CWIN Vol. 1, No. 3
Super-Scale Car Wars
Web Posted May 01, 1998
Updated January 16, 2011
Editor's Note: This article was first published in Shadis
45. Super-Scale Car Wars
was published again in Pyramid Online and on the TAGG Web site.
Super-Scale Car Wars. Loren Dean. Pyramid Online. August 14, 1998.
Tornado Alley Gamer Guild (TAGG) - Super-Scale Car Wars
Ever since the early 1980s, Steve Jackson's Car Wars has been one of
the ol' faithfuls of the gaming industry. Nearly everybody's played
and nearly everybody who has played it has thoroughly enjoyed it.
game's a survivor, and even in today's card-glutted market, it's
strong. One of the things that characterizes a group of gamers I
is their love of the third dimension. Whatever game was being
they'd run out and buy every figure they could afford, so that big
brawls and such looked really cool. Let's face it, there's nothing
pushing figures around a tabletop, and then getting down for a
"figure's eye view" of the action, to make a scene come alive.
This group of gamers renewed their interest in Car Wars in exactly
fashion -- taking it to the third dimension. Sure, we loved Car
Wars. For us, it's peculiar brand of large-caliber vehicular
violence was unbeatable. However, we had to have that third
-- the little counters just didn't cut it anymore.
Accordingly, we seized on an idea, and quickly implemented it. We
bought a 1:24 scale model car, assembled it, and then went through
spare figure parts boxes for weapon-looking stuff to tack onto them.
Super-Scale Car Wars (for us at least) was born.
If the notion of playing Car Wars in 1:24 scale appeals to you,
I've written this article with you in mind, and will explain as best
can how to get started. We'll jump right in.
Loren Dean is a long time gamer and plastic modeler living in
Utah. He can be reached through the Web Site of Critical Mass, the
University of Utah's Gaming Club or directly via electronic mail.
Critical Mass Gaming Group
The first thing you're going to want is some model cars (well, the
first thing you'll need is a copy of the rules, but I'm skipping
step). Even if there isn't a very big game shop in your town,
bound to be someplace that deals in plastic models (Wal-Mart, if
nowhere else). When purchasing a model, keep a couple of things in
First, try and stay with cars. The way the rules of the game are set
up, cars tend to be more efficient to build and play. Therefore,
pick-ups and vans, while having the potential to look really cool,
ought to be avoided at first.
Selecting a car model can be tricky. There's a good chance that
everybody is going to want sports cars. That's great, but I'd
variety. A field full of Ferarris and Porsches, no matter how
tricked out, is going to look too uniform. In addition to the sports
cars, I would recommend older cars (stuff from the 1950s through the
1970s -- big old boats and lean muscle cars). These look mean, and
lots of flat surfaces on them for turrets, weapon pods, etc.
Additionally, stock car models can look really good (they've got all
the roll cage stuff inside, and there's already only one seat), as
concept car models (the Stingray III, GT-90, and others). Concept
are not readily identifiable by anyone walking by your game. They
look futuristic, reflecting the game's setting. Several model
companies, including Monogram, also make, or have made, a line of
show car designs that look nothing like any other car (the driver's
seat is centered, the car isn't symmetrical, or whatever). These are
great, if you can find them. Don't rule out the little cars either.
There's little more satisfying then taking out a Cadillac with an
upgunned Miata, and compacts add variety to the field. Above all,
selecting your car, be original.
The kits themselves don't have to be super detailed. Many buyers of
plastic model kits are looking for detail, and that's what the
companies cater to, but it's not necessarily what you should be
for in a Car Wars model. Ease of assembly should be a high priority.
There are a lot of good snap-together model kits out there, and I've
even seen players skip the kit step entirely, and buy a die-cast car
from a toy store. Such cars are available at most toys stores, and
are 1:24 scale. This is also the only way to get 1:24 scale
that I've ever seen (Imperial Toys' Road Burners are available at
store Toys R' Us).
Assembly and Accessorizing
When assembling your model, be aware that you will be handling it
often. Some kits have opening hoods, trunks, and even doors, and I
suggest gluing those down so they don't flap around in transit or
during the game. Gluing it all down also makes painting the body
-- you can spray the whole thing at once rather than painting the
individual pieces and then trying to put them together without
glue all over the stuff you've already painted.
Speaking of glue, avoid the classic Testors glue in the orange or
tube. It takes a long time to dry, which can be a hassle, and the
it creates breaks down relatively quickly. I suggest a good CA
cyanoacrylate) glue. Good model stores will carry it, sometimes in
radio-controlled airplane section; just ask. CA glue dries
quickly and bonds for a long time. It can sometimes get brittle, but
you handle your models carefully it shouldn't be a problem at all.
When assembling the model, feel free to skip steps. If you're gluing
the hood down, you needn't feel obligated to assemble the engine --
you're never going to see it, after all. In most cases, the
engine is not critical to the structural integrity of the model (I
recall a persnickety Lotus Esprit model that had no place to mount
back wheels unless the engine was present -- though this is the
exception rather than the rule). Additionally, the engine pieces can
used later when putting weapon mounts on your car -- cylinder heads
especially make neat dropped weapon dispensers.
