February 15, 2011: Phil Reed's Ten Favorite Autoduel Quarterly Articles
I've made no secret of the fact that I played way too much Car Wars back in high school, but that isn't the sort of thing that I want to keep a secret. As a child of the eighties I was right there as Car Wars rolled out. At the time, and even today, one of my favorite types of Car Wars supplements was Autoduel Quarterly. I had a subscription for part of the run, but most of my collection was picked up issue-by-issue as they were released . . . and I hate to admit that, even to this day, I do not own all 40 issues of ADQ.
Fortunately, though, I have access to a complete run of ADQ here in the office (and every single issue is also in PDF at e23) so I've managed to read every article that was ever published. And a few days ago I woke up thinking of some of my favorite ADQ articles. That thought needed to be cemented, which brings me to the heart of this post. I've listed my ten favorite articles in order of release; I can't even begin to order these in any sort of "my favorite is" manner.
"Vehicle Design Strategy" (Vol. 1, No. 3), by Greg Porter. Does it get any better than a crunchy how-to on vehicle design? One of my favorite parts when I first read it (back when I was 14) was the section of weapon efficiency. I'm willing to bet that this article had an influence on my desire to design games . . . not that I design games these days. But that's a post for another day.
"Doppelganger" (Vol. 3, No. 2), by John Nowak. One of the things I loved most about ADQ was the fiction; as a kid it was these stories that really shaped my impression of the Car Wars world. And even though there was a lot of fiction published throughout the life of the magazine -- I should compile a Car Wars short story book out of that old work -- I have to say that this was easily one of my favorite stories. The "lone duelist vs. warlord" was, in my opinion, never done better than in this short tale. The way in which our hero defeats the villain is especially nice for Car Wars fans who build ram cars.
"Dueltrack Designer's Notes" (Vol 4, No. 2), by Scott Haring. Dueltrack may have been a shorter-than-I-expected rulebook, but at the time of its release it was one of the coolest additions to Car Wars. Metal armor. Gas engines. Racing bodies. It was all there, and it radically changed the way we designed our cars (why have a lux when you can take a Can-Am?). The expansion was a game-changer for my group. This article gave me some insight into the "whys" of the choices made in the rules, and I suspect that it's one of the reasons I still enjoy well-written designer's notes.
"The Corporate Approach to Car Wars" (Vol. 4, No. 4), by Mad Al Loud. This one had a dramatic effect on our group. For about a year we played in a campaign that was little more than a string of duels, with each player running a corporate team. I know some of the guys I gamed with still have their old folders packed with their vehicles and characters from that campaign. It's too bad we're now spread across the U.S. and don't have a way to continue that ancient Car Wars campaign.
"Writing a Solo Adventure" (Vol. 5, No. 2), by Steve Jackson. The old Car Wars game books by TSR were way too much fun -- speaking of things that would be cool to update and re-release -- and this article by Steve gave me my first taste of what it takes to design a solo adventure. I've still never designed a solo (text adventure games designed on the C-64 don't count, right?) and, unfortunately, I think the era of these books has passed. Too bad, because I think I would enjoy being told to lock myself in a room and write one.
"Highway Encounters" (Vol. 5, No. 4), by Stephen Beeman. This shows just how geeky I can get at times, because it's actually just a collection of vehicle designs with a simple encounter idea for each vehicle. Rereading this article actually shows me where part of the inspiration for my "A Dozen . . ." PDF series came from and has me thinking about how I could take the basic idea one step farther for a completely new type of "adventure seed" design.
"Tournament Car Design" (Vol. 6, No. 1), by Tim Ray. This goes into far more detail than Greg Porter's article from the first year of ADQ, but that shouldn't shock anyone . . . by the time this one was released, we were flooded with new weapons and vehicle gadgets. It may be a bit too crunchy for someone who just wants to drive and shoot, but if you're into car design this is a fun read.
"When Duty Calls" (Vol. 6, No. 3), by J. Chestnut and John Romero. This story of a Texas Ranger and corporate intrigue has some great combat scenes, and just enough other stuff going on to elevate it to one of my top Car Wars short stories. And the artwork (especially the cover) by Gary Washington just screams "Car Wars" at me.
"Microplanes" (Vol. 7, No. 1), by Robert L. Hayden and Charles Oines. This first real step toward Aeroduel led to a lot of late-night microplane design sessions. I think that for the six months after this issue was released I spent most of my Car Wars time playing with microplanes.
"Mutant Zone" (Vol. 7, No. 2), by Charles Oines and David N. Searle. This Chassis & Crossbow adventure makes the list solely because it's got a character who weighs almost 900 lbs. and gets around in a buggy/throne machine. It's also just a fun smash-n-grab outing, but "The Blob" is the most memorable part for me.
What? That's it? One problem with Top 10 lists is that it can be hard to stop at 10. But rather than bore you with more of my own thoughts about Autoduel Quarterly, I'll invite you to join us on the forums and share your own favorite ADQ articles. Can you limit yourself to only ten?
-- Phil Reed
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