but goes back to that turns pool? If those bonus dice do not carry over would it make players push their luck just to spend them?  The player tries a difficult maneuver and rolls 3 dice, two of them come up 6 so he keeps them, does he then try another maneuver just to spend those bonus dice before they disappear at the end of the turn? That could be Interesting. How would it affect combat?

Finally and most briefly I would have to abstract a great deal of the movement system. For one reason, I would have to have maneuvering a car fit nicely with my sliding difficulty scale. Secondly, I hate figuring out movements to scale. The designers of Car wars were quite good at this aspect of the game, and it’s one of the reasons the game is so damn fiddly. This is an aspect I have not given a great deal of thought to yet.
(How far can a car go in a turn? How long is turn in real time? What are realistic weapon ranges?  The tear drop curve of turning radius vs. speed is something that’s quite beyond my ability to figure out accurately within the scope of a playable fun, table top game. If you are going 50 miles an hour and your ram the rear bumper of a car going 30miles per hour how much damage do you do? Twenty miles per hour’s worth? Well that’s fine, but how that is even figured, by car weight I would assume, but how much? Does it simply push the target car forward while doing small damage?) 

Car wars all these things figured out for us in 1985.
As you can see the deeper you go the more there is to dig and I would rather be abstract about it.