Autoduel QuarterlyVolume 10Issue 3

Sand Rails in Car Wars

Thomas "Wrong-Way Wright
"Lima November Six, this is Lima Sierra Two, over."

"This is Lima November Sir, go ahead Lima Sierra Two."

"Roger, we are proceeding as planned Meeting with zero resistance, over."

"Is there any sign of any enemy activity? Over."

"Nothing here except a lot of sand Otherwise negative contact, over."

"Roger Maintain constant visual and electrical surveillance. You are in prime ambush territory and the background heat radiation from those dunes can really mess with your thermals, over."

"Roger. Sierra One and Four are on flank, Three's on point... MMMMBBZZZZZZZZZTT!"

"Lima Sierra Two, Lima Sierra Two, this is Lima November Sir, come in, what's happening. over."

"This is Sierra One, Two's gone, the whole turret went up, he never ... BBZZZZRRAAAAKKKK!"

"This is Three, we are being engaged by multiple fast movers. I count three, no sir victors. Sierra One and Two are toast. Four 's immobile but still firing. I'm moving to assist.

"Roger. You are being attacked by aircraft? Over."

"Negative, these are small, land-bared victors. They're too fast ... Can't rag 'em, we're having to ... $!!&!##!... Four's a flame,: We are breaking contact. Multiple inbounds. we are bugging our, I repeat, we are ..."(static)

"Lima Sierra Three, Lima Sierra Three, this is Lima November Sir, is there anyone out there?"

Second platoon of Company C, First Oklahoma Mechanized Guards Battalion was eliminated quickly, efficiently, and without loss of a single opposing unit. This sudden demise was accomplished by a small task force of mechanized infantry mounted in barely armored but excessively armed dune buggies, sometimes referred to as sand-rails or rails. Dreamt up and built in backyards and household garages throughout the southwest, they were originally used for weekend boonie-romping and dune-busting.

Then, in mid-1980, the United States Army put together a light infantry battalion based on the use of what they called fast attack vehicles, or FAVs. These small "rails" were lightweight, very quick, and armed with everything from tank-busting heavy missile launchers to infantry-shredding machine guns and automatic grenade launchers. Training was centered around anti-armor ambush tactics, but often included counter-terrorism, search and destroy and other light infantry exercises. The one- and two-man crews were as highly motivated as they were trained, because, as the battalion commander put it, "These little buggies are just plain hellacious fun!" They routinely outdid analysts' expectations and set new standards of combat effectiveness for units throughout the armed forces.

In the civilian sectors, these sand-rails continued in use as re-creational vehicles and eventually made their way into various sporting events and off-road races like the Baja 500 and the Paris-Baker Rally. They amazed fans and drivers alike with their rugged endurance, often driving away after repeated flips or rolls, as if nothing had happened. Even when upside-down, the two-man teams could usually right their own car and be back on the course in minutes.

Now, in 2042, with nearly every driver on or off the road blasting away at every other, something "new" is back and better than ever. The sand-rails are relatively inexpensive and very durable. After all, they're essentially roll cages with wheels - not much to get damaged here. Bolt on enough armor to stop the flak and stuff in a few weapons to produce some flak of your own, and you're ready to roll.

Body Types

Nearly any normal-sized wheeled vehicle may be converted by these rules. The exceptions are all cycles, trikes. station wagons and campers. Cycles and trikes are already of a frame/body construction and cannot be altered using this method. All of these vehicles are automatically fully roll cage protected, taking normal damage from rams and collisions, and suffering no internal damage from rolls. None of these vehicles may use a CA frame, or otherwise have their maximum load modified in any way. They may use any other modification, including the military specifications modification (see Car Wars Tanks, p. 15). Note that any rail that is intended for military use and is to mount military "restricted" weaponry and equipment must have this modification.

Type Price Wt. Max. Load Spaces Armor Cost/Wt.
Subcompact $600 300 2,300 7 11/5
Compact $800 400 3,700 10 13/6
Mid-sized $1,200 450 4,800 13 16/8
Sedan $1,400 500 5,100 16 18/9
Luxury $1,600 600 5,500 19 20/10
Pick-up $1,800 700 6,500 13 (+11) 22/11
Van $2,000 650 6,000 24 (+6) 30/14
Sand rail pickups or vans cannot use reserved cargo spaces for anything other than gas tanks.

And, of course, one must not forget the racing fans:

Type Price Wt. Max. Load Spaces Armor Cost/Wt.
Baja $7,500 350 4500 18 24/12
This vehicle style is designed for a driver or a driver and one gunner, no more, and may mount up to a two-space turret. It comes with an off-road racing suspension that may not be altered. This suspension gives it a handling class of 4, on or off-road. There is no upper limit to handling class.

Armor Types

Rails may use any sort of armor available to normal vehicles, but they may not carry external armor in excess of 1~ its maximum load. For example, a standard mid-sized rail could not carry armor in excess of 600 lbs. Since the best armor is not to get hit, most sand rails mount the most powerful engines they can get. Note that the restriction only applies to external armor. The mid-size from the above example could legally have 600 Lbs. of RP/FP armor, and 40 Lbs. of RP/FP armor on each of its EWPs and Armored Wheel Hubs, as well as component armor around any desired internal systems. As usual, the vehicle's maximum load may not be exceeded in any way.

