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Subject: Grenadier Motors Sortie trials rss

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Arthur Erickson
United States
Greensboro
North Carolina
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Background

In the year 2000 Grenadier Motors took over the General Motors plant in Arlington, TX, just in time for the oil crisis and for the bottom to drop out of the internal combustion market. Like some other auto manufacturers, Grenadier managed to hold on, first through the conversion to electric and later the full-blown market collapse after the Food Riots.

However, Grenadier was not an early innovator in the 2020s when dueling models began rolling off factory assembly lines. They continued to produce conventional cars long after other companies had aggressively switched to duel-equipped models. When they did start dabbling in these new trends, they did so conservatively by simply adding modest amounts of armor or limited defensive weaponry.

With few exceptions, it really wasn’t until the mid-2030s that Grenadier became a significant presence in the dueling market. One such exception was the Sortie (ADQ 9-1), released in 2030. [the Sortie is an accel 5, HC 2 compact, about 30 points of armor all-around, RL front, HR right and left and a ram plate] The Sortie is very well armed and armored for a compact. Too much so really, compared to Vehicle Guide examples closer to this era of CW history.

The Sortie would go on to be marketed heavily towards women and was quite successful with that demographic. But early in 2029 [when all my games are currently set] Grenadier was still trying to gain its bearings in the duel-equipped market and had a number of projects under development. They had the Sortie design, but weren’t yet sure what niche to shove it into.

Scenario

Last weekend, I ran a game for two new players I’m trying to cultivate into CW fanatics. This was their 2nd game. They each had one character carry over from that previous duel, plus three new chars.

Grenadier commandeered a section of the ruins of Ft. Worth, TX, just west of Arlington. They cordoned off a few blocks (represented by east and west Midville), and set up cameras and observers to record the action. Their objective was two-fold. For one, they wanted to pit the Sortie against a wide variety of foes, to see what it was capable of and what kind of opponent it would shine or fail against. Secondly, they wanted footage of Sorties in action, for eventual use in the advertising phase of its release, scheduled for late ’29 or early ’30.

Each player was equipped with a team of four Sorties, with a SMG and PFE for each driver. Grenadier wanted the Sorties to perform, but to do so plausibly-- not vs. pushovers. To that end, the ruins were divided into four zones, each with its own type of opponent, thus:

1. A Molotov bus in the southeast quadrant, bounded by Maple, First, Beech & Second. The Molotov has heavy duty flamethrowers on sides and rear and MGs front.

2. Twelve cycles (4 Popper, 4 Hawk and 4 Taurus (2 RL/2 MD)) in the northeast, bounded by Maple, Second, Beech & Third. These are all MG or rocket launcher equipped.

3. Two vans (a Firestarter and a Security Six) in the northwest, bounded by Elm (up to Third), Oak (up to 2nd), Kazango & Fourth. Lasers in turrets, with hi-res targeting computers.

4. Twelve pedestrians (2 w/tripod MGs, 4 w/LAWs, 6 w/SMGs) tucked into buildings in the southwest, bounded by Elm, First, Kazango & Third.

These zones overlapped here and there the Molotov and bikes on Second, and the Vans and peds on one block of Third. The rule was that the non-Sortie elements could only fire at a Sortie when it was within its own zone. If a Sortie fired upon elements from outside of a zone, they could return fire.

Four sheet (east and west) Midville, as seen from the north. Note that I folded back the northernmost six inches to fit it on my table.

East start positions-- Molotov up top cycles circling bottom.

West start positions. Peds up top, vans bottom. Note that the Sorties on the edge actually started out on Kazango and Elm, not Oak and Beech as depicted here. When I saw that the players had sneakily avoided the vans, I made them move.

Basically, it boiled down to about $80k in Sorties vs. $60-70k each in a bus, the vans and the cycles. The ped zone was the only place where the Sorties totally outclassed the opponent. The Sorties had to enter apart from one another though. They each entered the board alone from north and south on Maple, Pine, Elm and Kazango. They had to individually pass through a gauntlet of foes before they could consolidate.

