Tim Frankovich

Writer's Blog & Home of Warpsteel Press

Car Wars: A Retrospective Review (with Heroscape!)

In the 1980s, while I was in school (what do you mean by “old”? That was only 20 years ago!), my friends and I became interested in tabletop games. I think it all kind of started with Milton Bradley’s Axis & Allies. That led, over time, to more and more complex and involving games, from Squad Leader to Battletech to Star Fleet Battles. And then one day, one friend brought a little box called “Car Wars.” Sure, that sounded fun. So we tried it out.

In virtually no time, we were searching out everything related to Car Wars we could find – expansions to the base game, role-playing supplements, even a video game (Autoduel). We spent hours and hours making car designs and… what? Oh. The game itself.

Put simply, Car Wars is exactly what you would expect from the name. Players have cars, with weapons and armor strapped on them, and have wars. Simple concept, borrowing from things like Mad Max and other post apocalyptic and sci-fi concepts. Cars could range from something as simple as a subcompact with a little bit of armor and a machine gun on the front to fully decked-out 18-wheelers with multiple turreted lasers, advanced electronics, concealed mine droppers, and so much more. Each game depended on what you wanted to play: a chase through the streets of a small town? A freeway encounter with a sinister biker gang? Or, the most common, an arena duel to gain fame and money? Lots of dice were thrown, lots of charts were consulted, and hours and hours ticked by…

We grew older. Tabletop gaming changed. We changed. The days of checking various charts for everything became… old hat. Newer games, inspired by designers from that other continent across the ocean there, became big hits. We wanted games that played faster, with more streamlined and elegant rules.

In 2004, I ran across an odd game at Toys R Us. It caught my attention, because, at the time, TRU never had any interesting games (Monopoly Variants R Us!). The game was called Heroscape, and promised all sorts of mayhem with dozens of different units and… lots of dice. I decided to give it a try… and got sucked in. It swiftly became (and still is) one of my all-time favorite games. It satisfied a desire from my Car Wars days: “designing” something (in this case, selecting various unit cards to combine together) and then moving about on a map and rolling dice for combat.

Both games, Car Wars and Heroscape, also offered huge arenas for my writer’s imagination to play within. I wrote stories set in both universes at different times in my life. With Car Wars, we even role-played, to some extent, developing our drivers over a succession of duels, etc.

And now… now we have a new edition of Car Wars. The original makers, Steve Jackson Games, have spent many, many years trying to take the best of 1980s Car Wars and bring it to today’s tabletop gamers, who demand something much different in a game. The result is a new edition (technically the 6th, because of how things get counted. No, I don’t get it, either.) with sculpted miniatures, streamlined rules, and… lots of dice.

Car Wars 6th Edition takes virtually everything I loved about the 1980s game and puts it all together in an attractive and exciting package. Forget the charts. Forget the pencil-and-paper checklists. Everything here is spelled out simply on cards. How much damage does that machine gun do? Check the chart!—No! It’s written right there on the card. You roll these particular dice to find out. Can I make a 90-degree turn so my front-facing flamethrower can hit that other guy’s car? Sure, you can try, by using this turning key (a great concept from the old game brought into the new). How do I know if I succeeded without losing control? Check the chart on page—No! You roll dice, which are designated right there on the turning key itself. Simple. Fast. Fun.

In the old days, we would design cars by calculating how much weight the chassis could bear, what kind of suspension the car needed, how much money we had to spend, and then balance out what we wanted in armor, weapons, and accessories. This required a lot of math, and a lot of scribbling on paper. Today, we can agree on “build points” like, say, 12, and then choose cards that add up to that number. It still allows for tons of variation (if you combine all of the cards from all of the expansions right now, I think the total is 330), but is so much simpler.

And yet it preserves what we all loved about Car Wars. The “feel” is there, for lack of a better word. But more than that, it feels like Heroscape! In both games, we choose cards adding up to a certain point value. We “build” the map we want to use. And then we move our playing pieces, roll attack dice, and roll defense dice. (Plus a myriad of special abilities!)

Many Euro gamers will probably still sneer at a “dice chucker.” But you know what? Some will try it out and discover… it’s fun! And regardless of what some people will say, that’s the most important factor for a game (to me, anyway). It is fun. Lots and lots of fun.

In short, Car Wars 6th Edition takes my most beloved game from the 1980s and combines it with my most beloved game from the early 2000s… to create what may very well become my most beloved game from the 2020s. Only time and the dice will tell.

Incarnadine is now available!

My fifth novel, second in the Dragontek Lore series, is live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and anywhere you buy great books!

I’ve also added chapter three here on the website for your pre-reading pleasure. Check it out here.

AND… it’s still not too late to enter the giveaway for free autographed copies of all five books and custom 3d printed lithophanes! Enter here!

Acceleration

Some of you may have noticed that I have multiple books going all at once (see the sidebar). This is a deliberate choice on my part to accelerate my release schedule. Here’s what I’m talking about:

My first book, Until All Curses Are Lifted, launched on August 13, 2019. The second book, Until All Bonds Are Broken, launched on April 30, 2020, eight months later. I followed this with Viridia in October, less than six months later. Then Until All The Gods Return debuted on May 25, 2021, seven months later, but over a year after the previous book in the same series. Now I’m launching Incarnadine in a few days, only four months after my last book (but still eleven months after the previous book in the same series).

As a reader, I know how frustrating it can be when you read something you like, and then the sequel doesn’t arrive for another year. (Or ten, or twenty. You know, if you’re George R.R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss.) I want to avoid that, if at all possible.

It’s also good business practice for an independent author. Readers are fickle (you know it; admit it), and if you don’t keep putting out new products, they’ll wander off and forget to come back. 

