I’ve been playing a bit of Outrider recently and it reminded me of an earlier game of vehicular mayhem I used to enjoy decades ago as a spotty youth, along with such classic board games like Talisman. Purely out of nostalgia I looked up Steve Jackson Games and saw they sell a reprinted ‘Classic’ edition of Car Wars as a boxed set. I had to pick up a copy from NZGameShop for $29NZD.
It arrived a week or so later, so here’s a quickie review. First up the box is surprisingly small, being about the size of a large paperback. The components are also rather cheap feeling, with the rulebook in particular feeling an awful lot like something produced on a laser printer and hand stapled together. The page cuts weren’t great either, requiring me to carefully separate several of the pages myself. The tokens are tiny and provided in a plastic baggie rather than a token sheet, so I can only assume they’re all there. The double sided paper arena map provided takes four folds to get in the box, so you’ll have to blu-tack it down to play the game. You’ll also want to blu-tack the chiclet sized tokens down too probably.
From a nostalgia point of view this boxed set certainly feels an awful lot like the first copy of Car Wars I ever owned, however in this day and age I feel we’ve moved on in the quality of board game components and rulebooks, even at the low price point of $30NZD.
The rules have changed little since I last played too, and the Classic box comes with Car Wars 4th Edition. I recall Car Wars being a rather fiddly game that could play quite slowly for a game about vehicular combat, and this still seems to be the case. The 64 page rulebook is packed with detail, allowing you to use cars, trucks, motorbikes and trikes in your games, as well as all manner of weaponry. You can either use the pre-built vehicles included with the rulebook, or delve into the last couple of chapters and experiment with building your own vehicles from scratch. Building vehicles was always one of the more enjoyable aspects of Car Wars, forming a sort of meta-game where you juggled chassis, suspension, armor, tire types, weaponry, cargo spaces etc. So it is nice to see it preserved in this set.
Overall this boxed set is a little underwhelming. Yes it’s Car Wars, yes it all fits in one easily transportable box, and plays straight out of that box (possibly with the addition of some blu-tack). Yes it’s reasonably priced for a whole classic game in a box, and the box itself is quite attractive. I’d probably have been happy to pay another $10 to $15 for a larger, professionally printed rulebook with a cover though.
It’s also worth noting you can buy digital copies of the Car Wars rules from the Steve Jackson site. I wonder if that might have been a better deal, the Car Wars Compendium in particular looks like good value for money.