Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Smuggler's Run 2 - Potential autocombat background?

I've been playing Smuggler's Run 2 over the last couple of nights having borrowed the PS2 version from a mate. It's OK-ish. A bit like Crazy Taxi but not as much fun. But it did strike me that it's background was an ideal backstory for our auto-combat games.

The plot is basically this - Set in Russia (and Afghanistan although September 11th meant that all mentions of that country were changed to South Russia) the player races one of a selection of off-road buggies around the countryside picking up contraband for a gang of smugglers and racing it elsewhere, presumably on the other side of the border. The opposition comes in the form of border guards and other gangs and the buggies have a few dropped weapon systems such as mines and smokescreens.

I thought this was quite neat - it provides a justification for armed and armoured cars racing around hills and valleys, it provides a justification for battles between those cars (you have the contraband - the rival gang want's it), it provides a justification for a state of anarchy (Russian borders in the near future) and a chance to use your non-desert terrain. Some of the missions in the game involve war zones with landmines and concrete bunkers and train tracks so there is potential to set up an interesting tabletop.

You'd probably have to assemble a collection of off-road buggies, Jeeps, Land Rovers, Paris-Dakar 4WDs and the like rather than muscle cars and sportscars but I'm quite attracted to this idea. It's definately a more coherent and plausible background than "lunatics in spiky cars in future bloodsport".

Friday, November 15, 2002

Look. At. This. And Turn Green In Envy

Pixel on the road rage forum has just mentioned this in passing. Go and take a look I just wish things like this roamed the post-apocalypse highways of the UK!

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Weird car spotted on the road...
I was driving near Coventry today on the way to take an old friend out to lunch when I saw the strangest thing in my rear-view mirror gaining on me at speed (and since I was doing 80, it was really at speed). I pulled back into the left lane to let it overtake and found myself looking at what looked like a weird mix of old-style Jaguar XJ6/12 and modern Jag S-type, festooned in red and black vinyl tape.

It took me a second to remember that I was near the Jaguar factory and that this was in fact a test car, it's styling cues disguised from the public view by heavy black shrouding.

What has this to do with A&A?

Well it dawned on me that being a cobbled-together mix of different cars with black tape hiding the gaps where the panels don't meet that this was the closest thing I have seen to an A&A car on the road!

Monday, October 21, 2002

A chap calling himself Pixel (I assume it's a pseudonym although there is a small chance that his mother did indeed christen him Picture Element) just emailed me with a URL to the Axles and Alloys part of his site. It's rather good. Check out www.blert.net/aa and while you are there go and have a look at the photos he has taken of the US Art Car scene.

On other matters I played Burnout 2 on the PS2 last week although I dunno... didn't strike me as being as good as the original. Not enough traffic, handling is too easy, it all seems to have turned into another identi-kit racing game. I'm not sure I will buy this unless I see it cheap second-hand.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Ping me on MSN Messenger

I've started using MSN Messenger a lot lately, I was invited to use it by an old friend who got back in touch with me and I've been using it for it's Instant Message facility. Due to that I generally have it on all the time while browsing, so if anyone with a hotmail address would like to IM me about A&A, feel free - the address you want is tr7pilot@hotmail.com

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Noticed today during a google search on Axles and Alloys that the site is now listed on grognard.com. A small thing, but it's nice to be listed on what I regard as the definite online list of boardgames and wargames.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Small Earthquake in Dudley, Not Many Dead

Just a very brief entry to inform my worldwide legion of fans (yeah, right...) that I am not dead. The reason for the lack of activity on the site is generally down to the fact that I've moved house lately and have been too busy to do any real gaming or modelling. Typically no sooner had I bought the house then an earthquake shook the UK which had it's epicentre about a mile from the house itself - only 4.8 on the Richter but when you buy your first house you don't expect that sort of thing to welcome you to the neighbourhood.

On sadder news it looks like my beloved TR7 has died a death. I was tanking down the motorway to visit an ex-girlfriend when the oil pump went and the engine seized. What with the house purchase I don't really have the money to fix her and I am currently reduced to only one usable car for the first time in years which is rather akin to having an arm removed.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Corrugated Nails

I was in my local DIY chainstore last night and while engaged in the traditional wargamer's "look for DIY things that are more useful for miniatures conversion than DIY" I came across some things called Corrugated Nails. These are corrugated pieces of zinc about 10mm x 30mm in a bag of about 20 for 79p.

They make absolutely ideal pre-cut sheets of corrugated iron for converting post-apoc cars or as roofs on African shanty dwellings for AK-47 Republic or similar. No idea what they are used for "in the real world".

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Latest Car Film

Le Mans (1971)

Steve McQueen's pet project to bring the 24 hour sports car race to the silver screen, Le Mans mixes real footage from the 1970 race along with recreated driving action and adds a few token 'off track' scenes. The movie has always had a special place in the heart for our family as my parents went to the 70 race (in which McQueen actually entered in a Porsche 908 as research for the film). My Dad also beat up a French busker for forcing his trained monkey to smoke cigarettes but that's a different matter altogether.

Is it any good?

Well, let's put it this way. If two hours of the coolest white man ever to walk the Earth staring into the middle distance and then dipping his eyes in order to blink alongside noisy footage of Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s sounds like the greatest film ever made then you will be in heaven. If not you'll be bored rigid.

Personally I thought it was fantastic.

McQueen plays Michael de Laney, US race driver(*) returning to Le Mans in 1970 after a crash in the 1969 race which hospitalized him and killed the other driver. We learn this at the start when de Laney stops his Porsche road car on the track (public road remember) and just stares and stares and stares at a stretch of armco that is obviously newer than the rest. The crash occurs in flashback at night and is so deliberately confusing that you don't know if de Laney was to blame for the smash, leaving his mental
state and fitness to race unclear for most of the film.

Suffice to say the dead man's widow turns up at Le Mans in order to wallow in her morbidity and McQueen feels obliged to start up a relationship with her. Don't worry about this, it isn't the important part.

Stylistically it reminds me of Bullit - long, lingering camera shots and a semi-documentary style, helped by the fact that a lot of it is in fact documentary footage anyway. It's also reminscent of Top Gun in that the machines are the stars of the film and the cinematography only really picks up when the awkward human beings are out of the way.