It was not expected that they would be able to defeat all the opponents. Rather, it was only expected that they make a good showing of it, utilize the Sortie’s qualities to maximum advantage and pull off some fancy action along the way. Bounties were offered to the Sortie drivers for each kill, with bonuses possible for impressive action. The bounties were thus:

ped neutralized = $250
cycle killed = $1000
van killed = $5000
bus killed =$10,000

This was pretty stingy but Grenadier didn’t roll out their crack drivers. They used expendable and hungry amateurs, who did not need to be compensated well. What they wasted in materiel they saved in talent, venue and formal R&D. In the ruins with amateurs, there's no proving ground to repair, no liability, no Gold Cross on company drivers-- virtually no overhead other than ammo and salvaging the autos when it's all over.

Prestige was only earned at a modifier of one fourth, because this was a non-public and non-televised event. Nor did Grenadier really even care who the individual drivers were.
There were scores, if not hundreds, of people around in the form of drivers, promotional staff, film crews, security, R&D guys, mechanics and whatnot. All these folk witnessed the duel and spread word of mouth accounts afterwards, hence the one quarter prestige (vs. zero pres).


Session Report

The house vehicles and peds were evenly distributed around their zones. All vehicles were circling at 40 mph. The cycles were driving both clockwise and counter-clockwise. All peds were in doorways and windows, mostly with long fields of fire. Players were allowed to enter at any speed they wished.

With so many elements in play, we drastically abbreviated phase by phase movement. Only in areas where handling, close passes, angles of fire, etc. mattered did we go phase by phase. In many areas where the details didn’t really matter, both player and NPC vehicles took their whole move at once. The scenario would not have been possible to play in a reasonable timeframe otherwise.

During the pre-game orientation, the players realized that the Firestarter and Security Six were bad news, and that the Molotov was a hairy opponent too. Their initial objective was to exit those zones quickly, and regroup in the cycle zone to wreak havoc there. To that end, the Sorties entering from the north on Elm and Kazango (with the vans only 6-8 inches away) entered at 90 mph.

Right off the bat, one player contemplated a 90 mph vs. 40 mph head-on collision with the Firestarter. I reminded him that his driver, in our fictional real world, was unlikely to be willing to sacrifice his life for the good of the team and dissuaded him from the suicide ram. As he blew past the Firestarter, it gave him a nasty bite with the laser, which caused a control roll… and a spinout. This Sortie spent much of the game spinning up the edge of the map on Kazango until he regained control at First St. The Firestarter only got one more shot off before the Sortie spun out of zone. The Sortie was set on fire, but speed, the spinout and the PFE put it out quickly. (Over the course of the game a half-dozen fire-markers were placed on various vehicles, but lucky rolling by the players put most of them out, with one exception.)

The peds then proceeded to harass him with small arms fire that started to be a little bit scary for the driver who had two badly weakened armor facings due to the heavy laser hits. When he finally regained control, he exacted some revenge on the peds with his rockets, blowing through the walls and knocking two of them out of play. The other peds withdrew from their doors and windows lest they suffer a similar fate, and the Sortie then exited off board around turn seven or so with a breached left and a very weak right.

The other Sortie in the van zone on Elm faired a little better, taking one big hit from the Security Six, but then miraculously being missed by what would surely have been an armor breaching shot. [This first pass scared the heck out of the players, who resolved to never, ever come back to the van zone.]

This initially lucky Sortie then got up behind a Hawk and wore it down with some gentle taps and (often missed) RL fire. This chase lasted about 4-5 seconds west on 2nd and south on Maple. In his panic, the Hawk forgot he had a spike dropper and allowed the Sortie to stay on his tail, leading to his demise from the RL. [This was the worst tactical error I made with the NPC vehicles, with so much to juggle.] At the end of the chase, this Sortie found itself far from the action and sped up to get back to the fray. A missed control roll put him in a roll and he landed crunched into a building on his side. But the driver could at least walk away.

