Project: Death Race – Open Alpha Playtest Rules

Special thanks to Juan Navarro for the amazing art.

Special thanks to Juan Navarro for the amazing art.

At long last, the Project: Death Race rules are ready for their public debut. If you’re new to Robot Viking, Project: Death Race is a game being developed by Robot Viking’s writers and readers. Its goal is to recreate the insane action stunts of movies like The Road Warrior and Death Race: 2000 using 1/64 scale toy cars (Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars, most commonly). Each car will be fully and easily customizable without complicated charts or difficult calculations. We need lots of playtesters to help us hammer out the kinks and make this game ten kinds of awesome.

Before we get to the rules, there are a few things I should mention. First, thanks to my brother for working on these rules with me. We’ve already had some great brainstorming and playtesting sessions. Thanks to all the readers who kept asking what was up with Project: Death Race. Knowing people were interested was a real kick in the pants to get this done. And, in case you missed it in the caption, thanks to Juan Navarro for volunteering to provide some sweet art for these rules. He’s a killer artist, and it’s a real honor to have his sketches gracing our alpha rules.

The rules themselves can be found in the pdf document linked below. Conceptually, this game is meant to be fairly simple (although, hopefully, still tactically and strategically rich). Each player controls one car, and that car has a point value based on its attributes. This is something we borrowed from many miniature battle games. At the same time, there are cards that depict various optional equipment you can install on your car. The equipment has a point cost as well. We tried to keep the basic rules pretty simple and streamlined, while the equipment cards introduce new levels of complexity. This aspect is somewhat similar to a collectible card game.

You’ll find cards for 16 different cars and 32 different equipment cards. You can print those out and cut them out…keep in mind you can print multiple copies of them, in case two players want to use the same car, or you want to put multiple machine guns on your car. The maneuver tool is on the last page. Just make sure your printer settings aren’t adjusting the scale of the image, and you should be able to cut that out and assemble it.

We haven’t put much effort into the game’s backstory or setting. It’s mentioned sort of perfunctorily in the rules, but we’re really focused on the mechanics at this point. We’ll flesh the rest out later. For instance, eventually I want all the equipment to have brand names, and develop those fictional brand identities (you can see a little of that with the targeting computers). There are a few other things that need to be added as well, such as terrain and a keyword system for equipment.

Now, if you want to be an alpha tester, here’s what we’re looking for. Just post your thoughts in the comments below (or email them to me, if they’re really lengthy).

At the most basic level, play a few games with friends using different cars and equipment sets and tell us if you had fun. That’s really the biggest thing. You can comment on the difficulty of learning the rules, or specific rules you found confusing as well.

If you want to be a hardcore playtester, keep a notebook nearby when you play. Note how many players played, how long the game took, how many turns elapsed before the end of the game, and any other relevant data. Write down rules questions that came up, problems that arose and even parts that were particularly enjoyable. Ask lots of questions and be critical – if something isn’t working, we can fix it!

Another thing to look for are broken combos. Certain equipment might be too cheap, or be devastatingly effective combined with other equipment or a certain car. If you find that some equipment is so good compared to its cost that you pretty much always use it, make note of that. Equipment costs at this point are highly debatable because there’s no strict formula for them. We need to know if things are over or undercosted.

Finally, for the truly dedicated, we need to develop new play modes. A few are suggested in the rules, but I’m sure we can come up with more. In particular, I really want a better two-person scenario besides “each player uses two cars.”

Project: Death Race – Alpha Rules

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I’d like to thank everyone ahead of time for playtesting this for us. I’m really excited about the game and looking forward to seeing photos of everyone’s modded post-apocalyptic death cars.

One last note: while this is an open playtest, these rules are not issued under any creative commons license. You can print out as many copies as you like, but if you want to publish them in any form, just ask me first.

25 Responses to Project: Death Race – Open Alpha Playtest Rules

  1. So incredibly looking forward to playtesting this tonight with my son. I have a huge box of modded hotwheels and various scenery I made to play CarWars, but I just couldn’t get my head around that system for some reason. I’m hoping this one is easier for us to pick up.
    I’ve spent so much time playtesting my solo dungeon crawler (called Pocket Dungeon) lately, that I’m really excited to play something else!

  2. Read this over lunch as well. Looks great and much simpler than Car Wars, which I could never get into either! I need to go pick up some cars and try this with my wife.

  3. I’m hoping I can simply the rules just a bit so I can play with my son (He is 6, and plays quite a few games on his own like Heroscape, etc) but this may be just a tinch too math heavy.
    Doubtful I could talk my wife into playing it, I’m still floored every time she suggests we play Stone Age.

  4. I like Heroscape, it’s a simple enough game that I can get most of my less gamer friends into it. not all of them, yet. . . but if this turns out to be the Heroscape of Car Wars, I’m in.

