Burning Rubber

Car Wars

I really like racing games. I like Formula D, I like Burnout, and I played the shit out of Car Wars as a lad. What Formula D (née Formula ) and Burnout have in common is fast, sleek gameplay. What Formula D and Car Wars have in common are vehicle construction rules (otherwise excellent 5th ed. notwithstanding). What Car Wars and Burnout have are frenzied automobile combat. You will note that those don’t overlap.

I’ve been kinda trying to figure out how to adapt Vincent’s Mechaton rules to car combat for a couple of years now. I’ve got a couple of specs that make it non-trivial.

  • You’ve only got one car. Instead of having 3-5 guys to spread your resources around, you have one complex guy.
  • Facing has to matter. It’s a car, so it’s all about maneuvering, for both offensive and defensive gain.
  • You have to go forward. You accelerate and have a speed.
  • The game is about racing, not just blowing each other up. One of the great things about Mechaton is the objective system; it makes fighting a matter of tactics rather than one of bashing. In this game, I want the fighting to be about winning the race, or if you can’t do that, crashing your car really spectacularly.
  • Build a car in 30 minutes
  • Play in about 90-120 minutes
  • Have good crashing rules! Losing should be fun and funny!

So I started writing this up. What I got so far is under the break. Maybe you’ll get a chance to play before I will!

I’m not sure it’s playable yet, and it’s written so you need to know how to play Mechaton to understand these rules. That’ll of course change in whatever final form it takes. These numbers are untested but work out OK in my head.

These rules use a lot of Lego click hinges. Click hinges click every 15°.

Don’t forget that you always have two Whites. These are the chassis of the car. Roll them at the beginning of your turn and use these dice at any point in your turn, including after you’ve rolled an attack and have shitty result, or when you’re scrambling to get out of a skid.

Buildingcar design

  1. Build a race course. You can have buildings, pedestrians, whatever. You can put tape down on the rug to mark a course, build Lego buildings, whatever. Determine what structures can be destroyed, like lamp posts and police blockades, and which can’t, like big buildings and Godzilla.
  2. You’re all going the same direction.
  3. Determine how many “One Shot Rockets” you’re going to have. These are either a Red or Green d8 at design time. You use them once and pop them off.
  4. Build a car. You have to settle on a scale and everyone has a minimum wheelbase, but it’ll be hard to make them non-cartoony when they get little, because you still represent your components.
  5. Divide something like 10 dice between the parts of your car. They can be: Handling (Yellow, e.g. spoilers), Engine (Green, e.g. visible cylinders, superchargers), Weapons (Red, e.g. guns, smokescreens, spikes, shaped charges pointing out from the side of the car etc. More on this in a minute), Armor (Note that these aren’t Blue dice. More on this in a minute. You pay for them in dice, but they aren’t dice). You can maybe get a gunner for two dice who can shoot again in a turn. Any unspent dice turn into Greens that you can’t lose, but also aren’t hit points.
  6. Guns can be – or + any number. That determines the range at which they’re best. Once I’ve played a couple of times, I’ll know what works best.
  7. You can reinforce the front of your car for ramming or mount spikes or whatever. That’s a regular weapon that works on contact in addition to whatever damage you deal (and take) from a collision.
  8. Smokescreens make cover right behind or beside you (depending on the facing you gave it), the size of a normal wheelbase.
  9. Armor is two dots of armor per die spent. The way I’m picturing it right now is that 1×1 plates or dots plug into Technic bricks, and when you get hit, it actually puts holes in your car.
  10. Your car can have extra wheels to give you Yellows, but they don’t count as wheels for damage purposes, so they get knocked off as whole wheels.
  11. You can add a point of armor to a wheel if you can figure out how to attach it.
  12. Any component is one die, except weapons, which are always two. You can make a 2d6 component roll 1d8 instead for another die.
  13. Build a ruler. It’s as many units long as you have Greens, +6. It has one clicky hinge.
  14. Build vector markers, three for each car. Ideally, cars have numbers, so this should be easy. A tile with the car number should do it. One represents where you are, one represents where you were last turn, one where you’ll be next turn. They probably don’t need to be different from each other, since it’ll be obvious from context.

