This last weekend saw the annual London to Brighton Veteran car run; hundreds of vehicles whose age and construction would give a Nokia 3310 a run for its money moved at a consistent pace from Hyde Park, London, down the roads to Brighton, by way of crawley. Engines rattled, horns parped ( its a word ), and incredulously thing wheels carried veteran cars, and drivers, to the coast. Not a single rocket, mortar, lightning blast, or missile was thrown; which is considered, by many, to be a good thing.
Gaslands, by Osprey Publishing, is a tabletop, toy car, skirmish, and racing system developed by UK designer Mike Hutchinson; and its popularity, its following, is growing faster than a fleet of Veteran Cars stopping for a coffee break in Crawley.
The game system, a 64 page book, available in printed or electronic form, retails for less than the price of mid range popularity video games, and is certainly less of a wallet buster than some other more grimly dark tabletop starter kits. The added value, or should that be saving roll?, of Gaslands systems is that it employs toy vehicles in the 1/64 scale. This means the average Matchbox or Hot Wheels car is fair game to become a playing piece in the ensuing end of the world death races.
The result of the games popularity, the rise in Facebook groups such as ‘Gaslands UK’ and its own very active website has also seen some phenomenal growth in people modding those scale toy cars from innocent examples of childhood imagination to deadly, dust covered, neon, gun toting, fourwheels of death. Out of this creativity the market for people who can produce scale accessories to modify those toy cars; or who can lasercut the respective templates required for game play has grown rapidly. When respected artists and creators such as Michael ( @fichtenfoo ) Fichtenmayer are contributing designs and model modifications of their own then it is clear that Gaslands as a game system, and as a ‘vehicle’ to spark the imagination ,shows no signs of slowing down.
Gameplay, the system works well with 2 to 8 players, the book provides, rules, scenarios, and restrictions, from which tiny toy cars are placed in starting positions and a race begins. Each turn focusing on 1 of 6 gear phases; and during each phase actions are resolved from Movement, Attack, and Wipeouts. Players select gear changes, movement templates, weapons arcs, and saving rolls; all the while accruing hazard points which if not managed as a resource can significantly impact your performance and movement. Moving up through gears ensures you can move and enjoy more actions per turn and move further around the course. Be careful, though! as those in higher gears might have more actions per turn but their choice of movement templates, or the hazard associated in using them, increase. Using the d6 system those actions have consequences and you may have to roll to see if you can continue to improve your speed, and if things go smoothly you can remove some hazards from your car, unless you have taken one too many and then you face unintended consequences of our movements. This however is not the only thing on each drivers mind; as they race and steer they may also have the opportunity to fire weapons upon their competitors scoring damage against vehicle hulls and creating additional risks for driver and victim alike. One overly careful machine gun blast might take out a car ahead but it may then leave a driver with yet another risk on the road to fortune.
If a mid review turn around is good enough for those Shut up & Sit Down super stars then its certainly good enough for this side-car upstart of a review.
That same mechanism which handled Phases per turn can, with the simplest bad roll, have a player in a larger game spending many phases and actions waiting in a lower gear for their turn to come around again. In the few games I have enjoyed where the table size has never been larger than 4 players its clear that if each is fielding a couple of vehicles it is quite possible to find yourself sitting as a spectator not a player; The game can turn on you like a rear wheel drive BMW 3 series on an icy day and leave you out in the cold and feeling rather useless; as other people speed around the track. It is however a very simple system, lightweight and quick to assemble but If you want to avoid being the spare tyre and out of action for many turns I would recommend a smaller number of players per game.
Speaking of light weight, and despite its apparent slimness, as a rules system the game is much like the modern British Mini; Mike Hutchinson has packed many excellent elements into a tiny space. With rules for allowing players to decide on Sponsors and race in seasons gaining audience votes and additional income which pays for repairs, improvements, or opportunities. The game moves from a simple move, roll, resolve, react to something more refined and luxurious where stories can be built from a few simple games and legends and race the table to die a hero or live to become the villains of another players story.
As tabletop wargames go; Gaslands is much like a modern pay and display carpark; the barrier to entry is low, the space might be a little tight, and the cars you see when you enter may leave you wondering if your own paint job was worth it. However given the low cost of the rules, the busy and congested communities, and the simple accessibility of a few toy cars it would be difficult to find grievance with it.
Redhack recommends you pick up a copy and change up your gear!