The engine isn't the only thing you can skip. Most vehicles for Car
Wars have only one crewman, and no room for any others, so leave out
the passenger seat. If you are going to tack extra pieces of sheet
plastic over the windows, don't bother putting the clear plastic
in. The same is true for ramplates -- if you're planning to put a
piece of sheet plastic over the front end, don't worry about putting
the grille on. Be creative, and let your creativity save you
Once the car is more or less together, go ahead and stick weapons on
it. If you've been collecting tabletop wargaming figures (like the
by Citadel or Heartbreaker), you probably have what's called a "bit
box," wherein you stash all the stray parts and extra bits that come
with those sorts of figures. Bit boxes are gold mines to the
Super-Scale player. Anything can become a gun, and if not a gun,
nifty looking accessory. Don't forget any spare parts that were left
over from the model kit, and if you collected the old four-inch high
G.I. Joe action figures, their weapons and equipment are readily
cannibalized. Again, be creative.
What's that? You don't play tabletop stuff, your mom thought G.I.
was a tool of Satan, and you bought one of those pesky Lotus Esprit
models that require full assembly? Don't fret, help is available, it
will just take a little longer. I mentioned good model and hobby
earlier. They ought to carry a selection of plastic sheet and tube
stock, from which weapons can be scratch-built. Certain model
that specialize in military stuff, notably DML, make packs of
some of which are ideal. You could also go in with your friends and
a couple of tank models, from which you can cannibalize the weapons
(not just the big cannon, either -- most tank models have several
secondary machine guns and launchers which are a little more to
Things to keep in mind when mounting weapons center mainly on a
familiarity with the rules. I try to build models with a specific
design in mind, and then try to stay true to the idea when designing
the actual car. That way, everybody has some idea what everybody
has mounted on their car just by looking at the model. Ergo, I would
counsel against turning your model into a rolling arsenal. Mount the
number and type of guns you think you'd like the car to have, and
design it accordingly when its time to play.
Once the model is totally together, you'll need to mount it on a
which brings us to the question of scale. Car Wars is played in an
scale. The car counters that come with the game are one inch long
half an inch wide, and all movement is measured in one inch
It is easy to extrapolate other scales from that base. For the
of Super-Scale Car Wars, multiply all dimensions by eight (i.e. the
base for Super-Scale cars will be eight inches long, and four inches
wide). Bases can be made of anything as long as the material is good
and stiff, and somewhat resistant to the elements. Plywood works
though without power tools it can be difficult to get it to cut
straight. Illustration board (really thick cardboard with one nicely
finished side) works very well, and is available at art or blueprint
supply stores. Illustration board doesn't have the resilience of
plywood, but it doesn't need to be painted (or sanded, for that
matter), and can be easily cut with a hobby knife. Once you've
what you want to mount your car on, and have a piece cut to the
size, center the car on the base and glue the tires down. Once dry,
have a model car ready for play.
We've already discussed weapon mounts for the models, but we need to
address template weapons now. Most dropped weapons, and certain
dischargers and the like, leave counters behind indicating a patch
oil, a pile of spikes, or whatever. The Car Wars rules come with
several sheets of such counters, in all varieties, to be cut out and
used when needed. You will need to make new counters in
super-scale: they will measure either 4"x 8", or 4"x 4",
depending on the weapon they are supposed to be dropped from.
can simply be cut out of posterboard and have the name of the
written in big letters across it (i.e. SPIKES, MINES, OIL, SMOKE,
or you can get creative. This is a visual game, after all, why not
all the way?
Oil counters can have a large black blotch colored on them in Magic
Marker. Smoke could be a grey blotch. Mines and spikes can go one of
two ways. Keeping them two-dimensional makes them easy to move
across, but taking them into 3D makes them look more imposing.
Two-dimensional spikes can be represented by sticking several foil
stars to each counter, while 3-D spikes can be done by getting
packs of cheap plastic jacks from the local bargain store, cutting
one arm so they lay flat on the counter, and gluing them down. Mines
are best represented by washers glued in a random pattern on the
counter. Hardware stores carry a vast array of the things. Some are
flat and some are not. Go see what's available and decide for
what you think looks best. Whatever you decide to use, try not to
more than three or four stars, jacks, washers, or whatever on each
counter so they don't get too cluttered. You should also write in
letters along one side of the counter what it represents, to avoid
There are two types of dropped weapon that deserve separate
flaming oil and ice. Ice is fairly easy. Your local craft store
carry sheets of adhesive-backed silvery prismatic stuff. This can be
easily cut to the size of the counter and stuck down. Flaming oil
be a little tricky. The best way I've found to deal with it is
stick a little piece of adhesive magnet (the stuff they make
refrigerator magnets out of -- available at the same craft store you
bought the ice stuff from) in the center of each oil template. I
have a bunch of firebursts cut out of red posterboard with a little
metal washer glued to the underside. If the oil is on fire, I stick
fireburst to the magnet. If not, no fireburst. That way, flaming oil
easy to distinguish from regular oil, and I don't have to make an
entirely different set of counters for the two. You will also need
counters to represent pedestrians (in case a driver bails out of a
flaming wreck), Debris (bits left behind when cars take damage), and
Obstacles (lost wheels, large amounts of bits left behind when cars
take lots of damage, etc). I haven't determined a decent way to do
these -- 1:24 scale people are in short supply (though the G.I. Joe
figures whose gear you cannibalized make passable pedestrians), and
while you could glue engine blocks, stray doors, tires, or whatever
your debris and obstacle counters, I don't. The reason I don't is
they usually come into high demand (lots of cars lose lots of bits
duel), and so I need a big stack of them. For these three types, I
write the name in big letters on the counters so they are easily
When doing your counters remember one thing: Be creative, but don't
spend a fortune. Make counters as you think you'll need them -- if
one in your group ever uses a minedropper, don't bother making the
counters for it.