The two sorties that entered from the north right into the cycle zone from Maple and Pine came in at 50 mph. They immediately started to tangle with cycles, mostly exchanging rocket and MG fire that missed. They were joined shortly by the two cars that entered from the south Molotov zone (who were able to give the bus a wide berth) and by the one that survived the pass with the Security Six.

A few turns in, these started dabbling with their ram capabilities. Given the close quarters, the large number of cycles and their initial higher speed, they did not find it difficult to set up rams. The first couple rams were not at high speed differentials, doing little damage to the Sorties and heavy but not killing damage to the cycles.

Then the high speed rams began. The players had been emboldened by how little damage they took from earlier rams and frustrated by the fact that the rams had not always killed the cycles. Feeling some degree of impunity, two of them set up head-ons in the 80-100 mph range in the center Beech/3rd intersection. Another Hawk and a Popper splattered, but at the cost of some gnarly control rolls and both Sorties wrecking. [I applied D hazards for damage, on top of a D for speed loss, often resulting in a D5.] In short order two Sorties rolled at high speeds and landed themselves out of commission.

Fallout from high speed, mid-map rams at Second and Beech.

By this time, I was playing the cycles smarter. They started using their dropped weapons to screen themselves from the Sorties and to force them to maneuver more. They also had a chance to get out of the spread out formation and consolidate fire a bit. The players had still had not slowed down much, even when in handling trouble. One Sortie driver managed to splatter a Popper and later a Taurus with rams but, again, at the cost of severe hazards, dropped weapon damage and high speed maneuver that, yet again, resulted in a roll. This was the third of four Sortie rolls of the game.

One of the Sorties had entered in the Molotov zone, circled through the cycles, fired some shots, crossed back over into the Molotov zone and took a couple bad HDFT hits from the bus in a high speed pass. He wound up in a spinout, smashing into a building and walking out on foot, not having killed a thing.

The Sortie that had started far away in the ped zone on Kazango sped along First to eventually join the action mid-game from the far corner. It turned north onto Maple at high speed and poor handling, with the Molotov bearing down. The Molotov sideswiped, and then breached the armor with an HDFT, knocking the driver out and setting the Sortie on fire. The car rolled into a building and burned, roasting the driver who hadn’t even made a control roll or hit anything with a weapon.

The Molotov and cycles have taken their toll in the east.

The last two Sorties still mobile were one in the thick of the cycle mix and the one that had ended its spinout after the Firestarter hit. The latter backed off the map on south Kazango. The last one made a final swoop around the cycle zone, survived some rocket fire, spikes and mines and realized the game was over. He drove out north Pine to end the game.

The epicenter of the action is not difficult to identify. In the far upper left and lower right, the two surviving Sorties exit the map. The cycles have created choke points and gathered together.

Final Comments

After starting with a 45 minute review of the rules and explanation of the scenario, the session took about three and a half hours to finish play and ten turns in game time. I was astounded to have gotten out in that time frame. That was only possible by foregoing phase by phase movement when possible, and by fudging NPC handling. What the players gained from poor cycle tactics, they certainly lost from NPC handling shorthand. I really only tracked NPC handling when they were directly involved with a player and had suffered some hazards. With so many 45 degree turns in the city, and mostly HC 2 to start with, many of the cycles should have been playing perennial handling catch up.

The players did try to employ burst damage against the cycles and almost made some progress that way. The cycles did not cooperate by bunching up though, and the 1D6 burst damage did not prove decisive since the cyclist all had body armor. Of the five killed cycles, four perished from rams and only one from weapon fire. Even in that case, it was ramming that softened it up.

The vans saw only 2 turns of action and came away literally unscathed. The Molotov was in service about a third of the game and took non-critical damage. The peds were able to whittle down and annoy the players and only suffered from the one car that parked for a seconds to retaliate.

Five Sorties wrecked themselves, one burnt up, two rolled out. I don’t know if the scenario was stacked totally against them from the start, if relying less on speed and rams might have let them score more kills before going down, or what. Their conceptual approach was fine— gather and gang up on weaker foes. Maybe it was the speed that killed them, as is so often the case in CW.