Apart from the flashback crash at the start there are two big shunts, one for a Ferrari driver which, like a snowball growing as it rolls downhill escalates to take McQueen out as well (bet you weren't expecting that eh?). Superb cinema. After the Ferrari crashes, the sound drops so that all you can hear is the drivers laboured breathing. He runs towards the camera away from the stricken car in slow motion but cleverly the director keeps cutting away to a side view which shows just how agonisingly slow his
progress is, akin to the 'running through treacle' nightmare before the whole thing explodes in flames.

The film is a little laboured by the need to explain the whole principle of the race to those in the cinema audience and the 'four cars together on the final lap' ending is bit trite but otherwise this is a fantastic film for anyone who loves motor cars. It beautifully captures an era when Porsche and Ferrari went head to head with the result that the sore losers of Ferrari dropped out of GT racing altogether. The 917 was converted to an open-topped car and went over to North America for Can-Am racing and so utterly dominated it that the series was abandoned.

You're expecting me to say 'Go Out on buy the DVD now' aren't you? Well, you can't. Le Mans has never been released on DVD and according to rumour there is an extremely complicated tangle of property rights hanging over the whole movie that may forever keep it locked away in archives somewhere. My copy was taped off BBC2 many years ago and there is a roaring trade in 'copied VHS to copied VHS' doing the rounds amongst Le Mans enthusiasts as it is the only way to acquire it. Damned shame. Take a look around HMV or Virgin next time you are in and look at the amount of utter shit that turns up on DVD and get extremely angry that classics like this are unlikely to see the light of day.

(*) Some accounts have McQueen playing an Englishman, based I think on the (British) V-sign that he famously flicks at the Ferrari crew post-race. However on the rare occasions that he speaks he has an American accent and also wears a Stars and Stripes patch on his overalls - his British team-mate has a Union Jack on his.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

New Car Photos, Speedway GP, I Get Let Lose on a Real Race Track with Somebody Else's Ferrari 355 and do Over a Ton in it

Paul Denton from CA. has sent some nice car photos over which are now to be found in the brand-new Guest Gallery IX.

I went to the very impressive Millenium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday 8th June for the British Speedway Grand Prix. Since Wembley was knocked down and the whole sorry saga of "Oh dear we've run out of money to rebuild it let's try and get the Government to bail us out" began Cardiff has pretty much had all of the events that would have occured at Wembley fall into it's lap including the FA Cup. Which means the showcase of English football now takes place in Wales(!). It's a stunning modern stadium but the infrastructure really isn't there - Cardiff just doesn't have the parking for the stadium. Still we managed to park out of the centre and get the free bus in OK but those who came later were reduced to dumping cars on the pavement in the city centre and hoping they didn't get a ticket or towed away.

Speedway, in case you don't know, is motorcycle racing, 4 laps on a shorttrack dirt oval with the bikes powersliding around each bend in spectacular fashion. The event was televised live on Sky Sports, it was highly entertaining, British riders stayed in until the semifinals and there was a great atmosphere. Unfortunately the two stroke oil and dust in the air meant that I had a sore throat for the next day and irrirtated eyes left me unable to wear my contact lenses, but all in all it was great motorsport and a good day. Ryan Sullivan of Australia was the GP winner, Wolverhampton rider Mikael Karlsson finished third.

Got home late then up early the next morning (Sunday) to attend the Midland Militaire show where we were running our jet combat game. We didn't take A&A and I saw nothing for sale that was suitable for it so I'll skip over that show and onto:-

Monday - when I went to more speedway, Wolverhampton versus Kings Lynn Knights but it got rained off.

Wednesday - Now for some real research for A&A! A Christmas present had presented me with a voucher for a track day at Thruxton, Hants. Thruxton is one of the fastest circuits in Britain as it hasn't had first/second gear chicanes added to it - it's chicane and right-left-right complex are both 3rd gear at lowest. Luckily it also has the longest run-off areas of any circuit in Britain.

I got to blast around the course in an MG ZS (the 180 bhp version of the Rover 45), a Ferrari 355, Formula Renault single-seater and then be driven by a professional in a BTCC MG ZS.

First up was being a passenger as one of the course instructors showed me the track from the wheel of the ZS then three laps with me driving and him giving instruction. I didn't get on with this I have to say as I was too busy listening to him and trying to take his instructions on board to actually drive well. In retrospect I wish I had ignored him once I had taken the wheel and concentrated on enjoying myself. Three laps of being scolded and failing utterly to adopt the fixed input method of steering and throttle control wasn't that enjoyable.

Then, the highlight of the day - clamber into a left-hooker F355 for four flying laps. A stunning motor car. Unbelievably composed, I was coming through Village (a long right sweep) with the needle flicking around about 180km/h (European spec car - about 115 mph in English Money) with the V8 bellowing a wonderful angry noise in my ears yet - the car was as beautifuly poised and balanced as if I was creeping around a car park. Very easy to drive, I expected the beast to spank me if I made a mistake yet it seemed almost without vices. Life might be a bit trickier at the upper end of 6th gear though...

I want one, but two things rule against this - one, obviously I lack the serious money needed to buy one and then look after it and two, the Ferrari has a very hard gear change. You can't cut corners with the stick or change gear diagonally (like you can with many modern boxes which feel more like stirring porridge than they should) which makes it hard work, and it was on the 'wrong side' but I think you really need some miles under your belt to get to grips with it. Big Grin City though, definately and the nicest loud pedal in existance.

I'm too big for the Formula Renault singleseater (think mini Formula One) due to being 6'3" and having size 12 feet. So I got given a Sport 2000 for my single seat part of the day - this is basically a Formula Ford but up-engined to 2 litre (FF were 1600cc Ford crossflow engines as fitted to the Mk1 XR2) and sitting in a closed-wheel fibre glass body, very much like a 70s Can-Am. I had six laps in this. Phenomenal grip and braking performance, but you really do need to be fit to get the most out of one. I found during hard cornering that I was pulling enough Gs to discomfort me before the car was discomforted. In six fast laps where I was banging off the rev limiter in top all the time I only had one bit of rear-wheel slippage and that was more of an easily-controlled gentle drift than a heart-in-mouth tankslapper.

Bit chilly too without any form of windscreen and an 80mph wind swirling around inside the cockpit. Cracking fun though.

