Fifth's Muscle Manual
The muscle car is one of the true joys of Darkwind. Neither well armored nor well armed, its primary asset in the wilderness is its speed and maneuverability. Wilderness battles have been won against enormous odds because of one or two well-employed muscle cars.
Muscles are also indispensable for hunting Traders, because only muscle cars can chase down and corral fleeing cargo vehicles.
But muscle cars are terribly vulnerable when exchanging fire with the enemy, due to their light armor and weapon loads, and their high speed can be as much a vulnerability as an asset. The difference between a victorious muscle and a very fast coffin is forethought and planning.
This manual is broken into several sections. First I’ll go over what a muscle car is, and setting up your muscle, and I’ll go over different weapons. Then will be describing basic strategies and tactics, and I’ll close with the Chassis Appendix, going over the chassis one by one.
Section 1: Setting Up
What Is (And Isn’t) A Muscle?
A muscle is a midsize car that can mount a big engine unexposed. The Windsor and Windsor II are not muscles. No car with an exposed engine should be considered a muscle, as they are too vulnerable to survive in a combat zone. Here’s a (partial) list of muscle chassis:
All of these, other than the Flash and the Voyager, can mount a 4L or larger engine unexposed. The Flash is included because of its sheer speed and ability to accept an engine disproportionately large for its size, and the Voyager is included because of its sheer speed & ability to accept a 3.2l V8, which allows it to keep up with almost anything in the wilderness. I’ll go into each of these chassis in detail in the Chassis Appendix.
Engine In general, you want at least a 4L engine or a 3.2LV8. A full-sized muscle with a 3.2L engine isn’t a muscle at all, it’s a coffin. Some engines can handle a 5L, but keep an eye on the bulk used for weapons and ammo.
Armor Max out your front, put 5 on your top and bottom, and distribute the rest evenly between your sides and rear. Class B - NEVER C. A-class armor is tempting and gives a nice speed boost, but is awfully expensive to keep repaired.
Fuel A 2-unit tank is sufficient for most muscle operations. An extra unit or two on top of that can enable your muscle scouts to go further out and improve your odds.
Tyres Offroad all the way. Handling is everything to a muscle. The exception to this is if you’re working in rough terrain, then you need Reinforced.
Crew Driver and gunner. Putting in 2 gunners takes up too much valuable space. Your driver should have at least 20 skill, but 40 is really preferred. With more driving skill, you’ll accelerate faster and you’ll be more stable. Your gunner should have at least some Gunnery skill, but muscles are a good way to train gunners. Defensive Driver is a great specialism for muscle drivers, as is Deathracer.
Suspension Suspension settings are different for every chassis and weapon load, but one thing is true across the board: increasing tyre pressure will give you increased acceleration at lower speeds, under about 40MPH, but you will lose some control at the top end. Increased tyre pressure is highly recommended for vehicles that spend time in lower-speed dogfights. Past that, experiment with your cars to find a suspension setting that fits your style.
Weapons Front, front, front. You want your weapons on the FRONT. Side mounts are possible, but not generally recommended. Rear mounts sound good on paper, but they’re actually very difficult to use in practice.
Here’s your menu of killware:
Machine Gun - The vanilla option. Don’t knock it, a pair of these on the front of a muscle can really chew through enemy armor over the long run, and they have decent range and accuracy. The downside is, you need a pair to make a decent punch, and your driver will have to man one of them. Your accuracy with that gun will be lower.
Light Machine Gun - at 15 bulk, the Light Machine Gun seems very attractive to muscle cars short on space. However, the LMG has only 10 rounds of ammunition. Because most NPC cars have more than 10 points of armor on a single facing, it's almost guaranteed that you'll run out of ammunition before you run out of enemy. You can fit an LMG and 3 reloads (40 rounds total) in the same 24 bulk as a MG and the same number of rounds, but firing them all would require 3 reload periods, compared to 1 for the MG. The Light Machine Gun isn't a bad weapon, all things considered, but only as a secondary weapon alongside heavier and longer-lasting firepower.
