Saturday 28 February 2015

DEATHRACE 40,000 - the First Playtest

Hold onto your wenises (weni?) vaqueros, it's time for...
The original game title 'Super Happy Adventure Race' didn't test well with the target demographic

Deathrace 40,000 is a vehicle racing combat game currently being developed by me, your humble (but also handsome and smart) Captain. The game borrows freely from a number of sources including Warhammer 40k, Gorkamorka, Man O' War, Warmachine and full contact tic-tac-toe. The premise of the game is a three lap race where contestants fight and outmaneuver each other to be the winner. This is the account of the first playtest of the rules, where I was ably assisted by Count Von Bruno and Archaeopteryx from the Oldhammer forum...

The starting grid. Fasten your seatbelts, it's about to get funky.
The racing lineup consisted of the following:

Pole position was determined by a number of factors, including fastest qualifying time, biggest bribe offered and most Luther Burgers consumed in one hour. 
Different races have different abilities, with humans and space orcs being the 'vanilla' races with all average stats. For the purposes of this game the Genestealer hybrids and space marines count as 'humans' - at least until the first expansion set comes out. In a few years. When noone cares anymore.

The racers for this event were:

Codename Joker: human renegade (achieved pole position)

Brunork's Trukk Boyz: Space orc ruffians

Furiosa F1000:  Captain Hematoma of the Blood Angels Space Marines

The Killdozer: Squat Heavy Industrialists Union

Hover Limo: Genestealer Cultists of the Four Armed Emperor

Hawkwind GT: Space elf ranger

Because there were only three of us playing, we each took two vehicles so we'd have a decent grid of six racers. The starting positions are determined by randomly dealing out the 'initiative cards' which for this event were face cards from a standard card deck.

Fun Fact no.1286: Captain Crooks can't tell the difference between Clubs and Spades no matter how many times you remind him.
The renegade human very quickly became known as 'Joker' thanks to this system. The initiative for each round of turns is determined in the same way so you never know what order the turns will go (though it became clear that none of Archaeopteryx's cars would be anywhere other than last in order). This dynamic was used in Cheetor's modified Gorkamorka game from last year's BOYL14 event and proved very fun and effective.

Fun Fact no.3,000,001: This is known as the 'Festival Of Rams' in Chinese culture, and is a traditional way to see in the Year of the Goat. 
The first turn of the game saw a massive pile-up of vehicles clog up the space just beyond the starting line. All the hype had clearly gotten to the contestants, as everyone attempted to ram everyone else. The resulting mess made it very hard for the cool-headed alien Genestealers to sneak past the carnage...

The Killdozer's rear gunner went off for a ciggie break while the driver, Smooth Stenbore, tried to negotiate the traffic with a reinforced spike-ram. 
It wasn't all bad news though, as the Killdozer was able to score the first damaging hit on another vehicle, the Furiosa F1000. The resulting collision shoved the expensive and very highly tuned racer into the pit area via the wrong entrance, which is strictly prohibited in the Deathrace rules and punishable by an actual, literal slap on the wrist.

Friendly jibes in the form of small arms fire and molotov cocktails were freely exchanged between the racers, all in the name of good fun and sportsmanship.
Once the initial snaggle of the first turn was sorted out, the orc boys in their battered yet colourful truck were able to break away and roll over the Weapon Activation Plate, bringing their heavy machine guns online. They were swiftly followed by the Hover Limo, which also sported a big machine gun. The two vehicles shared a brief bond of camaraderie as they passed each other...

Messy break-ups are the worst.
 ... but it soon led to heartbreak as the Genestealers shoved the greenskins into the side wall with a well timed nudge attack.


Brunork's Boyz could only stare longingly after the sleek armoured limo as they thoroughly ate it's dust. They weren't lonely for long though as they were still basically sitting on the Weapon Activation Plate and the rest of the pack had munitions itching for some pew...

The space orc boys were into weapon activation before it was cool. 
Almost without exception, the drivers all headed straight for the Weapon Activation Plate, all but Codename Joker who headed for the Defence Activation Plate. He seemed to have something up his sleeve... an ACE perhaps? 

