Monday, March 1, 2010

Car Wars

Without a doubt a different game, and in our opinion as players, a suspect one. I remember one long session in which it was argued passionately at what speed a car could ‘roll over’ from drifting and making a 30 degree turn at speeds like 30 -40 miles an hour. This resulted in four of us, at three in the morning, getting into a car and driving around the vast parking lot of a local mall, doing tests.

I’m surprised were weren’t questioned by a cop. This testing involved speed of acceleration, attempting to make sharp turns at the highest speed we dared (in an Audi, as it turned out), and experimenting with a high-pressure super-soaker out the window while ‘drifting’, to see if it did indeed reduce the likelihood of hitting. Turned out, driving straight or drifting proved one thing very clearly ... it is pretty-nigh impossible to concentrate on anything while driving except straight ahead.

Don’t know if anyone remembers that Car Wars ‘rounds’ were based on periods of 1 second. This was necessary in order to reconcile the movement of the vehicle physically over the ground ... longer rounds would have meant the cars moving much further per turn, which would have disrupted the micromanagement of the vehicle. Since the cars were designed to fire just as quickly (once per round), the game easily allowed the possibility of six to ten car maneuvers and as many as 10 to 15 combat attacks in a ten-second period. Intense driving or combat could increase the number of both maneuvers and attacks.

While we convinced ourselves in the parking lot that you could indeed roll a car at 40 mph, we also realized how ridiculous the attack/manuever principle was in the game. We acknowledged that we weren’t profoundly excellent drivers ... but it wasn’t rational that anyone could make two 30 degree opposite turns at 60+ mph, check a panel for firing both forward and backwards at the same time, all in a two-second period, and convincingly expect to a) hit anything and b) NOT crash. There just isn’t time to do the checking necessary. If you don’t believe it, I invite you to find a big asphalt tarmac and give it a try.

Not that it stopped us from playing the game, as it was and without changes (where would you start?) I think the height of this absurdity came when we played an 8-person game on Car Wars’ Offroad Track in an all-nighter that lasted from 7 p.m. until 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Ah, youth.

For those who don’t know the track, it consisted of two jumps, a water ford, several bumpy places in the road and so on. We designed a variety of cars, off-road worthy, from large SUVs to trikes, and gave it a try. The result? Crash, crash, crash.

We each started with two people in each car, which allowed for one of the two people to die and still allow for play. It was an interesting game. We played to finish three laps. Three people were successful. No ‘team’ survived ... only individuals. No one finished the game in the same vehicle in which they started. Either the cars were wrecked beyond use, or the drivers were killed – enabling those drivers who survived wrecks to crawl out, cross the highly dangerous terrain in order to find a working vehicle, only to get in and get going. There was a lovely pile up of working and non-working vehicles at the end of each jump, and by the second round we realized the trick was pretty much to make the jump, survive, abandon your mostly-wrecked vehicle and take your pick of what was there. The winner of this profound race crossed the finish line in a vehicle that had been driven by four players during the course of the race. I came in second.

At some point we began to calculate the total time the race had taken. It worked out to less than three minutes. For the fans watching, it must have been the most profound three minutes of their lives.


Jayson said...

Ha ha ha ha. Yesss. That takes me back.

Anonymous said...

What I always liked (i.e. the rule I abused the most) was that weapons & equipment cost money but people were free. So I tended to field swarms of cheap bikes with a driver and guy on the back with a SMG & a few grenades.

PatrickW said...

We played the heck out of that game, and if SJG ever releases a new rules set, several of my friends will play it once again.

I favored recoiless rifles for the burst effect - great versus metal armor and pedestrians and solid against regular armor.

Anonymous said...

That was my prime game for a very long time (early high school era). I even have a basic boxed set - still in the shrink-wrap!

That said, we did spend a lot of time discussing the realism of it, and came to the conclusion that in order to enjoy the game, we had to suspend our disbelief.

Now that PC capabilities are up to snuff, I find that computer gaming is a much better venue for my vehicle aggression.

Adam Thornton said...

I love the time scale in Car Wars, because I love imagining the guy in the stands who's had a few beers prior to the event, and can't hold it any more and figures he has time to make it to the can before the race starts.

And there he is, peeing into the urinal trough, and from outside comes the starting gun, and then, as he's hurriedly shaking off and zipping off, a godawful cacophony of gunfire and collision, and he sprints to the top of the ramp into the stadium just in time to see the last rolling wheel from the last smoking automobile hulk wobble its way to the edge of the track and fall over.