I love an excuse to sell folk on geeky toys and games. But, being on a budget, and being a parent, can often render this a bit of challenge. So I look for things that work for me, work for my family, and work for my wallet: and Gaslands, from Osprey, is all of these.
There’s been a surge in post-apocalyptic gaming in the last few years, in the wake of the likes of Fallout and Fury Road (or maybe anticipating Brexit) especially. Gaslands in particular seems to have caught the zeitgeist, picking up both the Best Miniature Rules and People’s Choice awards at UK Games Expo 2018.
So with that in mind, I thought we’d take a look at the game, and alongside that the Friends of Gaslands, a vast sprawling design community that offers everything from the now-ubiquitous acrylic tokens to a huge range of custom kits for your Hot Wheels collection that you’ve “borrowed” off your kids.
Gaslands is post-apocalyptic Saturday Night TV, murder machines for mass entertainment in a ruined world. As usual, my baseline is my kids, and having a game where you can (a) legitimately beat your dad, and (b) blow up your brother was always going to prove popular. I was concerned that the mechanics were going to prove obstructive and cumbersome, but I was delighted to see that they were quick and intuitive, with us all getting the hang of them remarkably quickly.
First and foremost, this a ridiculously cheap game to buy in to: you just need a handful of toy cars to play (Hot Wheels, Matchbox or similar, minimum one per player) and some regular, 6-sided dice. At around £10 for the rulebook, it’s a bargain, if a little clumsy in terms of layout: it could do with a clear index, though quick refs are available from the Gaslands site. Flicking around the book can get a bit irksome: to put it into perspective, my wife was puzzled as to why I felt the need to download the ePub version as well as having the print copy in front of me; hopefully, some of this will be addressed in the 2nd edition, Gaslands Refuelled, which is tentatively slated for later this year.
Broadly speaking, you grab some toy cars, decide what body/engine type best suits (giving the vehicle’s handling, speed, durability and weight) and race round a track or scenario from those included. Vehicles move once per gear that they’re in – so everyone acts once in first gear, but may (and almost certainly will) change gears, giving another move in second, and so on. Faster/lighter vehicles can access all the way up to gear 6, but that typically makes handling more Hazardous.
Handy reference cards are provided, with a box for a d6 to mark the current gear, and movement templates determine trajectory (all printable from gaslands.com also). Each time a vehicle moves, it also rolls Handling: A 1 adds a Hazard token, with 6 Hazard tokens leading to a car Wiping Out – potentially flipping, and grinding to a halt back at Gear 1. A 2 is a Spin up to 90 degree, generally less useful than a 3, which is a Slide – these can be surprisingly advantageous as you power sliding and drift, effectively, often on purpose. Finally, a 4-6 is a Shift result changing gear, or cancelling a negative result, though at some gears (and for some vehicles) certain maneuvers are considered Trivial so grant a free Shift also. Whilst there’s a far bit of dice rolling, it’s far from clumsy, and a very easy system to use; the kids very quickly twigged you could power-slide into some vicious sideswipes, for example.
Which leads neatly into the Rule of Maximum Car-nage. This is a game that puts the Death into Death Race, and as such the Rule states that if in doubt, whatever causes the most damage happens. It’s very much a game of slamming, ramming and shooting your way to victory, with a plethora of weapon options to purchase from the conventional to the outlandish, along with a variety of Perks to make your individual crew stand-out. Again, the kids realised as soon as I pulled in front of them in our first race the thing to do was to crash, smash and bash me between them. The weapon rules are likewise simple, with ranges measured using the straight maneuver templates and various d6 to represent damage (4+ to do a point of damage, double on a 6). It almost feels like a tabletop Video Game, in a very positive way, with its Mario Kart and RAGE levels of anarchy.
Each faction has access to various skills, weaponry and equipment, as noted, often at lower cost or with some twist on it: Rutherford get military-grade hardware; Idris go really fast with rocket boosters; Mishkin get mad science tech; Myazaki are super slick performance drivers; The Warden lets you take cheap but flimsy Prison Cars; and Slime are War Boys in all but name, delighting in crashing into folk to get the Audience on side and Voting for your team. Because Gaslands is a TV show, after all, and the audience love to see their favourites do well. Audience Votes, however, tend to favour the underdog, with votes generated (usually by Wiping Out, though there are some faction-specific variants) allowing you to get to respawn in the game if you’ve totally crashed out. It’s a neat mechanic, and means that you can always be playing rather than sitting back once you’ve burned out – plus being very much in keeping with the Video-Game feel of the game as a whole.
It’s a smashing (sorry) wee game this, and with free downloadable expansions for more crazy weapons, highway pirates and Highway Patrol – and even a Truckasaurus – there’s masses of room for every play style and taste.
PIMPING YOUR RIDE: FRIENDS OF GASLANDS
One of the biggest selling points of this game is the fact that you can literally just raid the toybox and play; my own Patrol cars, for example, are the random Hot Wheels Batmobiles I’ve acquired over the years (seriously, at this point, I may have more Batmobiles than Batman himself). However, many folk turn to the “Friends of Gaslands”: affiliated retailers listed through the Gaslands.com site and Facebook groups.
Makers of a range of 3-D printed wheels, tyres, springs and shocks, customising with Kyamsil’s stuff is an absolute breeze. I decided to try out a set of simple conversions using their stuff, cutting through the axles of Hot Wheel with my usual snips, threading a flattened paperclip through and mounting new wheels.