Vehicles constructed to military specifications (see Car Wars Tanks, p. 15) can carry armor equal to as much as 1/4 their max load.


As with other vehicles, suspension determines beginning handling class. Ail of the usual sorts are available, but there are some changes in how rails are affected by their respective suspensions.

Suspension Price Norm. HC OR HC Van HC Sub HC
Light no extra 1 1 0 2
Improved 100% 2 2 1 3
Heavy 150% 3 3 2 4
Off-road 300% 3 4 3 4
Rails are specifically designed for off-road use, and regardless of actual suspension are not susceptible to underbody armor damage when operated off-road.

Power Plants and Gas Engines

Rails may use any power plant or gas engine normally allowed in regular vehicles. However, gas-powered rails are somewhat uncommon due to the small amount of armor that they usually carry.

Tires Rails can use any sort of tire normally available to vehicles of that body type. Note that regular tires are subject to damage during off-road use. Rails and normal vehicles may also use All Terrain Vehicle tires.

All Terrain Vehicle Tires (ATV) - Making a tire an ATV type (also known as a "sand paddle") adds 200% to cost, 50% to weight, and subtracts 1 DP. An ATV tire can be made fireproof and/or steelbelted, but not radial or off-road. Any vehicle with ATVs on all four corners has its off-road HC raised by 2. If it only has them on two corners (front or back), then the HC bonus is only 1. If ATVs are used on any hard surface, such as paved roadway, they take 1 point of damage for every 10 minutes on such a surface.

Weapons and Accessories

All rails follow normal restrictions regarding the mounting and use of weapons and accessories. There are some items that cannot be used and others that have special requirements. The following may not be used:

Wheelguards (retractable or otherwise), Amphibious Modifications, Side Doors or Airdams.

The following have restrictions on their use:

Turrets and Cupolas (the mounting vehicle's top armor must weigh at least as much as M the weight of the turret or cupola without weapons).

Roll Cage (not necessary, all rails are automatically roll cage protected).

Car-Top Carrier (has similar requirements as turrets, except the CTC's armor must be figured into the total weight before the necessary amount of top armor required can be determined).

Armored Wheel Hubs (used as on Formula 1/Indy, Dragsters and Sprints).

Corner Mounts (only 1 space worth of dropped weapons may be mounted on each corner).

General Comments

In any situation not specifically mentioned in this article, sand rails should be treated as a vehicle of similar type, according to the rules in the Car Wars Compendium, Second Edition. This includes computing acceleration and Top Speed, the weight and space requirements of passengers and crew, etc.

Editor 's Note: Sand rails are presented as an unofficial variant. Sand rails, pitch brakes and ATV tires are not legal in any official AADA event. If you try out the sand rail rules, and strongly feel that they should or should not become a more official part of the system, drop us a line and let us know why you think so. - CWM

Sample Vehicles

Scamp - Subcompact rail, light suspension, small power plant with PCs, 4 HD OR tires, driver, passenger (both w/ body armor), MG front, 3 flame cloud dischargers (1R, 1L, 1B), brushcutter, 2-space car-top carrier (unarmored). 2 spaces and 430 lbs. for cargo (in carrier). Armor: F10, R10. L10, B10, T10, U7. Accel. 5, Top Speed 97.5 mph (100 unloaded), HC 2 (OR3); 1,870 Lbs., $4,957.

Weekender - Compact rail, improved suspension, medium power plant with PCs and SCs, spoiler, 4 PR OR tires, driver, passenger (both w/ body armor), MML in turret, 2 MMLs linked F. Armor: F15, R13, L13, B13, T13, U10. Accel. 10, Top Speed 135 mph. HC 2 (OR3); 2,677 lbs., $9,986.

Viking - Mid-size rail, heavy suspension, large power plant, 4 Solid OR tires, driver, gunner (both w/ body armor). RL in turret. RL F 4 flame cloud dischargers (2R, 2L). Armor: F15, R14, L14, B14, T13, U5. Accel. 10, Top Speed 137.5 mph, HC 3, (OR4); 3,310 lbs., $14,900.

Blazer - Sedan rail, heavy suspension, super power plant with PCs, 4 Solid OR tires, driver, gunner (both w/ body armor), 2 linked MGs in turret, RL R, RL L, 6 flame cloud dischargers (2R, 2L, 2T), spoiler. Armor: F15, R12, L12, B13, T13, U5. Accel. 10, Top Speed 144 mph, HC 3 (OR4); 4,090 lbs., $19,910.

Explorer - Luxury rail, off-road suspension, super power plant with PCs, 4 Solid OR tires, driver, gunner (both w/ body armor), 2 passengers (both w/ body armor), VMG in turret with incendiary ammo, AC with incendiary ammo F, 2 SDs linked in B corner-mounts (w/ explosive spikes), spoiler, long distance radio, overdrive. Armor: F15, R10, L10, B13, T15, U5. Accel. 10 (5 w/ overdrive), Top Speed (with passengers) 127.5 mph (147.5 w/ overdrive), HC 3 (OR5); 4,840 lbs., $29,685.

