Gaslands: The Post-Apocalyptic Car Game – Looking at the Rules
In Gaslands, if the rules are unclear, choose whichever option results in the most carnage for all concerned. This is The Rule of Carnage.
Gaslands has been driving itself around the gaming world recently. It is rare that a skirmish wargame, whatever the theme, makes it into the board game crowd, and yet there it is. Everyone from The Dice Tower to Semi Co-op have talked about it or posted about it on Instagram. I have to admit, as someone who does like some miniature games (*cough*Shadespire*cough*), it piqued my interest back at the UKGE in June, but recently it has gained even more traction and I thought that the inevitable couldn’t be put off any longer. I had to buy the rules and give them a read.
Well, yesterday I had a happy hour reading the rules cover to cover and I think I understand why it is so popular. Let’s talk about this unique little game – what makes it both familiar and fresh at the same time?
What is the Crux of Gaslands?
Gaslands is a post-apocalyptic car combat wargame in which players play as a team of drivers looking to out do and out survive their opponents. Cars are kitted out with weaponry and crews to cause as much chaos as possible.
The Plot So Far
Gaslands has a really cool plot, and one that is reminiscent of all the 1980s movies we grew up loving. The year is 2018 (yes, like in real life, unless you are reading this in another year in which case: “hello from the past”) and most of Earth’s wealth has moved to Mars. As such, Earth has become a hellish and violent ghetto, and one where the internet no longer exists. For fun and entertainment, people watch blood sports, the most famous of which is Gaslands. Teams of cars compete in the Gaslands events, all seeking the ultimate prize – a one way ticket to Mars.
What this means is that Gaslands is a merging of Mad Max, Running Man, and Death Race. What surprised me though, is just how well it seems to do it.
Car Wars, Movement and Miniatures
Of course, this kind of game, a game of car combat, is not a new one. Car Wars by Steve Jackson Games is a classic of the genre, however, having bought Car Wars a little while back – I found it lacklustre. It was a plain black and white booklet (which was quite thick) with simple tokens for the cars. Immediately, Osprey’s published rulebook by Mike Hutchinson, draws the eyes with its colourful suggestions and extensive rules. It immediately comes across as a passionate rule set and you really have to take your hat off to that.
Gaslands is also not a game which has any specific pieces of miniatures. Instead it uses a movement system similar to Star Wars: X-Wing but allows for you to make your own cars. These are made out of Hot Wheels or Matchbox vehicles (anything 20mm) and can be modded however the player wants. This is really cool, and has the nice side effect that no two cars will ever be the same.
The movement system, as mentioned above, is using a template mechanic like with X-Wing; however, unlike with X-Wing, everything has been done to keep the game moving. Similar to X-Wing there is no pre-measuring; however, there is also this fantastic rule about if you choose a template then decide that looking at it you want to change your mind. If you faff about, your closest opponent to your left chooses for you. Yes, brutal.
This form of player interaction, and this form or forfeit, comes into play a few times throughout a game of Gaslands, from what I can tell reading the rules. Not only are you facing your opponents, but at times the movement of your car is in their hands. If your car becomes too hazardous, it follows a series of events that can leave it rolling, burning up, or skidding. If it moves involuntarily, it can get moved by your opponents. Likewise, as mentioned above, faffing means your opponents get to choose your fate as well.
On a different note around player interaction, it is suggested that several players play together on the same team. You can have, for instance, a series of vehicles (cars, buggies, trucks, tanks, helicopters, bikes etc.) with each person controlling one.
Weapons, Crews, and Sponsors
Unlike with previous games, like Car Wars, Gaslands seems to take things a step further. Where previous games, and some wargames of different genres, can feel a bit two dimensional, Gaslands is very much in the 3D. Cars are fully customisable, and crews can be added. What is more, there are also official sponsors who give crews special abilities. This allows for campaign play, and also make the world feel more alive.
Each vehicle has a certain amount of modification space, and those spaces can be filled up with new weapons or new crew. Weapons and crew, along with the vehicles themselves, are paid for in gasoline, which is the currency of the game. Those familiar with tabletop wargames are usually familiar with the points system to balance the rules. Gasoline is that balancing mechanic for Gaslands.
Cars and Chaos
So where does this leave us? Well, without explaining all 64 pages of rules in one article, I can tell you what it leaves us with. It leaves us with a really neat set of rules, rules I am absolutely thrilled to have picked up. Gaslands strikes me, through a very well written set of rules, like a really fun game. I haven’t been this excited about a tabletop wargame since I bought my first Warhammer army back in 2003.
In my last blog I mentioned how chaotic life has been recently. Gaslands seems like the perfect opportunity to have a bit of a conversion and painting project, as well as a really fun tabletop wargame, to sink myself into for a while.
So, exciting. Exciting is the word I would choose. These rules have really taken over my imagination and I can’t wait to give it a go. Let’s just hope it lives up to the expectation.
So, what do you think? Is Gaslands something you have played? Is it something you would like to play? Or is it something you would rather leave in the dust? Let me know in the comments below.