ADQ 2/2: Amateur Night Tactics

By Jim Gould
HTMLized by Francis Greenaway


In the world of Car Wars, victory goes to the best armed. Most duellists cruise around in their custom cars, ignoring the lowly pedestrians. But where did these heroes get their start? At the local Amateur night, of course. Amateur Night is the chance for the most lowly American pedestrian to become one of the elite of the nation. The only thing stopping him is his competition, and in 2034 the competition wants him dead.

As You Walk In

You've finally got up the nerve to go for Amateur Night. As requested, you show up early, to get a chance at fixing up your car. The management is fairly choosy about who gets to drive, but you're a shoo-in. You can drive (a little) and shoot (some). Of course you have the quality that all TV directors look for; a brazen flair for showmanship that borders on psychosis. Bizarre and persistent win the duel, as they say.

Depending on the house rules, you may have to leave some of your weapons in the locker room. Most arenas are fairly permissive, seeing anything up to an SMG as adding spice to the contest. A brace or LAW's, however, is definitely not kosher. Grenades are usually allowed, and no aspiring duellist should be without a couple. If you are totally destitute, worry not; the management will loan you a heavy pistol and ammo on request.

Once the ceremonial Frisking of the Contestants has been performed, you'll be allowed to get to your dream machine. Usually the type of vehicle for each contest is a well-kept secret. so be prepared for anything. Arena managers with odd sense of humours have been known to distribute anything from subcompacts with no armour to pickups with a different tire on each wheel. The most likely thing, however, is one of the smaller stock cars. Few arenas can afford to run Amateur Nights with anything more expensive than a Joseph special, although second round Amateur contests occasionally use Vigilantes of Intimidators.

Now you've got your hands on the key to fame and fortune. The pit crew assigned to you for the night is ready to install the sheets of armour and racks of optional equipment provided by the management. You can customize the car in several ways, but your primary concern at this point should be...

Staying Alive

You can't win if you're dead. The placement of your armour and the choice of your options will dramatically affect your chances of survival.

First, place your armour where it will do the most good. A very important advantage in Amateur Night is that you know exactly what is available to your opponents. If this doesn't include mine droppers, you know that the only thing that can get to your underside is a lucky grenade. Since few Amateur Nights allow mines, you can usually get away with no bottom armour. If you eat a grenade under you, it's your own fault; your armour is more valuable elsewhere.

A similar situation applies to top armour; unless you're running a turreted vehicle, no top armour is necessary. Let's face it, if you roll you're probably a goner anyway, and Amateur Night is a place for risks. Even if you do have a turret, darned few folks will shoot at it for fear of destroying the most valuable components of your car, so don't load that turret up with armour.

No you've got to make some critical choices. You can't win without weapons, so armour will have to go to the front; maybe even the majority, since ramming may be the only tactic left when the ammo runs dry. On the balance, however, most of the armour should go to the sides. Any rational player will shoot where he has the best chance of hitting, and with the low-skill bozos out after dark, every +1 counts. Balance this against the tenuous grip on reality that most duellists display; if your opponents tend to scrape the their knuckles when they walk, they may shoot at your front armour out of perversity. The best arrangement seems to be fairly equal amounts of armour on the front and sides, and less in the back.

Why less in the vulnerable back? Because you have to use your mobility as well as your armour. Heavy back armour is an admission that you can't out-drive your foes. The cost to front and side armour may come back to haunt you - and you may have to come back to haunt your opponents! Don't strip your back armour, just don't overdo it.

Now look at your choices for weaponry. You'll almost invariably see MG's, unless you've been thrown a Joseph Special. That's OK; the MG is a good weapon, fairly accurate and with lots of ammo. If the armour on your opponent's car will be thick, that extra firepower can make the difference. On the other hand, check out any larger weapons that may be available. Trading for bigger weapons with worse "to hits" is risky; an RL might make your day, but it could fail in the clutch. As much as possible, tailor your options to the style of combat you want. Choose heavy, inaccurate weapons like HRs and RLs for a close and dirty fight, but pick MGs and turreted guns for a prolonged duel at relatively long range.

Doing Dirt

The car is ready. Your weapons are strapped next to you, and the crew chief gives you the thumbs up. The gate rises, the lights come up, and you whine out to face several equally crazed foes. Now what?