Racing Vehicles

Coyote - Pick-up rail, off-road suspension, 350-cid engine (blue-printed, tubular headers, VP turbo, supercharger), 4 FP Solid ATV tires, driver, gunner (both w/ body armor), VMG (w/ HD ammo) in universal turret, military specifications. 15-gallon duelling tank (B w/ fire retardant insulators), tinted windows, no-paint windows, spoiler, brushcutter, overdrive, HD shocks, HD brakes, ABS, long distance radio, surge protector, computer navigator, HRSWC (VMG/gunner), 2 safety seats. Armor: F25, R25, L25, B25. T27, U23 (FP), 10 points FP CA around engine (F), 10 points FP CA around crew, 4 10, point FP armored wheel hubs. Accel. 25 (20 w/ overdrive), Top Speed 137.5 mph (157.5 w/ overdrive), HC 3 (OR 6); 6,500 lbs., $82,593.

Bajito - Baja, off-road racing suspension, 400-cid engine (blue-printed, tubular headers, VP turbo, supercharger), 4 FP Solid ATV tires, driver (w/ body armor), MG (w/ HD ammo) in universal turret, 15-gallon racing tank (F w/ fire retardant insulators), LR web FBLRT linked to hot smoke dischargers FBLRT, spoiler, brushcutter. HD shocks, HD brakes, ABS, pitch brake, computer navigator, long-distance radio, tinted windows, no-paint windows, overdrive, HRSWC, Safety Seat. Armor: F10, R8, L8, B8, T12, UO (sloped FP), 10 points FP CA around engine (B), 10 points FP CA around driver, 4 10-point FP armored wheel hubs. Cargo; 4 lbs. Accel. 25 (20 w/ overdrive), Top Speed 185 mph (205 w/ overdrive), HC 6 (OR 8); 2,956 lbs., $69,842.

Military Vehicles

FAV HK-1A - Military Specifications Sedan rail, off-road suspension, 4 FP PR ATV tires, sport power plant w/ PCs & SCs, driver (w/ military body armor), GC (F w/ depleted uranium ammo), AGL in universal turret (w/ 18 impact explosive and 2 impact hot smoke grenades), cyberlink (for GC), HRSWC (for AGL). IR laser rangefinder (for GC), IR shielding, light amplification, military radio, telescopic optics, brushcutter, HD brakes, ABS, HD shocks, overdrive, computer navigator, IFF, radar, tinted windows, no-paint windows, radar detector, radar jammer, link (for detector and jammer), safety seat. Cargo: 35 lbs., Armor; LR metal: F5, R3, L3, B5, T5, U2. Accel. 10 (5 w/ overdrive), Top Speed 145 mph (165 w/ overdrive), HC 3 (OR6); 5,100 lbs., $105,748.

FAV TH-3H - Military Specification Van rail, off-road suspension, 4 FP PR ATV tires, sport power plant w/ PCs & SCs, driver, gunner (both w/ military body armor), 2 HMLs F (each w/ 1 teleguided, high speed, long range, HEAT missile), 2 2-space rocket magazines (each w/ 2 teleguided, high speed, long range, HEAT missiles), streamlining, IR shielding, military radio, light amplification, telescopic optics, HD shocks, HD brakes, ABS, computer navigator, IFF, tinted windows, no-paint windows, overdrive, surge protector, radar, radar detector, radar jammer, link (detector and jammer). 2 cyberlinks (1 each crew member/HML, 2 safety seats. Sloped RPFP Armor: F14, R8, LS, B10, T2, U8. Accel. 10(5 w/ overdrive), Top Speed 142.5 mph (162.5 w/ overdrive), HC3 (OR 5); 6,000 lbs., $895,535, Cargo: Camouflage Net plus space, 25 lbs.

Note - The pitch brake (see Bajito) or turn brake adds 1096 to body cost, no weight or space. Can lock the inside rear wheel(s) in a turn, yet allows full power to the outside wheel(s), "pitching" the vehicle through the turn. Using a pitch brake decelerates the vehicle 10 mph and causes a controlled fishtail, D1 for 1/4", and D2 for 1/2". Can only be used once per turn to fishtail, D1 for 1/2", or twice per turn at 1/4" each. If used more than once (or twice at 1/4") per turn, it will automatically induce a spinout (see Crash Table 1). Use of a turn brake counts as a firing action for the driver, so it may not be used to recover from any Crash Table result. If a turn brake is used in conjunction with a normal turning maneuver, such as a bend, subtract D1 from the difficulty of the maneuver, without fishtailing the vehicle. The pitch brake may only be used safely off-road. If used on a paved surface, the locked (inside) rear tire(s) takes 1 point of damage, and the vehicle takes a D1 hazard for every 10 mph, before the pitch brake's deceleration. May only be used by normal-sized wheeled vehicles.

Issue 10/3 Index

Steve Jackson Games * Car Wars * ADQ Index