Jeffro's Gaming Blog: Car Wars, Star Fleet Battles, Ogre, Battletech, and more!
Moved to a new Site
Tags: car wars
Jeffro's Car Wars Blog has moved to to a new site.

All posts have been reorganized and retagged. This gives us a few distinct feeds to help you find what your looking for and avoid off topic stuff.

There's of course the Main Car Wars Feed if you want to catch all of the Car Wars stuff.

Be sure to check out my Vehicle Designs which generally go beyond just stats and include extra options and advertisement copy. I'm up to 15 now.

I have one of the very few resources for Car Wars 5th Edition on the web. (You can even dig through the oldest posts to relive the painful death of the game!)

Don't miss My Favorite Posts if you just want to cut to only the best stuff. We've also got In Depth Coverage of the Development of the Rules for those that want to get into the nitty-gritty. But check out The Science Fiction Feed if you want to see my movie reviews and other geeky stuff.
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Not a good day to be driving a Hotshot...

I've been milling around Harshman Memorial during the special gala celebration of Car Wars's 25th anniversary.  The crowds have been absolutely tremendous here-- this could be a sign that autodueling is returning as the top televised sport in America.  Many of them are here to see such relics as Crazy Joe Harshman's Chevy and what's left of Mike Montgomery's Navigator.


I had particularly good seats during a demonstration match this afternoon.  Here's a close-up of a Hotshot just after getting nailed by three Laser shots from a team consisting of an Intimidator and a Security Six:



Note the piles of debris in the Hotshot's wake....


The driver of the Intimidator kindly gave me this read-out from his targeting computer:



Finally, here's a shot from the helicopter cam of the entire furball.


I'll stick around the arena here for the full slate of events and keep you posted on any news of note!  Adios for now....


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Harshman Memorial Reopens for the Car Wars 25th Anniversary

We see here a Killer Kart executing a Moderate skid at 30 mph just a few seconds into an event at Harshman Memorial.  (The Rotation Formula comes in handy if you're trying to implement those tricky bends and fishtails, by the way....  Yeah, as if you ever wondered why it's so important to get a good solid grounding in Trigonometry while you were still in highschool!  Right.)



Click here for an uncropped 800x600 resolution image.


More pictures to follow in the days ahead.... 

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They were called demons because they were horrible and came from the Other....
Tags: wargames

Dimension Demons




I dug this one out last night and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.  Looking at the game over the years I couldn't imagine how the game could work: the units available just seemed so limited!  Of course, it turns out each unit is balanced to fit into the setting... and the Demon player can get along just fine without heavy or fast units because of his happenin' transportation powers.


The game utilizes a split map.  Demons transport to the human colony mapside and attack it.  They only hang around for a single turn and pop back to their corresponding hex neighborhood after a brief moment of mayhem.  If they can enter a city hex, they build a transport on the human side... which allows them both to hang around indefinitely unless they get more than 5 hexes away from it.  A transport built on the human side also allows the Demons to bring a Breeder slug over... and the Breeder will produce a new permanent Demon on the human side once per turn if it stays within 5 hexes of that transport.


The human player has mostly infantry units-- which are much tougher to kill if they are in their cities.  He also has Thumper and Slider armor units... and his roads give him high mobility.  Demons have volcanoes on their side of the map... volcanoes that will kill them if they accidently pop back on them!  Yay.


The game play breaks down to a clear opening, middle game, and end game.  In the opening, the Demon player sends Demons over for hit and run raids.  He can also opt for a hit and die raid: if he teleports onto another unit, both are destroyed.  (This is a good way to get rid of those pesky Thumpers....)  The Demon player is inlikely to get killed unless he lands on a unit or city by accident....  And it takes at least two demons operating together to get even a small chance to kill an infantry in a city.  The human player must remain spread out because the Demon can attack anywhere at any moment.  The demon player has fewer units, though, and cannot afford to exchange units very many times.


In the middle game, the Demons are attempting to take and hold a city.  They concentrate to the weakest area of the human colony and dig in.  If things don't look good they can opt not to build a transport, pop back, and try again somewhere else.  But if they commit to holding the city, they will send the breeders over and hope to survive long enough to produce some serious Demon power.  Note that the Humans can possibly take over a Demon transport and make a counter attack to the weaker Demon world.


