Table of Contents
This game is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.
This system uses only six-sided dice and tokens to represent vehicles and hazards. Download printable tokens at Zen Car Wars Paper Counters.
It was when a tank of gas hit $250 that things really got bad.
The Middle Easterners just clammed up; don't think they ever really liked us anyhow. Only the super-rich could afford an airplane ride. Then came the riots, and the Oil Recession, and the New Great Depression. Then the war, of course; at least that's over now.
Now oil's become a little more local and a little easier to find, but it's still damn precious. Not that it stops the kids from racing around the wastelands, robbing and torturing any clutch of good folk they happen to find. 'Course, there's much else to find; the riots drove away most of the city-folk behind the concrete walls of their villages.
Which is why we need you. A driver. A new breed, with the firepower to drive away the jackals and take back a piece of the new world.
In the game, you play the driver of a car, which you build by choosing a frame that can take a certain amount of weight, and adding equipment as long as you have the weight capacity to support it.
You will then face off against other, heavily-armed cars, and attempt to survive.
Your car conceptually is subdivided into a grid 2 squares wide by 4 squares long. The driver, engine, weapons, and any options that don't state that they modify another item must each be located on one of the eight squares of your car's grid. Up to three weapons can share a space, unless they say otherwise. On a motorcycle, the driver and engine both take up one square.
All weapons except handguns are always mounted to point in one direction. You must choose a facing (draw a little arrow indicating your choice), unless the weapon is mounted on an auto-rotating mount.
If playing a short game, drivers can take 20 damage points. If playing a long game, drivers can take 50 damage points.
Whenever you're dealing with fractions, always round down.
- Light 8 max speed, 170 pound capacity
- Medium 6 max speed, 200 pounds capacity
- Heavy 4 max speed, 275 pound capacity
- 6-cylinder +1 to max speed, extra 30 pounds
- 8-cylinder +2 to max speed, extra 60 pounds
- Reinforced extra 20 pounds
- Armor 1 point per 1 pound, up to 30 pounds on each side (front, back, left, right, top, and bottom)
- Light machine gun 2 power, 20 pounds, 4 range
- Heavy machine gun 4 power, 40 pounds, 5 range
- Flamethrower 9 power, 40 pounds, 1 range; lights target on fire
- Rocket launcher 7 power, 50 pounds, 7 range, 3 rounds; must have its own grid square; only hits with a 3-6 on a die roll; on a 5-6 lights target on fire
- Grenade launcher 5 power, 40 pounds, 6 range, 3 rounds; must have its own grid square; only hits with a 2-6 on a die roll; targets top armor
- Handgun 1 power, 2 pounds, 4 range, 8 rounds
- Molotov cocktail 3 power, 2 pounds, 2 range; lights target on fire
- Gunner 120 pounds
- Kevlar vest for driver 10 pounds, 10 extra damage points
- Targeting computer 5 pounds
- Auto-rotating mount for one weapon 25 pounds; must have its own grid square; requires a targeting computer
- Smokescreen generator 25 pounds; must have its own grid square. When fired, it generates a cloud of smoke directly behind the car as large as the size of the car. The smoke dissipates after 5 rounds.
- Fire extinguisher 5 pounds
Range is measured in car lengths (using the length of your own car).
You only need one targeting computer for any number of auto-rotating mounts.
Sequence of Play
Here's what happens during each turn:
- Everyone simultaneously moves their vehicles forward according to their speed.
- Each player in sequence takes a turn. During the player's turn, he or she takes two actions.
- Resolve fire.
Choose player sequence in whatever order is most sensible at the time. Clockwise around the table is usually easiest.
Your speed is measured in lengths, which correspond to the length of your vehicle.
You can accelerate or decelerate by 1 length per turn (or just maintain your current speed). Based on your frame and engine, you max out at a certain number of lengths per turn (6 for a medium frame and 4-cylinder engine).
You can go backwards, too. You can only accelerate to a maximum speed of 2 when reversing.
You may take any 2 actions (including the same action) during your turn. You may also forgo your actions.
You can turn your car up to 45 degrees during your turn, but you must decelerate by 1 length before doing so.
Maintaining Speed During Turns
If you attempt to maintain your speed when you turn, roll a die. On a 3-6, you succeed. On a 2, you spin out (see below). On a 1, re-roll; if you get a second 1 your car flips, while on any other number you spin out.
If you're holding a handgun, you re-roll on a 1 or 2, spin out on a 3 or 4, and succeed on a 5 or 6.
Accelerating During a Turn
If you attempt to increase your speed by 1 when you turn, roll a die. On a 5-6, you succeed. On a 3-4, you spin out (see below). On a 1-2, re-roll; if you get a second 1 or 2 your car flips, while on any other number you spin out.
