Car Wars

Car Wars

Infobox RPG
title = Car Wars

caption = 1983 Edition cover
designer = Chad Irby and Steve Jackson
publisher= Steve Jackson Games
date = 1980
genre = Post-Apocalyptic
system = proprietary"

"Car Wars" is a vehicle combat simulation game developed by Steve Jackson Games. It was first published in late 1980 (©1981).citation
first=Jeff |last=Tidball
contribution=Car Wars |pages=49–51 |title=Hobby Games: The 100 Best
editor-first=James |editor-last=Lowder |editor-link=James Lowder
publisher=Green Ronin Publishing |year=2007 |isbn=978-1-932442-96-0

Game play

In "Car Wars", players assume control of one or more automobiles, which may include any powered vehicle, from motorcycles to semi trucks. Optional rules include piloting helicopters, ultralights, balloons, boats, subs and tanks. The vehicles are typically outfitted with weapons (such as missiles and machine guns), components (like heavy-duty fire-proof wheels, and nitro injectors), and defensive elements (armor plating and radar tracking systems). Within any number of settings, the players then direct their vehicles in combat.

The published games use paper counters to represent vehicles in a simulated battle upon printed battlemaps. Most editions of the game were published to use a 1-inch = 15-feet scale, although the Fifth Edition switched to 3-inches = 15-feet. By modifying the scale of the game, players can use miniature toy vehicles such as Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Micro Machines, or even 1/25th scale models in the game.

"Car Wars" had many scenarios available and the system allowed for players to make their own. Common scenarios included making it successfully through a harrowing gauntlet, other times the victor would compete in an arena to win a virtual cash prize with which to upgrade their cars. Many game sessions consist of players taking their cars through many successive arena-style scenarios, upgrading their cars between each round. At the height of the game's popularity, many gaming conventions and gaming clubs sponsored "Car Wars" tournaments where finalist players could win real prizes such as a trophy.

"Car Wars" uses a number of standard six-sided dice to determine the outcomes of weapon fire, damage and vehicle control during the game. The game is played in turns, where each turn represents one second of real time. Each turn is divided into ten phases (first edition) then to five phases (revised edition), (in the latest version, Car Wars 5.0, the phases have been reduced to three). All action in "Car Wars" is simultaneous. Players do not roll for initiative which is common in other combat games, instead, each phase, a vehicle moves a number of inches determined by the vehicle's speed and players may fire weapons on any phase as long as they have line-of-sight with a target of their choosing. As part of movement players may attempt turns and other maneuvers of increasing difficulty. The more maneuvers one attempts in a turn and the more difficult they are, the more likely it is that a player's car will skid or crash. After all phases of movement and combat are resolved, a new turn begins. Typically, a game is over after a few turns, which represents a battle being over in a few seconds of real time, but because every action in the game must be resolved a typical game takes a few hours to play.

While the core of the original "Car Wars" was a boardgame, the supplements allowed it to be extended into a larger role-playing game.cite book
first=Ian |last=Livingstone
title=Dicing with Dragons: An Introduction to Role-playing Games
publisher=Routledge |year=1982 |page=110
] Other expansions such as rule-additions, [cite journal
first=Dirck | last=de Lint
title=Tanks for the Memories |format=expansion |pages=56–61
journal=Dragon |issue=Issue 117
publisher=TSR, Inc. |month=January |year=1987
] [cite journal
first=Allen |last=Varney
title=Lem Stucker's Dragon Farm and Wrestling Show |format=expansion |pages=84–87
journal=Dragon |issue=Issue 204
publisher=TSR, Inc. |month=April |year=1994
] mini-scenarios [cite journal
first=Marcus |last=Rowland
title=Assignment:Freeway Deathride! |format=mini-scenario |pages=26–27
journal=White Dwarf |issue=Issue 41
publisher=Games Workshop |month=May |year=1983
] and dual-stated products like "Autoduel Champions" (for use with "Car Wars" or "Champions") [cite journal
first=Marcus |last=Rowland
title=Open Box: Autoduel Champions and Car Wars GM Screen |format=Review |pages=11
journal=White Dwarf |issue=Issue 48
publisher=Games Workshop |month=December |year=1983
] published in game magazines expanded the game even further.