Gatling Gun - The Machine Gun on steroids. The downside is, its range is shorter and you NEED two of them to make a decent punch, so your driver better have decent Gunnery skills. Watch out for the increased recoil - sustained fire can really slow you down.
Micromissile Launcher - Like the Machine Gun and Gatling Gun, the MML is small enough to be fitted in pairs, or mixed with a MG or GG. However, I don’t recommend doing so. Having an explosive round is useful in some cases, but the MML doesn't have enough punch to outweigh the low ammunition capacity. Some chassis can accept a MML alongside a Medium Machine Gun as a driver-controlled secondary weapon, and this is an enormously effective build at short range.
Medium Machine Gun - My favorite muscle weapon. Decent damage, manageable recoil, good ammo supply, and low bulk. You will NOT have enough room for 2 of them, except on the larger cars, but that’s not a bad thing, you’ll be able to fit several reloads or a One-Shot secondary. Putting in just one gun lets your gunner concentrate on killing properly.
Heavy Machine Gun - One of the heaviest weapons available to muscles, the HMG should be deployed with care. Its recoil is hard enough to seriously affect your handling, and its 40 bulk will generally limit you to a single reload. On the other hand, its sheer power and ammo capacity can sometimes outweigh its bulk. Best deployed on the Phoenix.
Rocket Launcher - The Rocket Launcher is a sledgehammer of muscle weapons. Peeling 3 or 4 off an enemy with a single hit is very tempting, to say the least. But the 10-round clip means you’ll be reloading mid-fight, and you generally will only have room for a single reload. Having only 20 rounds of fire means you have to hit Every. Single. Time. Also, the large blast radius can make a lot of problems for you in a tight, up-close fight. If you have a Rapid Reload gunner and lots of ammo space, go for it.
Heavy Gatling Gun - Rare and powerful, the HGG is better mounted on an SUV than a muscle. Its fierce recoil will throw you all over the place.
Car Rifle - The Sniper’s Best Friend, the Car Rifle is feared for good reason. But in the high-speed muscle fights, you will NOT have enough time to line up a proper shot, and the 15-round magazine means you’ll have less sustained fire. Use a Medium Machine Gun unless you have some very skilled Snipers.
Flamethrower - The Flamethrower is another weapon that looks better on paper than it does in combat. As long as you’re running like you’re on fire, why not set everyone else on fire too? But unless you like being quite literally on fire, avoid the Flamethrower. Its damage is not high enough to justify its short range and small clip size. Also, ANY damage to the FT will set you on fire. Avoid unless you are making a suicide/novelty car.
Napalm Gun - The Napalm Gun is perhaps the only ballistic weapon that can be remotely useful on a muscle car. It takes some planning, especially given that the NG's bulk means that it may be the only weapon on a car, but being able to throw flaming oil into the path of the enemy can be invaluable, especially if you're Kiting.
One-Shots - I’m using this as a catchall for the Mini Rocket, Light Rocket, Medium Rocket, and Heavy Rocket Rockets and their respective Racks and Pods. A One-Shot mounted next to your primary weapon can give a low-armor opponent a serious case of the breaches. Given that you’ll need to use your driver to man it and you only have a single shot with them, you need to time your shots carefully to hit an enemy’s weak side from close range. But a well-placed rocket can shorten a duel by several turns. My personal favorite is a toss-up between a Light Rocket Rack (3 shots, triple the fun!) and a single Heavy Rocket. (Make a Big Bang!) As appealing as One-Shots are, NEVER compromise your primary firepower to fit in a bigger One-Shot. Your main weapon is your cake, your One-Shot is your icing.
