Car Wars – A Trip Down The Memory Fast Lane, Part 3

frontier wars 728x90 KS

Our Car Wars retrospective rolls on ~

Michael Eckenfels, 7 October 2016

click most images to enlarge


Starting with the words “If you don’t like the way we drive, get off the streets, and the sidewalk…and the lawns…” this particular expansion was originally published in Space Gamer magazine as an article called “Sunday Drivers.” It later became a full Car Wars supplement, eventually becoming known as Crash City. Ultimately, this name is more suitable for this expansion. Both Sunday Drivers and Crash City were published in 1982, so there must not have been a lot of lead time between them, but they made do, I think, by re-using existing material, as you’ll see in a moment.

The game box.

The game box.

This cover was cool…back in 1982. Now, you’re faced with what looks like a crappy-yet-coordinated synthepop punk band that watched The Road Warrior way too many times. They’re obviously bad guys, because only bad guys can be color-coordinated down to yellow racing stripes and red goggles. But seriously, imagine replacing the guns with 80s instruments, and you’re totally thinking it now, so I may as well just frikkin’ do it myself.

Pictured: EIGHTIES. And arguably a better cover, too.

Pictured: EIGHTIES. And arguably a better cover, too.

The Crash City set, of course, requires the original Car Wars rules to play. Otherwise, you just have a really big-ass expansion with a giant 42” x 32” map of a very Midwest-neutral-sounding name, “Midville.” Midville, you see, is smack in the middle of gang troubles. Or trucker troubles. Or police troubles. Or raider troubles. Or…you get the picture. If it’s got wheels, armor, lasers, and hopped up on Shark Bites fruit snacks and bad-quality leather, it’s probably going to want to drive through Midville and shoot everything that both moves and stands still.

The back cover.

The back cover.

Indeed, as the back cover states: “There’s never a dull moment in Midville.” (If there were, I doubt many Car Wars players would have bothered.) “Between the local autoduellists, the trigger-happy pedestrian group called the MONDOs” (because, EIGHTIES!), “and the heavily-armed police” (Car Lives Matter!), “life can get pretty exciting. As if that weren’t enough, the local cycle gang – Black Jesse’s Crusaders – would like nothing better than to burn the town to the ground.”

The rules cover with the old “Sunday Drivers” title.

The rules cover with the old “Sunday Drivers” title.

Notably, this expansion adds rules for terrain. Specifically, city/structure terrain, which can be rammed and smashed and blown up Bay style. It’s all described over several pages and adds a nice dimension to the usual shoot-em-up on highways and in arenas. Now, you can lower real estate values the old fashioned way, by a-ridin’ into town, a-whompin’ and a-whumpin’, every living thing that moves within an inch of its life. And then maybe build your railroad through town, paving over the ruins while gleefully rolling the end of your long black mustache.

Here comes terrain again…falling on me head like a mem-oh-ree…

Here comes terrain again…falling on me head like a mem-oh-ree…

Pedestrians are usually just big, meat-baggy, pulpy targets to splatter all over your bumper in-game, but Crash City gives them a little more bite: essentially, additional weapons that are man-portable versions of the very weapons you use to make other cars go boom (from the inside out, preferably). Hey, before you think I’m getting too flippant, the rules say it themselves: “Several types of special equipment are permitted for this lunacy.”

Now available, portable rocket launchers for pedestrians!

Now available, portable rocket launchers for pedestrians!

Of course, a town like Midville doesn’t just have psychotic motorcycle gangs and heavily-armed pedestrians with acronymic names on par with an 80s high school movie. This town also comes with public service vehicles that can bite back. Hard.



The Police Cruiser has machineguns pointing forward, a turreted Recoilless Rifle, and a spike-dropper in the back. And yeah, people remember a time when cops were too heavily-armed. Looks like the cops got over that really quick.

There’s also the Ambunaught. Bonus points for being an awesome name and much more creative than the pig-mobile. (Hey, it’s Midville, they probably have to haul livestock around too.) It has as much firepower as the Police Cruiser, though it is missing the spike-dropper. Sigh. I wish I had a spike-dropper when I was a paramedic. I hated when people tailgated my ambulance when we were lights-and-sirens going through thick traffic.

RV 2: The Squishening

RV 2: The Squishening

If that weren’t enough, there’s this humble and innocent-looking recreational vehicle (hence, RV) that is apparently very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While innocent on the outside, this monster is sporting armor, a spacious turret, wheel guards, an assault ramp, and a communications center, among other nasty tricks. Very much the thing any streetwise retiree would need whilst discovering the ‘Murica of the future.

Midville map.

Midville map.