In the end game, the Demons and Humans fight to the death... or if the Demons were repulsed from their city... they regroup and try again.  At this point, both sides are seriously reduced in the number of units they can field.  Every lucky hit and accident counts big time here and tension can be really great.


In our game, I was quite lucky in the opening.  I terrorized the humans taking very few losses... and exchanged 3 Demons for 1 Thumper and 2 Sliders.  In the middle game, I sent 4 demons to attack one double-city.  We took it, and the following turn I sent in two Warrior-Breeder pairs over.  One of the pairs teleported onto an infantry counter!  I also failed to defend my cities well and my human side transport was destroyed.  I built another in an undefended city, but my breeder was delayed in producing new Demon Warriors.  The terrible accident combined with the tactical failure cost me the game.  I simply did not have enough material to mount another major attack.  I did manage to terrorize my opponent for a few more turns, taking out an infantry unit or two before one of my last remaining demons popped back into a volcano....


All and all, this was a surprising and unusual game.  The luck factor will probably annoy modern players as several turns can go by with the Demons teleporting and neither taking nor giving any casualties.  There are tactics that reduce the luck factor, but in the heat of battle they can easily be forgotten.  Once the middle game is reached, a quick and bloody battle will ensue that has an entirely different flavor than the hit and run segment.  It took us an hour to read the rules and set up... and about two hours to play our first game.  Of course, you can't truly understand a new game until you've played it 5 times at least... but we were intrigued enough to want to invest the time to do that.  (Next time I play the Human Freefeet colonists....  I suspect my opponent has some nasty tactics to spring on me... slagging key cities with his teleport accidents so that my mobility is undermined and such like....)


Bravo, Metagaming... we miss you.

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Car Wars Podcasts... and lotsa vintage Micro-games!

I finally got to listen to the MADHAT Car Wars podcasts and episode 4 of the Roll2D6 pocasts.  The MADHAT shows are delivered in a downhome Tennessee twang by a diehard Car Wars fanatic that runs several PBEM games-- and his coverage of those games has inspired my to check 'em out.  This podcast-jockey (?) had 11 people sign up for his most recent game and 5 of those were repeat players.


The Roll2D6 podcast had slightly better production values; it came off more like a real radio talk show because the two hosts banter back and forth so much.  The Car Wars fanatic would try to describe the history of his favorite game while the other fellow cracked jokes!  On the other hand, the Madhat show scores many MONDO grooviness points for letting out the secret of the DwarfStar games web pages.  Follow the link to find a gold mine in classic gaming goodness!

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Digging In To GURPS Powers
Tags: rpgs gurps 4e

Here's my first attempt at building something with GURPS 4e and Powers.  I noticed early on that this ain't anything like designing vehicles for Car Wars.  With Car Wars, you pick a body-size and start loading it up with goodies-- it's not much more complicated than going grocery shopping provided you can add and multiply.  With GURPS, you think of a character or power... and then you attempt to model it with the rules.  This makes things much more subjective and you can waste a lot of time figuring out the best way to do things and then still feel like you've made a bad design decision or broken a rule.


Anyways, the advantage I've worked up was inspired by several different games of the 80's.  First was the "Solar Power" from Heroes Unlimited.  Basically it just gave a die of damage per level of your character.  This was pretty disappointing.  Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had an entry on mutant stegasauruses with funny solar powers resulting from the weird plates on their backs.  This was more interesting.  I played Gamma World back then a lot more than the Palladium stuff, so I attempted to come up with some new mutant abilities for that game, but eventually abandoned it in frustration.  But now with GURPS Powers, I've got the tools to actually finish my rough ideas....


