Sunday, October 16, 2011

State of the Art, 2011 Edition - Part 1, introduction

As seen in the obsessions about weapon analysis, I am committed to finding out what the Car Wars weapons are in our real world terms. Why?
  1. Because even more than playing the game, I like designing cars (as this website attests) and the best cars to design are replicas of fictional entities (like James Bond vehicles) or of fearsome real-world vehicles (like the Apache helicopter).
  2. Because in general, my imagination is engaged when I can picture the car's behavior using real-world analogues. I like the VMG not just because of game dynamics but because the real-world Vulcan, especially in the F-15 Eagle, is so awesome and practical. And, in contrast, since I can't imagine just what SJG means by an "autocannon" I have trouble with that weapon and the game world.
  3. Because whenever new weapons are introduced by the game-makers or the fans, having real world cognates will help keep the game balanced. Even though I suggested that a MG and an RR aren't weapons but just the average guns for their sizes, at the same time the (idiotic) "blast cannon" was introduced as a large RR, and even the AC is supposed to be some large machine gun. What gives?
Just by going with game names alone, I was going to attempt to recreate the real-world cognates, starting with the "MG" as the 50 caliber M2A1 "Ma Deuce." This is based on the very first page of the very first booklet (c) 1981 which stated:
Eight years ago: "Crazy Joe" Harshman wins Fresno destruction derby by mounting a surplus .50-caliber machine gun in his Chevy.
That's as good as I can get to think that the MG in the original game is 50 caliber (and, probabilities being what they are, is the M2A1). This also meant that the M2 does 1d damage - and considering that M2s are used in an anti-aircraft role, even in 2011, 1d is a heckuva lot of damage!

Next easily identified weapon is the Vulcan Machine Gun. There actually is something called a Vulcan (see above) and it's 20mm with 3-6 barrels. One Vulcan is good enough for an F-15 to take down another fighter jet. Those babies do 2d damage, no problem compared to 50 cal's 1d. And the Gatling gun action explains the higher accuracy. These 2 weapons can give me a basic system, the Box Set System, to extrapolate. Or so I thought.

I was also told there's an "Anti-Tank Gun" (whose picture, in the first Uncle Al's, made it look like an actual tank gun), but there's not something like that term in common use. Recoilless Rifles are rarely used as well. And rocket launchers? That's either the Hydra 70mm system, or the simple Bazooka and its descendants. These did not adapt well to a real-life system. And that would have been OK, had the whole Car Wars Military scene not expanded in impossible directions. In real life, an Autocannon, for example, is just a big machine-gun. MFRP all come with ripple-fire and can be 19 shots - even at once.

All this confusion would be bad enough if the ADQ didn't introduce the first official comprehensive attempt to actually explain the whole system. According to "The State of the Art, 2039,Part I", By Craig Sheeley and Charles Oines (and HTMLized by Gustav Dahlström) make these claims about the weaponry of the Car Wars world (this is cut and pasted from the HTML site with sci-fi weaponry deleted and typos fixed):
Weapons Definitions

Machine Gun - A 5-6mm machine gun firing rifle charge rounds at a cyclic rate of about 1,200 rounds per minute. In use this figure is smaller, since the gun is not continually discharged. Most MGs use caseless-propellant rounds, although some use brass or plastic cased rounds. Cased-round MGs typically have a slower rate of fire, around 800 rpm.

Vulcan Machine Gun - A 5-6mm multi-barrel machine gun firing rounds identical to the MG but firing more of them. Typically VMGs have two to three barrels and fire at 2,000 rounds per minute, cyclic. VMGs always use caseless ammunition.

Autocannon - A 10-20mm cannon firing cased high-explosive rounds at a cyclic rate of 400-600 rounds per minute.

Recoilless Rifle - A 3Omm recoilless rifle, firing a 2-lb. high-explosive anti-tank fin-stabilized round in classic recoilless fashion. The muzzle velocity is low due to the lack of enough propellant to shoot the shell; the recoilless principle of 20% propellant to 80% backblast leaves the 21/2 lbs. of propellant too small for high-velocity. RR-armed cars can occasionally be identified by the "exhaust pipes" necessary for venting the backblast.

Anti-Tank Gun - A classic 37-40mm projectile gun; the base design is over 120 years old. The ATG fires a 4-5 lb. cased high-explosive or fin-stabilized, discarding-sabot round at fair muzzle velocity.

Blast Cannon - A 6Omm recoilless rifle, twice the size of the standard RR. It has the same drawbacks and strengths as the RR.

Tank Gun - A short-barreled 75mm/3" cannon firing high-explosive or fin-stabilized discarding-sabot rounds. (Unscrupulous advertisers have billed it as a 105mm gun in the past. This is a falsehood.) The base design of this cannon dates back 150 years.

Grenade Launcher - An automated grenade launcher, firing 1-lb. cased grenades with an auto-loading mechanism.

Mini Rocket - A 20mm rocket.

Light Rocket
- A 25mm rocket. This is also the size used by VLAWs.

Micro-missile Launcher
- A ten-shot launcher for 25mm rockets.

Six-Shooter - A six-shot ripple-fire launcher using 25mm rockets.

Variable-Fire Rocket Pod - A 30-shot advanced ripple-fire launcher for 25mm rockets.

Medium Rocket - A 40mm rocket. This is also the size used by LAWs.

Rocket Launcher - A ten-shot launcher for 4Omm rockets.

Heavy Rocket
- A 67mm rocket. This is also the size used by bazookas.

Wire-Guided Missile - A 67mm warhead...
Radar-Guided Missile - A 67mm warhead...
Surface-to-Air Missile - An 80mm warhead...
Problems with this list.
Where to begin? Well, a 5mm MG is just laughable. That's called a "light machine gun" today and is definitely not used in an anti-armor role - which is what *all* weapons in Car Wars need to be continued (hence every gun is technically an anti-tank gun). An M249 cannot be expected to tear apart an armored car. And a 5mm Gatling Gun is called a micro-gun and is similarly not meant for vehicles.

Most of the State of the Art details are implausible and make my task much harder. Moreover, I believe many other weapons were developed by SJG based on the ADQ scale - and that frankly makes it worse and worse. The "Heavy Machine Gun" is hard to understand according to my Box Set System - because above 50 cal, a MG is called a cannon (or even an autocannon). But in the ADQ system, the HMG is probably the 50 cal MG.

So what I plan to do is analyze the whole system based on current real-life, doing the best I can with what is frankly a broken, or at least bifurcated, base.


When doing research on weapons, I have needed to go to outside resources than my own military experience (health reasons kept me out of the main military but I have done my share of voluntary paramilitary defense work in the middle-east; nothing to brag about and I've never been under small arms fire, but my knowledge of things that go bang still needs to come from research).

1. Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 BC to 2000 AD, by The Diagram Group.
I fell in love with this book as a teenager, right when I started playing Car Wars. When I became an adult, with my own income, I had that realization one day that I could actually buy stuff I liked (a middle class child vs. middle class adult makes all the difference).

2. Encyclopedia of Modern U.S. Military Weapons by Timothy M. Laur.
This is a very comprehensive book that isn't for the guy looking for pretty pictures. It's detail rich and covers almost every aspect of what a weapons researcher would need.

3. The Intertubes. God Bless This Web.

Started 10-17-2010

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