This page of the book shows the area covered by the very large 42” x 32” Midville map; the gray area at the top indicates what that map covers. The bottom portion can be found in the East Midville expansion, which I just happen to have, and will report on later. Seriously, the map is quite huge, and a perfect place to play out some large-scale vehicular manslaughter. Simulated, of course. I’m going to show you more of the Midville map, but for now, let’s talk about some of the other odds and ends in the box.

Car Wars!

Car Wars!

The ubiquitous advertisement on the inside heralds yet more cool Car Wars stuff that you can buy with your check or money order (remember those, kids?) and send off in the mail (ditto?) to get six to eight weeks later (hahahaha). It’s a pretty awesome little piece of gaming history, actually. Autoduel Quarterly was, as the name implies, released four times a year. I have a few of them on hand, and will likewise report on those later.


If that weren’t enough, Steve Jackson Games has its own little catalogue in there, showcasing many of the games of yesteryear. Yeah, yeah, don’t get your armored briefs in a wad, I’ll show you a bit of what it looks like…


Champions, Traveller. OGRE. And so much more things of my lost youth. It’s a rather nostalgic trip just looking over this list, and more than enough to prompt me to go looking for it on the Interweb thing.


Well…if you were thinking you could order off this catalog, sorry; looks like the prices were only guaranteed through May of 1986. We may be a tad too late.

What? You want to see more of this catalog? Glad you asked, because…


Heh-heh. Such a tease. And pretty awesome to boot. Not to mention those prices! I can’t imagine getting any of that mint for anywhere near that dollar range. Just looking on a handy site called, I can see that $6.50 in 1986 is now worth fourteen-point-three billion dollars.

Just kidding. Actually it’s just over fourteen bucks. I still doubt you’d get a mint copy for that much.


And then there was TOON. The comedic role-playing game of cartoon creatures. This game was pretty much Looney Tunes, but in the hands of you and your sick friends, it became something more of a vile and violent R-rated gore-romp.

Don’t judge. 1986 + no parental supervision (i.e., “trust”) + friends + comedic RPG = …yeah.



Oh wait, one more look back. Killer. Ha, ha, ha. This was the utterly…well, I asked you not to judge, so I won’t, but apparently this was huge on college campuses back in the day, though it might have been known by slew of other copy-cat names, including Assassin, KAOS, Battle Royal, Elimination, Circle of Death, Juggernaut, Hunt the Wumpus, Why Is Mommy Crying, Daddy?, and Father McGillicutty Said Don’t Tell Your Parents. Except those last three were just totally made up by me on the spot.

I think this still goes on today under various guises, though I’d imagine in this world (as opposed to the much more ‘if you don’t like it, get over it and move on’ world of 1986), it could get hammered by a media more addicted to controversy and made-up drama than a Kardashian dinner party.

Anyway. Again. On with Midville.


There are two very thick, folded-up maps (the box is the same size as the others in the Car Wars series, so it takes approximately 15 hours to unfold each one, and four months to fold it back up correctly.


Oh, look. It’s so nice to see that in the far-off future (which today is technically only two decades away) that video arcades are still a thing. And books! And games! It’s okay, our lifestyles shall be preserved in future nerd generations, by Grabthar’s Hammer!


However, we see another block or so over that there’s a ‘records store.’ This gives me a funny feeling behind my belly button. Video arcade? Record store? My goodness…Midville is some kind of future hipster commie hippy commune! I guess I won’t cry any rivers if it gets burned to the ground, then. Looks like Fourth Street (more like ‘Front Street,’ amirite? Hello? This thing on?) also has a hobby shop, though what ‘hobby’ people are into 20 years from now hopefully doesn’t involve the phrase “go ‘way, baitin’.”


One final look at the Midville map. Fortunately we haven’t lost sight of more important things (Liquor Store, right next to Ice Cream, so the whole family can get loaded together), and the ever-hilariously-named law firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe. Oh, Steve Jackson Games, you’re such a card (wars).

Okay, MetalDog. I made myself groan with that one.


There are 160 full-color counters, all nice and mixed up like the cover of a 70s-era Wheaties box. The counters are still in great condition even after three decades (why, oh why do I keep repeating that?). Though it looks like some components are still in one piece. I do remember my friends and I playing on this Midville map and with these rules often, but apparently not often enough to cut out every 2mm x 6mm counter that would blow off the table and flutter away if the cat sneezed on the other side of the house.


I’ll just go ahead and organize a little of that mess for you so you can have a better picture of the art quality. The counters themselves are flimsy and thin, but the art is great. Denis Loubet, whom I mentioned earlier in this mega-article, did all of the artwork.

Now that we’re done looking at Midville, why not wander over to East Midville? Yes, I know, it was below Midville, so that might technically make it South Midville, but maybe that was west on top of the page. Just roll with it.

Get it? “Roll?” Because…cars…wheel…heh.

Okay, okay.

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