Kill Friends & Drive Away Laughing – Car Wars: The Card Game

Car Wars: The Card Game (Steve Jackson Games)

There is no doubt that I like playing video games, but there is a tonne of fun to be had by unplugging, and gaming with some dice, cards, or a board game. When it comes right down to it, most great games still reply on good game play – and with board games and the like – there are no multi-million dollar ad campaigns, or flashy graphics to win you over – it has to play well, be fun, or it’s dead.

And while video games are, for the most part, accessible for most – many good tabletop games, and strategic board games – are not. Either the strategies are too complex to easily explain, or there is a large cost involved, either by collecting figures, packs of cards, or extra game manuals.

Yet, out of all my gaming memories with friends, some of the most memorable are the times playing classic games. It probably has something to do with having friends all gathered together, watching alliances form and crumble, and seeing how unique personalities take on challenges and adapt to the games.

However, if you’ve ever tried to introduce a friend to the hobby of gaming, you’ve no doubt experienced the lull period of getting your buddy up to speed on the rules and strategies involved, where you have to take it easy on them as they’ve eased themselves into the game – or get hopelessly left behind, as what happened to me the first time I tried Settlers of Catan with a new gaming group. Three turns in and the game was over for me.

Even among experienced gamers the desire to try out a new game is sometimes daunting because you have to learn a new set of rules and employ new methods and tactics.

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This is what helps make Car Wars: The Card Game ideal for both experienced gamers, and those who may be playing their first game since Monopoly.

The game is completely accessible, you need only basic instructions to play, and everything you need for the game is included in the box – all for roughly $20.

Car Wars: The Card Game is set in the Car Wars universe, which is a future earth that’s been ravaged by war and plagues, and now the heroes and villains of the world gain prestige and profit by engaging in vehicle versus vehicle combat.

The set-up of the game is simple. Each player chooses a cardboard car cutout and places it on the table in front of them. Each player is then dealt a hand of cards – and on these cards are various attack and defensive abilities – for example “auto cannon” or “evasion”.

While other players can clearly see your “car” cutout, no one can see your abilities cards, and if they are not to your liking, you can ditch your hand for a new slew of cards, but it will cost you a turn.

Now with the simple set-up done, the game is ready to start, and unlike other games – things escalate very quickly, and I’ll explain how and why.

My gaming group usually would hit up the liquor store for a 6-pack, or drop by the 7-11 for snacks before we started playing, and maybe you lent your buddy a couple bucks or vise versa. Now your sitting at the table, it’s turn one, your looking at four or five friends with shiny, new, undamaged cars, while you hold a handful of rockets, waiting to blast someone away.

You can’t shoot the guy that bought you chips right? Maybe you’ll lightly graze an understanding friend with some light machine gun fire – nothing too damaging. If you don’t attack someone, you’ve wasted your turn, and if you do shoot someone, you’ve likely made an enemy, and you’re the new target.

The cars you control have four sides that can be damaged, and each side takes multiple hits before it is breached, and only after exposing the cockpit, can you kill the driver, and thus scoring points for yourself.

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This leads to another organic development in the game, do you seek revenge on the guy that just blasted your right door off with a rocket, or do you swoop in on a vulnerable driver that may have not attacked you at all?

Furthering the strategy is that there are special ability cards that can be played at anytime by those that are holding one. For example, someone blasts you with machine gun fire that is likely to kill your driver, so you play your evasion card you’ve been holding onto in case of emergency – that is when one of the jackals, disguised as your friend, throws down a popped tire card that spins your car into a wall, exploding on impact.

It’s decisions like these, and the games within the game, that sets up the second round and beyond. In my experience, the player that won the first round usually ends up as everyone’s target in the second. But it normally takes players at least a few rounds to build up enough points to win, and it’s the strategic choices and battling among friends that really sets this game apart.

The politicking for position and for who to attack, can be just as much fun as the game itself. And this is the pure magic of this game – it gives everyone, skill or no skill, the chance to experience what makes gaming so great.

Older versions of the Car Wars: The Card Game can be somewhat hard to find, but they are out there – but for those with a bit of patience – I just talked to my local gaming shop this morning, and they tell me that a new, version of the game is coming this summer, slated for a July 2015 release. Update – confirmed on the official site for a July releasecheck it out.

I hope this will encourage you to try out the game, which is a blast, but also open up the door to other great gaming options.

And just one final note, don’t get Car Wars: The Card Game confused with Car Wars Classic – which, is similar in context, uses the same mythology, but has a different rule set, and is a different, but still cool and enjoyable game.

Car Wars: The Card Game is produced by Steve Jackson Games, so go check them out at www.sjgames.com

Thanks for reading,

D