Road Ragers – A Random Game of Vehicular Mayhem
For this week’s random game, I decided to shake things up a bit this time by skipping the ever-reliable Boardgamizer and checking out the Ludemic Game Generator for some random game ideas instead. Here’s what it gave me:
Categories: Real-time, Racing
Mechanics: Area-Impulse, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Area Movement
Since the movement mechanics are traditional wargame mechanics, I’m thinking this won’t be bloodless racing game. In fact, I’m think this will be a simplified (per the proscribed R-P-S) “road warriors” type game in the vein of Car Wars or Wreckage (or even the classic Thunder Road). Yeah. I think this can work.
Each player controls three vehicles: a motorcycle, a car, and a truck. The first player to get all three of his or her vehicles through the rally points wins. The tricky part is that the rally points are on a rugged cross-country course without any real roads. That, and the vehicles can run into and damage each other.
- Game Board: The board represents the race course and is divided into connected spaces of various sizes. Some spaces are blocking (you crash if you run into them), rough (reduce movement if you move into them), or have other effects. (I like the idea of a “chasm” space that kills any vehicle that drives into it, but that might be a bit much.) Some spaces contain rally points; when one of your vehicles enters a rally point space, put that point’s rally counter on that vehicle’s control sheet to record that it’s successfully reach that spot. (Rally points might be printed on the board, or they might be counters that are placed on the board at the start of the game based on what scenario you’re playing.)
- Vehicle Control Sheets: Each of your vehicles has one of these sheets to record its stats and abilities, such as:
- Acceleration: How much your vehicle can speed up or slow down each turn.
- Max Speed: The most the vehicle can move.
- Current Speed: The vehicle’s current speed.
- Damage Capacity: How much damage it takes to destroy the vehicle.
- Special Ability: This is a unique thing your vehicle can do when you give it the proper order, like move twice, reverse course, or ram the vehicle in front of it. (Vehicles might have passive special abilities too, if the stats by themselves aren’t enough to otherwise differentiate them.)
- Damage Counters: Stick these on your vehicle sheets to show how much damage they’ve taken.
- Vehicle Counters: These counters represent your three vehicles on the board. They could be miniatures, of course. They have a “facing” so you can tell which direction they are moving; it matters which edge is “front.”
- Command Counters: These counters are how we handle the “real-time” aspect of the game. Each player has his or her own set of counters, and each counter has a bit of information on it:
- Command: This command is either Move Left, Move Right, Adjust Speed, or Activate Special.
- Initiative: This number tells you when the vehicle will execute the command.
Playing the Game
As the start of the game, randomly choose a first player. Everyone then places their vehicles on the board according to some rules I haven’t made up yet that ensure a fair start and fun gameplay.
At the start of a round, choose one command counter for each of your vehicles. Place that counter face-down next to its vehicle on the board. No two of your vehicles can have counters with the same initiative.
When all vehicles have command counters, reveal the command counters.
Starting with the first player, each player takes a turn resolving one of his or her command counters. On your turn, you must choose your command counter with the highest initiative. (So you must resolve your “3” before you can resolve your “2” or “1.”)
Resolving a command depends on the command:
- Turn (Left or Right): Rotate your vehicle up to 90 degrees to the left or right, as the command dictates.
- Adjust Speed: Increase or decrease your vehicle’s speed up to a number of units equal to that vehicle’s Acceleration stat, but no lower than 0 and no higher than its Max Speed.
- Activate Special: Use the vehicle’s special ability, as listed on its control sheet.
After you resolve a vehicle’s command counter, you must move that vehicle forward a number of spaces equal its current speed.
Because the spaces are various shapes and sizes, you may be able to move “forward” into multiple spaces. That’s fine; just pick one.
If the only way forward is into blocking terrain, the vehicle takes 1 damage, “bounces” back out of that space, and stops.
When you’re done dealing with a vehicle, pick up its command counter.
End of Round
When there are no more command counters on the board, the round is over. The role of first player rotates to the right and a new round begins.
If your vehicle moves into a space that’s occupied by another vehicle, it has a collision. Collisions are resolved depending on what types of vehicles are colliding:
- Truck vs. Car: Car takes 1 damage from being rammed by the heavier vehicle.
- Car vs. Motorcycle: Motorcycle takes 1 damage from being rammed by the heavier vehicle.
- Motorcycle vs. Truck: Truck takes 1 damage from nimble motorcyclist with a submachine gun.
- Mirror Match: If a vehicle collides with another vehicle of the same type, neither vehicle takes damage, but the non-active vehicle (the “collidee” if you will) is bumped into the next space over.
Yes, this is the rock-paper-scissors aspect of the game. Realistic? Not at all. But it’s fast and somewhat strategic.
Game End and Winning
When you have a rally counter from each rally point on each of your vehicles, you win!
Analysis: Game Design Challenges
- Space Race: You’ll note there’s no mockup for the board with this post. I started to sketch something up and realized that if I wanted to do it right, it was going to take way more time than I could afford to spend on a blog post. If I got it wrong, I could see the game crashing to a halt as players try to figure out vehicle turns and movement in irregular spaces.
- Simply Too Simple: While maneuvering on the board feels like it could be cumbersome, the rest of the game feels like it might not offer sufficient depth. Are three initiative levels sufficient? Do you have enough meaningful choices with just four commands? Are vehicle collisions too simple to be fun? Since these are pretty subjective issues, there’s no way to know without testing.
- Moar Carrrzz PLZ!: With the simplicity of the system, you could probably have more vehicles on the board. But I’d rather see if it works with three before raising the count to six or 12.
Analysis: High Points
- RPS Combat: I really like the speed and simplicity of the rock-paper-scissors combat. It puts the emphasis on the tactical planning side of the game, and keeps the actual combat resolution quick and clean.
- Rally Counters: It’s a simple thing, but I like the system of rally points and counters. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t seen it, and it captures the feel of a race without forcing players to drive around a looping track.
- Or Maybe Simple Enough: I do like the basic simplicity of the game. If playtesting shows that there are chunks of complexity, it might be worth simplifying those aspects in order to make the whole game 30 percent more “beer and pretzels.” Because while the market has had plenty of vehicular combat games, none of them are particularly fast-playing.
Well, this is probably the most ambitious of the random games so far. Maybe next week I’ll do a tic-tac-toe variant. Guess we’ll see what the fates have in store.