|Scimitar||Phoenix or Sunrise||4L||124||Fr GGx2||2||An impressive but fragile dogfighter. Stay away from your enemies' weapons, and get the Gatling Guns onto their flanks and rear. The guns work best at close range, especially with low-skill gangers.|
|Chaser||Phoenix or Sunrise||4L||104||FR MMG||2 or 3||This NPC Build has less firepower than the Scimitar, but offers much better ammo capacity and less recoil. The MMG will have a slightly better range than double Gatlings, and much better control. Add a driver-controlled One-Shot for extra firepower.|
|Hawk||Vampire||3.2L V8||104||FR MMG MRR||2||Expensive but worth every penny. One of the most successful light dogfighters around, because it'll outrun whatever it can't outfight. Deploy in a pair for an instant hunting unit.|
|Eliminator||Voyager||3.2L (V8 optional)||111||FR 2X MG RE MG||2-3||This NPC/Rental model serves as a great base for an interceptor and dogfighter. Low on firepower and fragile, but the Machine Guns give it better range and accuracy than the Scimitar.|
|Tarantula||Voyager||3.2L||116||FR RL GG||2||This build can bring much needed firepower to a muscle squad. It tends to lag behind other muscles and reloads mid-fight, but it can turn the tide of battle when properly employed.|
|Panther||Bullet||4L||102||FR MMG MRP||2||An excellent trader-hunter with style and flair. Save the rockets for enemy breaches, and it'll do serious damage.|
|Kestrel||Phoenix or Sunrise||3.2L V8||112||FR MMG MML||2||Pricey, but extremely effective at short to medium range. The MML adds little recoil to the chassis, giving consistent handling when guns are firing. Leaves a reload each, so be careful when you decide to shoot, this build is only recommended up north.|
Section 2: Let’s Talk Tactics
Strategy and Combat Roles
Muscle tactics fall into four general areas: Kiting, Strafing, Dueling and Chasing. Which one of these you perform depends a great deal on the situation of the rest of your scout, so LISTEN to your squadmates. Clear communication can make the difference between a successful scout and a disaster.
- Kiting - Kiting is distracting the AI opponents. Run fast around them, OUTSIDE of their Line of Fire, and see who peels off to chase you. You don’t need to get the whole group’s attention, and every enemy that’s chasing you is one less that’s firing on your buddies. If none of them chase you, you can start Strafing their stragglers. If you only pull one enemy, you have a good chance to Duel it into submission, but if you have more than one, keep running until the rest of your squad is done with their portion and ready to peel them off of you. Kiting can also put you into position to Strafe stragglers or Clip artillery wagons.
- Strafing - Strafing is, in essence, attacking a group of enemies at high speed. Get your speed up - between 60 and 80 is ideal - and pick your closest target. Take several turns to plan out your approach, and check your target’s weapon arcs carefully. A rear strike is ideal on a Mutant Marauder, but not a good idea against a Poltergeist. NEVER aim straight in at your target, aim slightly to one side. Keep your speed up as you make your attack run, fire a few times, then move on to the next target. You don’t need to kill your target, just sting it. Then you can move onto the next target or break off and set up for another run.
Related to strafing is Clipping. AI cars with Grenade Launchers and Mortars can be deadly because they tend to hide behind their consorts while showering a squad with high-explosive rain. But a muscle car or two can sometimes loop behind the consorts and knock out or distract an artillery vehicle. Even if the artillery is only distracted, you've bought your teammates a moment of respite from the falling shells.
Clipping an artillery car is risky, but can be done with enough speed. Drop your speed to 40 as you start firing, concentrate your fire on one armor facing, and get your teeth in. If the target or another car seems to be turning for you, accelerate out of danger, rinse, and repeat until your target is dead.
- Dueling - This is the opposite of Strafing. You’re getting in, going in for the kill, doing it for the thrill. As the name suggests, you’re going for a single opponent, and you’re not giving up until they’re dead in the desert.
First, know your opponent. Know exactly what weapons it has, know his firing arcs, and figure out how to get your teeth into him without getting bitten. In almost every duel, you WILL be outgunned, use your maneuverability to stay out of his fire zones. Taking some fire is all right, but spread it out among your sides, but focus your fire on one or two of his facets. Watch your ammunition level, and leave your opponent lamed and burning.
- Chasing - During trader hunts, this is where the muscle shows its true strengths. While your heavier allies are hammering the cargo escorts into scrap, your job is simple: keep the cargo from getting away.
Communicate with other chasers, make sure all of the runners are covered and none get to 350 meters.