Action: 90-degree Turn
If you want to do a 90-degree turn, you must decelerate by 1, and follow the rules as if you were accelerating during a turn.
Motorcycles can perform a 90-degree turn as a standard maneuver, without any die roll.
Action: Bootlegger Reverse
If you want to do a 180-degree turn, roll a six-sided die. If you roll a 1, your car flips and explodes. If you roll a 2-4, you spin out. If you roll a 5 or 6, you make the maneuver successfully, and your speed drops to 1.
Motorcycles can perform a bootlegger reverse as a standard maneuver, without any die roll.
Action: Slamming on the Brakes
If you want to slow down dramatically, decelerate by 2 length and roll a six-sided die. If you roll a 1, you slide half a length to the left. If you roll a 2, you slide half a length to the right. Rolling 3 through 6 has no other effect.
When a motorcycle slides, it has a chance of flipping. When sliding on a motorcycle, roll a die. On a 1-3, you flip; on a 4-6 you're fine.
If you spin out, you may take no more actions this turn. Next turn, your first action is taken up by turning your vehicle another 45 degrees (a total of 90 degrees from your original position), reducing your speed to 0.
If you have the unfortunate misfortune to slam into another vehicle at high speed, calculate damage as follows.
If you sideswipe another vehicle (both are going in about the same direction, but one turns towards the other), each car takes one die of damage (roll separately for each car). Each car's speed decreases by 1.
If one car rams into the side of another car, then for each car, roll one die per point of speed that the car was going, halve that number, and take that many points of damage. So, if the first was going 2 and the other was going 3, the first rolls 2 dice and takes half the result in damage, and the second rolls 3 dice and takes half the result in damage. Each car's speed decreases by 2.
If two cars hit each other head-on, each car takes one die of damage per point of speed it was going. So, if the first was going 2 and the second was going 3, the first takes 2 dice of damage and the second takes 3 dice. Each car's speed drops to 0.
Optional “Jarring Damage” Rule: If ramming or hitting head-on, if a vehicle has no armor on that side, roll an extra die of damage for that vehicle.
During your attack action, you fire one weapon.
Weapons can target any vehicle in a 45-degree arc in front of that weapon.
If both actions in one turn are attacks, both attacks must target the same vehicle.
If you have a gunner, the gunner gets a separate attack action. In other words, the driver can take 2 actions, and the gunner can take 1 attack action. The gunner must choose a different facing than the driver or can use a handgun. If the driver fires the auto-rotating weapons this turn, the gunner cannot. The gunner can target a different vehicle than the driver.
To attack, roll 4 dice for short range, 3 dice for medium range, and 2 dice for long range.
If one vehicle is moving a speed at least 2 more or less than the other vehicle, remove 1 die. If you want to specifically target an attack at one item on a car side with no armor (such as the driver), remove 1 die. If firing through a smokescreen, remove 1 die.
If any of the dice roll 5 or 6, the attack hits.
If after removing dice you are left with no dice, roll 1 die. If it rolls a 6, the attack hits.
To calculate damage, roll a die, add the weapon's power, and subtract the total from points of armor on the side most facing you.
Once all the armor is removed from one side of a car, future hits damage the driver or any weapons or options on that side of the vehicle. Roll a die to randomly determine where the damage goes.
Weapons take as many points of damage as they have power.
Note: if an attack removes all the armor from one side of a vehicle, any remaining damage from that attack is lost. It does not damage anything inside the vehicle.
Action: Use Fire Extinguisher
If you have a fire extinguisher, you may use one action to use up the extinguisher completely and put out the fire.
If your vehicle is on fire, at the end of your turn, randomly choose an item in the vehicle. It takes 1 die of damage.
If your driver or gunner is on fire, he or she takes 1 die of damage at the end of your turn.
If the damage die rolls 1 or 2, you are no longer on fire (though you still take the 1 or 2 points of damage). Otherwise, you remain on fire.
If your driver drops to 0 or fewer damage points, the driver dies. However, your vehicle is still moving! On your turn, roll a die to determine what happens.
On a 1-2, your car flips and explodes. On a 1, slide the car 2 squares to the left. On a 2, slide the car 2 squares the right.
On a 3, turn 45 degrees to your left. Maintain speed.
On a 4, turn 45 degrees to your right. Maintain speed.
On a 5-6, accelerate by 1.
If you are involved in a collision while you are a zombie, you immediately explode.
If you have a gunner, treat the car as a zombie for 1 turn. On the following turn, the gunner becomes the driver.
If your car explodes, it deals damage as follows:
- 4 dice to every vehicle up to 1 length away
- 3 dice to every vehicle up to 2 lengths away
- 2 dice to every vehicle up to 3 lengths away
- 1 die to every vehicle up to 4 lengths away
Roll damage for each target separately.
The vehicle itself remains a smoking wreck, obstructing other vehicles.