If that's an ace, then it's a smokin' one.
No, actually, it was NAPALM. A big, slimy burst of the stuff that covered two vehicles in burning fury. We debated for a short while over what size template to use and determined that a regular flamer would be fair since the napalm dropper is a single use module. It turns out we were very wrong about that...

The world's biggest cheese pizza suddenly materialized in the middle of the racetrack. And there was much rejoicing.
With their engines and wheels aflame, and the whole caboose about to explode, the orc boys performed a slow maneuver to get them as close to the pit area as possible to enable the occupants to leap out and run to the safety of the garage where their backup vehicle was waiting. It wasn't a moment too soon - in the end phase of that same turn the burning vehicle exploded, damaging both the Killdozer and the Hawkwind GT in the blast.

Say what you want about the space marines, when they run from an exploding vehicle, they still look straight chill.
Having just activated his heavy energy cannon, the elf ranger in his Hawkwind GT lined up the brightest, reddest target on the road and sent a blast of starfire into the Furiosa F1000. The penetrating hit did a shocking three points of damage to the highly tuned engine of the F1000 and left it stricken and on fire. The Blood Angels, fearing their number would soon be up if they stayed in their smoldering wreck, also booked it out of there in the direction of the pits. It proved to be a wise decision.

Just as the Squats had finished eating the first impossibly large pizza, a second one appeared in a puff of smoke to challenge them. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
With another massive blast, the Furiosa F1000 exploded, disintegrating in a shower of red shrapnel. This kind of massive carnage on the second set of corners of the first lap was totally not how the game of  Deathrace was intended to work, but it sure was amusing. The deadly power of fire had shown itself all too well and CvB had now lost both his vehicles. The DR40K officials need to review their stance on the use of asbestos in vehicle manufacturing. 

The Dark Duo flee as their fellow racers are consumed by volatile marshmallow.
Codename Joker didn't wait around to see the results of his napalm death, he had other prey in sight - but he had yet to activate his weapons, and so was unable to stick a rocket up the Hover Limo's socket.

It turns out slamming into walls gives automobiles a mighty erection.

The Hawkwind GT pursued the Hover Limo and Codename Joker, rolling a massive number for his nitrous boost. Unfortunately the elf ranger got too cocky and sent his ride slamming into a plascrete wall, immobilising his car completely. Well... crap.

This is how pedal-cars are made.

While the elf and the space marines struggled to catch up in their fresh vehicles, the space orcs pursued a racial vendetta, metaphorically speaking, by chasing down the squats in their Killdozer, literally speaking, and peppering their heavily armoured construction vehicle with high caliber rounds. The deadly shower of depleted gruetonium tore chunks out of the heavy tracks and killed the co-driver who was manning (Squatting?) the rear machine gun. Smooth Stenbore howled with manly grief and stepped on the gas, determined to stay in the race.

Nothing is more frustrating than having nothing to stick your pocket rocket in.
After chasing the Hover Limo round the whole circuit, Codename Joker finally had his rocket launchers online and the slippery genestealers in his sight. He let fly, hitting the sleek vehicle with an armour piercing warhead and taking two points off it's engine location, but the Coven payed it no heed, for the moment was approaching that they had long waited for...

"The arrows are pointing this way, are we supposed to go this way?"
Archaeopteryx had held onto the 'rocket jump' pickup card for basically the whole game and now had the chance to use it. The Hover Limo hit the jump good and straight and the boosters kicked in...

Though it might seem like that model car is actually flying through the air, it's just the miracle of modern technology that makes it appear so.
With a whopping huge jump, the Hover Limo landed just a few inches shy of the finish line.

It's lonely being number one... actually, no, it isn't, that's a lie. Being number one is awesome. I should know.

Not long after his epic jump, the Coven passed the finish line and claimed the victory, with Codename Joker taking second and the Killdozer rumbling in at third. Huzzah for the Four Armed Emperor! The End.

Wait a minute, I hear you ask, what is this crap? I payed to see THREE laps of Death-a-ma-thing and you call it done after ONE?

Well, imaginary question asker guy, first of all, you didn't pay a cent so stop your bellyaching. And secondly, yes, we had to call the game after one measly lap because we ran out of time and the game as it is currently written has a bunch of inherent flaws, which I will detail to you now with excruciating thoroughness.