Runners are fairly dumb AIs, they run away from the closest player. You can use this to your advantage if you can get one muscle in front of the pack, they’ll turn back toward your heavies or scatter into rough terrain. Most runners have heavy rear guns, so don’t get too close. With enough carnage among the escorts, traders will demoralize, but to maximize salvage, it’s a good idea to start shooting at traders when the escort is mostly demoralized. This increases the runners’ stress level and brings them closer to demoralizing. You DON’T want to actually breach them unless you’re in serious danger, but stressing them can shorten the scout by several turns.
Of all the cargo vehicles, Trade Runners are the sole exception - you want to kill them, or at least silence their guns. They very rarely carry good cargo, and their heavy artillery can be lethal to chasers. The best tactic for bringing a Trade Runner down is to use two cars to go at its flanks and front and kill its engine. If you can't spare a second car, use terrain to shield yourself from its guns until you can get beside it. Get your teeth into its flank, and don't let go.
For an all-muscle squad, forming a line like a conventional scout squad is a recipe for suicide. I've found that the best strategy revolves around breaking your force into units of 2 or 3 cars each, and each attack group picks a target to duel. Running for a time is a good way to break an opposing force up, and then the attack groups can turn on individual enemies. Go in fast and hard, and kill the enemy as fast as possible.
Turn By Turn
Once the bullets start flying, fighting with a muscle becomes brutally simple: stay out of your enemy’s fire zones and keep your guns on your opponent. Have a working knowledge of the basic Somerset NPC designs and what gun is on which facing. While avoiding fire is always a must, especially avoid rocket launchers, HMGs, and MMLs - the kinetic impact can badly affect your handling. Pick a target facing and pour your fire into it.
Knowing your car is especially important for muscle drivers. For your first couple outings with a chassis you’re not familiar with, take it out with a group on relatively low-risk scouts until you’re used to the handling. Alternately, load it into DW: Tactical and take it through some paces, get used to how it handles on sand and rock and asphalt.
The Slope Turn
Use terrain wisely. If you need to turn around quickly, you can climb up a slope and use it to shave a turn or two off your turning time. When your front wheels are on the slope, turn your steering wheel all the way and keep it there until your front is below your back, and then start countersteering out. Be careful, as this can sometimes expose your top armor, but it's a useful trick.
This is fancy verbiage for using your buddies as bait. Keep an eye on all your buddies - enemies who are going for your wingman can be vulnerable themselves to a sustained side or rear attack. And if an enemy is on your tail, you may be able to lure it into your allies' loving embrace, if you don't mind losing some armor in the doing.
A Note On The Handbrake
Used properly and sparingly, the handbrake can be the best medicine for a tight situation. But like all remedies, it's best used in moderation.
When you're moving at high speed in a tight turn, the handbrake can sometimes enable you to turn 180 or 270 degrees in a single turn, at the cost of a fair chunk of your speed. This can be very useful at the end of an attack run, but losing that much of your speed can be lethal. Use with caution.
Phoenix - The venerable Phoenix is probably your first muscle car, as it’s the most common in Somerset, and even as you move onto better muscles, Phoenixes remain the best option for training drivers, because replacements can always be found. I’ve found them generally forgiving of newbie driving mistakes. Like all muscles, they have a tendency to drift and tend to lose armor to terrain.
Sunrise - The Phoenix’s twin. The Sunrise and Phoenix are identical in the garage, with identical armor, engine, and bulk characteristics. But out in the wild, the Sunrise is quite different from its sibling. The Sunrise tends to handle differently, softer and with a pronounced drift. After turning at high speed, it’s not uncommon to drift on your original course for several turns. The Sunrise demands planning four or five turns ahead. For all its faults, the Sunrise is marginally faster than the Phoenix and tends to lose less armor to terrain.