  5. We ran a really informative playtest tonight (our first chance to play with 4 players). I’d say the overall verdict is that there’s a framework here that ultimately will work, but there are some flaws.

    Two major points we discovered problems with (and which I sort of knew were going to cause issues):

    1). To-hit numbers for attacking are not working right. We need a better way to do this. We discussed a few ideas that I think will help.

    2). Collisions. They sort of work, but they seem to slow down the game too much. This has always been the hardest part, and I really feel like there’s a perfect, elegant solution out there that’s simple and quick but still provides satisfyingly realistic crashes. We just haven’t found it yet.

  6. Just finished up my first playtest, two players with my son (6 years old) and myself. We just played with one car each, to get used to the rules. They were simple enough that he picked right up on them, though collisions slowed everything right down. So the two car thing kind of lead to the chase scenerio, but my beater truck had a rear mounted flame thrower, and his car had a front mounted machine gun. I didn’t balance the points, as I considered it a handicap for myself giving him a better car. I ended up winning when he ignored the “sharp edge” sign and drove off the side of the table because he was going too fast and couldn’t turn in time.

    Pictures of our session, and some shots of my cars can be found here!

    Observations and suggestions:
    - Movement is nice and simple, but maybe consider allowing alterations in course at any point during your move, instead of the end. I don’t usually drive really fast towards a bend in the road, and then crank like hell to get around it.
    - Skidding and spinning need cleaned up some, but thats just me.
    - Collisions are heck.
    - Though I like having 150 HP, I think maybe a smaller scale would speed up things in the math department, plus that is a crazy amount of 12 sided dice to track it (kidding)
    - It’s an alpha, but one item on my wish list, is a car creation system.
    - May want to change all your player references to a gender neutral “Their” or “your”

    Also, noticed this typo:

    “Tracking Atributes
    Certain of your car’s atributes will Fluctuate throughout the game. “

  7. Great photos JohnnyRotten! Agreed with most of your comments. There are few typos in there, like the weapon that does 2d20 damage and the Smokescreen with no point value.

    There is a car creation system, a spreadsheet with some complicated formulas, but you just plug in the numbers for your car and it spits out the point value. Works great! I didn’t want to release it with the alpha though, so we could focus on the other rules first.

    The mid-move maneuver is a tough one. While I know the current method is not realistic in some respects, I personally like that it makes it difficult to control your car at times. I think this simulates how hard it would really be to drive a car at 60 or 80 through an arena full of obstacles. On the other hand, another playtester also thought it might need changing, so we’ll have to look at that. One possibility is offering light equipment that allows you to make a mid-move maneuver.

    Wracking my brain trying to come up with a better collision system. We had a three car crash tonight and the collision system basically fell apart. I’m rethinking it from scratch, re-examining some of the older iterations of collision rules, anything. It’s quite the mental challenge.

  8. Also, you can see my boy using it in one of the pictures, I printed out the turning tool and mounted it on cardboard and it works pretty well.

  9. I was thinking over some of the turning rules . . . maybe you could turn at the start, middle and/or end of your move with the number of times you can attempt to turn being linked to the car’s handling rating. Then, if your car makes multiple turns at high speeds, the control numbers stack . . . trying to do a U-turn at 90 could really knock your car out of whack (ever seen Bullit?).

    Anyhow, just a thought.

  10. Maybe alter the Direction tool a bit, and figure out a quick way to use it for collisions?
    Like:
    Car 1 is going 80 MPH and Hits Car 2 that is going 40.
    Put the tool at 9, and then subtract 4, and you have the direction the crash moves.

    So if you hit a car that was not moving at all, you would go in a straight line.

    I don’t know. It would need some work, but its an idea.

    Something really quick and easy like that would be best.

  11. That’s really similar to one of the earlier iterations of the collision system. Using the maneuver tool is a good idea though (I was planning a separate collision template). Basically, each car would add their ram value and speed (accounting for both speed and mass), then subtract them to come up with a single number. You put the maneuver tool so the pointer is straight along a line midway between the directions the two cars were moving in. Then you move the pointer to the number determined in the earlier step, and that’s the direction they go. How far do they go? Not sure yet.

    Then throw in a control check and a possible spin. Would you keep the 1d4 inches of separation? Cars don’t stick together when they hit each other, they bounce and move in different directions.

    Agh, so complicated.

  12. Yeah, they don’t stick together, but they usually don’t keep driving after a 90MPH collision either.
    I would say move each of them either 1/2 or 1/4 their original speed.
    Maybe move them 1/2, and their speed at the start of the next turn is 1/4 of their speed before the collision (or if one was going below 20 MPH it would be at a stop)

    Maybe once you decide direction. Move the dial one to the right for one car, and then one spot to the left for the other, so they will be seperated.
    Or one spot on the dial in the direction they were originally going?