Publication history

"Car Wars" was first published in a small ziplock-bag format in 1980, and cited Alan Dean Foster's short story, "Why Johnny Can't Speed," as a primary inspiration. The game won the Charles S. Roberts Award (Origins Award) for "Best Science Fiction Boardgame of 1981" [cite web
title=Charles S. Roberts Award Winners (1981)
publisher=Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design
] and was named to the "Games" magazine Games 100 list in 1985. [cite journal
title=The 1985 Games 100
publisher=Playboy Enterprises

As the game became more popular, there were a series of increasingly more expensive and elaborate editions. "Car Wars" also served as the inspiration for the 1985 computer game "Autoduel", published by Origin Systems.cite news
title=The Geek Behind the GURPS
work=The Austin Chronicle
] Steve Jackson continues to express an interest in developing video games based on the "Car Wars" concept.cite journal
title=Steve Jackson: The Escapist Interview
journal=The Escapist

The game's popularity waned during the 1990s, and in response to slipping sales, Steve Jackson Games ceased support for "Car Wars". The last official "Cars Wars" material for the original game appeared in "Pyramid" magazine (an article introducing High Torque Motors, by Robert Deis). [cite journal
title=Uncle Albert's 2051 Catalog Supplement
journal=Pyramid (online)

Autoduel America, the setting for "Car Wars", was developed for role-playing games (RPGs) using Steve Jackson Games' "GURPS" system (called "GURPS Autoduel"). That "GURPS" worldbook has seen two editions. A series of expansions for both the "GURPS" version and boardgame, the "AADA Road Atlas" and Survival Guides, were published in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 2002, Steve Jackson Games released an entirely new version of "Car Wars". Redesigned for a new audience, it was called version 5.0. The new game's unusual marketing, scattering the game across several redundant products, met with mixed responses and the game's popularity has continued to wane. The 2002 products are still in print. [cite web
authorlink = Steve Jackson Games
title = Car Wars Products in Print
publisher = Steve Jackson Games
url =
format = FAQ
accessdate = 2008-02-15

"Car Wars" (both boardgame and RPG version) was translated into French by Croc.

' was released in 1991 (with a 2nd edition in 2001), designed by Creede and Sharleen Lambard and published by Steve Jackson Games. Reviewer Shannon Appelcline said (of the 2nd edition game) "It's based on a fun concept--blowing the heck out of each others cars'--the box design is appealing, and there's a matching ' game that's compatible. ... when you actually begin reading the rules and playing the game the product starts to lose its luster." He described the game as having an "extremely high" random factor and concluded his review stating "I'm fairly certain there's a damned good game in this box somewhere, it's just not the one described in the rulebook." [cite web
title=Car Wars: The Card Game (Capsule Review)

Main editions

The first four editions use a ground scale of 1-inch = 15-feet. "Aeroduel" introduced an air-to-air scale of frac|4-inch = 15-feet. The "Fifth Edition" uses a revised scale of 3-inches = 15-feet.

;First edition
* "Car Wars" ©1981–1984 (4×7" ziplock-bag or pocket box)
** Cars, pickups, vans, and motorcycles. Turns have ten phases.
* "Sunday Drivers" / "Crash City" ©1982 (pocket box)
** Added pedestrians, a small bus, and rules for buildings
* "Truck Stop" ©1983 (pocket box)
** Added full-size buses and semi-trailer trucks
* "Autoduel Champions" ©1983 (8½×11" book)
** Added helicopters, grasshoppers (flying cars), and superheroes (the last not canon for Car Wars)
** Introduced an alternate hex-based movement system–using 3-inch cars and 1-inch hexes–intended for use with role-playing games. This system was not used again in Car Wars, although the scale is the same as "Car Wars: Fifth Edition".
* "Car Wars Reference Screen" ©1983 (3-panel 8½×11")
** Added "Advanced Collision System"
* "The AADA Vehicle Guide" ©1983 (5½×8½" book)
** Added trikes (three-wheeled motorcycles) and off-road rules

;Second edition
* "Car Wars Deluxe Edition" ©1985 (9×12" box)
** Combined and refined the various first edition rules, adding 10-wheeler trucks
** Note: Starting in 1990 the "Deluxe Edition" boxes contained the "Car Wars Compendium: Second Edition" rulebook rather than the original "Deluxe Edition" rulebook.
* "Dueltrack" ©1986 (9×12" box)
** Added gasoline engines, metal armor, race-cars, and "Chassis & Crossbow" (rules for the primitive early history of Car Wars)
* "The AADA Vehicle Guide: Volume 2" ©1987 (5½×8½" book)
** Added sedans, and campers (SUVs)
* "Boat Wars" ©1988 (pocket box), ©1990 (9×12" box)
** Added boats, amphibious cars, and hovercraft