Voyager - The Voyager's a controversial muscle, sitting where it does right on the border between the the muscles and sedans, but with a 3.2L engine and light weapons, it's a joy to drive. A bit slippery offroad, it boasts a very tight turning radius and the largest killware space of any of the common muscles, but beware its lighter armor. One good setup uses twin Machine Guns or Gatling Guns to make a versatile interceptor with room for lots of spare ammo or a second gunner to carry home the loot. Drop the tire pressure and increase the length and stiffness a few points, and use it for hit and run attacks. For extra firepower, try a Rocket Launcher/Gatling Gun or a Micromissile Launcher/Medium Machine Gun.
Vampire - It’s easy to see the rental Desert Striker as representative of the Vampire, even to take it for a spin, but the rental’s Standard Tyres cripple the Striker’s beautiful possibilities, and lead many to underestimate this beautiful interceptor. The Vampire drives like a Phoenix on steroids, but the increased responsiveness comes at the cost of 10 bulk. The Desert Striker build is almost overgunned, because with the HMG, you don’t have room for a single reload with a gunner. Switching the HMG for an MMG, you make one of the best combat cars in Evan, because then you can fit in a gunner, a reload and a Light Rocket. This build is one I’ve used to solo-kill Poltergeists and Mutant Bombers, and once scored three kills in a single scout. The Vampire truly shines with a 3.2 v8 under the hood, which lets you fit in a Medium Rocket Rack. On the other hand, the Vampire seems to be a bit more fragile than the Phoenix, so use it with care.
Bullet - It’s easy to dismiss the Bullet as a Redneck Racer, since it is a Ford Fusion, the NASCAR car. But I’ve found the Bullet to be a surprisingly flexible hunter on the battlefield. It’s a fair sight faster than either the Phoenix or the Sunrise, and very maneuverable. With a good driver, I feel like my Bullet is reading my mind, like it’ll do precisely what I ask it to, with a minimum of drifting. Low bulk is certainly an issue, but with a Medium Machine Gun and a Mini Rocket Pod or a Light Rocket, the Bullet is a nasty little predator. Like the Vampire, the Bullet truly shines with a V8 under the hood, which frees up space for more ammo or weaponry.
Buccaneer - The Bucky is one of the larger muscle cars, but it also has a slightly lower armor value. On the other hand, being able to fit a 5L engine, a MMG, and a gunner in makes it SPEEDY. Or you can fit in a 4L and free up 20 bulk for reloads, One-Shots, or even a secondary Gatling for your driver. I’ve seen a few people mount an Anti-Tank Gun in a Buccaneer, but that takes it out of the Muscle category and places it into a Sedan class, tactically, because there is NO WAY you can maintain speed and control while firing an ATG.
Flash - The Mini Muscle. With a 2L engine, it’s almost as fast as a 4L Phoenix, and it is so light and fast that it’s a joy to drive. The downside is, you have paper armor, not much of it, and you will have 40 bulk with a gunner. That’s enough for a MMG, a reload, and a Light Rocket. I wouldn’t recommend mounting anything heavier than a MMG on this chassis, it’s very susceptible to recoil, and extremely fragile.
Pike - The Pike is the Sunrise’s bigger, nastier brother. If you think a Sunrise is too bouncy, walk straight past this baby. Fire 1 shot from a MMG and watch this thing bounce for 4 turns. Sitting still and getting shot will leave you bouncing wildly and struggling for traction and any ability of escape. Even under MML or MG fire you may find yourself stuck for 4-5 seconds hoping it doesn't roll. All that said, it drives over the rough stuff real well (with care) and is fast. Takes some time to get used to the handling (ghost)and tends to understeer heaps into a corner (especially if you fill its huge engine bay with motor) and oversteer once it does start to turn. Once you do get used to this though and drive accordingly, she's a dream to drive and the low-speed maneuverability is amazing. Reasonable armour. - Bastiel
Flail - The Flail has almost sedan-like bulk available and heavy armor. Well, it's more like driving a mini SUV than a musclecar depending on how you arm it, but for a musclecar, boy does it have a lot of armor and almost as much capacity as the Osprey - FireFly
I've found the Flail a very versatile car if used properly. It's easy to look at all that bulk and armor and think of it as a 'win button.' It isn't. Make a wrong move in the Flail, and you'll be lucky to live to regret it. With a 4L under the hood, its acceleration is substandard, and it really needs a 5L or better for optimal performance. Its maneuvering isn't bad, but like a lot of sedans, its best maneuvering happens under 30 MPH. Use it like a Phoenix or Sunrise, and your Flail will die. Use it as a heavy support car to back up your lighter muscles, and it will serve you very well.