End of the day was a ride in another MG ZS but built to Touring Car spec with a full roll cage and Willans harnesses. This was an excuse for one of the pros to really show off, bouncing off the rumble strips and putting it sideways through the corners.

Great Day. Despite only driving for 13 laps, I slept like a log on Wednesday night :)

On the auto-combat front I did think about running a Division 15 Car Wars game at my club but have decided to wait until the vehicle construction rules are out and I can build some supercars from a high Division before bothering with CW again.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Minor Rules Changes, Pearlescent Nail Varnish, More Slot Car Racing

Based on a whim I attempted to paint a car last weekend using a bottle of pearlescent white nail varnish. I've seen a white XR3i in my neighbourhood with such a paint finish and I thought nail polish might be the way to go to produce such an effect in miniature.

Now I once wore painted nails in public(*) for a party that had a 'silver colour' theme (clothes - black shirt and trousers, nails silver) and I forgot just how fast nail polish dries. The colour I tried on the test car advertised itself as drying in one minute which seemed, on a warm May afternoon, to be a gross overestimate. This made working with the colour once it was on the car very tricky.

I think my problem is that I didn't find something to thin it with - which also ruined a perfectly good size 0 brush. The jury is still out on whether this nail polish technique is worth bothering with. Still, my nails looked absolutely divine when I went out on the town later. :)

I ran a couple of A&A games at the Stourbridge show last weekend. I've been coming around the realisation that dropped weapons in A&A are, not to put too fine a point on it, crap. I generally only play the arena rules these days and seasoned A&A gamers tend not to pick mine or oil droppers in favour of ramming spars.

To lethal things up a bit I amended the rules so that each dropper now carries three shots and if you want to you can drop more than one 'payload' in a turn, just laying the requsite number of counters down next to one another. Bearing in mind that I was using the huge "Neo Car Wars" oilslick counters which are about 3" x 1.5" this made dropped weapons play far more of a part in the game.

So those are the rules from now on - three shots, 1,2 or 3 payloads in one go, big oil slick counters.

I've also been slot car racing again. I drove up to Chesterfield for another of Doug Passell's meetings. I did quite well actually, finished 12th out of 15th in the morning session driving a Team Penske CART Indycar in the open wheel class for Tomy SG+ cars then discovered that my Corvette (which I had painted up especially) was handling like a dog and spitting out teeth like Tyson's sparring partner which dumped me down to 15th out of 16. Not so good, but at least I won two heats with the Indycar. Once I realised that the 'Vette was stripping teeth from its gears I swopped over to a Toyota GTP but then that chassis developed a problem where a rear axle hole wore prematurely and let the axle wobble. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time between heats to really discover and fix that.

I picked up a lot of new HO slot car stuff - some more Corvettes for repainting, a couple of Camaros, another Indycar, a Plymouth Superbird NASCAR and loads more Matchbox Powertrack TR7s for conversion to Tomy chassises! You can see my first one here although the text might not make much sense - it was written for the benefit of a couple of people I was chatting to at Chesterfield about how I thought the Powertrack to Tomy conversion would work.

* - So far and in the causes of painting, modelling and wargaming I have purchased (all from busy shops) nail polish and tan coloured stockings (for camo nets) as well as books of male nudes and fetish photography for my oil painting studies! I live in resigned expectation that someone, somewhere will find a superb wargames use for panty-liners or tampons and I'll have to buy them too...

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Division 15 Car Wars

Courtesy of Spirit Games in Burton-on-Trent (probably the best mail order service in British gaming) I got the Vindicator vs Dragon Car Wars set last night. These are Div 15 cars so are built to a points budget three times that of the Division 5 cars we used on our Car Wars gaming night a couple of weeks ago.

Disappointingly the car templates fail yet again to conform to the 3" x 1.5" footprint that has been the standard amongst 3x gamers since year dot. I fail to understand why SJ Games didn't just adopt that size as standard - I know I have and I suspect many other players are doing the same.

As might be expected Div 15 cars are better armoured and more guns. I'm not sure if Div 15 games will be more or less deadly than Div 5 - I need to play it to see if the extra weaponry is sufficient to compensate for the bigger and better armoured cars.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Car Wars Revisited, 1:64 TR7s

Chris J has explained to me how the older Car Wars handled (for want of a better word) the whole Handling Class system. In Old Car Wars the car's original Handling Class was added to the current Handling State at the start of the turn, not reset to zero. This seems a much better solution and I'd like to replay New Car Wars using this method.

Furthermore it turns out that the Div 5 cars don't really give a feel for what Car Wars is. Once you get up to the giddy heights of Div 15 and beyond cars are more resistant to ramming and have far more internal components, in effect adding a second 'skin' of armour inside the plastic outer armour. Hopefully this should address the problem I reported of cars being intact until armour penetrated and then dropping dead like flies.

I'd like to play it again, but I think we'll wait until the Div 15 sets are released.

I acquired two 1:64ish scale TR7s yesterday, the Corgi Juniors TR7 and the Matchbox Powertrack one. Unfortunately I now can't bear to chop up the Corgi car and the Powertrack one (which comes from Matchboxes short-lived range of HO slot cars which flopped as they decided not to make them compatible with Tyco and AFX) is lined up to be converted to fit onto a modern AFX chassis. So I now need a really tatty Corgi Juniors 7 for A&A! Anybody got one?

I got them from the Toy Collectors Fair and Autojumble at a classic car show held in West Bromwich park. One of the reasons I went was to suss out conversion material for A&A and CW but unfortunately the dealers only really dealt in cars of some value. The tattier 1:64 diecasts were all around the £1 mark which is approximately 1 penny dearer than brand new ones so I didn't buy much more than the two TR7s and a couple of Tyco Formula Ones.

I got back home in time for the end of the Austrian Grand Prix which was a disgraceful sham as you will no doubt have read elsewhere. I'd lost interest in the whole F1 thing in the last few years and kept switching on ITV on a Sunday afternoon in a sort of "just in case this one might be good and rekindle my interest" approach. However that sort of cynical stage management means that I won't be watching F1 again, probably ever. Ferrari should be ashamed and their sponsors should question whether some extra TV exposure is worth being associated with that kind of bad publicity.

