Oh wait, what they playing over there, templates, laughter and TOY CARS. Oh Gaslands I said, well it is cheap I said, only need a few one pound cars and I do like car fighting games... OH ok then maybe just the PDF I said...
So obviously a few days later the 'all in bundle' arrived from the designer's site. Then I saw that Hot Wheels do Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy themed cars... AND the floodgates opened, curse my lack of any self control gaming wise
But then they do look cool, even before a little touching up here and there...
So what is GASLANDS and why has it got our club frothing? I think one of the main lures of the game is that (I would say innate) desire at the back of the old grey matter to settle back into the time when a good table-top (or floor space) game was propelling your Dinky/Matchbox/Mattel/Hotwheels (delete whichever according to age) across the arena at your mate's car as they did the same. Hoping to see some air rendering, car flipping carnage - or at least banging into their knee cap or groin (depending on playing area) and making them groan like crazy.
Obviously, being grown, mature adults this kind of reprobate behaviour is beneath us (well until x number of stubbies have been downed at least) and therefore in steps GASLANDS. A game that lets you have a mature game of absolute car carnage with an elegant rules mechanic that is both satisfying yet easy enough to indulge in a few of the above mentioned stubbies (or tins/bottles of beverage depending on your vernacular) and still be able to make some awesome game play. But let NO ONE tell you those wheels should be glued or even worse put on bases - if for no other reason than that if the mood takes you one evening you can't then propel them across the table/floor.
The premise behind the game is that it is set in an alternative 'present' where the world has been screwed over by a ruling class that now live on Mars in luxury and treat the world as one big consumable resource, complete with cheap labour. Getting off world is a luxury only a few achieve and to dull the chance of any insurrection the 'on world tech system' has been stifled... Yes folks the thing that would send my class into an absolute fear induced stupor - no internet, mass communications, or social media of any sort. Cable TV is gone and the only thing to occupy the little free time people have is watching the sponsored channel on terrestrial TV which shows violent racing matches, matches that can be manipulated if needs be (think Hunger Games here) by the editors of the show. Stars of the sport tend to shine very brightly, but as the saying goes, shine very briefly. The incentive to strap yourself into an armed metal box and hoon around a racetrack being shot at and blown up is of course the fact that if you win in the end you will get your ticket to MARS. Or so they tell you but of course - Mars is just a lie (in game running joke).
Rules wise the game can be picked up very very quickly. according to a sequence one gets to activate a car, one chooses a template according to the speed (gear) you are moving at - the touch it you use it rule adds fun to the game - place it, sigh with relief or tremble with fear, depending on how it looks. Roll your skid dice (hoping bad things don't happen) and then fulfil/use your skid dice (oops bad things may well have happened) and then place your car in its final position. Then shoot the crap out of anyone near enough, then check to see if all the stress has taken too much toll (was that the crank shaft on the road behind you) and repeat for other players.
Make it through the final gate (or whatever the scenarios dictates is a win) and do your victory moves - yes I guarantee you WILL do this.
You design your cars how you like, there are various categories to choose from and you can equip the cars, drivers and passengers with various skills and weapons depending on your choice of sponsor who range from wasteland slimey scum, through performance cars 'runners' and tech type nerds to ex-police and ex-military types, all giving the cars and drivers access to differing abilities and equipment. Don't fret though as this procedure is simple and fun.
The above pic shows my first two 'teams' and I was geeky enough to equip them with abilities and weapons that matched their Star Wars characters - sad but true!
Movement is done as mentioned with templates and you win some and you lose some lol. The interplay between the template chosen (you have to be in certain gears to pick certain templates) and what can happen after the roll the handling dice for the skid check (basically to move up or down gears you have to roll these dice although technically it is optional) is very subtle. You always want to avoid rolling and gaining a HAZARD token (too many, well 6, of these and you are screwed for a while) but skids and slides can at times be very helpful, obviously at other times not! But amazingly, especially if you have played Car Wars, all this is kept very quick and easy to do. Below is our dear little R2 under Shaun's expert handling taking a corner like a pro... The photo after is what happens when said R2 manages to get a lot of Hazard markers, blow up Kylo with a flame attack, only to blow up Kylo a bit too much as he then gets damaged, flipped, lands on top of said explosion and well, explodes himself courtesy of the amount of flamer fuel (ammo tokens) he still has on board!
Board layout is easy and can be made as scenic as one desires, all you really need is some 'stuff' to mark the gates, solid obstructions and removable obstructions. Want a city race - get some buildings and you are done,
Wasteland race - get some rock stacks - done.
Want an arena race - get the obstacles - done
The sky is the limit and 0 scale 1/72 model railway scenery and 20mm wargames kit is your new best friend.
All in all I was incredibly impressed. I had read the rules and watched some game play Youtube videos and we really only had to look a few things up that were not obvious from the quick play sheet.
Time wise it took about 80 minutes I think but we were slow as we were learning and having a good natter about the game as we went on and at one time had an Indian take-away to keep the spirits up, Mad Max and Fast and Furious soundtracks playing in the background (courtesy of Amazon Music).
Although the two teams were not armed up to the extreme there was still enough carnage to go round and the drivers can always shoot out their windows as well. And don't forget the good old tactic of ramming!
In the end Ruke took the honours flying over the finishing line his pretty good driving round the course courtesy of the perks and abilities he had plus the fact I think I used the slide ability coupled with the sponsor perk of being to re-roll the skid dice without taking a Hazard to good advantage.
There are rules in the book for lots of things I haven't mentioned and the on line support from the designer and the community is nothing short of awesome! If you have at least a passing interest in car racing, demolition derbies, post apoc wasteland motor gangs or even a hankering for the good old Death Race 2000 (although the scenario in the book replaces kids in prams and old people with good old zombies) then you will want to pick up this game. If you have a lingering desire to smash your toy cars against a mates but in a better way than when you were 7 then you HAVE to get this game!