Fully armoured up with B armour, the Flail weighs over half a tonne more than the smaller muscles, which on the upside allows you to mount some heavier weaponry, however whatever engine you mount, it's pretty slow at accelerating. Though, it doesn't stop accelerating, even when you're hitting 200mph+. With a 5LV8 under the hood (which you really need), you'll have room for a MMG/GG layout or something similiar with two reloads for the MMG, & one for the GG, which works very well if your driver has some gunnery skills. Handling wise, it's a big heavy muscle car so you can't expect much, though it doesn't do that badly. It does tend to get locked in a slide if you're running at speed trying to focus fire on a slow moving target, though the armour strength & points allows you to be a little "braver" than you would in any other muscle. Final note is that in close quarter combat, flooring the gas, leaving the handbrake on & fully turning the wheel lets' you turn 90 degrees plus in a single turn, which makes the Flail a very formidable chassis, though you really need a 5L or better otherwise it's far too slow. - Tez
The Flail also has a wide turning radius that should be accounted for. With a 3.2Lv8 and a HCR or Laser it makes a good sniper. - Tango
Osprey - It has decent handling, not the best, but there are worse. The main issue is that if you get locked into a slide, it can take some turns to get back to moving straight. The main strength lies in its huge capacity, with a crew of 2 and a 3.2lv8, you still have room for 110 bulk worth of weapons, for example, a HCR/HMG combo works surprisingly well, but the real fun with that is that it's the most heavily armed musclecar around, and kicks the living snot out of other muscles, if you can handle the weight... - FireFly
Roadrunner - It handles like a heavy Phoenix. It has the chassis strength of a Chomper. With the addition of a HUGE motor capacity, this car might fly if not for the downforce supplied by the extraordinarily large rear wing.
It is VERY rare to find one of these beautiful cars. You might not want to risk it ANYWHERE once you do find it. If you do find one, you`ll be pleasantly surprised at it`s armor capacity and bulk available. - JD Basher
Moray - No middle ground really, people seem to either love them or hate them. Morays are a bit pricey for something with less armour than a Pho, but they will take a 5LV8 unexposed, making them a speedy travel car. They do VERY well with a 3.2LV8 under the hood. Like the Sunrise, they can be a bit drifty at high speeds, do not expect radical changes in direction, and this chassis can be quite unforgiving if you oversteer, though they rarely turtle. There is, however, definitely a learning curve to overcome when using this chassis. Expect to spin out and lose all of your momentum if you expect too much.
At slower speeds, such as when the dogfight has gone to hell, you can get a 90 degree turn out of this car, easily, assuming you have no major recoil happening from weapons fire, and a good bit more if you like using the handbrake. You can stay inside the turning arc of most NPC vehicles with ease, chewing away at them the whole time. As with all muscle cars, recoil can be an issue with heavier weapons. Personally, after a good bit of trial and error, I have found that an MMG/MG combo works very well. An MMG/MMLs combo is effective as well, but one must keep in mind the ammo limitations MML have. As with any muscle car, DON'T STOP unless it's going to give you a BIG tactical advantage. The Moray can be a bit more forgiving in slow-speed situations than other muscle cars due to its tight turning radius, but it's best not to get INTO that situation if you don't have to. -Rev. V
Corghette - A dead sexy little racer - the Corghette is closest in handling to a tighter Vampire with one major difference. On rough terrain, it's entirely possible to get the Corghette stuck nose-and-tail on terrain, with none of its tires in contact with the ground. If it doesn't get stuck, it's a very responsive and deadly car, with 5 more bulk than the Vampire. Like the Vampire, the Corghette shines with a 3.2LV8 under the hood. Properly handled with an eye for terrain, the Corgy will serve you very well.