Rant Over!

'Till next time...

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Car Wars Review

We finally got to play Car Wars last night due to our planned game being called off as I discovered that I have either thrown away my copy of Blue Max or lent it to a workmate who has since emigrated. Ah, well. Typically this discovery only came after four one us had built up lots of 1:72 aircraft for it.

Three of us turned up and we set up a 6' x 4' arena with two large solid obstacles, a gothic-style tower and a large WW2 gun emplacement thing. A bit odd I know, but the average UK wargames club doesn't really have terrain for a Car Wars arena battle in it's filing cabinets so we had to improvise!

I'd heard some talk on the web that ram cars totally dominate the new CW, especially when lightly-armoured Division 5 cars are in use. And we found this to be true. In fact in the first game a car was totalled after the third turn on the first ram of the game (which might have been the first damage inflicted as well!). Basically I had a ram car, my target Mike "von Mike" Drew didn't and couldn't get away from me. And that was on a 6' x 4', had we used the sample 4' x 2' arena from the rulebook he would have stood even less chance of getting away and using his recoilless rifle on me. So we set up again and game 2 also ended very quickly in a ram.

Not very impressed so far, we set up for a third game and this time all choose Division 5 cars that didn't have ramplates. This gave a much better game that lasted for about a hour. But we felt there were still two flaws.

Flaw #1 - Basically Car Wars cars are either OK or dead. In our findings, armour is whittled away with no effect on the car until the armour is gone, when the next hit will either destroy the engine or kill the driver. There seems to be no limping around with semi-crippled cars (such as in Axles and Alloys) . You have a damage 'soak' total and once exceeded you are out of the game, very much like D&D hit points or something. Compare that with A&A whereby a car has two thresholds the reaching of which can cause steering damage or brake loss or blow off weapons etc. and CW seems quite dull in this respect. Component losses are the 'jokers' of A&A that can turn a game around in a single dice throw and force players to accomodate for the fact that (for example) they can now only turn two clockfaces. CW lacks anything like this.

Flaw #2 - The Handling Class. To summarise in CW, you move 1" per 10mph, but you move three times within a turn. So if I do 60 mph I move 6" in phase one, then once everybody has moved I move another 6" in phase two and so on. Manouevres and driving over bits of dead car reduce my handling class to the point where they become harder, but the Handling Class is reset for each turn. So far so good.

However we found this to be awful in practise. In aborted Game #1 I rammed Mike by pulling off a 90 degree turn easily because it was the first phase and my Handling Class was at its highest (Mike's car was basically a couple of inches away to my right). This finished him. But...

Had it been at the start of the third phase and I had pulled off some fancy moves in phases one or two to get into that position then I might have had to roll a dice to do that 90 degree turn and failed due to the moves pulled off in phase one or two. This is the fundamental driving rule in the game. It seems wrong that it's much easier to do that turn at the start of the move than at the game although the idea of the car being unsettled by lots of manouevres is a good one. But...

What had I done in the third phase of the turn before? Doesn't matter. I could have spun through 720 degrees, on ice, with over-inflated bald tyres, with damaged bodywork dragging on the wheel, with a cracked shock absorber, and the throttle cable wedged open while mooning out of the window at passing dolly-birds and whistling Dixie. It doesnt matter because after that bit of Max Power boy racer McDonalds car park activity my Handling class is reset. But had I tried this in phase two then phase three would be a disaster for me!

I understand the idea of the handling class getting worse as the momentum of throwing the car around starts to tell. But it is the artifical way it resets inbetween turns and forgets what the car has been doing up to that point that goes wrong. A real life example might make this clear.

I'm speeding in my rear-wheel drive, prone to oversteer, TR7 and scream around a right-hander too fast. The car oversteers and pivots more clockwise than I would like. So I steer into the skid (wheel goes left) car pivots anti-clockwise (counter clockwise) but I've overcompensated so the car steers left too much. Snatch the wheel right again and this see-sawing of the rear axle disturbs the rear of the car and it loses traction. In CW terms I have spread manoeuvres out over the three phases and the number of them has caught up with me.

But if the game turns end in the middle of my frantic attempts to compensate, suddenly rough, choppy seas turn placid in an instant. All the sideways momentum is lost and normallity is returned. Should there be another phase though (game turn ends later) I might be in trouble and taking an impromtu trip through a hedge. Furthermore if I know exactly when that cosmic game turn ends then I can do whatever I bloody like - I won't be paying for it in the next phase.

What this means simply is that the way the game works is that turns in phase one are easy, turns in phase three might be difficult and as you don't worry about carrying a negative handling class across into a new turn you may as well do your big turns in phase three. Furthermore you can pull off a sharp turn in phase 1, travel straight in phase 2 and foul up another turn in phase 3 purely because of phase 1 even though logic would suggest that the car has been neated and controlled in phase 2 and sideways momentum has evaporated.

What would be better is for the Handling Class to only cover the last two phases, even if they are split over two consecutive turns.

This handling class thing spoilt the game for me. I was keen to play CW as it seemed to promise 'real' driving, unlike A&A but it didn't work in practise. Dave Orton commented that is seemed complicated for the sort of 'throwaway' genre it was and that he preferred A&A to this. We might play it again as it is the sort of game that can be put on a moments notice if the main planned game falls through (such as what happened yesterday) and all the rule books, counters and turning templates can be carried around in a single document wallet.

Disappointing is my verdict. 6/10, 7/10 if the handling class system worked better.

P.S. We used Hot Wheels cars, unconverted but glued to 3" x 1.5" balsa wood bases. Much nicer then the included car counters.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Car Wars is in my greasy mitts, Futuristic Hot Wheels, Lexan Bodies, PS2 Games of Interest to the A&A Player

The all-new revised Car Wars seems to have sneaked onto the shelves here in England. (I say sneaked as I had not noticed, although West Bromwich Albion's succesful promotion push to the Premier League has admittedly occupied nearly all of my attention for the last month or so, so it might have been advertised on 50' billboards on my route to work for all I know!). As a result I went to Waylands Forge in Birmingham on Saturday morning and purchased all three of the Division 5 starter sets.