1. The game is too slow. The movement rates were initially based on Gorkamorka, which gives vehicles a standard movement of 5" or 6" dependent on type, with a 'thrust till you bust' option that adds a random element of fun to the move phase. I bumped these move speeds up to 8", 9" and 10" dependent on type with up to 3D6" extra in 'nitrous oxide' boost but it's not nearly enough - in order for any of the rules to work as intended the base speeds need to be around double that figure. The length of the track and the fact that noone could complete a PASS maneuver really bogged down play. Additionally the system of nudging and ramming needs some streamlining as it was confusing the players and again, bogging things down.

2. Fire is too potent. The act of setting fire to a vehicle is a death sentence that is detrimental to play. I wanted the racers to have a better than average chance to make it to lap 3 before going up in smoke, and we lost three vehicles in the first lap, two on the first set of corners. This isn't so devastating when each player has two vehicles but in a proper game we're looking at several miffed gamers punching out too early and missing out on the fun. This wont do.

3. Weapons in general are too potent OR the armour values are too low. I based the armour values on Gorkamorka, forgetting that most weapons in that game are strength 3 and the trukks still go kaboom a lot. This is problematic. Heavy machine guns are supposed to have a high rate of fire but low penetration, but they were chewing up vehicles left and right. In all likelihood one value must change. In addition, there is an odd dynamic with the rolling of a D3 for damage that I should alter - namely, having to use a D6 means that if you roll a '6' (meaning a 3) then altering the outcome with a +1/-1 pickup card will still equal a '3' due to it only changing to a '5'. If I count the D3 as an actual three sided dice then the +1/-1 card would alter the result to a '2', reducing the high trauma of a rocket or cannon hit considerably.

4. The track lacked variation. This was mostly a constraint of space, but i'd love to have a whole section of just desert or rock-strewn canyon floor to really mix it up a bit. Maybe if we pushed two 6x4 tables together end-to-end... 

There are some other small issues but these are the main ones. Some immediate solutions were apparent, some will require some more thought.

By speeding up the base speeds, and thus the game in general, the time it takes to complete a lap will obviously diminish. With luck, this will also mean less turns and less chances to shoot up other players, which ought to result in less death. This may be DEATHRACE but the crowd wants a good show, not a quick one.

I will experiment with weapon strengths and armour values to see if i can find a happier medium there.

The napalm template needs to be smaller, and flamethrowers as a weapon may be dropped altogether, unless the whole set of rules for fire get a rewrite. At the very least maybe fire should be easier to extinguish.

Interestingly enough a boy of approx. 10 or 12yrs was watching our game intently for some time and gave me a list of useful advice to 'make your game heaps better'. I have transcribed it for you here:

1. MORE weapons MORE often. People love to blow stuff up
2. Make the cars run out of fuel if they go too fast. 
3. Special upgrades e.g. BOOST.
4. If a car is damaged debris may damage another car
5. Make victory points, e.g. Complete lap: 2pts, do a trick: 1pt, blow up another car: 2pts.
6. Different terrain, e.g. muddy areas, and mud gets stuck in your wheels.
7. Different types of cars, e.g. fast car but low armour.

It's actually quite remarkable how close his ideas are to the actual game. That's right vaqueros, a 10yr old could have written this game. 

Children and hideously be-weaponed deathmobiles go together so well.

HUGE explosive thanks go to Count von Bruno and Archaeopteryx for all their help and solid advice, and endless thanks to my wonderful wife for helping me make the Deathrace 40,000 track pieces (and by helping me make them, I mean, she made them) I love you darling!

Stay tuned for more exciting Deathrace 40,000 news soon, vaqueros. Happy trails!


  1. Fanastic stuff Captain. This is looking like it'll be silly fun. Maybe we should combine it with drinking game to double the chaos?

    1. I can see that working :D Every time a car smashes into a wall, take a drink. Every time a car does an epic ramp jump, take a drink. Every time a car sprouts a massive marshmallow boner, take the bottle into a quiet corner and try not to panic.

    2. Can we playtest that too?
      I have noticed there is a bar just below the store we play in...

  2. Perhaps reducing the effect that each point of damage does is something to consider.

    1. It's a suprisingly tricky balance as I've come to realise. If an overhaul is required then it shall be done but we'll see how the speed changes effect play. There are also subtle things like the shape of the track and positioning of the activation plates...

