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Vroom!!! Taking the Car Wars playtest set for a spin.

I sat down with Scott Haring yesterday to give the latest draft of the Car Wars game a shot. Scott has been working on the sixth edition rules for over a year now. I've already played the game a few times now, this time I wanted to publicly share a handful of my thoughts on the session.

NOTE: All of the components shown in the photos are Scott's very rough test pieces. Also, this is not a detailed, and complete overview of the current playtest set. This is a quick overview to give you an idea of where things are headed.

tl;dr - Faster and focused more on speed and destruction than on physics and math. Yay!!!

From gallery of PhilReed


For the session, Scott and I each started with identical game components. We each had a nine-card deck for setting our speed each round. We each had a second deck of vehicle component cards. We each had a record sheet. And we each had a car counter.

Shared components during the game were the dice and the new maneuvering tool . . . more on those later.

From gallery of PhilReed

Speed Cards

Numbered zero to six, plus a minus one and minus two, these cards were used at the start of each turn to declare our speed that round. Basic vehicles may accelerate or decelerate by one each round; special vehicle component cards can modify that amount.

I started at a 6 (the fastest possible speed in the basic game) . . . but I was soon traveling in reverse.

From gallery of PhilReed

Vehicle Component Cards

In the older editions of Car Wars, vehicle design was an exercise in mathiness as we calculated weight, space, cost, and did our best to cram everything into a car that we loved.

Yesterday, during the sixth edition playtest, all I had to care about was a single number: Ten. Each of the vehicle component cards has a number in the lower left corner and as long as all of my cards totaled ten then I was ready to go. Now some sessions will use a different number -- say "20" as one example -- but for our game, Scott and I were each limited to ten.

From gallery of PhilReed

Armor, engines, tires, and other stock components.

Part of what made vehicle design so quick was that each car automatically started with some basic -- and vital! -- components. Scott and I each had the same baseline vehicle with 30 points of armor, basic tires, a driver and gunner, and an engine. We could modify those basics with the vehicle component cards -- Scott, for example, increased his armor total to 45 -- but every modification counted toward the target number of 10.

Starting with the basic shell of the vehicle reminded me a lot of an old Autoduel Quarterly article and of the original card-driven vehicle design system we tested during the fifth edition playtests. Scott improved on that older work, and the result left me happy with the ease and speed of the system.

Within five minutes, we were each ready for combat.

From gallery of PhilReed

Some Basics

* Dice. There are two different types of dice in the Car Wars sixth edition game, basic play dice and special collision dice. The basic dice are for initiative, combat, control rolls, and just about anything else you'll ever want to do. When attacking you roll and hope for "hits" while your opponent rolls and hopes for "shields." When maneuvering you do not want to roll "skids" or else you will, as Scott put it, be the "proud owner of an out of control token."

I don't think Scott knows the meaning of the word proud.

The collision dice only come into play when you ram something -- which I did -- and are rolled together. One determines distance your car moves from the point of impact while the other shows your car's orientation after a collision. Extremely simple, and highly effective when my speed six car slammed head-on into Scott's speed five car.

From gallery of PhilReed

* Maneuvery tooly thingy. Hey, we're working on the name! This was used both for straight movement and turns. The protractery edgy end of the maneuvery tooly thingy (yeah, words is tough when writing at 3 am) shows a number between 1 and 6. When making a turn check which number the arrow is pointing at and then roll that many dice.

NOTE: Rolling six dice + two more dice for going fast is bad. Don't do what I did.

Some of the vehicle component cards can help here -- a spoiler, for example, allows you to ignore one "skid" result -- and I suggest you take some of those gadgets if you plan to twist and turn and spin all across the event.

From gallery of PhilReed

Some Specifics

Our entire playtest session was one hour for two cars, with close to 30 minutes of our hour spent discussing the game and expected component costs. Actual play, including vehicle design, was in the 35 to 40 minute range . . . just slightly longer than our target. Fortunately, the actual play didn't feel like it was taking more than half an hour. So perceptions aligned neatly with our goal, even if the reality of time didn't match our goal. We'll work on that.

During this session, Scott and I were testing his rough component mix for the two-player introductory game. This rendition of the game, if it happens as currently conceived, would be an inexpensive introduction to Car Wars; everything is looking like the deeper box that supports four players (and have a lot more vehicle design options) will require a price point higher than our $25 to $30 goal.

So we adapt. And Scott's doing an excellent job of adapting . . . especially considering his very first draft of the new edition led us to a $100 game. Not quite the target price.

What's Next?

More playtesting. Scott is taking the feedback from yesterday's game and making minor tweaks to his playtest set. Next week we're scheduled for two sessions -- with more players -- and I can see we're close to shifting our playtesting efforts from internal testing to public testing at stores and conventions.

Will we run Car Wars playtests at Gen Con? Doubtful. I hope to have a set with me for private tests with select distributors and retailers, but things aren't quite at the point we're ready to open everything to a public playtest in the booth.

That doesn't mean I won't be convinced that I should run a playtest or two in an undisclosed location for special friends, but don't expect to see the game in our booth.

I'll try to snap new pics and share next week during our next playtest sessions.
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