Fire and Loathing in Autoduelling
by Jim Davie
HTML conversion by Michael P. Owen, March 2000
Burning people used to be easy. Under the old fire rules, all you had to do was inflict 10 points of damage with a laser, flamethrower or FOJ, and then roll a 1 or 2 on one die. The laser was the obvious choice -- with an average damage of 10.5, it could fulfill the damage requirement half the time, and then it was just a matter of making the die roll. But for duellists wanting real firepower, the FT (average damage 3.5) and the FOJ (average damage 7.5) were laughable choices. Even the heavy-duty flamethrower could only break 10 on a lucky hit. For flame jockeys, this was an embarrassing situation.
The fire situation has changed, grown more complex. The
Variant Fire Rules are now in effect in the majority of
AADA-sanctioned events -- including the World Championships --
giving an extra edge to duellists carrying weapons with Fire
Modifiers, and putting The Fear of Napalm back into the hearts of
drivers everywhere. Instead of the two choices available in the
basic Car Wars game, there are now over twenty
different ways to deliver fire modifiers, making efficient (and
effective) incendiary-based car design a difficult task. The
introduction of gas engines and fire-resistant metal armor from Dueltruck
further complicates matters. For duellists who want to draw up
the best fire trucks, this article will provide useful hints.
This table lists all incendiary weapons and
ammunition types now available, with the fire modifier and burn
duration of each.
|Napalm Mines (any)||4||3|
|Personal FT (HT ammo)||5||1|
|Light FT (HT ammo)||3||1|
|FT (HT ammo)||5||1|
|HDFT (HT ammo)||6||1|
|RL (incendiary ammo)||3||1|
|MML (incendiary ammo)||2||1|
|Thermite Limpet Mine||3||1|
Napalm mines are probably the most powerful incendiaries available, combining the high damage of normal mines with the incendiary power of a flamethrower. The bad news is that they don't last long when put under a FOJ or flame cloud.
The flaming oil jet is another nice weapon. The FOJ is more efficient than the HDFOJ, but it's easier to dodge. The 2" slick of the HDFOJ can catch an unwary tailgater by surprise.
Flame clouds aren't as effective as incendiary weapons -- what little fuel sticks to the target burns too quickly to set fires very often. However: if there is a weak or flammable area on a vehicle, the FCE will find it. Trailers are especially prone to FCEs.
Mine fingers are an often-overlooked weapon. They're
big, heavy and expensive, but putting the mine counter where you
want it (even if only within 2") can come in handy. Load it
up with radio-controlled napalm mines and you've got a nasty
weapon. (For added fun, attach a weapons tuner -- the mines go
off the phase immediately after they're deployed.)
Not surprisingly, flamethrowers come out the big winners in
this category. Accurate, effective and cheap, their only problem
is weight. Though the HDFT is much better at setting fires than
the FT, the regular FT is more efficient for space, weight and
cost. Against flammable targets, a pair of linked FTs is
definitely superior to an HDFT; the reverse is true where metal
armor requires the "armor-piercing" effect of the
High-temperature ammo basically doubles the cost of a flamethrower and actually reduces its total chance to start a fire. Using HT ammo against flammable targets is questionable, but against metal armor the added damage can spell the difference between a solid win and a crushing defeat. The HDFT, when loaded with HT ammo, has a higher average damage than any three-die weapon, can inflict a serious fire modifier, and costs less than half as much as a laser or Gauss gun.
A newcomer to the autoduelling world, the light flamethrower promises to be a popular choice. HT ammo is ideal for the LFT -- it doesn't cost much, it overcomes the LFT's low damage dice, and, unlike in larger FTs, it increases the LFTs chance to start fires. The LFT works best in linked pairs and is one of the most efficient (especially for cost!) weapons in the game. It's the natural choice for the true pyromaniac who favors tire modifiers over damage, but watch out for metal armor!
Incendiary ammo for RLs and MMLs is another good choice. IC ammo strikes a fair balance between damage and burn potential. The + 1 per die extra damage makes the ICRL more efficient than a flamethrower, but that bonus goes away just when it's needed most -- when attacking fireproof or metal armor. The RL is a better choice than the MML, unless you're using a lied set of four or more MMLs.
Incendiary ammo for MGs and VMGs comes in a distant third. The MG is in general more efficient than the VMG, though the VMG's damage can hurt metal juggernauts while the MG rounds just bounce off. Like MMLs and LFTs, incendiary machine guns are much more efficient in groups of three or more.
Lasers are good for doing large amounts of damage but
are nearly worthless for setting fires.
The great advantage of personal weapons is that they take up no space or weight. Indeed, they can save space, since they can be fired by a one-space passenger/handgunner rather than a two-space gunner.
The portable flamethrower is one of the best handweapon buys around. Load it with HT ammo and you've got a truly dangerous weapon. Don't leave home without it.
Thermite limpet mines are the most cost-effective way
of setting fires. Slapping them on passing cars during arena
combat is rather dicey, but if the opportunity arises, $80 is
pretty cheap . . .
Tactics and Defenses
For duellists relying on fire to win their battle, car design strategy and combat tactics must be carefully tailored to the expected car designs of the opponents. The two most important defenses you can expect against your incendiary attacks are extinguishers and fireproofing.
Extinguishing systems are a problem, since one successful extinguish attempt will put out all the fire modifiers on a vehicle -- even if the vehicle isn't on fire yet! Fortunately for fire jockeys, duellists often skimp on vehicular FE systems, relying on less expensive and less effective personal systems or depending on fireproof armor and component armor to protect against fire damage.
Fireproofing is, surprisingly, less of an obstacle to firebugs than extinguishers are. Fireproof insulators are useful for preventing fires and explosions, but are nearly worthless otherwise; fireproof component armor is a much better buy most of the time. Fireproof plastic armor is expensive and can be worn through given time. Metal armor is cheaper by weight than plastic armor of any sort and is fireproof to boot, but there's seldom a lot to go around. Vehicles with metal armor rarely waste any of their precious points on the top or underbody, so dropped weapons have an excellent chance of igniting the vehicle; eight points of metal on a side, however, will foil most incendiary weapons.
In arena combat, choosing the right target will often
turn a seemingly ineffective weapon into a devastating attack.
Two victims are especially vulnerable to incendiary attacks:
tires and gas-burners. Ties, because of their cost, are seldom
fireproof, and once a tire catches on fire the whole vehicle goes
up. Unfortunately, tires are hard to hit, and effective tire
shots require accurate weapons with good one-shot ignition
probabilities, such as flamethrowers and laser-guided incendiary
RLs. Gas-burners are good tire targets because their
extinguishers work one worse than normal, they have higher
chances of exploding once on fire, and hits on the gas tank or
engine have dramatically higher fire modifiers. Despite the
proliferation of metal and fireproof armor, the variant fire
rules make incendiary weapons competitive. As with nearly
anything, it doesn't pay to go halfway -- one incendiary MG won't do you much good, but six will virtually guarantee igniting anything
flammable. This basic principle, combined with the advice given in this article, will help you leave many a flaming wreck behind you on your path to victory.