So if you’ve been following along this year, you may have heard of my big goal: write 500,000 words in 2021. It looks like I’m going to achieve that goal, if I keep at it for these last few months. I’m almost to 350,000 right now.

What does this mean to you? It means, for example, that both Until All The Stars Fall, the final book in the Heart of Fire series, AND Auric, the next book in the Dragontek Lore series, are both already written. They need editing and revisions still, which I’m working on, but they’re essentially done. And I’m almost a third of the way through the first draft of the fourth Dragontek Lore book (and the title is a spoiler, so I’m not revealing it yet). 

If all goes according to plan, Until All The Stars Fall will be out by Christmas, only three months after Incarnadine, and seven months after Until All The Gods Return. And then, Auric will be out in January-February, only a month or two after that. 

If I keep up the pace, I’ll probably publish anywhere from 4-6 books in 2022. Of course, that’s also dependent on the books selling, so I have the money to keep doing this.

So let’s make a deal: I’ll keep writing, and you’ll keep buying. Sound good?

(Don’t forget to enter the big giveaway!!)

Incarnadine, Chapter Two

Chapter two of Incarnadine, book two in the Dragontek Lore series, is now available to read right here.

And don’t miss out on the giveaway just below!!

Incarnadine Launch Party and Giveaway!!!

COVER REVEAL!

Behold the cover for Incarnadine, book 2 in the Dragontek Lore series. Available September 22. Ebook pre-orders available today.

Now that’s a dragon! Many thanks to Austin DeGroot for these incredible covers!

Incarnadine, Chapter One

The Dragontek Lore series explodes outward in the second book, Incarnadine! After Beryl and his friends accomplished the impossible in book one, what do they do now?

Check out the first chapter right here, then stay tuned for the cover reveal, and more news before the release on September 22!

Incarnadine is coming…

September 22nd! Stay tuned for the first chapter and more, coming right here!

Writing Update

Incarnadine, book two in the Dragontek Lore series, is out to the beta readers. The cover artist is hard at work and should be done in another week. Then it’s just a matter of final corrections, proofreading, and formatting. I don’t have a release date yet, but sometime at the end of this month, or the beginning of September.

With that done, I move on to the revision/editing phase of Until All The Stars Fall. This will take a while, as I want to be sure this one is absolutely right. Look for it by the end of the year.

At the same time, I’m making rapid progress on Auric, the third book of the Dragontek Lore series. It may also be ready by the end of the year, or early 2022.

And what’s next after that? I’m not 100% sure. Stay tuned…

Series Finale

Photo by Keith Luke on Unsplash

BIG news: on Saturday, July 10, I finished the first draft of Until All The Stars Fall, the fourth and final book in the Heart of Fire series. This is it. The end. The completion of the saga that started when I first sat down to write in June, 2017. While I still have months ahead of rewriting, editing, and proofing before publication, this still qualifies as a major milestone.

When I started the Heart of Fire series, I thought, like the tradition, it would be a trilogy. But as I neared the end of the first book, and began mapping out what was yet to come, I realized it would probably take four books. I didn’t make a firm decision on it until I was well into writing book two, and knew for sure it would not fit in three books.

I didn’t keep track, but I can make a rough estimate that I spent at least 750 hours writing these four books. Maybe double that for all the time spent rewriting, editing, proofing, formatting, and so on. That’s a lot. When you spend that much time with people, even fictional people, you come to know them very well. Marshal, Seri, and their supporting cast, have all become real to me. I know them so much more than I did four years ago. Some of them, like Dravid, surprised me with how significant they became to the story.

And so, as I wrote “The End” on Saturday, I had quite a mixture of feelings. 

I’m happy that I’ve finished this epic undertaking. I’ve wanted to write an epic fantasy since around fifth grade, and now I have. I’m ecstatic that it’s complete.

I’m relieved that it’s over. There were a few times, especially after the release of book two, that I despaired, wondering if it was even worth it to finish. Would anyone other than friends and relatives read it?

I’m excited to finish it up with the editing and so forth, so it can get out there for you to read! I’m also excited to see what happens with the cover. I have a good idea of what I want on it, but we’ll see what the cover artist thinks.

I’m depressed that it’s over. It’s a big letdown from an emotional high. And I’m sad that this may be the last time I write these characters. (Or is it?)

One word I’ve seen other writers use is bittersweet. It’s a great word, and quite possibly the best word for this particular situation, for all the reasons I just listed.

So where do I go from here?

First of all, the Dragontek Lore series needs some love. Incarnadine is coming in a couple of months, and I need to finish up the editing and proofing of it. I’ve gotten behind on that while focusing on Until All The Stars Fall.

I’ve already written the first scene for Auric, the third book in the Dragontek Lore series. I have writing goals for 2021, and I need to keep going. That’s the next book I have in the pipeline.

Once it’s done… I’m not entirely sure. But I’ll need to make a decision in a couple of months. I could easily launch into the fourth book of Dragontek Lore (the title of which is a major spoiler). Or I could start something new. But what?

I have rough ideas for several books. One is a fantasy adventure series, not as epic as Heart of Fire, but in a similar vein. I’m still musing over a truly massive epic fantasy that I want to write, but I know that I’m not ready for it yet. I need to do a lot of research and preparation for that one.

And then there’s the other possibility. Am I really done with Antises? With the characters of the Heart of Fire series? There is plenty of room for new stories in that world. I even laid the groundwork for some of them. But is it enough to carry a new series? For some of these characters that I love so much, do I really want to put them through more trouble? Don’t they deserve a happy ending?

All heavy questions to ask. Honestly, I suppose the answer will come from the readers. If the series continues to sell well, and the demand is there… a return to Antises becomes much more likely. We’ll have to wait and see.

As always, thanks for reading!

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