Gaslands was initially written with much the same design principles as Axles And Alloys*: a madcap and explosive car chase around a post-apocalyptic wasteland for no reason other than the love of watching ramshackle cars pull doughuts and then explode.
* which I only discovered recently in doing my proper ludography for Gaslands.
Axles and Alloys II is a game of stupid automotive combat using Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars converted into post-apocalyptic, crudely armoured, gun-toting wagons. Which then proceed to chase each other around a radioactive desert landscape attempting to destroy each other for absolutely no bloody good reason whatsoever.
As is was first written, Gaslands (in the author’s humble but biased opinion) does a pretty decent job of delivering a game that 3-6 players can all learn in about 5mins and be guffawing over for 45mins whilst they chase that last little tinker around the board trying to bring their final flamethrower round to bear on him.
Now that the game has been picked up for publication by Osprey Wargames (thanks again guys!), it cannot remain a 12-page long “Minimum Viable Game“. No, here is a fantastic opportunity to expand the game, and explore some things that I think are missing from the car combat market right now.
In the grand tradition of those games we loved in the 90s, Gaslands cries out for the ablity to create and evolve a gang or team of models over many games. The stuggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland naturally fits with a campaign system. The mechanical repairing and customising of automobiles naturally fits with an upgrades and long-term damage system, suffering battle-damage and bolting on new improvised weapons. The wild-eyed drivers of these death-cars are a natural fit for an experience and skill-tree system. As far as I can make see, none of the car racing/battling games that I have looked at provide this, and not in the way that I would want.
Thinking back to the futuristic car games we played as kids (both on the tabletop, but also as videogames), John suggested the idea of introducing a racing season structure to the game. Races are a natural candidate for a scenario that I had already considered, but the idea of actually building the campaign and progress system around a racing team, which is struggling to scrape together enough resources in between races to compete in the next, was his, and I think it’s got legs (/wheels).
This idea excites me for lots of reasons. One is that it naturally explains why a player might have several vehicals and might care about them dearly. Secondly, it provides a clear campaign victory condition, more compelling than “be the most powerful gang”. Thirdly, it provides interesting options for varied gaming across the campaign: if all your players are present one night, play a full race; if only a couple can make it, have a wasteland scrap for resources and experience. Fourthly, it provides some interesting thematic options for additional systems or mini-games, which I’ll talk about more in future posts, based around the idea that there might be a captive audience for these races.
The campaign and progress system is just sketches in my notebook at the moment, and I want to nail down the basic one-off format of the game first, but I’m extremely excited to get the first version into the hands of the playtesters and have them start making some epic racing history.
If you’d like to help make this thing a reality, head on to the playtesting forum and let me know!
Image from Death Race 3: Inferno