Musing about a vehicular combat tabletop game


  • The Fast and the Furious series: wild chases, lots of different beautiful vehicles, missions and heist that always require racing and fighting.
  • Mad Max series: car vs. car, boarding actions, person vs. car, person vs. person while on a car.
  • Terminator series: running battles that move through various locations, from foot to vehicles and back again.
  • Blades in the Dark: a crew of scoundrels picking jobs and executing them, always in over their heads, daring greatly.


Chases, vehicular combat, and heists are combine high stakes, complicated situations, and fast action. I like the fantasy of operating a dangerous machine in an even more dangerous situation and quickly making the right decision to lead to victory or to escape looming destruction. How can I make that feeling available to others through a tabletop game?

I have two very different ideas.

Emotional approach

A scene is rising and falling action, setups and payoffs, tension and release. the condition and position of vehicles doesn’t matter. The roads on the movie screen don’t exist in real life.  No car could actually survive those jumps, make those turns, withstand that many bullets, so why bother trying to track that stuff? What matters is the characters’ will to continue, their skills, and a vague approximation of how much car they have left.

There are three types of abilities, in descending order of safety:

  1. Automatic. Due to the features of the car or driver, this action always succeeds. These features may be damaged, removing the associated actions.
  2. Spend. Spend resources to perform actions. Once the resource pools are expended, the actions are unavailable.
  3. Risk. Use random chance (dice, cards, etc.) to see if the action works at all.

Everyone involved in the chase or combat will add dangers to the scene: uninvolved traffic, sharp turns, gunfire. Characters will use their automatic abilities as much as possible, spending resources when necessary. As damage accumulates and resources wane, obstacles will become more troublesome, and characters will have to make risky actions. When a character’s resources are all spent, or the vehicle is completely wrecked, that character is out of the scene.

The scene starts out smooth and controlled, but the participants are worn down and by the end they are making desperate maneuvers and thinking about how much they want to spend and how much damage they are willing to endure to continuing pursuing their goals.

Technical approach

Make it crunchy! Cars, guns, roads. These all have many measurable qualities, so let’s measure them.

  • Miniatures and a game grid are required.
  • Minis for cars are tiny game-boards with spaces for custom equipment and passengers.
  • Character sheets
  • Vehicle sheets have holes in them. Line up a character sheet and a vehicle sheet and the vehicle sheet will cover the parts of the character sheet dedicated to on-foot action.

In this model, characters and vehicles are complicated, and damage is granular and specific. The simulation determines the outcome. This can lead to some undramatic conclusions, like a beloved character getting t-boned by a semi-truck three blocks into pursuing a minor adversary and instantly dying. Cars are dangerous! That’s always a risk.

What’s next?

I’m re-watching my inspirations, taking detailed notes on how their chase, fight, and heist scenes work. From that I’ll look for patterns and extract mechanical rules. Even a play test is a long way away.