The seven surviving drivers earned a total of $5500 in bounties and $500 in bonuses for cinematic action. They mostly came away with a point in Gunner and one or two in Driver. They’re not far along in their dueling careers, but they’ve got a little pocket change for when they score some Amateur Night salvage. They can also boast of having fought with gusto in a massive and battle an opportunity few amateurs receive.

I was pleased the with the game not only because we simply managed to play out this monstrous extravaganza I had conceived, but also because the Sortie seemed to perform the way it should. With the ram plate, inaccurate high damage weapons and no rear defense, it’s a great close quarters city car, but a miserable highway car. Since the ADQ flavor text makes it sound like a Barbie Town Car, that’s just about perfect. I can imagine the commercials highlighting it as a cute but tough town car, easily able to handle threats from scum gangs or cyclists while on a shopping trip to the mall.
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Adam Deverell
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Wow, I don't know about your newbies, but you're obviously a Car Wars fanatic Arthur. Detailed session report and you really know your Car Wars tactics.

I didn't know anyone played this anymore. The map and counters brought back memories. I always found it fun to build cars but ultimately tedious and fiddly to play the actual game. I sold my collection a few years back as there was no way I'd play it again.

Do you play it regularly and what was the response of your friends? I'd be interested to know what gamers think of Car Wars now a days. I've always seen it better suited to a turn based computer game.
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Arthur Erickson
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I've played something in the ballpark of 20 games in the past four years or so. More than half of those in the past year. I don't know what the global CW population is at this point. I doubt even as many as 100 people play this game at all regularly in person, though maybe that's pessimistic. There are folks that play online, turn based versions.

It can be fiddly, and I once felt it was tedious. I guess I've put in my dues, in terms of learning the rules inside and out. My main CW partner and I have debated, reasoned and hashed out rules variations and whatnot for those four years. Eventually, we settled upon the belief that, when Car Wars is played as written and intended, it works really well. We have a couple house rules, but mostly we found that the more faithful we were to the actual game, the better it got in terms of realism, balance and playability.

CW has a tremendous pull when it comes to nostalgia, as evidenced in you yourself. I wish it was more appreciated as a living, breathing game today, but at least the goodwill most gamers have for it is a nice kind of common ground.
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William Hostman
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I much prefer the CW5 play rules... simpler, easier, faster, fewer tables.

But CW5 never got a design sequence, and it's not directly compatible with the old ones.

If CW 5 had gotten a design sequence, I'd still be playing.
 
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Yoki Erdtman
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I like the 5-Phase system introduced late in the life of Car Wars 4, it really improved the game IMO. I'm not a fan of CW5 at all though.

Edit: I forgot to mention that there's a really good Car Wars Vehicle Designer program made by Klaus Breuer. It makes car design so much fun, and all at a click of the mouse. When you're done you simply print all the sheets you want and play.
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Jeff Johnson
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Random comments:

Way to go, Earlburt. This game is reminiscent of the "Rush Hour" scenario we ran in order to promote the Kane Firehawk. I think your scenario resulted in much better promotional footage this time, though. Good job synthesizing the background data on Grenadier motors. (I felt bad about introducing a new company for our last session, so I made sure to point out that their main factory was sacked by cycle gangs late in 2029-- so as not to clutter up the official time line with my stuff.) Also, I'm glad to see the armed van restored to its rightful place of fearsomeness.

@Adam: We did get a guy from the local Euro-game club to come out for a five player game of CAR WARS. He seemed to have more fun than he had expected to, but says he needs to play some more before he could form a decent opinion. The playing time for autoduelling is closer to three hours where the popular club games take more like two. (This is stuff like Ticket to Ride, El Grande, Stone Age, etc.) If Earlburt goes and plays Twilight Struggle or Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83 with him sometime, I bet we could get him back at the table again.

