Most of us have fond memories of playing with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars as young lads and lasses. There’s something that’s thrilling about cars when we’re younger. Those cars are stylish and, best of all, they go VROOOOM! As kids, we loved to race them around, crash into one another, and create vehicular mayhem that would otherwise landed us in jail in the real world.
Osprey Games has given an adult twist to that old formula. With Gaslands, they mix the fun of playing with those toy cars of yesteryear with big arena death sports in a post-apocalyptic world.
Released in November 2017, Gaslands has players build teams of cars, outfit them with all the finest weapons, and then has players race, ram, and generally wreak havoc on one another. The game can be seen as a spiritual successor to Steve Jackson’s Car Wars from the 1980s.
It was on a recent breezy and oddly cool summer afternoon that I and several other racers converged on Carolina Tabletop Games in Pineville, NC, to learn how to play Gaslands. And I have to say upfront, this game lives up to the hype.
The Basics of Gaslands
The lore behind the game is the typical post-apocalyptic fare. Gaslands takes place in a world ravaged by war. Set in the far away year 2018, after initially colonizing Mars due to our planet’s own decline, Earth finds itself invaded and occupied by the Martian Corporations it helped establish.
The Earth is left a squalid, desolate place.
While our beloved internet is gone, television remains. The highest rated show on TV is Gaslands, which features both ametuer and professional death races. For the last ten years, contestants race for guts, glory, and audience approval.
However, 2018 is different. The prize for winning it all this year? A one-way ticket to Mars to escape the hellish confines of Earth!
Getting into Gaslands can be fairly cheap. I say “can be” because players are encouraged to modify vehicles. Going down this rabbit hole is fascinating, but can get costly. However, this is not required! This doesn’t have to be the typical expensive miniatures game.
To get started, players will need the following:
Gaslands Core Rulebook: The core rulebook can be purchased from Osprey Games, Amazon, or preferably, your FLGS. The cover price is $19, but Osprey has bundles as well, giving you dice, templates, and other goodies.
- Toy Cars: Any of the standard Hot Wheels, Matchbox, or other similar brands will do, which is the genius of the game. Most of these cars cost at or just under a buck! Of course, you can spring for more expensive cars too. Generally speaking, players will need two cars for their first game.
- Moving Templates: The templates can be found in the back of the core rule book or in pdf online. You only need to have paper template. However, most players prefer to have their own plastic templates. These can be purchased from Osprey or via Etsy through several dealers. Osprey provides a list of vendors on their store website.
- Dice: The game uses d6 dice for Skid Dice (I’ll explain this more later). A handful of d6s will do, but much as the template, actual Skid Dice are available for purchase so players don’t have to remember the d6 conversions.
Once you have everything, players have to buy their teams and choose a scenario. The economic system is based on cans. Each vehicle and upgrade costs cans. The standard game is 50 cans. This allows players to create a team of vehicles of around two cars apiece, including weapons upgrades and perks from sponsors.
The game comes with several scenarios:
- The basic game is Death Race, where players duke it out to see who can get to the finish line first.
- Saturday Night Live is a demolition derby where racers try to score victory points from the audience.
- Arena of Death is a demolition derby where the object is to be the last vehicle standing.
- Zombie Bash allows racers to run over zombies for victory points.
- Monster Truck Smash is a cat and mouse capture the flag game where racers (mice) try to capture flags while avoiding being crushed by the monster truck.
- Finally, there’s Capture the Flag, the age old game of capturing your enemy’s flag and returning it to your side of the table.
Gaslands: The Gameplay
Gaslands is meant to be a fast paced game. It is designed to have cinematic gameplay that is fluid and brisk. Matt Boardman, one of the resident Gaslands gurus at Carolina Tabletop Games, says having four players is the sweet spot to uphold the cinematic feel. Otherwise, there can be significant lag time between player turns.
During our recent playthrough, four definitely seemed to be the right number. I can easily see how having more players can slow things down a bit. A four player game took just over two hours to play. Any more players and we would be getting into true NASCAR times.
