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Subject: The RAMifications of programming perils. rss

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Paul Reinerfelt
Sweden
Hörby
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RAMbots is a very good take on the program-your-moves-in-advance-then-execute-genre. Like all Icehouse-games it is quite abstract with all aspects of play represented by coloured plastic pyramids in different sizes.

It is almost inevitable to compare RAMbots to RoboRally. Both involve programming robots to accomplish tasks on a board. Both have their turns divided into a programming phase and a execution phase. Both involve robots that can shot and otherwise interfere with the other robots. On the other hand, where RoboRally has detailed and modular gameboards and nice miniatures, RAMbots is totally abstract. RoboRally robots need to upgrade with new devices while RAMbots come factory equipped with four different beam-devices. The timing of the program execution also differs significantly, more on that later.

As always with Icehouse-games, the cost of the game depends on what you already own. I'm willing to bet that almost everyone on this site can scrounge up a chess-board or checkers-board (otherwise you can just draw a 8x8 grid on a piece of paper) thus making the cost of that effectively zero. The same goes for the screens to hide your programming behind. Just use something that can stand up on its own, like a slightly opened book or something. (You do have books, right? Right?) That leaves us with the pyramids themselves.
For RAMbots you need complete stashes (five large, five medium and five small) in four different colours. The rules specify red, blue, green and yellow but you can of course substitute whatever colours you have. If you don't have at least four stashes of pyramids, you need to buy them. Unfortunately (from the perspective of playing RAMbots), LooneyLabs now distribute pyramids in the form of Treehouse-sets. While Treehouse is a good game, these sets contain only one nest (one large, one medium and one small) of pyramids in each of five colours. To get complete stashes you therefore need five Treehouse sets (in the same colours). This costs a pretty hefty $50 but on the other hand you then have enough pyramids to play almost every Icehouse-game there is (there are very few that need more than five stashes) so it's a one-time investment.

The quality of the pyramids is excellent, they fit snugly into each other and are very pretty. (Playing any kind of Icehouse-game in public inevitably causes people to stop and look.) As an abstract game, there is no artwork whatsoever (unless your particular chess-board happens to be decorated in some way)

The rules for RAMbots are available online and were also published in Playing With Pyramids. The rules are not hard to learn and fall into place after just a few turns. (Of course that does not mean that programs wont get screwed up now and then) The programming differs from RoboRally in two major ways. First, while every player starts out with the same coding resources, once you start to damage robots you steal instructions from them. This both denies them certain possibilities and expands your own. The second difference is in the timing. In RoboRally, everyone gets to run their first instruction, in order of precedence, before anyone runs their second instruction. This is not true in RAMbots. Everybody starts with their first instruction and checks who gets to run their instruction first. That player then immediately replaces the executed instruction with their next in line and another round of precedence checking is done and so on. This way, one player might execute several instructions, possibly their whole program, before anyone else gets a chance. This is the part of playing RAMbots that confuses experienced RoboRally-players the most.

You need to tag beacons in the order of your own goal stack (which means that not everyone is racing for the same beacon) but, in contrast with RoboRally, you can actually tag an upright robot of the right colour instead of the beacon! (You can't tag yourself so that colour needs to be tagged as a beacon)

The floor itself presents no dangers or obstacles in RAMbots (in contrast with RoboRally) but space is limited so the RAMbots interfere with each other all the time. There are no race-ahead problems in this game. Also the open nature of the floor means that someone almost always have a line-of-sight to your RAMbot. Interaction is plenty (and usually not co-operative robot ).

In summary, I think RAMbots is one of the very best Icehouse-games, second only to Zendo.

"Short-sighted programming can fail to improve the quality of life. It can reduce it, causing economic loss or even physical harm. In a few extreme cases, bad programming practice can lead to death."
-- P. J. Plauger

Theme: nuclear
Price: (if you need to buy all the pyramids)
Quality: goldencamelgoldencamelgoldencamelgoldencamel
Artwork: What art?
Ease of Learning: indigoindigoindigo
Weight:
Luck: d10-7
Interaction:
Waiting: snoresnore
Length: cloveclove
Replayability: 5vp5vp5vp5vp

Overall: thumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsup
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Todd McCorkle
United States
Anderson
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Nice review!

I had to comment about the treehouse thing. After pondering for a while, I think RAMbots fits the treehouse marketing/packaging better than most of the older games. If I'm thinking correctly, you only need #players+1 treehouse stashes to play. When setting up rambots, the first thing I do is make a bunch of monochrome trees and hand each player (and the board) one tree of each color. With treehouse, you could just hand a tube to each player and tell them to remove white and do the same with the board.

Now I'm wondering if 2 player rambots will be included in the 3-house booklet I've heard rumors about. Basically, it's a list of game rules that can be played with 3 treehouse stashes.
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Paul Reinerfelt
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Thank you!

Yes, your right. I completely missed that! blush The Treehouse-sets does contain everything one player needs (plus an extra colour). One Treehouse-set per player plus one for the pieces on the board is correct so if you don't plan on playing more than two players you'll only need three sets (and so on).
 
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