Initial impressions are that the counters are very, very nice indeed although the Division 5 cars look quite a bit smaller than I had expected - 1" x 2" or roughly a third of the 1.5" x 3" size that most "3 x" players use. I hope this is purely down to Division 5 cars being quite small as you need the full 1.5" x 3" base size to cover the 'footprint' of a Hot Wheels or Matchbox car. The other counters for landmines, oil slicks, flaming oil slicks and calthrops are excellent and will replace my Axles and Alloys ones. You get a handful of pedestrians in each set, not as useful for me as an A&A gamer but useful for those of you who need them as suitable figures are hard to find.

The format is worthy of note as well. For £4.99 (I believe the dollar price is identical) you get the rulebook, cardstock turning template, two car counters and loads of auxillaries like mines and drivers etc. Each rulebook contains two stock vehicles, a variant for each and an upgraded version of each. The rules look playable, I had forgotten exactly how much I had forgotten about the CW rules from the earlier editions. Was the movement really divided into three phases? I can't for the life of me recall.

One thing I am not sure about is that you can pull off a number of maneouvres spread across the three movement phases but that the handling class of your car drops (and hence the chances of losing it increases) as you try more and more. Since this does not reset at the start of a phase and carries across across the whole turn it strikes me that making turns at the end of your phase could be more dangerous than at the start so I imagine a disproportional amount of phase three movement will be in a straight line and the resulting games will feel odd.

I haven't done very much with die-cast collecting lately. The Hot Wheels 2002 First Editions are on the shelves locally but having never finished the 2001 First Editions and losing interest in doing so I haven't bothered to start this years collection. One thing I have been doing recently is buying up Hot Wheels for Car Wars but only those that represent fictional or concept designs. The reason for this is that CW is set fifty years into the future (2052 at present, but I remember when CW was set in the early 2030s...) so I am keen to avoid using 'recognisable' cars. Fortunately HW produce lots of such futuristic cars and those with the more vivid tampos even look as if they are festooned in sponsors logos. I recently acquired a Sidekick (a recast of the 1970 Redline HW) in sky blue with large eagle crest on the bonnet and the motto 'Hot Wheels Express Delivery Service' - it looks ideal for a televised arena duel in the year 2052. Modelling-wise, all I am doing with these cars is a bit of paint touch-up (light clusters and repainting plastic chrome mainly) then mounting on 1.5" x 3" bases that has been surfaced with drybrushed wet-and-dry paper.

On the subject of modelling the only thing I have done recently is to experiment with painting clear lexan vac-formed bodies for HO scale slot cars. I've nearly exhausted the first batch I purchased but as I only regarded them as experimental fodder I'm not too bothered by the odd mistake and mess that I made. I've determined that you can PVA glue magazine cuttings to the inside of the body and paint behind them, my next trial is to colour inkjet print onto clear acetate and see if that can be PVA'd succesfully.

Computer gaming-wise I followed the recommendations of Chris J and picked up a second-hand copy of Rumble Racing (PS2) for £19.99. This is very good fun, it reminds me of the LAN games of Carmageddon:TDR 2000 we used to have on lunchtimes. It's your normal "three laps around a themed course" sort of racer but with three 'twists' of interest to auto-combat enthusiasts. The first is mad powerups, including summoning up a hurricane to swat the opposition, throwing a giant snowball at them to freeze their steering and a glowing 'space-shuttle-re-entering-atmosphere' type glowing aura on the front of your car that flings the opposition into the horizon when you so much as tap them. The second is the cars. As you advance from the first level to the Pro and Elite levels, the cars sprout bodykits and massive spoilers, superchargers and Holley carbs emerge from bonnets and the paintwork designs get madder still. The third is the ability to pull somersaults and barrel-rolls in mid air by holding down R2 and moving the left stick. A succesful (and completely physically impossible in the real world) stunt grants up a nitro boost (essential on harder difficulty levels), a failed one leaves you sliding along your roof. Highly entertaining even if the idea is a rip-off of the Hot Wheels game on PSOne, the Deep South and canyon courses owe more than a little to Need for Speed III, the dockside level and it's submarine seems very reminiscent of the one in Motorhead that also had a submarine etc. etc.

Typically, no sooner do I buy a PS2 game from GAME then they send me a voucher for £16. Now this bemused me as I hadn't spent any money in any of their branches for ages having decided to support the independent stores instead. Perhaps they have a policy to send big vouchers to their customers who stop spending in an attempt to tempt them back into the shop - when I was buying stuff from them regularly (including a GBA and PS2 so we are talking big money) I used to only get vouchers for 3 or 4 quid.

Anyway this meant that I picked up Star Wars Racer Revenge for only £3.99 as it was reduced to £19.99 (not selling as expected?). This isn't bad, especially for less than 4 quid, but I preferthe longer courses of the PC original. The ability to flip the pod on its side to get through narrow gaps seems to have vanished but so, to be fair, have the narrow gaps! Ramming the opposition to take them out is a far larger part of the game than the original as well. Like most of the PS2 games that I have picked up cheap I regard this as excellent at the reduced price, not so palatable at £39.99 or the ridiculous £44.99 that some games get launched at.

Another PS2 arcade racer that I have acquired at a sale price is CART Fury. Nothing to do with large-headed cartoon characters in go-karts (for once) but an arcade racer based on the US CART series, played up for laughs. Three lap races, limited nitro boosts, massive multi-car pileups and alternative routes to the finish line. Unfortunately these alternative routes dominate the game. Take all of the shortcuts and you win by a country mile. Don't take any of the shortcuts and you lose. Furthermore the arcade machine origins of this title rear their ugly head in the fact that the races are over very quickly, but the front-end is very slow. So.... in any given hour that you dedicate to PS2 CART Fury you will spend more time in the front-end (and waiting for the agonisingly slow PS2 DVD drive) than you will racing. These two flaws ruin the game for me which is a shame as this game had good potential to be a modern-day Virtua Racing. Shame. Avoid.

And of course, the Ronin-influenced Burnout is still King of PS2 Racing Mayhem.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

Some New Photos For You

But this time, of my HO scale slot car repaints. Cast your eyes at http://www.owencooper.com/slots/HOrepaints.html

This might be interest to autocombat gamers as it shows off the decoupage technique I have mentioned before. The logos and race numbers on those cars (apart from the ones that are obviously waterslide transfers) were cut from magazines. The relevant 'bit' on the bodywork was painted in a very thin and tacky layer of PVA glue (aka White Glue, School Glue, Wood Glue, Elmer's Glue etc. etc.), the magazine cutting pushed in and then another thin coat of PVA was used to seal it. Two or three good coats of household varnish seal everything nicely and provide some protection from the usual shunts found in slotcar racing.