Optional “Rolling Car of Fiery Doom” Rule: After your vehicle explodes, it is on fire, and it decelerates by 1 per turn. This adds an extra hazard.
Optional “Self-Destruct” Rule: You can take 1 action to activate a self-destruct. Your car explodes. Next turn, your vehicle moves 1 length forward, then stops.
Leaving Your Vehicle
At any time, the driver may leave his or her vehicle. If the car is moving, roll one die per point of speed the car was going, and deal one-quarter the rolled amount as damage to the driver.
People move up to 1 length per turn, and they can move in any direction. They may take and wield handguns, and can fire them in any direction.
Optional “Passenger Pickup” Rule: Any vehicle going at a speed of 2 or fewer can pick up a passenger. The passenger becomes a gunner.
- Active ground hazards
- Spike strip 2 power, 1 die damage. After entering this square, tires are popped; lose 1 speed per turn.
- Speed bump. If going less than 3 speed, slow speed by 1. If going over 3, decrease speed to 2 and take 1 die damage.
- Light mine 1 power, 1 die damage.
- Medium mine 2 power, 1 die + 2 damage. These mines are larger, and must be dug about a foot into the ground.
- Military-grade mine 3 power, 1 die + 4 damage. These mines are expensive and rare outside of military defenses.
- Passive ground hazards
- Oil slick
- Pool of water
- Ice patch
- Passive air hazards
- Cloud of smoke
- Animals and bystanders
- Fruit stands
If you drive over a passive hazard on the ground (oil, water, etc.), roll a die.
If you have regular tires, then on a 1 you decelerate by 1 and shift to the left; on a 2 you decelerate by 1 and shift to the right. On a roll of 3-6 there's no effect.
If you have reinforced tires, then on a 1 you decelerate by 1 and shift to the left or right (your choice). On a roll of 2-6 there's no effect.
If you drive over an active hazard (like a mine), roll a die + the hazard's power. If you roll more than 3, the hazard hits, and deals the damage specified by the hazard. This damage is dealt to the bottom of your vehicle.
Obstacles do an amount of damage equivalent to the size and sturdiness of the obstacle. Treat these like mines.
You must make this roll for each car's length of the hazard you encounter, even if you must do so multiple times in one turn.
Of course, you can also build a truck, van, or motorcycle. Vans are 2×5 squares, while motorcycles are 1×3 squares. Vans may only take medium or heavy frames; motorcycles may only take a light frame.
Download a blank record sheet for your car (PDF).
This is a weapon-heavy machine with minimal armor.
Medium Frame, 4-cylinder engine
Armor: 5 points on front, back, left, right, top, and bottom
Weapons: 2 heavy machine guns (both pointing forward), 1 light machine gun facing left, 1 light machine gun facing right, and 1 flamethrower facing rear
Options: 5 handguns
Max speed: 6
"The Black Panther"
This is an excellent all-around machine that balances weapons, armor, and maneuverability.
Light Frame, 4-cylinder engine
Armor: 20 points of armor front, back, left and right; 5 points of armor on bottom
Weapons: 1 heavy machine gun forward, 1 light machine gun rear with auto-rotating mount
Options: Targeting computer
Max speed: 6
This heavily-armored car still gives you a useful set of weapons.
Medium Frame, 4-cylinder engine
Armor: 25 points of armor front, back, left and right; 10 points of armor top and bottom
Weapons: 1 heavy machine gun forward, and 1 light machine gun forward
Options: Reinforced tires
Max speed: 6
This is a rocket on wheels.
Light Frame, 8 cylinder engine
Armor: 10 points of armor front, back, left and right; 5 points of armor on bottom
Weapons: 1 heavy machine gun facing forward
Options: Smokescreen generator
Max speed: 10
If you prefer to stay back and take 'em out from a distance, say hello to Big Brother.
Heavy Frame, 4-cylinder engine
Armor: 10 points of armor front, back, left and right
Weapons: 1 flamethrower on an auto-rotating mount, 1 rocket launcher on an auto-rotating mount, and 1 grenade launcher
Options: Smokescreen generator, 2 handguns, targeting computer Max speed: 4
Rival gangs engage each other on a lonely highway road.
A convoy is driving through the desert. A central tanker must be destroyed.
The tanker has 2×10 squares and has 40 points of armor on each side. It has 4 gunner turrets that can rotate in any direction (though a gunner cannot attack through the tanker), and each turret holds a gunner and a heavy machine gun. The tanker has a max speed of 4.
In arena play, an arena has been created in which multiple cars simply fight to the death. Many cars enter; one car leaves.
Tournament play is an arena game in which each player builds 3 vehicles. Each driver can, at any time, leave his or her vehicle. Once a driver makes it off the arena, his or her player can re-enter the arena with his or her next vehicle.