There were lots of decisions to be made - what components to put in the box, what rules to change, what to include, what to drop - and most of them revolved around the rulebook. Early in the project, I boasted, "I can get everything into a 32-page book." I only missed by a factor of two. The 64-page book even has extra charts on the inside covers, we were so pressed for room. Fortunately, I was allowed one big mistake - and that was it.
I had failed to fully comprehend the scope of material published in the Car Wars universe. After all, I had the original game, two supplements, a ref screen, a crossover supplement (Autoduel Champions), six expansion sets, a solo adventure, The AADA Vehicle Guide, and nine issues of Autoduel Quarterly to draw from. No wonder it wouldn't fit in 32 pages!
My goal was to make the rulebook complete - to have it contain everything in the Car Wars universe (up to that point). And I almost succeeded. The only thing no in Deluxe Car Wars is a number of the old Uncle Albert gadgets from early issues of Autoduel Quarterly. These got left out for a number of reasons: First, we were running out of room; second, many of the gadgets had nothing to do with the rules of the game (and any that did change the rules of the game got included); third, we had just finished releasing the Uncle Albert's 2035 Catalog, which contained all the material, anyway; and fourth, I realized the notion of "completeness" in an evolving game system was an outmoded concept - as soon as the next issue of ADQ comes out (this one, as a matter of fact), the game would no longer be "complete," anyway.
But as far as actual rules go, the book is complete. Many articles from old ADQs - such as "All Fired Up," optional fire rules from ADQ 2/3; "Speeding in Car Wars" from ADQ 1/3; and "Critical Hits in Car Wars" from ADQ 2/4 - were converted into optional rules. Helicopters were bought in from Autoduel Champions, 18-wheelers from Truck Stop, trikes from The AADA Vehicle Guide, ten-wheelers from ADQ 2/3, and small trailers from ADQ 2/4. We also included the special city fighting rules from Crash City, and all the rule modifications from other supplements.
But simply throwing together all the old rule changes would have been easy (heaven forbid we do anything easy ...). I saw this rewrite as an opportunity to fix all the things I didn't like about the original rules. After two years or so as ADQ editor and chief letter-answerer, I've gotten a pretty good idea of what the players didn't like about the rule system. And, of course, my own experiences as a player and referee were taken into account.
My biggest complaint was that nobody wanted to go fast. I have refereed a number of arena battles where the cars slowed to 2 mph and simply picoted. Even on the highways, few folks dared to go faster than 40 mph or so. That just wouldn't do. Even though speed is still deadly in Car Wars, we needed an incentive to make people want to go fast - and the solution is combat modifier based on the speed of the target vehicle. A system using relative speeds would be even more realistic, but too difficult to implement, requiring a healthy dose of trigonometry to get right. So, I opted for the simpler system.
I was very dissatisfied with the way grenades were thrown in the game, so I completely rewrote how grenades work. As a little preview, we put the grenade rules in ADQ 3/1. A similar system is also used for determining where a dropped bomb hits.
Another little glitch was the helicopter construction rules. I felt that the power plants had too many power factors, which allowed a helicopter to carry too much weight, which in turn meant that choppers were carrying too much armor. Just for grins, I put a super copter plant in a small helicopter. There's just enough room left for the pilot and a one-space weapon - I chose a machine-gun. That left enough weight capacity for 2,125 points of armor - over 350 per side if divided evenly! The heavy armor of choppers caused yet another problem - everyone spent their time going for rotors, because it was a waste of time shooting at the body of the chopper itself.
The solution was multi-faceted. first, I knocked down the power factors of all the copter plants. Second, I made rotors harder to hit, harder to damage, and tougher. Since these changes altered the way helicopters are built, the "Sample Vehicles" section of Deluxe Car Wars contains revised designs of all the helicopters that appeared in The AADA Vehicle Guide (which were designed with the old rules). Of course, people who want to use the old rules are welcome to - but I think these are better.
We also added some new skills for characters, and changed the way skills are described. When a character has a skill at a base level, instead of calling it Skill-0, we just list the skill. Additional levels are designated by plusses. So, an old character who would have been described as a "Driver-0, Gunner-1, Mechanic-0" is now a "Driver, Gunner +1, Mechanic." The change is not that big - but it makes a lot more sense. We've also made some skills more valuable - like Driver and Cyclist, and that ties into what is perhaps the biggest change I made in the rules.
Under the old rules, every vehicle returns to its base Handling Class at the beginning of each turn. That meant that no matter how much trouble you were in or how out of control your vehicle was, you regained full control at maximum handling at the start of every second. Very simple, very playable - but not very realistic. under the new system, there is still a base HC (the HC of your vehicle, plus any reflex bonus you qualify for) that you start the game at - and it's also the highest HC you can have during the course of a battle. but at the beginning of each turn, you only recover part of your HC. How much? That depends on the base HC of the vehicle, and your Driver skill (for a car - Cyclist skill for a trike or cycle, etc.). I won't give you all the details (go buy the game, for heaven's sake!), but I think it's much more realistic without sacrificing too much simplicity of play.
That has been the crux of all our decisions - realism vs. simplicity of play. Undoubtedly, there are going to be some folks who wished we made the game more realistic and more complicated. There are going to be others who wish we had made the game simpler, at the expense of some of our fancier rules systems. I think we've made a good compromise, staking out a position firmly in the middle ground. Time will tell if we did it right.
Another thing in the game that I'm particularly proud of is an easy-to-learn, "beginner's" version of the game that takes up the first few pages of the rulebook. It's perfect for those who've never played before, and it's worth looking at if you want to teach somebody the game without taking a whole lot of time.
We've also included some Deluxe Road Sections - curved and straight road sections on card stock, with turning keys, counters, and other neat stuff printed on the cards to boot. Other Deluxe Road Sections are being sold in separate packages - be on the lookout for them.
Of course, there's plenty of other stuff in the box - record sheets for every kind of vehicle, maps, counters - everything you need to play. But that's enough cheap commercialism - the purpose of this article was to explain why I did things the way I did them, not to get you to buy the game (which I fervently hope you'll do anyway, of course).
Usually, these articles are called "Designer's Notes." But that's not accurate in this case. While I did write some small sections, most of the material was stolen from the previous sources. Of course, I know enough to steal from the best - Steve Jackson, Aaron Allston, David Ladyman, Jim Gould, the writers of Autoduel Quarterly. So, does that make me a "developer"? Maybe ... that's what it says on the title page of the rulebook. But "editor" might be appropriate, too, because in addition to merely selecting what bits to use and changing the bits that weren't right, I had to completely reorganize the whole thing. All the various combat information, for example, had to be pulled from each separate release and brought together in one section - thank Fangio for word processors. (And a special big thank you to Norman Banduch, who lent the company his Osborne computer, which I used to do all the writing.)
Now, on to the stirring summary. It was a lot of work, but I think it was worth it - Car Wars is now a better game, with a maze of complex rules brought together in one organized, unified whole, with many of the annoying little problems fixed - and some of the big ones, too. Is it a good buy? I think so ... but of course, I'm biased. But if you take a look, I think you'll like it, too - and that's all I can ask.