Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Gaslands!

Gaslands, designed by Mike Hutchinson and published by Osprey Wargames, is a game where armour-plated machine gun-equipped cars duke it out against monster trucks with mini-guns and motorbikes with rocket launchers. It's the roller-derby of a Mad Max-like universe. Collisions, explosions, ramming and gun fire punctuate every turn in a staccato rhythm of mayhem and destruction. It's inexpensive, and it's great fun.



There is some sort of visceral appeal to the sort of vehicle derby that involves bikes, cars, buggies, pick-ups, monster trucks and big-rigs armed with rams, missiles, flamethrowers, and machine guns. Perhaps it hearkens back to the childhood, perhaps it comes from post apocalyptic visual extravaganzas like Mad Max, but it is appealing nontheless.

The most recent game I played against my son. He had a motorbike armed with a minigun and a monster truck with a couple of machine guns. I had two buggies and a car.

Back in my teens I spent some time playing a game called Car Wars, by Steve Jackson Games. It was great fun. Cars and every other vehicle you could conceive fighting it out in a rolling battle for supremacy. Cars Wars was great fun, and I have many fond memories of playing it, but it was also very detailed. There were rules for almost every possible combination of vehicle and weapon, and the game was heavy on the book keeping (I may be being unfair to Car Wars here, those are just my memories of the game).

His monster truck against my buggy... It didn't even stop to leave insurance details.


Gaslands is all the energy, cinema, and delight of a weaponized roller derby, without all the overheads. The rules are simple and straightforward, easy to read and understand. The game plays quickly, yet manages to find all the moments of high octane action and spectacle one would expect of such a theme.

Like Wings of War, X-Wing and a few other games, Gaslands uses templates to move, with the player choosing the maneuver they want to make, placing the template, and moving to the other end before making any attacks. There's more to it than that, but at its core, the rules are that simple.

What he rolled when his monster truck rolled over my buggy...

Templates are used to move the vehicles.

Rolling a slide or spin result always nets a hazard token, but isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes it's good to spin the wheels a little...

Skid Dice, you roll a number up to your handling when you move. A good way to get extra Shift results, but can cause you to gain Hazards, Spin and Slide.

Various tokens, none of which end up on the table. While you can buy laser cut copies like these, the game is playable by printing off the templates and tokens just as easily. There is also a conversion table so you can play using normal 6 sided dice instead of the Skid Dice pictured above.

Vehicle stat sheets - all the stats and all the tokens (and the green dice show the gear).

A game turn consists of a number of Gear Phases, starting with first gear and running through to sixth. If a car is in first gear, it will get to act in gear phase one, if it's in third gear, it will act in phases one, two and three. Every phase the car will make a move, and then make an attack. So a vehicle in high gear will have the opportunity to move and attack many more times than a vehicle in a lower gear. The balancing act of what gear to shift into, comes with the Move Templates, Hazards, and Shifts. Various moves are only available in a limited number of gears: a long move can only be performed in high gear, while a hairpin turn can only be performed in a lower gear.

After crunching my first buggy the monster truck slid and spun around to face my second... (my son re-rolled his skid dice hoping to get slides and spins, lucky bugger...)

Crunch...
His head-on collision with my buggy called for a whole lot of attack dice...

The buggy didn't stand a chance, but it's flame thrower did explode causing valuable damage to the monster truck...


Some moves will give Hazard tokens depending on the gear you are in. Attempting a sharp turn in a higher gear is more risky than in a lower gear. Conversely, some moves will provide Shifts, as long as the car is in a low enough gear to earn them. Shifts can be used to remove Hazard tokens and other negative effects, as well as to change gears up and down.

A little way away my car lines up his motorcycle...



Lastly, each after the move template has been placed, and before the vehicle is moved, a player may roll some handling dice. These can provide useful Shifts, but may also result in the vehicle Sliding, Spinning, or gaining Hazards. Too many Hazards and the vehicle wipes out.

Crunch...




After a vehicle has moved it may attack. The attack system is quite simple, a matter of lining up the target and making sure they are in range, and rolling some dice. The target gets to roll to evade, but the whole process is straightforward, and there are rarely any questions typical in wargames concerning things like line of sight, cover and so forth.

Both bike and car took damage, but the bike lost out...

Slides, Spins and Collisions are all a part of the game, and neatly and easily handled by the rules, while slides and spins can be negative things, they are also very often quite useful, allowing the vehicle to turn sharper than usual to get a bead on the enemy. Collisions are a lot of fun, and rather deadly, the type of collision is determined (Head on, T-bone, etc), dice are rolled and the results applied.
Chaos across the table... only the monster truck and car remain...

I didn't want to run too in depth with the rules, but seem to have meandered in that direction, so I will endeavor to get back to the core of this blog post...

I've played this game multiple times now with my son, and it is a blast. The rules are easy, the choices are meaningful and interesting, the movement system works, the pressure of watching the hazards mount up as you spin, slide, shift gears and complete tight turns is tense... the game is laden with narrative experience and highly enjoyable. I thoroughly recommend this rules set, it strikes me as the very epitome of beer and pretzels style of game - which to me is a game that is easy to get on the table, and where the minutia of the rules fades into the background of the game experience. It is thematic, cinematic and explosive fun. Well worth chasing down a copy and giving it a go. The best thing of all has been - we are playing the game using my son's Hot Wheels cars, so an 'army' isn't going to cost an arm and a leg.

We both come about to face off, lining up our weapons. Again he made good use of spin results to get the monster about... He was down to two hull points and I was down to one. It was the car with a mini gun against a monster truck with a heavy machine gun and machine gun...

For anyone interested, I'd highly recommend finding Gaslands groups/players on Facebook and Twitter, the game has a solid following and the modifications and paint jobs people have done on their cars is nothing short of stunning.


He got the drop on me and his machine guns did the work... A close game, and a lot of fun! He was cheering the machine gun dice roll all the way to victory. Great game...


4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Michał! I've had a blast with this rules set. It has been a lot of fun!

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  2. An excellent review of a game I've become quite obsessed with lately! Nice job.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Mike! It's a great set of rules! Really glad to have picked these up. Thanks!

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