Hovercraft Designer's Notes
by Kenneth W. Scott
HTML conversion by Michael P. Owen, April 2000
For the last several years one of the most requested new
vehicle types has been hovercraft. It has not been an
unreasonable request. Given
the world in which Car Wars is set, where vast stretches of highway have gone unserviced for decades, hovercraft are a very practical and viable form of transportation. Hovercraft travel above the surface, and are therefore little affected by its condition. No matter that the road
is cracked, buckled and holed from years of disuse, that the bridge is out, that the road ahead of you is littered with left over mines, a hovercraft traverses all these surfaces with equal ease and safety. If I were living in 2038, and had to make treks between cities where a man is left to the resources of himself and his machine, I would want a hovercraft.
On the other hand, hovercraft are not nearly so maneuverable as cars, and unless the arena is wide-open and spacious like Armadillo or Buffalo, I would reconsider taking a hovercraft into an arena, and I would never take a hovercraft into the New Boston Autoduel Arena! Anyway, enough of the generalities and on to the specifics.
When I was asked to write the rules for hovercraft in Car Wars it was requested that I keep the rules for hovers as close to the rules for other Car Wars vehicles as possible. Because of this, many of the hovercraft rules are variations of rules used for cars, trucks, boats and helicopters. Construction of hovercraft should be familiar to all Car Wars players, as it parallels the method used for ah other Car Wars vehicles. There are a couple of differences that are unique to hovercraft.
The largest difference is the fact that hovers do not use tires. They use skirts. These skirts help keep the hover off the ground, and add to the craft's maneuverability and stability. They operate in game effect in almost all ways like tires on cars, and if disputes arise, unless Boat Wars says differently, treat a skirt as a tire.
Fans are also unique to hovercraft. The fans are
used to keep the plenum chamber inflated (and thus keep the hover
off the ground), and for thrust and steering. The lift fan is an
internal vehicular component, and is protected by the armor.
However, since its job is to force air beneath the vehicle, it is
susceptible to flame cloud and cloud bomb damage. The thrust fans
are used to propel and steer the hovercraft; the loss of these
will further reduce the hover's already poor handling. All the
fans take damage as helicopter rotors. The other major difference
between hovercraft (and boat) construction is that both may use
gasoline engines which had, until now, been restricted to cars.
With a gas engine, and the modified top speed formula given for
use with hovers (another formula is given for boats), a
hovercraft may achieve top speeds in excess
of 300 miles per hour. But any hazard at this speed is more than likely going to be fatal for the hover and its driver.
Except for a very few small differences that no Car Wars player should have difficulty grasping, the construction of hovercraft is very much like building any other vehicle. Which brings me to the real difference with the hovercraft: movement and acceleration.
Movement and acceleration for hovercraft is radically
different from the movement for other Car Wars vehicles.
The rules for this take 14 pages of the Boat Wars rulebook, so I
can't give a concise synopsis of them here. I believe the rules
given in the book are understandable and that a careful reading
of them, with references to the abundant diagrams given, should
make make the process clear. These rules were the subject of
extensive playtest and once the playtesters gained a little
experience with them, they found them to be fairly easy, and a
good simulation of the way that hovers move. The first draft of
the rules had a much simpler version of the maneuver rules that
closely resembled the standard
movement system. This version, while simple, was found to be unacceptable. After much work and discussion trying to visualize what was happening and how to best express the concepts involved on paper, the present rules emerged.
One thing that is not explicitly stated in the rules, but
which should be obvious is that the Vector marker (the arrow
which shows which
way the hover is moving) is not really there. It has no effect of play, cannot collide with anything, will pass with equal ease through walls,
lampposts, and other vehicles.
One piece of advice that I can give about actually flying hovers in a game -- think about where you are. There is a tendency to think that the hover is where the vector marker is and forget about the actual hovercraft. This can be a deadly mistake. Think about where you are, where you want to be, and what it is going to take to get there. The generally poor handling characteristics of the hovercraft make this kind of thought necessary, and the difference between a successful hovercraft pilot and a dead one will be the amount of thought that the pilot gives to his position and maneuvers.
Hovercraft are fun to play, and I enjoyed being able to write
the rules for them. The construction rules are very familiar to Car
Wars players and any player should be able to build
effective hovers as soon as he opens the rules. I also tried (I
think I was successful) to make hovers competitive with cars of
the same division, if the arena is not too close to allow for the
hovers poorer maneuverability. I believe the hovercraft to
be a superior vehicle for cross country travel because it is not,
except in extreme cases, concerned with the terrain over which it
hovercraft can also be a successful duelling machine if thought is given to its limitations. So go buy the supplement, and have as much fun flying hovercraft as I and my playtesters have. Keep the shiny side up, the windy side down, and leave all those poor suckers with wheels eating your dust.
Editors Note: On the following pages are the Boat and Hovercraft record sheets -- we didn't have room in the Boat Wars box for them. To use them, simply photocopy the diagram over the speed and handling tracks of a Car or Trailer Record Sheet as appropriate.