Gaslands is played in rounds using gears 1-6. With each gear phase, players activate their cars in that gear or higher. This incentivises going into higher gears because players get to move more. Players with cars in sixth gear will get to move six times per round. The war rig that one of the players had was a hulk, but was slow to change gears, therefore was pretty ineffective as the game wore on.
Like the X-Wing miniatures game, players can choose from a variety of movement templates depending on the gear they are currently using. Unlike X-Wing, if a player touches a template, they must use it. No taking back! Fortunately, as the new player in the group, I was given some grace on this.
With the environment and race track always changing around them, players have to think several moves ahead to try and plan out their course to the next gate. But the best laid plans will inevitably go astray due to the actions of others. That’s what makes this game so insanely fun.
Players can move using these templates, but they can also enhance their moves by using Skid Dice. These dice allow you to shift, slide, skid, and/or hazards. Shifts are positive, allowing players to move up or down gears as they see fit. Shifts can also cancel out negative effects.
Every other result is negative, though there are times skidding and sliding may work to your advantage. Players may reroll their dice, but this incurs hazards. If a player’s car collects six hazards, they wipe out and shift back down to gear one. Players can also get hazards for performing particularly daring or hazardous maneuvers during movement depend on the gear they are in.
Players can also attack one another after the movement phase. During the team creation phase, players get to to stock their cars with boosts and weapons to assist them in creating chaos on the track. The only attack option for players before gate two is ramming, but weapons go active once players pass the second gate. Every driver is equipped with a simple handgun, but there are many weapons options to choose from during the creation phase.
Part of the fun in this game is pimping one’s car out for maximum carnage. Of course, taking too much damage can wipe the car out… and it may even explode (I did after smashing into another player… score!!)
As mentioned above, victory conditions are set by the scenario you’re playing. If players know the scenario ahead of time, they can prepare and create their teams to maximum effect. However, if the scenario isn’t known, it can be difficult to plan ahead for all contingencies.
The basic rules of the game are quite simple and are covered in the first 28 pages of the book. Everything after that point is completely optional. This gives players a wide variety of options for gameplay. Several of the optional rules add some fun layers to the game.
The mythos of the game provides racers with sponsors, who give perks to drivers that can enhance their chances in their demolition derbies. Audience votes can give players boosts as well, even giving players the ability to respawn if they wrecked.
Adding in war rig also brings a special level of insanity to the proceedings, with their boarding parties, ability to smash everything in sight, and advanced weaponry. Players shouldn’t be shy implementing these new rules, but it is suggested for the first race that each player use two cars, with each vehicle equipped with a single mounted machine gun to race around around and try to kill each other.
Gaslands: The Verdict
Gaslands is an insanely fun and addictive game. It’s affordability sets it apart from other miniature games. The variety of scenarios, options, and unpredictable gameplay makes Gaslands one of the rare games that gamers can get almost infinite replay value.
I immediately came home and started plotting out potential teams for future races. And, of course, I find myself cruising the toy aisle of my local Targets and Walmarts scoping out new rides. So have others, as I have run into several other players of late in those same aisles! At least in the Charlotte area, this game is taking off. It seems as if everyone that cruises through Carolina Tabletop Games is at least curious about the game. Gaslands is a fantastic game!
The game has massive fan community support. Osprey Games hosts its own forums and has a large Facebook Group. If you’re local, the Charlotte region also has its own Gaslands Facebook Group. Who knows? Maybe your area has a group waiting for you to join.
Once again, I would like to thank Matt Boardman for showing me the ropes of the game. I also want to give a shoutout to Carolina Tabletop Games and thank them for hosting us. Rob and the crew at CTTG have put together a fantastic store with a great community of gamers. If you’re ever in the Charlotte/Metrolina area, definitely check out the store. They have a great selection of games, plenty of demo games for playing, and great craft beer from the finest Charlotte area breweries.
Best of all, they have the Gaslands core rulebook!