Painting the vac-formed lexan bodied car was, how shall I put it, interesting...

Since you paint on the inside of the clear shell, you paint backwards. First on went some gunmetal paint for the filler caps, windscreen and front grille. Then the waterslide transfers were applied. The dark body colours go on next, then the lighter ones. You need to put the dark colours on first, because then the lighter ones can overspill (underneath) without affecting the colour, whereas painting some black behind yellow (for example) would spoil those sections of yellow. Once that's all done, you paint a white undercoat to 'back' all the main colours. Confused? That's just a simple car paintjob I did!

Despite the fact that there is little margin for error (you can't slap paint over mispainted detail and do it again) the finished effect is wonderful, since you have no brush marks in the finish - you are looking at the smooth underside of the paint strata through a clear glossy plastic. The fact that the inside of the car is a mess of lumpy brush marks doesn't matter. Tricky to do, as you have to plan out every application in paint in advance, but nice results.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Possibly The Greatest Waterslide Decal Site in the World

Great site of the week - Patto's Place, Bruce Patterson's slot car accessory webshop based in Oz. As regards Axles and Alloys the most useful accessories he offers are from the huge selection of waterslide decals for racing cars, all available in 1:64 as well as 1:32 and 1:24. They include race numbers, sponsors decals, car trim as well as complete sets of decals to do famous cars. You want the HO scale for 1:64 as, when used to describe slot cars, HO means 1:64 or "Hot Wheels Bastard Size".

I haven't ordered from him yet, but I have had some recommendations second-hand from the UK HO slot car scene so will shortly be ordering a load of sheets to complete some Aurora slot cars. You can find Patto's Place at http://members.optushome.com.au/pattosplace

Sunday, March 31, 2002

Newly Discovered Auto-combat Site

I found a new link for you this afternoon - http://www.bus.brighton.ac.uk/staff/fesg/index.html

Francis Greenaway's site, contains The Official Guide to the United Kingdom for the Car Wars background, some Dark Future expansion rules, auto-combat using a Formula De set and upscaling Formula De to use 1:64 sized cars.

I'll get around to adding that to the frontpage next time I do an update.

Monday, March 25, 2002

Axles and Alloys Puma

It's done - all bar the varnishing that is.

Without even bothering to dismantle the car and strip the paint, I flicked it over with grey primer and instantly the detail of the car became visible. It must be bloody frustrating for the Mattel sculptors to produce a lovely model of a 'Max Power-ed' Cougar and then see it cast in translucent flourescent colours apparently designed to make all the grooves and panel lines invisible. (And why do Mattel insist on fitting cars with dark windscreens when there is obviously an excellent interior left almost invisible inside?) It looked even better after a coat of Citadel Mithril Silver. Looking at it in it's pristine "unweathered" state I decided that it will be mounted on balsa and emery cloth to go with my new collection of Car Wars cars - the intention is to get another one and model that as an outlaw car for Axles and Alloys. I don't want to spoil Puma #1 by drybrushing beige paint all over it.

The Car Wars collection is coming along nicely. Basically I have decided to buy up the Hot Wheels car that represent 'fictional' designs, preferably the ones with tampos that could resemble advertisers logos. This is because the Car Wars universe is set 50 years into the future, so cars that can't be recognised seem to fit in better. The tampos of course are the advertising aimed at television viewers of the arena combats. I've done minimal painting to the cars, generally just exhaust pipes and light clusters. I've got 8 cars based for it and the game isn't even out yet - I hope my base sizes are reasonably correct.... :/

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Slot-car racing day out

I went to Walsall yesterday for a race meeting of HO slot-cars organised by Doug Passell from the Chesterfield club. Doug had contacted me about some questions I posted to a board about getting started in HO and he invited me along as I live in the Black Country and didn't have far to go. So I loaded up a toolbox with my cars and headed up the Black Country Route in the Puma.

I got to the venue to find about a dozen racers and an impressive 4 lane setup made from AFX track complete with digital lap-timers and some nice Parma hand controllers that make my bog-standard Tyco ones look and feel incredibly crap. A very nice track, very smooth and without any 'dead spots' caused by electrical resistance. I was very jealous of course.

Doug was kind enough to lend me some sponge tyres so I slotted them into one of my cars, Ralf Schumachers' Jordan from a couple of seasons ago and proceeded to drive quite badly but was none-the-less fairly pleased with my newbie performance, after all at no point did any of my flying 'offs' take anybodies eyes out so that was something to be grateful for. By the end of the morning, Ralf was looking a bit worse for wear with his front spoilers starting to split from some hefty shunts, so I was glad that the cars would be changing for the afternoon session, to NASCARs.

Not having one, I bought a #44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix from Doug and drove that badly too. Firstly it appears that the Pontiac body will take any opportunity to fly off. Furthermore sometimes the car would crash, be reslotted by the marshal but the chassis would be askew inside the body so that the wheels rub on the arches and you go nowhere fast. I'd just about got into the groove at the end of my first NASCAR race when the car deslotted at a hairpin, struck the table edge and threw a pickup shoe, meaning that I wasn't running at race end.

I wasn't the only one having problems with the #44, another racer was using one and finding the same problems. Fortunately I was lent a replacement body for the last couple of races and that seemed to stay on quite well. I finished 9th out of 10, but the 10th place driver was only in the afternoon session so I suppose that doesn't really count. As for form, well I seemed to be at about 50% of the pace of the top guys and 75% of some of the slower ones but with unprepared cars, 'mechanical problems' with the Pontiac and no previous experience whatsoever I suppose that's not too bad.

I had no idea how the races would be organised, but basically you got a three minute run, after which the power was shut off so the cars stopped on the track. A drivers completed laps were recorded and each corner was numbered, 1-10 in order from the start, so the last one you passed was your 'partial' lap, so if you did 18 laps and stopped past corner 3, your distance was recorded as 18.3 . Lanes were colour coded and each car had a coloured sticker on the roof to tell the marshal which lane to put it back in.

