Long-Distance CAR WARS Racing

by Tony Birchill

" Driving along at 120, you see the telltale flashing lights of the police behind you. Blast! Maybe selling the radar jammer to buy that last tank of gas wasn't so smart. But you'll stay in this race no matter what. Oh, well, time to test the heavy-duty FOJ ..."

Recently in Australia, there's been a trend towards long-distance racing. The challenges of autoduelling combine with the hazards of highway travel for a breathtaking combat experience. Obviously, however, something as long as a Cannonball race or even a simple road rally is ludicrous on the regular scale of 1 inch = 15 feet. Here are a few suggestions to help referees bring the thrills of a road rally to Car Wars.


Long-distance Car Wars requires a referee to map out the road, devising and moderating encounters when necessary. The first step in planning a road rally is choosing the route. The total length and traffic density should be major factors in you decision - having too many encounters can slow down preparation and the race itself, while having too few will remove all the color from road racing. Personal knowledge of the route is also important, as it will help you give life to a bland road map. It's usually best to start with a familiar route if possible, to give more fuel to your imagination.

Once the route is chosen, the map should be fleshed out with encounters. Remember that your 1987 map is 50 years old, so you'll need to use your imagination to bring it up to date. AADA Road Atlas entries, both the ADQ features and the ten-volume set of Autoduel supplements, are very useful for this; in addition, the Autoduel supplements give scenario ideas that can help create encounters. The most important consideration is the availability of services - repairs, reloads and recharges. Whether and where special items like gasoline, laser-guided ammunition or metal tires can be found should be decided at this time. Once you've laid out what information (if any) the players can learn, either from official briefings or from pre-rally reconnaissance.

After creating a route, with encounters, towns, and services, select an appropriate budget. The budget may or may not pay for expenses, such as recharging; in long races, these expenses can easily exceed the costs of the vehicles themselves. Often the budget will include restrictions on vehicle types. Try to choose a budget that taxes your players' design abilities. For example, the Round Australia Race had a budget of $150,000, with an additional $100,000 for expenses, while the Sydney to Melbourne (600 miles) was a Division 40 all-electric race, all expenses paid. Along these lines, road racing combines well with corporate duelling, but those details are left to the referee.

Race rules are another decision for the referee. Longer races will have fewer rules monitors and thus fewer rules, while a 30-mile city rally might allow fewer weapons and tactics than some dueltrack arenas. Choose rules based on the kind of action you want to see - many rallies prohibit fire at opponents' vehicles (though there's nothing wrong with luring someone else to shoot at them for you). Give the players lots of freedom, but don't hesitate to outlaw anything you deem inappropriate.

The last step of preparation is the players' job. Give them whatever information they will get and let them design their vehicles. No doubt they will want special, unofficial, non-standard items. Don't be too unwilling, but remember that anything one player has, all other players (and Police, cycle gangs, MONDOs, etc.) should have access to as well. Also, any piece of equipment that really annoys you is much more likely to break down. Scrutinize the final designs very carefully; these cars will probably have more components than the average duelling machine. Once all the cars have been certified by the rally committee, the race is ready to begin!


Now that your racing maniacs are ready, there are two ways of keeping track of where they go and when they get there: by distance or by time. The first method, used in solo adventures like Convoy , generally uses ten mile units. After every ten miles you work out what happened and how long it took. Although fine for regular adventures, this system isn't appropriate for races involving several different groups. A much better method uses time as the base unit. Instead of 10 miles, use fifteen minutes or an hour (depending on how much is likely to happen). Place a marker (a pin is best) on the map for each vehicle, advancing the pin during each player's turn. For example, a car travelling 100 mph will go 25 miles in 15 minutes. Mark off energy or fuel consumption and move on to the next player. When markers (i.e., vehicles) approach or pass each other, figure out at what time in the turn they meet, put down road sections, and let the players do whatever they want. Encounters such as radar traps and ambushes should be handled in the same way.

Remember to count time lost to refuelling or recharging, toilet tops, sleep, traffic delays in towns, license checks and so forth. Roleplay them whenever possible as these turn your race from a mathematical exercise into an entertaining game. Roleplaying situations can also become opportunities to get ahead in the race: bribing police, hiring cycle gangs, setting up roadblocks or just spreading rumors can all be effective tactics to impede the opposition.

Be sure to penalize players who drive unrealistically. Every crew member should get at least six hours of sleep per night, three meals per day and a rest stop every six hours while driving. Unless players have made arrangements before the race (extra driver controls, cargo space for food etc.) they will need to stop occasionally. Similarly, abusing vehicles should be costly. Driving Can-Ams down dirt roads, always braking at 15 mph and accelerating as rapidly as possible, and doing tight bends around street corners are all safely within the rules but should eventually lead to equipment breakdowns. The road hazard rules found in Convoy are another good way to keep the players in line. Random equipment failures should be determined by the referee; in general, the lead car is likely to suffer the most, but a reckless breakneck rush for the finish line is also likely to lead to malfunctions. Above all, aim for a difficult race with a dramatic finish.

Good luck from Down Under. With good planning, a touch of imagination and a flair for the dramatic, your road rallies will live long in the memories of your players' clones.

HTMLized by Tim C Morrison and Odette Mintrom, tcmom@c130.aone.net.au