The tolerances on these are superb, the printing absolutely razor-sharp. Rims fit comfortably with just enough give to swap about until you’re happy, whilst sitting snug and firm also. They do a massive range from 14-32mm, slim or doublewide (varying in cost between £1.15-£6.50 for a set of 4, depending on diameter).
They also do a nice selection of shocks and leaf springs for those who really like to go the whole (road)hog with the custom builds (£2 for 1 Differential (2 halves) 2 Leaf Springs, 4 Shock Absorbers, also available as separate sets).
If you want quick and easy changes to your kids’ toys, this is the way to go, and whilst you can’t always stop the 3 year old from wandering off with one mid-game, replacing your wheels means cars don’t arbitrarily meander across the table. With terrain heading our way soon too (4 Oil drums for £1, for starters), Kyamsil is definitely one to watch.
DICE MECHANIC GAMES:
Now if you are a total cheapskate, it’s worth mentioning that this lovely bunch also do a post-apocalyptic car game, AUTOKILL! – that’s completely free. It’s a good game, although much more crunchy – that is to say, more complex in terms of gameplay: less kid-friendly, more “proper” gamer orientated (polyhedral dice and everything). But there’s nothing to stop you mixing and matching. It’s all just toy cars, after all.
The main reason to go to Dice Mechanic is they are unrivalled when it comes to hobby articles. Want to learn how to disassemble a Hot Wheels without destroying it? No problem. Need new hubcaps? Start scrounging screw covers, and check out the articles: (CLICK HERE).
I for one shamelessly appropriated their idea of using press studs for armoured wheel covers…
Dice Mechanic also stock some truly lovely drivers, crew and bystanders; though the range is relatively small, they are very high quality casts, and the transparent Perspex bases are a nice touch (£7 for a driver, a gunner and a pedestrian).
However the real highlight is the massive range of resin components from Zinge. From ridiculous big guns to sneaky pop-out spy guns, enormous engines and fat exhausts, you can trick out your ride pretty much any way you can imagine: even strap on a set of decks, DJ and doofs, if you fancy, complete with flaming axe. With sets of a dozen upgrades starting just shy of £5, and bargain bundles available, you’ve got a whole host of options to really bring the pain.
Sometimes, what you really want are motorbikes. Deranged killers on motorbikes. Now yes, you might have Hot Wheels motorbikes – that are puzzlingly on a completely different scale (good for regular miniature gaming scale, no use for toy cars though) – but for really good, scale bikes, you need to look a bit further afield. Europe, apparently.
GREEN MINIATURES – MAD CARS:
Polish games company Green Miniatures make a genius range of customs and figures for the post-apoc gamer, at both 20mm and 35mm scale.
However, for me their bikes are the highlight. Hick Survivors, Wasteland Warriors, and a Wastelanders “chariot” strapped to a pair of motorbikes. There are Choppers, Motorcross bikes and… Vesperados! Much fun to be had.
The details are crisp, and there’s not much flash, but I don’t like the bases. I thought I would, because molded bases means no need to buy separate ones, right? Except a couple just sheared in half straight away when removing the excessively thick casting tab, even with a saw. Also, one of the Vesperados was missing the handlebar/headlight. Not terribly difficult to fix, but mas enojadas. The cross bikes come with some great extras – a few billy cans etc – which will more than likely get appropriated for other vehicles. The Choppers are great, but it bugs me slightly that the Cross Bikers and Chopper bikers have different waist/torso joins (the cross are flush, the chopper tab and slot) making it difficult (though not impossible) to mix and match. However, having discussed this with the company, they are going to be interchangeable in future.
Some people like Metal. \m/ No, wait, as in metal models. If you’re one of these (how retro!), and you want your bikes big, brash and loaded for bear, then Villain Miniatures have you sorted. This new Spanish have started to produce their own range of bikers. The first two are really impressive – great casts, clean lines – and totally capture the Mad Max aesthetic in a way that’s pretty hard to beat. No bases, which is divisive I know, but I’m impressed nonetheless, and looking forward to seeing more!
(NOTE: models supplied unpainted)
THE MODEL EXCHANGE:
There comes a point in every game where printed paper tokens won’t cut it anymore, and it’s time to break out the frikkin’ laser. The Model Exchange produce some of the most impressive acrylics out there: 3mm is seriously chunky, with a more than reasonable price point.
Having these massively enhances the gaming experience, no doubt about it. Between the token pack (£9.95) and the template pack (£13.95), you’re set to go on a rampage.
25x Hazard Tokens (Yellow)
10x Vote Tokens (Blue)
10x Ammo Tokens (Black)
12x Gate tokens (6x numbered sets, Orange)
6x Flag tokens (blue, orange, green, yellow, black & red)
1x Pole Position (black)
Template set contains:
1x Short Straight
1x Medium Straight
1x Long Straight
1x Hard turn
1x Gentle turn
1x Large dropped weapon Template
1x Small dropped weapon Template
Now hold on, you might say, this game is supposed to be cheap. But say you get these plus the rulebook, that’s still change out of £35 – cheap for a quality boardgame, and honestly more replay value than a lot of computer games.
Of course, no table is complete without some race markers (and sometimes the crockery just won’t cut it) and for this they also produce a set of outstanding MDF race gates (£17.95 for 6). Yes, these are a luxury, but they make an enormous difference to the look of a board / kitchen table. Easy to assemble – again, get the kids to do it, it builds character – with very straight-forward instructions, it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re playing even remotely regularly.
So, in the wise words of Mr. Krabbs, “Welcome to the Post-Apocalypse. I hope ye like leather.”