Good fun, there's another meeting next month in Chesterfield that I hope to attend

Thursday, March 21, 2002

TRU are officially v good

No sooner do I slag off TRU for being crap then it turns out that they have restocked with Hot Wheels and now (in the Brum branch at least) have a huge stock of 2001 and 2002 cars. Sorry guys...

I also finally managed to pick up a car to represent my Ford Puma on the A&A table - Hot Wheels Custom Cougars are the most disgustingly coloured diecast cars in the world (black paint, purple metallic wheels, translucent orange bonnet - yuk!) and they cry out for all of them to be resprayed with Ford Moondust Silver to represent the Puma. Obviously the Ford (Mercury) Cougar is not the same as the Puma, but the front is similar, the rear is not dissimilar (i.e. it's not really right, but close enough on that model as it is obscured by a massive spoiler) and the size difference isn't apparent in "not-quite-1:64th-scale". Since we aren't likely to ever see a Triumph TR7 in 1:64 is there any chance of a Mark 1 Toyota MR-2 that I can squint a bit at?
Car Wars Preview, Jet FIghters, TRU are officialy v poor

If you browse to Steve Jackson Games you can see the proofs of the new Car Wars rulebooks, the release of which is apparently imminent. Why am I telling you this? Because the Car Wars people have finally accepted that we all hate 1" paper counters and paper maps but we all love converted Hot Wheels and 'open tables' so they have adopted 3x scale as the official scale. The beginner sets (rules and two car counters) include 3" x 1.5" counters which, being readers of this site, you can immeadiately throw away and replace with a die-cast on the correct size base. The dropped weapon counters look nice too, I might replace my home-built counters with these (when released and shipped to the UK at least).

I haven't spent a huge amount of time with Axles and Alloys lately, in fact I've only played one game this year and that was as a Gamesmaster. I've also converted approximately one (i.e. less than two) car and even that isn't finished. The reason for this is that we (Stourbridge club) carted A&A around the Midland show circuit as our participation game for 2001, and now we are into 2002 we have been busy knocking up our game for this year.

This game is tentatively titled 'Lock On' and is an even more beer-and-pretzels version of our beer-and-pretzels game of modern jet combat. In it's original form we played out a lot of Korean War and Six Days War actions in 1:300 but for the show games we upped the scale to 1:144 and used the cheap Revell plastic kits of modern jets. We've run this at the West Midlands Military Modelling Show in Alumwell and it went down quite well. Someday full rules and model aircraft shots will be on the site, but don't hold your breath...

As a result don't expect to see Axles and Alloys at a Midland show this year. Bifrost might be an exception as this is a sci-fi show and Lock On is clearly not sci-fi. Likewise Warfayre (Halesowen) might see A&A as this is the Stourbridge club open day and although we will run Lock On there might be an A&A game on if there is the space or if another game organiser has to drop out at short notice.

On an unrelated point, what the hell is up with Toys R Us and their Hot Wheels stock? My local TRU has almost completely cleared the shelves of HW, last couple of times I have darkened it's doors they about a dozen left, half of which were Hot Birds (the crappy advertising blimp thing - useful for Aeronef though). It isn't just the Brum branch either, Chris Johnston reports similar findings in Manchester. Sainsburys have stopped stocking individuals which is a shame as I got two Treasure Hunts on consecutive days at their Perton branch. Fortunately Woolworths still stock a lot and the 2002 line are finally making their appearance in these shops.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Hell on Wheels! A blog update!

Well I wrote a M-A-S-S-I-V-E update a couple of weeks ago, detailing how I now have a Tyco slot car set (Formula World Tour), 4 modern F1 cars, 3 old Indy cars, 2 Micro Scalextric Jag XJ200s, 2 Micro Scalextric DTM cars, 4 old sets from ebay.co.uk, two home-made bodies converted from Hot Wheels Camaro Z28s, loads of track from Toys R US, two lap counters AND about a Christmas present driving Ferrari 355s, single seaters and MG ZS s at Thruxton... and Blogger timed out and ate it.

Suffice to say I was so brassed off that I couldn't be bothered to redo it, nor do any more blog stuff for a while.

None-the-less I now break silence to inform y'all of changes at Chris Johnston's Road Rage site. Chris has added a forum on all things auto-combat to his site, I intend to keep my eye on threads there, so if you have anything to discuss about A&A or motor modelling that you don't mind being in the public forum, then please feel free to post there. Chris has also added some new car photos including Daphne from Scooby-Doo being "stripped and drilled" apparently... :O

The site is http://www.cpjohnston.freeserve.co.uk/roadrage/

A recent DVD purchase was 'Ronin'. I didn't think this was a particularly brilliant film, although De Niro is as watchable as he always is, but there are two excellent car chases, one through the French Riveria and the other through Paris with an amazing sequence whereby the two cars race the wrong way up a dual carriageway into a mass of oncoming traffic. The number of stunt drivers needed for some of these shots boggles belief. The region 2 DVD I have (PAL, Europe) also contains a small documentary on the filming of the chase sequences, apparently right hand drive UK cars had dummy steering wheels fitted on the left side along with French plates, so that the actors sat in the cars during the stunts pretending to drive while the stuntmen actually did all the work. Neat idea...

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

I had a play with repainting cars in a 'race livery' style the other day. This was an experiment to see if I could use the decoupage technique to decorate cars, mainly for 'sponsored' arena cars and HO slotcars.

I took a HW Blown Camaro (the 'before' car that accompanies the converted one on Gallery II), dullcoted it and then painted it in a fetching two-tone colour scheme of carnation pink with a ultramarine rear section. Tasteful! Once dry I then scoured some car and computer magazines for small logos and some race numbers and attached them to the car with decoupage.

Decoupage is an old Victorian handycraft whereby people would produce craft items by laminating newspaper cuttings under layers of varnish. Once covered in a few coats of varnish, the fragile loose edgings of the cuttings become sealed and not prone to lifting up and fraying.

To do this on an Axles and Alloys car, I painted the area in a thin coat of acrylic varnish and pushed the cutting in, brushing some over the edges. Once finished, the car is then sprayed with gloss automotive lacquer, although as my spraycan of this has gone missing I haven't done this yet.