Heat Wave (+300%) Affliction-1 (Biological, -10%; Cone 13 hexes wide, +180%; Contact Agent, +150%; Stunning, +10%; Secondary Affect-- Attribute Penalty -4 to ST, DX, and HT and -2 to IQ, +20%; Increased 1/2 D x5, +20%; All-Out, -25%; Costs 3 FP, -15%) [40]


This attack creates a wave of intense heat that stuns the victims and in some cases causes a heat exhaustion that can last minutes.  At range 1-10, the attack is resisted with a HT roll.  At range 11-20, the attack is resisted at HT+3.  (Note that the victim can roll each second to break out of the stun if he fails the first time.)  If the resistance roll is missed by 5 or more the victim suffers the attribute penalty.  Note that it actually costs 4 FP to use because of the biological modifier.


A note on the cone: it's 1 hex wide at range 1-3, 3 hexes wide at range 4-6, 5 hexes wide at range 7-9, 7 hexes wide at range 10-12, 9 hexes wide at range 13-15, 11 hexes wide at range 16-18, and 13 hexes wide at range 19-20.


I just spotted a possible error in my design....  Do I need to pay the +10% for stunning when the Attribute Penalty is only a secondary affect?  Hmm....  Dunno.  Well... I'll hit the books.  I cringe at the thought of posting this on the SJGames board-- it'd break my heart at this point to find out that there's a much more appropriate way to build this thing after I spent 2 hours fiddling with it!

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Things Man Was Not Meant To Know

I recently picked up the 20th anniversary edition of TRON on DVD.  Excellent stuff.  I learned a lot of stuff about my favorite movie via the healthy dose of extras.


The guys that made TRON were cartoonists.  They made some of the weirder sequences that appeared on Sesame Street and The Electric Company.  Their big score came when they were signed on to make a whole slew of cartoons for the 1980 Olympics-- an entire "Animal Olympics" to run concurrently with the real thing.  Of course, the US ended up boycotting the Olympics that year, so the cartoons never ran....


TRON's the first movie to use computer animation.  There were no software tools to do this stuff back then... and everything had to be done from scratch.  It took four different companies to do all the graphics-- each company had a jury-rigged software/hardware system that could do a slightly different thing.  In spite of their groundbreaking and cutting edge achievements, TRON did not receive any awards for animation: the judges felt that the fact that they used a computer was cheating!


TRON was inspired by... PONG.  Yeah....  PONG.  Somehow the director had seen the game... and immediately he thought of gladiator games in the coliseum.  He must have been a really creative guy.  I played one of those in the late seventies and it mostly made me think of hockey....


Probably my favorite part of TRON was the music, but alas there was not much on the DVD about that part beyond just a couple of tunes from the lightcycle sequence and closing credits that failed to make the final cut.  I'd hoped to see an interview with the composer-- a certain Wendy Carlos who had changed his/her gender surgically altered.  Ah well, perhaps some things are better left to the imagination.


There was one scene in the movie that the creators labored over excessively.  It was beautifully crafted and each frame took about twice as long to construct.  They got it just the way they wanted it and then... at the very end... it all hit the cutting room floor.


It was an electronic sex scene.


I couldn't believe this.  I'd always thought of the program entities as being asexual automatons... and that maybe Flynn had shaken things up a bit by introducing the whole concept of kissing to them.  But no... the programs were... uh... well....  I guess you just have to see it to believe it.  Yes, I know this was a Disney movie!  But they even included an equally bizarre "morning after scene."


Okay, okay.  It is "G rated," but it will still blow your mind.

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Mad Dogs Massacre Memphis
Tags: car wars

We played a modified version of the classic Midville scenario yesterday afternoon.  It took a mere four hours to play it out.  This was my first time playing and I was rather pleased with it overall-- especially after hearing about some of the dirty tactics others have used in the game.  We still have reservations about the rules for burst effects, missed shots, and grenades-- and we play pretty fast and loose when figuring out where a cycle ends up after its killed-- but nevertheless a good time was had by all.


In a previous scenario, the Memphis police department was nearly wiped out.  The PC's were deputized shortly thereafter... and then were warned that cyclists would more than likely attack due to the percieved weakness of the locals.  The PC's played the part of both the duellists and the police, and the cyclists took an extra $20,000 or so to make up for the extra dollar value of the PC vehicles.


