Taking the 6th edition of post-apocalyptic vehicle combat game Car Wars for a test drive

Originally published at: Taking the 6th edition of post-apocalyptic vehicle combat game Car Wars for a test drive | Boing Boing


I loved Car Wars.


I love occasionally getting these little reminders that Car Wars still exists, though I have not played it in…what…40 years? I am pretty sure the last time I thought of it was because of another Boing Boing post years ago.

Those were good times, back in the late 70s when you could buy a tabletop game for $2.95…


When SJG did their Pocket Box Games of the '80s Kickstarter, I went all-in at the “Car Wars and every expansion” level since over the years I’d lost most of them:

So when the Car Wars 6th ed Kickstarter hit, as much as I really wanted it, I realized it was an awful lot of money for a game I’d probably hardly ever get to the table. And I already had all of the Car Wars I could possibly need. Glad people are enjoying it though! Wish I had more people to game with to make it worth getting.


I loved the idea of Car Wars, but the implementation of the original was so abstract and clunky.

My heart fell for Dark Future, the GW take on the idea. With large cars that you could attach accessories to, a system of infinite road sections with movement options marked right on them, and very clean rules, it was a much better experience IMHO. Unfortunate GW decided not to support it (I suppose it didn’t sell well) so new weapons, cars, etc, never materialized. I think it’s one of GW’s more underappreciated games.


Never played, but remember the box at the game shops!

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We loved Car Wars so much in the 80s. We spent many a weekend taping together huge 1/4" grid graph paper arenas, and building huge gunship-level semi-trailers (which were super fun to drive, the mechanics for this were awesome) and pitting them against a bee-hive of motorcycles and trikes. Or making a repeating loop wide highway and playing high-speed chases where if you fell off the back of the map you were out.

But it was definitely crunch for the sake of crunch. It was very similar in feel to its contemporary Battletech and all of the expansion (which we also had and played the hell out of).

I pulled Car Wars out for a game with my young teens a decade ago and while it was fun, I realized that the memories didn’t really include all of the micromanagement and tables and rules lookup, and waiting 10 minutes to move your car 1 inch.

I recently played Gaslands at a convention, and it is everything that I remember about Car Wars, with almost none of what Car Wars actually is.

Seriously, Car Wars has a huge place in my heart and I owned almost all of the original content, but wow, go get Gaslands and never look at Car Wars again. So fast, easy, fun and simple.

Thanks for the memories, Steve Jackson, but today belongs to Gaslands.


This is an astute summary. A lot of these OG games haven’t aged well because we the players have moved on. I don’t know if attention spans are shorter or (more likely) we’ve simply been exposed to more efficiently designed games since then and our bar has been raised. Many of us also played these games as kids when we had infinite time. As adults we need more bang for the hour, so to speak.

It’s also good to remember how much the process of game design has evolved. A lot of these ‘80s paper games were designed by one person and never subjected to a whole lot of play testing. Today games are play tested for months or years before release. Huge beta tests in Print And Play format are common. Groups form at cons and on BGG to give feedback. The gameplay gets refined on a scale that a lot of older games didn’t.

The original AD&D is the perfect example. There’s an old joke that goes, “how many polearms did we really need, Gary?”. Compared to modern D&D rules that have been playtested, refined, and designed for efficient fun, the old “Gygax brain dump” rules look positively unplayable in comparison.


Still haven’t forgiven SJGames for abandoning GURPS, Toon, and In Nomine for endless Munchkin expansions and retro relaunches like Car Wars and Ogre.


The original AD&D is the perfect example.

We played AD&D throughout the entire 80s. Thousands and thousands of hours. We lived it.

I still play RPGs with my adult kids and I broke open my AD&D books to try to start a quick campaign in it just for kicks to show the kids how we used to play, and had the same experience. “Wow, what a kludgy bunch of crap all stapled together!”.

And yes, I showed my kids the polearms list and they laughed.


Back in HS in the 80s I collected every Car Wars item I could get my hands on, and my local hobby shop ran a Car Wars tournament in the back room for about 3 months which I ended up winning. Great memories.

I ended up backing the Kickstarter at one of the highest levels, but here in my 50s I can’t find the time or people willing to play, so it’s been sitting in the box in my closet for months. More’s the pity - I’d love to try out the new system.


I still have my sealed original rules and kill stickers from back in the 80s.

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My first exposure to D&D was the just released 3.5 edition back then. I’ve played on and off over the years, and currently, I’m playing several 5th edition games, and looking back at some of the weird things that 3.5 did that were either streamlined, re-worked, or plain removed for 5th edition, I kinda have the same feeling.

I actually bought some of the spellbook cards for 5th, mostly to leverage some of the ‘pocket compendium’ card holders I bought a few years ago in order to setup playbooks for the characters I’m playing.

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Last game I played was Sr year in High School, so 1992.
My friend group had been playing for like 8 years. And we had some real rules lawyers. Group of underclassmen thought they could take us on. So two teams of 4, some ridiculous budget, and it was over in about two turns.

They spent all their money on some super truck.

We built: Ram car with armored beer refrigerator, a trailer with 10 stun grenade launchers, and one guy spent his portion on 20 Killer Karts.


I never played Car Wars but man, did I love Awful Green Things From Outer Space. I’d love SJG to give that one the Kickstarter miniatures game treatment.


Like the recent reissue of Ogre as a giant boxed game I suspect that this misses the entire point of what was so great with the microgames back in the day. Low cost, small form factor, and fast play meant that for a price the average 6th grader could afford, they could have a game that they could slip into a pocket and take to a friends house or even play at lunch in the cafeteria.


At the Dreamboat table, we get a kick out of the bovine version, Battle Cattle.


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I loved that game, too. Along with Toon and Globbo.

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Although we are already in the time frame described in the original 1980s versions (which were set in the 2030s, 50 years from their publication), but even in the 2000s various things were happening in the Car Wars universe leading to that chaotic universe. Several states including Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma became their own countries in response to global oil shortages in 2004. And there was a worldwide famine due to a “grain blight” in 2012.

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It’s obvious that the mechanics of the original Car Wars were inspired (for better or worse) by those of Star Fleet Battles (a very fiddly Star Trek themed space combat game that was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s) – the “impulse point” system of SFB where ships had various abilities to move and maneuver relative to each other was very reminiscent of the later Car Wars. And like Car Wars it had the “feature” of growing from a relatively simple initial game to one including dozens of supplements, each adding new rules, which made things woese.