It works quite well - once under even just one layer of gloss varnish (I resorted to brush varnishing, brushmarks and all, as this was only an experimental piece) the extra height of the paper used isn't really visible and should disappear totally under two or three coats. The only trouble I found was in finding logos small enough and in pairs in order to do the flanks of the car. My Camaro is now sponsored by Playstation 2, Koni Shocks, K&N Filters, OZ Racing Wheels, Snap-Off Steering Wheels and Carnisseur accesories. I thought about adding www.owencooper.com to the rear spoiler but that was always going to be illegible when you only have just over an inch to paint it on!

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Six New Cars, New Link

Super-quick update - six new cars from Rick Maturi and a link to Rogviler's Library. All available at the usual place, http://www.owencooper.com/axlesalloys

Stourbridge Competition, Theme from Thunderbirds and 12" long Cars

The Stourbridge club's fantasy competition was finished a couple of weeks ago. I ran two games of A&A each night for a different batch of players. Each player got two games and whosoever scored the most in their two games was the winner. I gave a point for each damage point inflicted, five for each component and five for converting up a car. I did sometimes have to randomize firing order to see exactly who did what - for example if cars A & B shoot at C we need to know which of A or B shoots first because they might destroy the target before the other gets his shot(s) in. I also rolled for all systems during a treshhold even if the driver or fuel got taken out, the idea being that more system losses = bigger explosion = happier arena crowd.

With five points on offer for bringing a converted car, all four players turned up with cars selected and converted for the occasion.

First up was Ashley Hewitt, who repainted a Matchbox Ferrari F355, adding a Ground Zero Games turret and plastic spikes. Dave Orton converted an old Corgi Juniors VW Beetle Hot Rod, repainting it white with '53' racing number and creating massive ramming spars from plastic pieces from his bits box. Mike Drew knocked up a lorry in black with armour plates and turret guns, looking very much like a land-going battleship. But Andy Morris went one better. Although he didn't convert his car, he did bring along the Thunderbirds theme music. To the sound of this, Thunderbird 2 flew over the battlefield, dropping one of its cargo pods from which Andy extracted a model of Lady Penelope's pink Rolls Royce. Five points just for the brilliant entrance? Yes m'lady.

However neither of the four was able to touch Jimmy Watton's 58 points (from the first Friday) so Jimmy becomes Stourbridge Fantasy Competition Champion for 2001 and has to organise 2002's competition.

I've acquired some cheap cars from a local discount store - 12" friction-driven Opel Vectras for 99p each. I've started converting them to giant-size Axles and Alloys cars, at time of writing one is converted and needs painting, the other is waiting for more bits to turn up in the bits box - I sort of used all the good stuff on Car 1 and forgot about the need to keep some stuff back for Car 2. Car 1's customizing equipment mostly came from a Disney 'Atlantis' toy and the usual card plates and aluminium mesh. Scale-wise these wil probably need 4 x the usual measurements (which equates to a Car Wars scale of x12 - ack!) so whether I will ever get to play with these is not clear. Still they'll look good when photographed for the site. Not sure how practical they'll be when trying to measure 80" or similar for a move and 96" for a laser shot.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Rick Maturi has sent in some more photos of cars. These will be uploaded when I next look at the backlog.

Something I would appreciate some advice on - late last year I managed to acquire a Scalextric TR7 off ebay (something I had been after for a while). This led me onto browsing the web for things slotcar-related in an attempt to get more TR7s and I was amazed to see the level of sophistication in terms of clubs and layouts achieved by slot car racers. I used to have a Scalextric when I was little - two mid 70s era F1 cars and a short figure-of-eight track but the modern hobby scene has really got me interested.

I'm tempted by a HO set, partly because of it's smaller footprint, and partly because it looks practical to build up a four-lane layout. The modelling side of it especially appeals to me, I like the idea of painting up vac-formed bodies and then swopping them around on the chassis's. However I don't know if HO scale is still a current thing - I see plenty of track and cars available in the US via the net but I'm not sure if Tyco and the rest are still making it. Of course with HO slot cars really being 1:64 I doubt it would take long for the glue and aluminium mesh to make an appearance...

I suppose a good alternative would be to hunt down a local slot-car club, here in the West Midlands (UK). I've been told about one in Smethwick, but from the promotional flyer I saw in my local model shop it looks a bit competitive and full of rules, which frankly turns me off - I'm not a competitive individual by nature and detest competitive streaks in others at work or in hobby pursuits (i.e. competition wargaming) I'd just be looking to have an occasional (i.e. not every week) laugh with a bit of light-hearted Scalextric racing.

If you could offer me advice on either HO-scale slot car'ing or a West Midlands club then please feel free to email me at axlesalloys@REMOVETHECAPSyahoo.co.uk.

On a non-car related point it turns out that my home town (Dudley) has supplied both of the British Taliban members currently held prisoner in Cuba! I think we're all highly amused - Tipton (their suburb) has always had a reputation of being populated in it's entireity by nutters!

Monday, January 28, 2002

The wet-and-dry paper approach to basing works really well. I used a medium grade in a dark grey and then drybrushed with Citadel Codex Grey. A Hot Wheels Taildragger (unconverted) was then glued to the top and I'm pleased with the effect. I suppose the next stage is to mask off the base leaving narrow lines exposed for white or yellow spray paint to represent road markings or similar.

Just done an update to add three converted car photos from Rick Maturi, to be found at http://www.owencooper.com/axlesalloys/guestgallery7.html. More would follow but it's all in one of my Yahoo! mailboxes and typically having set the evening aside to finally get off my arse and attend to all the backlog I can't seem to get onto the UK mail site. Bloody typical.

Looking ahead to the impending release of Car Wars at x 3 scale I thought I'd better base some cars up on 3" x 1.5" bases. I've gone for a quick and dirty approach to groundwork - grey coloured wet-and-dry paper to represent a tarmac (asphalt) surface glued to balsa wood. The bases are drying at the moment, once dry I'll drybrush them up a bit and see how they look. More later.

Well I've decided to migrate the news page of the site onto blogger.com (which is this BTW). Hand-appending to the old code was starting to get unwieldly and I seemed stuck in a rut of typing up new entries and never getting around to FTPing them up - hopefully this new format should make it a bit less of a hassle.