The Playing Field . . . and Moving on It
Each car is mounted on an eight inch long base, and eight inches
becomes the standard measurement for movement. This can pose a
when looking for a playing surface -- a Super-Scale car traveling at
mph will move 40 scale inches across the field in a turn (just over
three feet). The minimum size playing area for SSCW is a square
feet across. 30 to 40 feet works better, as there's more maneuvering
room, but the smaller will work if there's absolutely nowhere
else to play. Gym floors are ideal, with dorm hallways and common
coming in a close second, but the parking lot of your local game
will work fine. Parking lots, outdoor basketball courts, and the
have the added advantage of "chalkability" -- you can draw dropped
weapon counters with chalk rather than having to make them.
You will need some sort of marker to delineate the boundaries of the
field. I got some bricks, painted them a friendly caution yellow,
use them to mark the corners. Bricks have worked well for me, as
are big enough to be seen, and heavy enough to not be "accidentally"
nudged aside by a player whose car is on a collision course.
Movement in the Car Wars rules is given in inches, and this is
converted into lengths. That is, one inch as listed in the rules
becomes eight inches length in Super-Scale. The easiest way to work
movement is with a ruler. Tape measures work for calculating ranges,
but moving the cars is easier with a yardstick. I got a bunch of
(so each of my players could have one, and not fight over them) at a
local school supply store, and marked them in eight inch increments.
That way, the car can just be moved from mark to mark and has moved
length -- no counting or math is involved (that comes later).
You will also need to make at least one Super-Scale turn key. This
best done with thick cardstock, or the illustration board we
earlier. One poster sized sheet will make one key, and you will need
protractor or other angle-measuring device to mark the turns
Make each flat side measure eight inches, mark it the same way the
stock turn key is marked, and you're ready to go.
Targeting, Wrecks and Other Mayhem
Earlier, I mentioned a tape measure. You will need one for SSCW,
preferably one at least 25 feet long. You will use it to measure
from car to car when calculating targeting modifiers (remember to
multiply the range bands listed in the book by eight).
When a car wipes out, be careful. It is tempting to go ahead and
car that has gone into a roll onto its top, and this does look cool,
but it can knock things off the model, and keeping the models nice
the key to long-lasting enjoyment of the game. Estimate whether or
the car will be driveable, or even intact, when it finally comes out
its roll, spin, flip, or whatever, and if it is not likely to
the crash, just remove the model from the field. Another option is
leave the model on the ground, move it as it would given the
uncontrolled maneuver it is executing, and place a marker next to it
indicating what is happening to it.
Alternately (and this is my favorite) take one of your old car
(you know, the one you got for your birthday when you were ten, and
that didn't get assembled very well), give it a good whack with a
hammer, glue the wreckage to a 4" x 8" base, and make it the
"wipe-out" counter. Replace your model with the wipe-out counter as
The Car Wars rules are pretty complete, but (as is the case with
all tabletop games) you will encounter situations that are barely
glanced at in the rules, and some that are not addressed at all. In
these situations, be calm. Without doubt, someone is going to get a
deal as a result of the situation, and in such a case, everybody
to take a deep breath, realize that the rules allow for some pretty
amazing stuff (safe 90-degree turns at 80 mph), and roll with it.
The point of the game is to have fun, and that's what these
tips are all about. Everybody has had fun at one time or another
crashing their Matchbox cars together, and Super-Scale Car Wars is
the next step.
There you have it. My Super-Scale Car Wars article. I run a
event during every quarter break at the University of Utah, and
to start running the event at the local convention
The 1:24 scale is a great one because the variety of models is vast
that size. If you're interested in taking Car Wars into 3-D, but
want to go that big for whatever reason, then you can consider one
Micro Machines are an idea I've been toying with, though I don't
the time, energy, or money to make a fleet of "Micro Duelists". I've
built eleven 1:24 scale cars for super-scale, so I'm sticking with
:-) For Micro Machines, make the scale 2X (the car bases will
measure 1" x 2")
Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars also have a large variety. Scale here
would be 4X. (Editor's Note: Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars are
considered 3X scale. Micro Machines can be considered 1.5X or 2X
If I had it to do over again, I'd probably go with 1:32 scale
models. There aren't as many car models in this range, but this is
standard military modeling scale, which makes pedestrian figures
to come by, and shrinks the scale a bit, to 6X (rather than the 8X
Super-Scale), as well.
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