  13. Any updates on this?
    Any more thoughts about the crash system?

    Looking forward to seeing how it turns out. I’m hoping to get another game of this in tonight with my son, still trying to come up with an easy way to handle collisions myself.

  14. Yes, I’ve been bashing my head against the collision problem for days (heh). I think I have it. It still needs testing, but we’ll see. Basically, you do some quick calculation to determine deflection of one of the cars. Then reduce speed and simply push that car forward at its new speed. It will naturally nudge the other car out of the way and create a new facing for that car. Then you move the other car in a similar manner. It should even solve secondary collision problems – if you hit a third or a fourth car, no problem, they get nudged too.

  15. My buddy and I got to play last night, and had a great time! The system was simple enough that we internalized the rules fairly quickly, so we rarely needed to consult the rules past the second turn or so. We actually kinda liked the collision rules (though they do tend to destroy cars quickly) but I can’t wait to see the new version.

    Some of our observations:
    -2 Players with 2 cars each.
    -”Build” time: ~30 minutes
    -Play time: ~1.5 hours

    -The Howitzer feels “too good”. It has respectable range, power, ammo, cost, and attack bonus, and while there are weapons that beat it in every category, it feels like any driver without a howitzer or two is a fool.

    -The skidding rules are unclear as to the direction of the shift component. We tried to base this off the direction you were turning when you went into a skid, but the rules don’t say how to determine the direction you skid (that we saw).

    -There is an inconsistency in the spinning rules regarding the control modifier (it says +15 in the text and +10 in the example).

    -When spinning, are you to continue movement in the direction you are currently (randomly) facing, or in the direction you were moving when you started? We read it as the first. I loved this because it felt totally uncontrolled (and led to entertaining secondly crashes), but my buddy felt like it was “unrealistic”. Of course, that’s what I get for playtesting with a Physics major…

    -There were times when a weapon’s 180-degree firing arc didn’t feel “right”, at the extreme corners of the firing range. *shrug*

    I think we had a couple of other observations, but I don’t recall them at the moment. I’ll check my notebook later and post anything that looks helpful. Thanks for all the great work, I’m already planning an elaborate battle arena. :)

  16. Fantastic playtest report, ridingsloth! I’ve added some fixes to my “to-do” list, including clarifying the skid rules and fixing the spin modifier (I think it should be 15 – it’s really really hard to pull out of a spin at speed in real life).

    Regarding the spin facing question, your interpretation is correct. Although I see your friend’s point of view, to do it otherwise would require marking off the original facing, and figuring out what happens when a car moves sideways. Ie, the added complexity outweighs the benefits of realism in that case.

    The same could be said for weapon firing arcs. I wanted to keep combat incredibly simple, because I know there’d be some unavoidable complexity with the other stuff. So it’s basically, if someone is on my right side, I can shoot him with my ride side gun. We had this discussion at our big playtest, too. If it helps, feel free to imagine some kind of swivel mount. :-)

    So, I’m approaching rules revisions sort of like open source software. Later this week I’ll post some proposed rules changes and “bug fixes.” Following comments, I’ll put out a new release of the pdf.

  17. I’ve been mulling over the 180 arc for weapons myself. I think its a bit too generous. I’ve considered house ruling it down to 90. Then it would be a tactical decision whether you wanted to place a gun front facing or rear facing. Plus it helps make having a rear mounted gun more valuable.

  18. I have to agree on reducing firing arcs to 90 degrees. That ups the value of a turret and allows a rear facing weapon to have some use.

    Now, on to the meat! I absolutely can NOT understand why there is no ‘turbo boost’ esque equipment, so my 10 year old stepson and I brainstormed one. The text below is an alpha for your alpha but it blends what I feel is a good cost-to-benefit ratio in it.

    NOS Injector
    Heavy
    Type: Induction
    Points: 20
    Range: 0
    Rounds: 4
    Effect: This vehicle’s Speed Rating is now 100. An the controller’s next Acceleration Phase this vehicle may not have a Speed Rating of less than 80. Vehicle’s SR may be set as normal two turns after use of this equipment.

    We think that taking up a heavy slot, coupled with the low cost and beneficial/negative effects of a quick speed boost make this a tasty treat for the match. Let me know what you think!

    We’re playing our first match on tomorrow, once I finish painting the cars. I’ll create as detailed a picture post as I can, so be ready!

    Note; For all you MW:AoD players out there: Ravager Battle Armour provides some scale perfect machine guns. Hellion Mechs provide convincing looking Masers. And either Firestarters, or Construction Mech MODs provide great NOS/Smoke/Oil tanks.

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