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Creation Date: March 1st, 2010 07:15 PM
Blue Ghost Blue Ghost is offline
Musings of a Knight of the Imperium.
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In Moot Member Blogs Car Wars' memories Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #585 New July 21st, 2019 10:08 PM
Car Wars is one of my favorite all time games. Star Fleet Battles used to take that slot, but the game, as per previous web log entries, has gotten way too big for its britches. In a very traditional Kirk and Spock Star Trek vein I still like a lot of that creation, and Franz Joesph's material codified into rules' format, but Car Wars deals with an abstract reality that you can imagine. That, as opposed to Star Fleet Battles which is supposed to take its cues from the classic Trek-verse, but has careened far afield from the Kirk and Spock setting.

Car Wars was another good memory that I enjoyed with friends. Car Wars was always on the game shelf, or peg board rack because it came in one of those plastic box things with the hole for a hanger thing whatever it's called. And the cover art on the not the very first edition, but the "first" edition that came ater that with the abstract rainbow cover with the duellest in the chair and the vehicles in the background, was just pure magic. I still look at that piece and think it one of the great gaming art pieces, next to the 3rd edition GURPS cover. And when my friend and I each purchased a copy (I think I bought him a copy for his birthday, and eventually bought one for myself, but it's been too long for me to recall correctly), and read the rules in his atrium, it was pure magic.

Suddenly we weren't just sitting in his house, but roaring down some future dystopic freeway in the American Midwest, armed to the teeth, slugging it out with bike gangs in heavy firefights with 50cal machineguns, rockets, and oil slicks. It was incredible.

I mean Traveller took us to Marc Miller's Third Imperium, or even the proto-Travellerverse that had no OTU as such, just hints of an Imperium and various strange and exotic worlds. But Car wars ratched a young man's imagination, and really propelled us into the ultra violent machismo "arena" (if you will, no pun intended) of Steve Jackson's Car Wars-universe.

Again, an exciting time to be alive where games were concerned. School, the after school job, later on college and university, and taking care of the little Vargr unit and an eventual lady friend, Car Wars was there to relieve the stress of everyday life. Much life Traveller, Star Fleet Battles, all of the microgames from Steve Jackson, Task Force, Metagaming, Dwarfstar and whoever else I've left off the list. Whether I was exchanging shots with a band of pirates trying to take over our scout ship out on the fringes of the Imperium, or sitting in the command chair of a Constitution Class One Starship as I faced down a Klingon D7 or some strange exotic monster, or even cruising in my ride at the Buffalo Arena in my customized dueling vehicle, it was all just really great times to be with friends and share a story telling experience.

Regrettably, like Star Fleet Battles, Car Wars came close to ending friendships with arguments over rules, and how I did seem to be the focus of a lot of attacks to make some of the playing experiences unpleasant. Again, another effort to get me off of gaming. I'm thinking of a log entry for that effort, but I'll write that at another time. I'm sorry for all the arguments, but when things did go right we had a blast. Whether it was the Klingon B10 putting a stack of drones in stasis so we could move in and destroy it and the Fed CVA whose fighter group had launched them, or clearing out the lab ship in Death Station, you are there sharing your imagination with friends.

With Car Wars that was also the case, although being more of a war game than an RPG in spite of the very abstract and loosely defined RPG "rules" that came in the original small booklet, Car Wars was also more tangible in that even before we had gotten our driver's license we knew what it was like to ride in a car. You had that tactile memory to draw on when it came to the game. Not so much the case for SFB or even Traveller or one of the other games we played as a group.

Again, my goal at the time was to take a lot of those games and turn them into visual properties. Again, my thought was "If people loved Star Wars, then they'll go head over heels for this!" "This" meaning all the games, SFB not withstanding since it was based off of an existing media property.

And so I went to film school. And so I tried to write various Car Wars and Traveller screenplays, but to no avail. The simple reason was because I was simply young and inexperienced. That, and my biological mother was funding an effort from afar to get me off of gaming, seeing it as a tool of the devil or what have you.

I was going to save this for another log, but I'll post it here; at one time my biological mother may have been connected to some of the Hollywood and Jet Setters back int he 60s. Her concept of a movie, or so I'm of the opinion, is traditional star power with big names in films that have men doing manly things and women being the combination of damsel in distress and the "power behind the power" in terms of manipulating men to do manly things. Her concept of a film is big names, big dramatic moments that show off the beauty of actors and actresses, and all the attention that it garnishes.