Starting Positions and Movingstart

  1. Put your cars in starting position. If you’re playing a race season, you’ll place them in points order (Victory points are a solved problem in racing. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s something like 10 points for first, 5 for second, 2 for 3rd, 1 for finishing. In this game, you want to weight them so winning the race is more important than beating up the guy in front of you.
  2. You go in order from front to back, outside to inside, fastest to slowest. If you’re tied, either you roll off or maybe you make your moves in secret, then see if you’ve run into each other. The latter solution might be too much of a pain.
  3. Put down your ruler and mark where you’re going to be next turn, moving no more than your biggest Green. Remember how many clicks you clicked your ruler.
  4. Put the vector marker where you’ll be next turn if you don’t do anything.
  5. Roll all your dice. Take your biggest of each and set them aside. Put the Yellow by your car. You’ll need it later.
  6. If you want to shoot before you move, do it now (See “Fighting” below)
  7. Look at your ruler. How many clicks did you click it? Did one of your Yellows come up higher than it? If so, move your car to the next marker! If you hit anything while rolling it forward, see “Hittin’ shit” below. If none of your Yellows came up higher than the number of clicks, see “Skidding” below!
  8. You can never go farther in a turn than your whole ruler.
  9. If you end a turn within 1 of the back of another car, move your next turn’s vector marker forward by 1 immediately for drafting! If you find yourself going 1 faster than your top speed as a result, just move it back to normal next turn.

Skidding (my favorite part)


  1. Turn your car the way you were going to turn, but don’t move it forward. Instead, move it to your next vector marker.
  2. Each turn, go as normal except the click ruler affects the facing of the car, but you move the vector marker with your Greens instead. If none of your Yellows allow you to make the turn you want, you Wiped Out! See Wiping Out, below!
  3. You can move your vector marker in the direction your car is facing by as much as your biggest Green, but the distance between your car and your vector marker can’t ever be longer than the ruler. If they are, you Wiped Out!
  4. When you’re facing within 1 click of your vector marker, you’re back in normal movement!


  1. Guns  shoot within 3 clicks of the center of the side they’re mounted on. I’ll make some clicky templates so you can see what I mean, later.
  2. Measure the distance between the cars. Add the modifier on the gun that’s being shot. Now measure the distance between the vectors and add the difference. (car distance + gun mod + vector distance). If one of those Reds is more than the result, roll that many hit dice!
  3. If you’re shooting at the side of a car, a 4 or 5 hits the side and a 6 hits a wheel of the target’s choice. If you’re shooting the back, a 5 or 6 hits.
  4. If there’s cover (by Mechaton standards), the cover takes appropriate hits on 4 or 5, target gets hit in the side on a 6.
  5. Target chooses what gets hit on that side. Choose armor first. I mean, that’s not a rule, but it’s the obvious choice. Every hit removes a die from a thing, or one dot of armor.
  6. If nothing remains on that side, the engine takes the hit.  If the engine’s gone, the driver takes the hit. Whatever’s lost doesn’t work and you don’t get its dice next turn. If the driver’s dead, the facing of the car remains and the vector remains. The player can move the vector around by 1 every turn, but can’t change the facing of the car. As normal, the car can Wipe Out, ideally taking out that guy who just pumped your ass full of lead! You can still win if the driver’s dead. Hell, you can win if you’re wiping out!
  7. Every time you get damaged, the thing that got damaged is pulled off the car and dropped partway into your next move anywhere your car’s been touching, including sticking out to the side at an improbable angle so the guy who shot you has to run over it. Leave it on the course so everyone else has to deal with it next lap!
  8. Wheels can get hit twice, once for the wheel, once for the tire. Each tire or wheel lost makes you subtract 1 from your biggest Yellow every turn. A car needs at least one wheel in front to work at all.
  9. Smoke screens make a cloud the size of the wheelbase for 1 turn.
  10. Oil slicks put anyone who rolls over them into a Skid for two turns.
  11. Dropped weapons (mines, caltrops) are represented with a radar dish of appropriate size and are placed adjacent to the car at any point in their move. Regular mines are a 4×4 dish, even though the actual objects being dropped are probably 1×1 dots. That represents a bunch of little mines, or a proximity fuse, or whatever. You roll 2 hit dice as soon as your opponent (or teammate — oops!) hits them On a 1-4 they damage the wheel of the target’s choosing. On a 5-6, they damage the underbody. ( I guess if you roll onto them when you Wipe Out, you take damage to the side that hits.)

