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Car Wars: The Card Game Review – Maximum Vehicular Destruction!

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For gearheads who love role-playing games, the classic Steve Jackson game Car Wars will always reign supreme. The idea is fantastic: destroy your opponents in an arena with massive, futuristic weapons.

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But not everyone has the time, resources, or interest to learn and play a complex, multi-hour tabletop game. Car Wars: The Card Game attempts to simplify the original RPG while replicating its appeal, translating the miniature warfare into a deck of colorful cards.

If you love Death Race and Mad Max, the theme of Car Wars: The Card Game will definitely appeal to you. But does it capture the thrills that vehicular combat should?

Car Wars: The Card Game
Wreck your opponents’ vehicles in apocalyptic arena battles

Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Designers: Creede & Sharleen Lambard
Release: 2015 (third edition)
Box Dimensions: 6.25″ x 9.25″ x 1.75″
# of Players: 2-6 brave combatants
Ages: 10 and older
Category: Card-based arena battle
Play Time: 20-30 minutes
MSRP: $25
ISBN: 837654322581
Website: http://www.sjgames.com/car-wars/cardgame/

Car Wars Card Game Review Steve Jackson Vehicle Battle play rules
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How to play Car Wars: The Card Game

Everyone chooses a car to pilot during the battle (they’re all identical in stats). Deal each player five cards.

At the beginning of each player’s turn, they’ll refill their hand up to six cards (drawing at least one on their first turn). Then, you can either attack a fellow player or equip your car with special armor to resist future attacks.

If you attack, select one card from your hand and place it in front of your target. The defending player has the chance to immediately mitigate that attack’s damage by playing an armor or special card. The resulting damage is deducted from their car’s left, right, front, or rear side.

Car Wars Card Game Review Steve Jackson Vehicle Battle hand deck
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Once the total damage on a side equals that side’s defense level, the driver inside is exposed to any further attacks performed on that side. If the driver’s health reduces to zero, the player is eliminated. Preemptively, the at-risk vehicle can leave the battle if its tires are still functioning (though it takes a round after announcing an exit for the car to leave the arena).

Once only one player remains in the arena, that survivor earns 20 points and all players who eliminated a competitor earn 10 points each. The first person to 60 points wins.

Car Wars Card Game Review Steve Jackson Vehicle Battle box components
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Unboxing/Components Evaluation

Car Wars: The Card Game includes:

  • 6 cardboard player vehicle mats
  • Deck of 150 full-color cards for attacking, defense, and special actions
  • English-language instructions

Car Wars: The Card Game is a unique theme among car-themed board games, and its personality shows through its wacky, over-the-top artwork. The vehicle designs reflect the apocalyptic concept of the game and set the tone of the destructive mayhem to come.

The cards themselves are sturdy and well-printed, easy to read and simple in layout. And that’s all you really need in a card game. The general simplicity of graphic design and lack of high-end components keep the price of the game low.

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Car Wars Card Game Review Steve Jackson Vehicle Battle instructions directions
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Thoughts on Learning Experience

Learning how to play Car Wars: The Card Game is straightforward if you read the instructions: You draw cards and then play a card in one of a couple of ways. The directions outline the basic gist of the game clearly and directly.

Where the complexity — and confusion — arises is determining how certain cards work or how they interact with other cards. It’s not always clear how a card functions based on its description, and only certain cards receive clarifications in the instructions.

Unless you’re already familiar with the cards and how to play them, you’ll frequently be stopping and reading the rule book or checking online forums for clarification — which drastically slow what should be a fast-moving, light card game.

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Thoughts on playing Car Wars: The Card Game

I expected Car Wars: The Card Game to be a simple, rapid-fire game of drawing and playing cards, knocking opponents out in a thrilling flurry of well-timed actions. Unfortunately, it was actually a slow-moving, finicky challenge that progresses too slowly for its relative simplicity.

Beyond certain card stipulations or uses being unclear, it takes forever to garner enough points to end the game.

The ratio of attack and defense cards in the deck are far too balanced, so there’s a strong chance that a player has some card that mitigates the attack performed on them, rendering the turn unproductive. After multiple turns like that in a row, you won’t be any closer to the end than when you began. And good luck inflicting any damage if your opponent is impervious to your weapons.

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Once you eventually inflict enough damage on an opponent to remove them, they can choose to exit the battle and avoid being eliminated so you don’t earn points for their destruction. So at the end of the round, hardly any points have been earned and you have to play yet another round to reach victory. Pretty quickly, players will purposefully let their cars get destroyed just to end the game.

A light card game like Car Wars: The Card Game needs forward momentum to keep the action fast and tension building. One or two tight rounds of fierce, exciting gameplay is all the game needed to offer the experience players want, but instead, it’s a prolonged tug-of-war that lasts too long for its simple — though appealing — idea.

Car Wars: The Card Game is available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers.

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