@aramis: I really enjoyed 5th edition when it came out, too. Having all the charts and tables you need on the turning key *and* eliminating the need for a movement chart made the game really fast playing. I think we mostly play the Compendium edition because we like the setting and want to be able to have role playing adventures in addition to the more usual arena duels. We still use the fire rules from 5th edition, though. They are great fun-- and the Firestarter can actually start fires again!

@Yokiboy: After about thirty games or so in the past few years, our consensus is that the five phase chart is still the best. Much of the fun in the game comes from tense close range high speed passes. IMO, moving to the three phase chart is going to give a huge advantage to somebody where the five phase chart yields enough nuance that the more skilled player can come out on top more often. Also... if you look closely, you can see that record sheets from Klaus Breuer's awesome program appear in the photos above.
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Yoki Erdtman
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Jeffr0 wrote:
@Yokiboy: After about thirty games or so in the past few years, our consensus is that the five phase chart is still the best. Much of the fun in the game comes from tense close range high speed passes. IMO, moving to the three phase chart is going to give a huge advantage to somebody where the five phase chart yields enough nuance that the more skilled player can come out on top more often. Also... if you look closely, you can see that record sheets from Klaus Breuer's awesome program appear in the photos above.

I'm glad we agree on the 5-Phase Chart, and that you also use Klaus Breuer's program - it is fantastic!
 
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Born To Lose, Live To Win
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So how would one come into possession of Klaus's program?
 
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TheChin! wrote:
So how would one come into possession of Klaus's program?

Ah, sorry about that. Here's the Vehicle Designer.
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Adam Deverell
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Vehicle design was great fun.

I can see how 80s "lifestyle immersion" gaming still attracts fans. They reward repeat playing. I walked into our local wargaming club to find several tables set up with a Battletech campaign. This is another game I gave away after underwhelming experiences. The guys in this campaign had full sets of painted mechs, terrain and a PC program that allowed them to buy and exchange mech parts and ammo. They told me the campaigns run months at a time. I wasn't tempted to join in - especially after seeing the thick wad of mech hit sheets they had.

I'm sure CW offers similar immersion. I just think it's not a great pick up and play game, which is what I'm after (and preferred back then).

Still, great to see it still has its big fans. I'd like to see a new version aimed at one-off games over within an hour or two - something like an improved Battle Cars.
 
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red_gamster wrote:
I'm sure CW offers similar immersion. I just think it's not a great pick up and play game, which is what I'm after


I disagree. Now that you have spreadsheet designer programs, you can whip up five to ten vehicle designs in less than an hour. Have each player pick one design, and start playing.

A six player game can be finished in less than three hours.
 
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Jeff Johnson
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red_gamster wrote:
Still, great to see it still has its big fans. I'd like to see a new version aimed at one-off games over within an hour or two - something like an improved Battle Cars.


That's exactly what the 5th edition game book is. It is very fast playing and captures the essence of the game well enough for the non-immersion folk like yourself. Many fiddly type rules were streamlined out of the system with little impact.

(If you ignore the car designs in that edition and use Klaus's car designer to make record sheets, then you have a plenty good work around for the lack of design rules in that edition as aramis was pointing out.)

5th edition plays fast... with one-on-one duels running well under an hour... and larger multi-player duels running in two hours.
 
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Matt V
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I so wish I was there for that one. I really need to start incorporating different stuff into my games and not just the same old duel.

Good work Earlburt!
 
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This is a really cool scenario, nice work.

Regarding your own comments on the time factor...

I do like Car Wars, but have paid it precious few times due to the length of the game. What a great game concept and universe - just such a tedious game.

I think SJG was really trying to get CW5 to bring back gamers, but I don't think it sold well. The CW5 rules are really great in some ways, but the simplified 3 phase movement made movement clunky, particularly in tailgating situations.

Still I enjoy cracking out the CW5 rules and playing a game in an hour, which is definitely possible.

If you check out the SJG forums at http://forums.sjgames.com you will find in the Car Wars section an unofficial CW5 vehicle design system, that was reverse engineered by a player from the collection of CW5 booklets.

 
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Aaron Krogh
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Great Report! Thanks for posting
 
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