As the Mad Dog player, I decided to try to use cycle designs that looked like the original counters that came with the Sunday Drivers pocket box.  I didn't take the time to design them all by hand, so I used the original vehicle guide cycles extensively.  Here's my line up: (C-2 and C-16) Flash-II, (C-3) Hawk, (C-5, C-19) Maxi w/ sidecar, (C-8, C-12, C-15, and C21) Mad Dog Cycle w/ sidecar, (C-9) Taurus w/ sidecar, (C-10, C-13) Scrapper w. sidecar, (C-11, C-24) Spider, (C-13) Aquarius, (C-17) Santa Cruz, (C-18) Tornado.  The Mad Dog cycle carried an MG and two HR's with a side car carrying an SS and an SMG armed passenger.


Here are my first five cycles entering downtown:



Chain was no problem.  Just loose some front armor and take a hazard.  Mines on the other hand, are bad news.  The locals can block off any street they want with this stuff... and you're going to have to break through one of these things.  After the dust had settled I'd wished I'd taken a cheap van and a few really cheap cycles that were designed for the express purpose of busting through the road block.


Pedestrians located in doorways, etc. were impossible to hit.  Well...  11's and 12's might have gotten 'em.  Make your cyclists all Cyclist-0 Gunner-1 for a better chance of hitting stuff.  My MG's accomplished very little.  But with RR's and RL's... you can blow up most of the wimpy buildings in a second or two and then take out the pedestrians that flee the rubble with your burst effects of the following turn.  HR's can speed up the process of bringing a building down if there happens to be several pedestrians giving you grief from it.  Note that any pedestrian so foolish as to shoot from the rooftop will automatically die when the building collapses.  Also, keep in mind that side mounted weapons on the side cars-- and even SMG armed passengers-- can really earn their keep in this scenario.  


My heart sank when my opponent mentioned that a certain pedestrain had a plunger.  Here the surviving Mad Dogs split up after the cross walk went down due to the militia's explosives:



The Mad Dogs took down the hospital and killed most of the rifle-armed guards that tried to flee the scene.  Most of the cycles went straight down Kazango leveling every building on their left and then leaving the map.  Grenade launchers made life difficult for me, but the fact that most of my cycles had sidecars on the left side was the only reason I had any success at all in this scenario.  A half dozen of my cycles stayed near the area where they entered the map to take out some underdefended buildings.  The rest braved the fire of the militia men on third and the duellists on second and first.  It took about 8 seconds of game time to play this out-- we didn't bother using phased movement, either.


I ended up losing 2.5 cycles to grenades, 2.5 to mines, one to a portable flame thrower that hit a powerplant from the side, and three cycles to vehicular fire.  Note: don't bother taking cycles to town with anything less tough than PR tires.  Also... super power plants are much more survivable than small ones-- expect to take damage from the side.  (We played with just 2033 era equipment, so I didn't have the luxury of using component armor....)


If my opponent had left mine counters on the sidewalk next to the over-walk that got blown up, I'd have had a much harder time.  Also, mines and a vehicle guarding the other end of Kanzango would have made my killing spree a lot more costly.  The locals have a lot of ground to defend because even a lone damaged RL-armed cycle can drop a building in 6 seconds if there's nobody nearby to stop him.  A lone pedestrian with 4 grenades can take out a cycle or two, but he can't get anywhere fast.  The cars are monstrously strong against cycles... but they can't be everywhere.


The final victory point tally for the Mad Dogs was 126 points for buildings and 80 points for killing pedestrians (5 Militia, 11 Hospital Staff, and 5 Hospital Guards.)  This was plenty of points to make the 50 point margin for a decisive Mad Dog victory.  However, my opponent didn't stoop to such tactics as taking out my cyclists with his burst effects (the way I did against a couple of Militia men....)


It looks like the locals have to spread out a little more... and entice the cycles to come in and split up.  If the defense appears too strong on certain streets, the cycles simply won't go there.  This was the only mistake on my opponents part in an otherwise devious and spirited defense.  Of course his PC's vehicles may not have been in the thick of the fighting because he wanted them to survive the battle... but this will have its own consequences in due time....  (He claimed he didn't know where the cycles were going to go, so he was unsure of where to commit them until they were already gone....  Riiiiight. )



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Another "Jeff's Gameblog"

I've been concerned lately that I've had 90% of my blog focus on Car Wars and hardly anything about Star Fleet Battles or Battletech.  It looks like the next several game sessions will be more autodueling madness, so to tide you over until I can play those other games, here's a link for you.