Picking your first opponent is very important. The best way to choose is to shoot at the first person to shoot at you. If you've managed to spread the rumour that you'll do this before the contest starts, you may even get away with watching your opponents brawl without you for a few seconds. Keep it up, though, and you'll stick out like a sore thumb. Your opponents will gang up on you, and the networks will sneer at the chicken duellist. If they won't carry the fight to you, take it to them. Single out another duellist who looks like he's already very busy; he may be too engage with his first for to engage you. If you get a rear shot, so much the better.

Don't let other duellists get away with snipping from the sidelines. You may have to break away from a tempting target, but you'll have to fight the rest sometime. Let the other players fight it out and the charge the lone wolf. Above all, concentrate your fire! Anything above a Killer Kart will take some killing, and you won't have any time to spare. Stripping an opponent down to one point of armour on each side is no good if he blows right through your front in the meantime.

Be very careful what you target. Firing on the back is very nice, bit it's not likely the target will sit still for it. Of course, if the car is immobile, feel free to abuse the back armour at will. Unless he's got a turret, your enemy will be virtually powerless to stop you.

Shooting at the front may seem like a good idea, since that's where the weapons usually are, but don't do it! Your goal in this is to come out with the maximum salvage possible, and if you shoot through the front weapons, a lot of valuable hardware goes up in smoke. In addition, most power plants are front mounted, so you run the risk of your whole kill going up in flames. And the front is harder to hit to boot, causing wasted shots.

Side shots give the best chance of hitting, and the best chance to score a clean kill on the driver. You'll probably have to go through more armour, but it'll be worth it in the end. Skillful manoeuvring should be able to prevent your foe from hiding a weakened side.

Speaking of manoeuvring, do it! You simply do not have enough armour to sit like a turtle and take punishment. The only way to get the best shots on your competitors is to get some speed up and run around them. About 40mph is good, unless you have lost a wheel. Once Once a wheel is gone, get cowardly and use pivots to bring your weapons to bear. Generally the more inaccurate your weapons are, the faster you'll have to go to get to the close range your weapons work best at.

Some special tactics are very effective; some aren't. The ram tactic used with custom cars is a whole lot less valuable with a stock vehicle. With a ram plate and scads of front armour, a specially designed ram vehicle can clean the roads. Also, the stock cars will have pretty much the same amount of armour, and no ram plates. You may be able to take one opponent out with a ram, but you'll lose as much as he does. If anyone else is left to pick up the pieces, you're in deep kimchee, pal.

Another fine tactic is tire-shooting. In tournaments, it is amazing to see how few players will shoot at tires. With the lower valued tires often in use in stock cars, it is a positive crime to forgo a point-blank tire shot. If the target is moving at any significant speed, the loss of a tire can be catastrophic.

The best times to shoot at tires are:

  1. The target is moving at a fairly high speed
  2. The target has a weakened or low value tire
  3. The target has only front mounted weapons.

If you can immobilize a foe with fixed weapons, he's yours for the asking. Immobilising him and bouncing him off the concrete a few times is even better. Best of all, shooting tires doesn't take much from the value of your kill.

The End Game

After a bit of shooting, it will generally come down to a one-on-one situation. If you've done a good job playing the others off against each other, your final opponent will be in worse shape than yourself. Still, you're likely to be very short of armour on at least one side, and low-ammo weapons like RRs and RLs may be on the edge of exhaustion. You shouldn't have any HRs left; they are best used early on to eliminate tires and weakened opponents. Fear Not! You still have a good chance. Your mobility is your greatest asset; use it to find your foe's weaknesses. Maybe he's about out of ammo - give him a shot at the strongest armour you've got. When all else fails, shoot for his weapons. You've got your kills from the rest of the field; you can afford to shoot for the weapons and the power plant, hoping for fire.

At the end, with your vehicle a smoking mass of wreckage, you can always pull your pistol and go for it. In true duelling tradition, a few courageous but unlucky duellists have pulled victory from the jaws of defeat by charging an immobile with an SMG and grenade.

With a bit of luck, these hints should make you the terror of the amateur duels. Soon you'll have that Foxbat of your very own, and can sneer at the lowly beginners. Just remember where it all started, late one Amateur Night.