Game Review: Car Wars, 4th Edition is a Missed Opportunity for SJG

I just got my copy of the 2014 release of Car Wars and can testify that the quality of the components is as weak as shown in the unboxing video by Gamer Goggles, here.

This is for Car Wars, 4th Edition, 2nd printing, 2014 $19.99 from Steve Jackson Games, which released in November.

Originally published in 1981, Car Wars is a game where players build vehicles complete with weapons, armor and so on, and then they duel with each other.  There are many reviews out there of previous versions  that tell you about the game play of Car Wars, so I will focus on what Car Wars, 4th Edition brings to the table.

2014-12-06 17.06.52

Different from the previous version, this version has  thicker cardboard counters than the original, but they came pre-punched in a plastic bag, so I can’t verify if the set is complete, other than count 103 pieces an hope they put all the right pieces in the bag.  I dislike this presentation and much prefer to be given the sheet of counters.

The ‘turning key’ is thin cardstock, like the original, and that is disappointing because it is such a useful tool and would benefit from being printed on chipboard or at least, thicker card stock.

The rule book is 64 pages, black and white on printer paper, and the map is of course, black and white printing on paper stock, folded up.

The game included four, 6-sided dice, but even they are low grade and I won’t be using them.

2014-12-06 17.08.14

With so much opportunity for improvement over previous versions, SJG phoned this one in.  I dig Car Wars, but all my old stuff from the 1980’s is as good as this version, the sole exception being thicker counters and a new box.

Scott Haring (Line Editor for Car Wars) was quoted as saying this is a “Classic” version of the game (YouTube link here), but I am disappointed to see so little work going into this release.

By “Classic,” I guess they mean that the quality is as crumby as it was in the 80’s.  I can understand making a classic version of the game, not doing a rewrite of the rules with new, color artwork, but this is on printer paper.  At least print the rulebook on gloss.  Print the maps on cardstock that pieces together, puzzle style, rather than a big piece of folded-up paper.  And those lousy 12mm dice… nobody wants the dice in this box.

After seeing what was done in OGRE Designer Edition, maybe my expectations were too high.  Still, I only expected some degree of concern over appearance.  I will forever refer to this release of Car Wars as CAR WARS – the Neglected Version, because that is exactly what I thought when I opened the box – this looks like nobody cared.

What a missed opportunity for SJG to introduce new players to this very fun game.  I expect that most new players will open the box, see the lack of effort put into the product, and pass.  The ones that actually play it will likely be die-hard fans of the game like myself, but then, I would play it anyway, and I will, but it won’t be this version.   It’s just too… sad.

ARIF Rating: ABORT unless you are an old school Car Wars player who no longer has a copy and is jonesing to play.

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One thought on “Game Review: Car Wars, 4th Edition is a Missed Opportunity for SJG

  1. Pingback: Car Wars Review Roundup | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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