Well, and I hate to bring this movie up for the umpteenth time, but, Star Wars smacked all that aside, cast competent actors (and a couple of big names in the supporting roles) to get a "big budget" independent film about space opera onto the big screen. There were on Richard Burtons nor Elizabeth Taylors romantically prancing on the screen with witty dialogue and huge epic scenes with thousands of extras in dressed in period armor and costume. There were no Paul Newmans, no Robert Redfords, no Rock Hudsons, nor their female equivalents on the big screen looking beautiful and citing some corny dialogue written buy some two-bit hack contract studio screenwriter. Star Wars had Peter Cushing, Alec Guiness both older men, but no big handsome big name types. It had a competent actor in the lead by the name of Mark Hamil, a Bay Area product.

So, when I played Car Wars, or was driving by myself going to and fro wherever, I would come up with really rocking Car Wars scenes, and commit some of them to a spiral notebook. I created shot lists, story boards, just really sceneds for a Car Wars or Traveller film, but all the while I had this f)cking b!tch really just trying to tweak my life from afar. That, and she has corrupt elements in her personal guard who probably leaked a bunch of junk. And to be clear, in spite of her "social status", to use Traveller lingo, I grew up a middle class kid and young man who didn't have access to her money. I drove second hand cars (I still do), didn't have any of the fancy toys "the rich kids" had. And so I invested in my imagination with the aspiration of taking my Car Wars' experiences, along with Traveller, Star Smuggler, Intruder, Asteroid Zero Four, Starfire, and if I was lucky enough, Star Fleet Battles by the way of classic Star Trek, up on the big screen.

I would have preferred to have been an engineer while writing rocking scifi on the side, but this woman and maybe a sibling or two, just kept trying to get me off of gaming again, and again, and again, and again, and again . until I couldn't take it anymore. I was gaming because it's one of the great pleasures in life, and also to fuel my imagination for great stories and screenplays for the big or small screen.

Can you imagine>? Imagine you're a car enthusiast. You love working on cars the engine, the electrical system, tweaking the suspension and everything else, and your mother disapproves of you doing that, and so she hides your tools, or trashes, them, or hires people to demonstrate to you what a waste of time it is to fix your own car and how you should be "dating girls", when kind of the whole reason you're working on your car, other than the fact that you love it, is so that you can become a mechanic as an adult, and create a stable life for a future wife. Can you f_cking imagine that? It's like giving a starving dog a rubber bone to chew on. It's like kicking a blind man's cane. it's like pouring water on your child's sandcastle.

But, back to Car Wars. So when I was dueling in the Amarillo Armadillo Arena, or Buffalo Arena, or out on some back road in the Midwest, or some Bay Area neighborhood, I could imagine camera shots, I could imagine edited scenes, I could even play the music in my car that I wanted to go with the film. And as I laid down a smoke screen, or an oil slick, or fired off my twin linked MGs mounted up front under the hood, I was in seventh heaven until I got shot up, or some rules lawyer scum bag would pick out a rules we hadn't been using the whole game, and suddenly spring it on me or one of the other players when it suited him.

But, despite all of the arguments we had over rules, the prospect of playing and letting your mind and yourself just enjoy the company of friends and the pure fantasy of the game, was and is the attraction of games.

Whether I was weaving through San Francisco in a hot pursuit of some anarchist group with a big upside down A painted on their vehicles, or some bike gang out in the irradiated badlands of New Mexico or someplace, those were epic days to live, and all that was in preparation for a career that I really didn't want, but for a life that I hope would see the naysayers of games and the scifi and fantasy genre as a whole, appreciate the fiction just as they had done with Lucas's Star Wars' creation.

Building cars, buying special equipment, picking out a counter, springing that hidden weapon or gadget on your friends during the match (loads of fun "an ice dropper? What's that?!" "An HDFO0what? And it goes on fire too?!" )), or just killing your friend's character out of spite and with an evil grin, it was all good fun. Yeah, you took it personally when you lost, or even just got shot at "What? Why are you firing at me?!" kind of thing, but it was fun. And afterwards you could reflect on the match and imagine how it might have been really like where you there in the driver's seat or up in the stands.

Car Wars also had the advantage of having much higher production values than other games. Steve Jackson was smart enough to invest in high quality grpahics, unlike the people at Task Force, or, dare I say it, the staff at GDW. I'm thinking Steve Jackson saw the success of Dungeons and Dragons, and did likewise by investing in some really rocking art for not just the box covers, but also for the counters and maps. So the game wasn't just tactile in the sense that everyone had had the experience of being in a car, but the game itself had visually stimulating art to fire up your imagination and make you enjoy the game that much more.

I wish I had some local groups to play both Traveller and Car Wars, but whatever. I imagine if I did go to those groups that my life would get f_cked with even more, so it's just as well that I'm a homebody who occasionally goes hiking or to the beach. But Car Wars is the epitome of good science fiction warsims with an RPG component. I'm sorry I couldn't make my dreams come true with it thanks to my dumb ass biological mother, and elements in the Pentagon. but again, whatever. I'm still alive....writing and bitching on this web log. And there you go.

Prepare to Gentlemen, start your engines!
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