Race-specific rules

  1. You can’t shoot at someone who’s lapping you by league rules. Let’s call that two turns ahead. You can block them, though!
  2. You have a driver. That driver has a single d8 in Red or Yellow. If the driver dies, you get a new one at 2d6 next race in one color of your choice. The race after that, you can make it a d8 in that color, instead.

Crashing Into Cars


  1. If you’re crashing into another car and your next vector marker is touching or past the target’s from your car’s point of view, measure the distance between the vectors. You roll that many hit dice!
  2. If you’ve got contact weapons like spikes or a ram plate or reactive armor or whatever crazy shit you come up with and you hit with a side that has that component, roll your two reds as normal and roll add as many hit dice as the bigger die says!
  3. Move the cars’ vector markers toward each other by the number of successful hits for each car, so if car A took 3 hits and car B took 5, A moves its vector marker 3 units toward car B’s vector marker and B moves its vector marker 5 toward A’s.
  4. If you took more damage than your biggest Yellow, you’re Skidding!
  5. If your Yellow is below the damage you took, you’re Skidding!
  6. If both are true, you’ve Wiped Out!

Hittin’ Shit

stupid tree

  1. How fast were you going? Roll that many hit dice on yourself. Good job.
  2. Move your vector marker straight away from the center of the object so it’s the same distance out that it was in, then move it back toward your car for every hit you took.
  3. If your Yellow is below the turn you’re now making, you’re Skidding!
  4. If your Yellow is below the number of hits you just took, you’re Skidding!
  5. If they’re both true, you’ve Wiped Out!
  6. If it’s much smaller than a car, like a traffic cone, it doesn’t do damage at all, and it can get destroyed or not. Decide that at the beginning. Either way, it rotates your car by 1 click per object hit in a random direction: 1-3=left; 4-6=right.
  7. If the thing can be damaged, roll that many hit dice on the hittee. If it’s much smaller than a car, like a policeman with a leg brace, it gets damaged on a 3 while your underside gets damaged on a 5 and your front on a 6.

Wiping Out! (Where it all comes down!)


  1. If you ever exceed your Yellow twice in a row, you’ve Wiped out!
  2. The car is tumbling through the air toward its vector direction. You may adjust the vector by 1 every turn (any direction but faster) to interfere with other players, but things are looking pretty grim for this car crossing the line.
  3. Roll a die to see which side hits the ground! 1,2=top; 3=right; 4,5=wheels (your choice); 6=left.
  4. If you want, you can flip end-over-end instead. 3=front; 6=left.
  5. Take as many hit dice as your current speed to that side and rest the car on the side that took the hit.
  6. Collisions are as normal.
  7. If your car is still functioning when it stops rolling, and is upright, go get that guy back! I mean, all you need is one cylinder, one front wheel, and a driver, right?
  8. If it’s not upright, next turn it will be, facing the direction of your choosing, thanks to enthusiastic bystanders and the strong back of the driver. Go get ‘im, cowboy!

To do:

  1. Catching on fire. I mean, I’m calling the game Burning Rubber. I want things to catch fire!
  2. … which leads to explosions
  3. Launching over it.
  4. If you’re off-road, are you always in a skid? Maybe wipeouts just hurt less on soft ground?
  5. Pit stops can be strategically fun.

To Not Do:

  1. Complicated, special case weapons. Mines are already on probation. Flaming oil jets, paint sprays, and orbital bombardment are way out.
  2. Components that eliminate the interesting limitations of the game. I.e., no turrets.
  3. Non-cars. I think you can maybe make a motorcycle by cashing in your wheels for two dice, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go, and motorcycles are notoriously difficult to make with Lego.

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