  3. Seriously impressive Captain, it looks fantastic. Mrs Crooks deserves a lot of credit for the track, it looks really nice.

    This has made me even more enthused for the BOYL event, even though it's months away yet. I was digging around trying to find the perfect cold-as-ice ork driver model earlier today and I have secured a new vehicle with old school charm for the event too. I'm going to end up bringing two vehicles and crew, I can tell, I won't be able to decide between Da Töör Bus and Da Gobsmasha.

    Exciting. Now get back to work! I expect nothing short of Speed Racer levels of brilliance from this ruleset.

    And jump-jacks. I want rules for jump jacks...

    1. Speed Racer levels of brilliance. .. i can tell you right now there won't be any damn annoying chimps in my racing game! Well maybe a couple. Probably in the form of the players :D

  4. Seriously exciting to see this in development. Even at this stage, the game has the correct draw for me - the track is exciting, the game looks fun (as opposed to technical and serious). And things blow up! I am very much looking forward to a) seeing further developments and b) playing a game of it at BOYL!

    1. And i look forward to seeing your ash wastes crawler joining the action - i just know you're working on it right now, arent you! Aren't you...? ;)

  5. Nice!
    I'm confident that by the time BOYL rolls around you're all going to have a blast playing this, increasing the movement rate alone really pushed things further in the right direction.

    Hats off to you Crooksie, you've really put a lot of effort in- extra props for the Blood Angel F-1000.

    1. That F1000 racer was a direct homage to you and your Blood Angels CvB - your tanks just looked so good :D inspiring stuff!

  6. Looks great fun. Nice to see a liberal dose of Mario Kart being thrown in there! :)

    1. One of the pickup cards is called the 'Cerulean Shell Corporation guided EMP missile'. It hunts down the lead car and knocks it out for a short time ;)

  7. I probably shouldn't feel so excited about playing toycars with other manchildren but damn it ; I have to say it : I DO FELL EXCITED, as a matter of fact I'm close to being horny... just wait until the grav-attack comes up and I'm going to go to the "naughty" zone...

    1. Policeman: "where did the bad man touch you son?"

      Me: "Sir, right on the tip of my Killdozer sir..."

      Policeman: "Killdozer... is that what you call your... little guy?"

      Me: "There's two little guys sir. One is very hairy and the other is bald."

      Policeman: *gulp* "T...two little guys...?"

  8. I completely forgot to hit the "follow" button after reading your inaugural post, so I've only just stumbled on your next post. That won't happen again!

    As you already stated, the track tiles look great, your wife is quite the hand at terrain making. Well done to Mrs Crooks :)

    Is it just me, or is that Killdozer vehicle the one & the same that Asslessman built? I could have sworn I saw him build it? Or am I just having a senior moment? And the human renegade vehicle, do you know what vehicle it's based off? And the scale? Sorry for all these impertinent questions Crooksy, my inquiring mind won't stop bothering me ;/

    It looks great to see all those uniquely individual vehicles duking it out. Thanks for turning the mayhem into an enjoyable read.


    1. You are half right about the Killdozer Mr the one: JB Assless didn't build the 'dozer but he did drive it to victory at BOYL14. I made it especially and sent it to France so he could compete on my behalf. Now it's back in Oz helping me playtest the Deathrace rules and unless i get some inspiration and a lot of time it will probably come to England with me later this year to defend it's title at BOYL15.

      The renegade car is a Lindberg models 1/35 Chevy Monte Carlo. Scale-wise its a terrible fit with 28mm figures but it looked good on the track.

      Thanks for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed the write-up! Stay tuned for more Deathrace action soooon!

  9. Just chiming in to applaud Captain Crooks on the sterling effort he has made to put this together, and for being an entertaining and patient game-master. It was an honour to lend a hand running through the game to help tune up the rules, and probably about as close to attending BOYL as I'll get. I don't know how the cultists managed to pull off this win, additional limbs? To paraphrase the greatest driver on Earth, Frankenstein "Winning- it's the only standard of excellence left." Cheers for having me along.

    1. It was my very great pleasure. I'm busy modeling up some Squats to take on your Coven on a very different field of battle - can't wait! :D