Published on May 17th, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
Fight Metal Go Bots!
Gregg Explains: Robo Rally
Robo Rally is a a bit of an old game, but the reprint captures a lot of the chaos and fun of the original version. This evening we gained a player from our previously mentioned roster, bringing us to a seven player game. What does this mean!? Madness!
The game starts with everyone picking a thematic robot token. Matt “The Favorite” picked Trundle Bot, Dave “You’re On Maps” picked Hulk X90, Travis “Buuut Anyway” quickly picked his personal favorite Twonky, Stacey “Why’s Your Face” selected Zoom Bot, Chelsea “Mrs. Wife” picked Twitch (for future reference, Chelsea and Travis are married), Sam “I’m Not Drawing The Map” selected Hammer Bot, while I, “The Explainer,” picked Spin Bot.
There are no special powers or advantages to any of the robots but, like Monopoly, it’s fun to pick your favorite anyways. In addition, we all decided that after the robots were selected we would all start with one upgrade before play began. Upgrades are normally gained when you end a turn on a crossed hammer and wrench icon on the board. These are located in pre-determined locations and they tend to be incredibly hard to acquire given the chaos of the game.
With our robots selected and upgrades distributed, we needed to select a scenario. The back of the rule book gives some sample tracks to work with, but it’s rather easy to improvise or tweak the placement of any track. The game comes with a few double sided play boards, as well as a double sided Start Zone that’s attached to one of the sides. Walls, conveyor belts, pushers, lasers, double lasers, repair locations, and pits being many of the elements strewn on each board facing. Our scenario was called Pilgrimage, and it is set up as a long travel course that back-tracks to add length to the double board map.
After randomly determining order we started the game. At the start of each turn everyone is dealt a hand that is normally nine cards. However if you have damage on your robot then you start getting one less card per point of damage until you reach a section on the damage track known as the Locks. Locks keep cards that are placed in them until the damage marker that activates that particular lock is healed or removed in one of two ways. With your hand you have to setup and designate a move order based on the cards dealt The more damaged your robot is, the less options and flexibility you have and the more luck is involved with how your robot is going to perform.
Once cards are dealt, players start assigning up to five cards to their turn order. The only time you can commit less than five cards is when Locks are occupying one of the five spots. You can’t opt to do nothing in one of the five spots. However, there is a time factor. Once one of us at the table was the remaining person to not have all five spots selected, an hourglass timer is started, giving roughly thirty seconds before time is called, and the player’s remaining cards are gathered up, placed face down, handed to the player on the right, who then proceeds to randomly assign face down cards into the remaining spots. On one turn, I ended up doing this to Matt.
Once all the cards are in position each player must decide if they want to start the following turn as Powered Down. At the start of the following turn, the player removes all damage tokens, but also receives no cards during the phase where you are going to decide what your bot is going to be doing. If you end a turn Powered Down, you may pick at the end of the turn if you want to go into the following turn Powered Down, or activated.
Now, the chaos begins! Simultaneously, everyone goes through phases in a turn. Revealing the current card spot position, everyone checks the number noted at the top of the card. The highest number card is resolved first. Most of the time there’s no problems with everyone just moving simultaneously. After the order is determined players make their bot behave as directed on the card (moving forward, backward, turning left or right, or doing a u-turn). Next, two phases of elements on the board effect players. Conveyor belts move bots along their tracks, spinners rotate bots, pushers shift bots towards danger. After that, all the bots and lasers fire their weapons. Robots shoot in the direction they are facing, static lasers activate, damaging anyone in their squares of effect. Double lasers inflict more damage, as their namesake implies. If anyone is on a Rally Point, they now get to “tag” the location and make progress in the course. If a robot is at any square with a wrench icon, they may now update their re-spawn token, allowing a more advantageous location to rejoin into the chaos of the game, should the bot be destroyed, run off the edge, or fall into a pit.
Once the fifth card is resolved, a final phase is tacked onto the end. If your bot ends their Spot Five action on a wrench square, they may repair one damage after all the previous damage and destruction from five spots has been resolved. If a bot ended their fifth spot action on a crossed hammer and wrench location, they get to draw an Upgrade, in addition to repairing one damage.
If a robot should take enough damage to fill their entire damage track, they are removed from the board. At the start of the following turn, they will re-spawn at their spawn token. If that location is currently occupied, you may select any adjacent square. If a robot should run off the map, or fall into a pit, their damage track stays unchanged but when they return they take two points of damage on their track. At the time of death, you will remove one Life token (you start with three), and you get to decide at that time if you want to start the following turn Powered Down or not.
Earlier I mentioned that all the robots move as they’re directed. However, there’s a couple aspects of movement that throw off and “ruin” the best and well-laid plans. If a robot runs into another, that robot will push the robot they run into in the direction they are heading. This can throw off a planned turn by one to five squares, putting a player in some random location that they would rather not be in.
The entire run ate up a good five hours. Seven bots bumbling and blasting each other into locations they didn’t intend definitely lengthens the game, and can cause some great laughs. Especially when one player’s planned turn would have gotten them to a rally point, but instead they end up dropping into a pit, or off the board. The final tally went as follows:
I lost one of my three lives, but was unable to tag the first rally point. Sam and Matt both tagged the first rally point, but Sam lost two lives while Matt lost one over the course of the rally. Chelsea, Stacey, and Travis reached the second rally point, however Travis was the only one to live past that point. Losing two lives, Travis was able to compete for the final rally point, but Chelsea and Stacey had lost all three of their lives and ended up with smoldering bots. In the end, Dave reached the third and final rally point with only one life lost!
For those curious, the version we played was printed in 2005, by Avalon Hill.