;Third Edition
* "Car Wars Compendium" ©1989 (8½×11" book)
** Compiled all the second edition rules (except race-cars) in one place
** Refined car movement, based more on the "Turning Key" than on a map grid

;Fourth Edition
* "Car Wars Compendium: Second Edition" ©1990,1996 (8½×11" book)
** Revised rules—including race-cars—with many updates and refinements. Turns now have five phases.
* "Car Wars Tanks" ©1990 (9×12" box)
** Added wheeled military vehicles, tanks, and really big guns
* "Aeroduel" ©1990 (9×12" box)
** Added fixed-wing planes and airships with both civilian and military grade weapons
* "Uncle Albert's Catalog From Hell" ©1992 (8½×11" book)
** Includes all previously published construction rules, weapons, and equipment, but the only play rules are minor updates to the CWC2E rules.

;Fifth Edition
* "Car Wars" 5.0 ©2002 (9 comic book sized pamphlets, only one is required to play)
** Back to just cars (all pre-designed), with simplified play rules. Turns now have three phases.
** Scale change, with 1-inch now 5-feet rather than 15-feet
** No construction rules published yet (as of early 2008)

Background story

"Car Wars" is set in the future, in an alternate timeline (originally the mid 2030s when the game was first published). In this alternate future natural resources have become depleted and the United States government has nationalized oil production. This eventually leads to a second American civil war which ends in the creation of the three "Free Oil States", Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. It is this post-apocalyptic setting which has drawn comparisons between "Car Wars" and the "Mad Max" movies.cite book
last = Gunn
first = James E.
title = The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
publisher = Viking
year = 1988
page = 194
] cite book
last = Schwab
first = Brian
title = AI Game Engine Programming
publisher = Charles River Media
year = 2004
page = 184

Following famine in various parts of the world, World War III erupts between the USSR and the US, but only minimal damage results from the war. After this war, there is worldwide economic crisis. After many years of global unrest, "death sports" become a popular form of entertainment. In particular, the sport of "autodueling" was born as an outgrowth of demolition derbys. The American Autoduel Association (AADA) was formed, to sponsor sporting events and up-and-coming autoduelists.

In this futuristic setting, technology has allowed for new vehicle designs, replacements for internal combustion engines, miniaturized weapons, as well as cloning (together with techniques for storing memories), so that death is only a minor setback for autoduelists.

"Car Wars" is a game designed for simulating these autoduels between competing players.

Clubs and organizations

The American Autoduel Association (AADA) was a worldwide group of players. It was started by Steve Jackson Games who supported the club with a quarterly magazine called "Autoduel Quarterly". This contained campaign ideas, vehicles, "mock" advertisements, and new weapons and accessories, as well as questions and answers. Subscribers would receive a bonus in the form of an extra cutout or cartoon on the protective mailing cover. Local clubs could also pay a yearly membership fee to be considered "official."

The AADA served as a structured clearinghouse for common rules and guidelines to be followed during 'official' events. World Championships were held each year at the Origins Game Fair.

The AADA is no longer an official club as recognized by Steve Jackson Games. There are still several local clubs that claim to be AADA affiliated, and there are even web sites where interested parties can enjoy PBEM games. One site has a "Car Wars" podcast.

The official "Car Wars" site notes plans to relaunch the AADA and start a new periodical called "Autoduel Times". [cite web
authorlink = Steve Jackson Games
title = Car Wars AADA - FAQ
publisher = Steve Jackson Games
url =
format = FAQ
accessdate = 2008-02-15
] No date is given for this project.

ee also

* "Battlecars"
* "Mad Max"
* "Roadwar 2000"
* "Dark Future"
* "Darkwind"


External links

* [ The official "Car Wars" site]
*bgg par
section1=game|id1=2795|name1="Car Wars"
section2=game|id2=3183|name2="Car Wars 5th Edition"
section3=search|id3=car+wars|name3="Car Wars" game expansions and supplements

* [ Listing of all "Car Wars" products]

Fan sites

* [ Gear Jammer Motor Works]
* [ MADHAT's "Car Wars" site]

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