This other Jeff blogger/gamer has had similar thoughts as me, but he probably describes them as good or better.  Enjoy!

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Roll Two Dice and Pray
Tags: car wars

If you're role-playing in the Car Wars setting, it'd be nice to have a little bit more to go by than "Driver-1 Gunner-3."  However, elaborate rules such as those presented GURPS Autoduel and Autoduel Champions seem a bit overboard for a game with such high death rates.  The heart of any duelling campaign is, of course, the combats.  Secondary to that is the maintenance, design and development of the character's vehicles.  Car Wars addresses these issues admirably, but we'd like to have some additional "glue" to connect the scenarios in our campaign together.  These rules attempt to encourage character development and quick colorful play.


Character Background


Car Wars characters do not have attributes or other such stats.  They are fully descibed by a short list of skills and their associated levels.  These rules aim to keep it that way and avoid the additional complexity that more elaborate systems entail.  Instead of a confusing list of advantages, disadvantages, and quirks, Car Wars characters have a brief paragraph describing their background and major fields of experience.


Characters generally begin the game with 30 skill points and no prestige.  Your background first of all needs to be consistent with that fact.  If there are a few broad non-combat skills that you feel are appropriate, you can identify them specifically in order to differentiate the skill levels your character has acheived.  In general you should spend no more than 50 skill points on these.  (For a list of possible additional skills to use, see Compendium 2e, Midville, or AQD 7/1-- but feel free to go beyond this list if you're feeling creative.)


Task Rolls


There four levels of difficulty for a task roll:


4+ -- Trivial

6+ -- Easy

8+ -- Moderate

10+ -- Hard

12+ -- Difficult


The referee decides the difficulty of a particular task and the player responds by pointing out any additional bonuses or penalties that are relevant based on his character description.  A character that achieved a rank of First Class in the Boy Scout commandos might argue that he would get a +1 for stealth or +2 to camoflage his vehicle.  A character with a weakness toward members of the opposite sex might admit he has a penalty of -3 to resist the wiles of a femme fatale.


In any case, the game should move quickly.  The task roll is there just to add a bit of uncertainty to the game and wringing every last bonus point out of a vague character concept is against the spirit of the rules.  The referee has the final say, as always.


Survival Points


I find as a referee that characters often end up with a chance to die that's based completely on the outcome of a single die roll.  I usually allow the NPC's I'm playing to get cocky at this point... or give my player a 1/5th of a second to turn a different facing toward his opponent.  It's been fine so far, but the game could lose a bit of its suspense if my players ever notice me pulling my punches.  In order to address this issue I'm adding "Survival Points" to the game in order to give the player characters a bit more cinimatic flair during key points of the game.


Survival points are awarded for the following actions on the part of the player(s):


Rolling a 12 when rolling a task for any noncombat skill (1 point)

For good role playing during a scene (1 to 3 points)

For staying on task during a combat and keeping things moving quickly (1 point)

For not taking advantage of obscure or unclear rules to unfairly dominate a combat (1 point)

For creating a character background that is interesting but not overly "munchkin" (1 to 3 points)


Survival points can be spent in the following instances:


To reduce the to hit roll against the character for a single shot on a single turn (1 point per -1 penalty)

To increase a die roll on a control roll (4 points per +1 bonus)

To purchase and develop additional non-combat skills (1 point = 1 skill point)


Survival points are awarded after each scene or combat.  They provide a way for the referee to encourage the kind of behaviors that improve the overall game experience of everyone involved and increase the survivability of the PC's.  Also, I've noticed that the general skill points that were added to the game as of the Deluxe edition were pretty much always used to increase gunner skill in our games.  These rules will encourage the development of other character qualities without taking away from such critical areas.


That's pretty much it!  Enjoy these rules if you want to role play but don't have time to master the multi-volume monstrosity that is the modern end-all-be-all rpg.  Don't get a headache when all you need... is to "roll two dice and pray."

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October 2016

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