Before Car Wars there was.....
Perhaps the number three kids' game of all time (after Cops & Robbers and Cowboys & Indians), Cars! is a rules-light, (root) beer-and-pretzels game for two or more players.
By Chris Goodwin
Hot WheelsTM-style cars. It is suggested that each player bring four or more. One or more ten-sided dice. A playing area (may be indoors or outdoors)
The object:To destroy all of the other team's cars.
Rules of play:I. Pre-play
Players put all of their cars together (make sure to keep track of who owns which car; duplicates are allowed). Each player then assigns a Cool value between 1 and 10 to each car, including everyone else's. The total Cool for each car is determined by taking the average of all of the Cool values assigned to that car (add together all of the Cool values assigned by each player to that car, then divide the total by the total number of players), rounded down. Cars with a Cool value of 8 or higher are Bad, and cars with a Cool value of 3 or below are Dorky. Make sure you have some way of keeping track of each car's Cool value (by taking notes, using grease pencils or sticky labels, etc.). Note: Duplicate cars won't necessarily have the same Cool.
II. Choosing teams
Players divide up into teams by whatever method seems equitable. The teams should be as close to the same size as humanly possible; if there are an odd number of players, obviously one team will have one more player than the other. One team is the Good Guys; the other team is the Bad Guys. Determine which is which by mutual decision, flipping a coin, Rock-Scissors-Paper, or other method.
III. Choosing forces
Add together the total Cool of all the cars being used; divide this by two. If this results in a fraction, and the teams are not even, round one half down and the other half up; the team with fewer players gets the higher value. If the teams are even, and the number is still a fraction, round both halves up. Each team gets that amount of points with which to purchase their cars. The cost for each car is equal to that car's Cool. Teams take turns purchasing their cars; the Good Guys get to purchase theirs first. Purchasing ends when both teams have spent all of their points, or when all of the cars have been purchased, whichever comes first. If a team has points left, and there are one or more cars left that each cost more than the team's remaining points, the cars remain unpurchased and the extra points are lost.
IV. Placing forces
The playing area may be either indoors or outdoors, although it is suggested to not allow a mix of indoor and outdoor play. Teams take turns initially placing their cars in the playing area. The Bad Guys get to place first. It is illegal to place cars inside drawers, cupboards, etc. where they may not be readily seen without opening a door, drawer, or other barrier. It is legal to hide them, though, as long as there is no physical barrier between them and the outside world. Cars can fly, so it is legal to place them in areas off the ground/floor.
The players can optionally decide on a "territory" controlled by each team; cars may only be placed in territory controlled by the team that controls the car. If the "Headquarters" variant is played (see below under VI. Victory Conditions) a team may only place its headquarters in its own territory.
Once all of the cars have been placed, it's time to start playing. The Good Guys get to go first; the Bad Guys may ritually whine, "But that's not fair!" or "You went first last time!" but this is optional.
V. Playing the game
The turn is broken up into two distinct phases: Movement and Combat.
1. Movement. The teams take turns moving cars, starting with the Good Guys. To move a car, pick it up and move it. The player moving the car may move it a number of steps equal to that car's Cool; these can be large steps, small steps, or any size of step that the player is otherwise capable of making (but no jumping; they must be actual steps). Cars may move up or down any amount, not related to the ground-based distance. Note that cars cannot hover if they are not being held up by a person. If a player wishes a car to hover, he must stand there and hold it up until that car's next movement phase. Cars may only move to places where it would be legal to place them initially. Note that a car need not move its full movement, or at all if the controlling team wishes. Once all cars have moved that wish to do so, move to the Combat phase.
2. Combat. All combat is simultaneous, although declarations of combat order and dice rolling start with the Coolest car. All cars are assumed to have weapons with infinite range and a 360 degree arc of fire, and there are no range modifiers to combat. A car may not attack another car unless the owner can trace a line of sight from the attacker to the target.
To attack another car, declare that you are firing upon it, then roll a ten-sided die. (Sound effects are optional.) If you roll less than or equal to the attacking car's Cool, then it hits. On a hit, roll again for damage; if you roll greater than (not equal to) the defending car's Cool, that car is destroyed. Cars are automatically destroyed on a damage roll of a natural 10, and automatically survive on a damage roll of 1. Otherwise, all cars automatically "heal" if they are not destroyed (no keeping track of hit points). On a successful hit, the attacking player must ritually say "I got you!" The defending player (if there are more than one, the player who last moved the car, or the player closest to that car) must then say "Did not!" The attacker must then say "Did too!" On a miss, the defending player must say "Missed me!" whereupon the attacker says "Did not!" then the defender says "Did too!" Turn destroyed cars over (onto their tops) until the turn is over; at that time, remove all destroyed cars from play.
Note: Any car that is Bad automatically destroys any car that is Dorky on a successful hit. Any car that is Dorky only destroys a car that is Bad on a roll of a natural 10, regardless of the respective Cool values of the two cars. As all combat is simultaneous, a car that has been destroyed still has the opportunity to return fire if it has not fired yet.
Once all combat is finished the turn ends. If there are cars from both teams left, a new turn begins.
If one team destroys all of the other team's cars, that team is the winner. If all cars are simultaneously destroyed, there is no winner.
In a multiple game series, the team that wins the most games is the winner of the series. Teams switch designations between games (the Good Guys become the Bad Guys, and vice versa). It is up to the players involved if they wish to redo Cool values and choose new cars.
Alternate victory conditions: Each team may choose a headquarters. The headquarters must be a place where it would be legal to initially place a car. If the game is being played indoors, the headquarters is referred to as a "fort"; if the game is outdoors, the headquarters is called a "hideout". The headquarters of each team is known to the other. If one team gets a car into the other team's headquarters (ends its move in the headquarters), that team is the winner.
For a Capture the Flag variant, place a flag in each headquarters; a car must return the opponent's flag to its own headquarters (end its movement there) for a win. A car must end its movement in the headquarters in order to pick up the flag. The flag is moved by a player when the car moves; the flag stays with the car that picked it up. A car can pass a flag to another car; the two cars must touch in order to pass the flag along. If a car with the flag is destroyed, the flag remains where it is; a car must move to the flag and touch it in order to pick it up.
An alternate Capture the Flag variant uses one flag, in a central location. The only way to take a flag away from a car is to destroy the car that is carrying it, then move another car to where the flag is; the first car to reach the flag gets it.
VII. Optional Rules
It may be helpful to have a referee, especially in a game played outdoors; the referee could roll the dice in a central location. The referee could also keep track of cars' Cool values and in general make sure the game runs smoothly and fairly. If a game includes a referee, then the referee's word is law.
If there are enough players and enough cars, there might be three or more teams; if so, it is highly suggested to include a referee. The teams and the starting Cool values should be as close to equal as humanly possible. If there are three or more teams, then you'll need to choose other names for them besides Good Guys and Bad Guys.
If you want to, you can come up with rules for different weapons, extra armor/hit points, and so on, but if you want that much complexity, why not play Car Wars? (I'm not knocking Car Wars; I enjoy Car Wars. It's just that this is supposed to be simple, and who wants to keep track of armor, hit points, different weapons, range modifiers, and so on if you're out in the back yard?)
Cars is copyright © 1999-2000 by Christopher A. Goodwin. All rights reserved.
Hot Wheels is a trademark of Mattel. Used without permission. Use of this trademark in this context is not intended as a challenge to Mattel's trademark rights.