RoboRally » Reviews » A Year With RoboRally

Author: DoomTurtle
It was in March of 2011 that I first got to play this game. I had heard of it plenty here on BGG, but it was at a monthly meetup that 4 of us sat down and I got to try it for the first time. I had such a fun time that I wanted to add it to my collection immediately. When I made an order two months later, this game was on the list.

I have now played this game a total of 8 times. Some of my family and friends find the game frustrating now and then, but enough of us find it overall enjoyable that it should hit the table regularly over time.

So what's it all about? Let's find out!

:Cue Theme Music:

The Premise:
The computers in a widget manufacturing plant are bored with their daily routine. So the computers have developed a game they play at night when the work day is done, a game called RoboRally. Each computer controls a robot using limited commands given to them from the central race computer. Their robot must be the first to hit all the checkpoints in the correct order to win the race.

Racing a robot around the plant floor isn't as easy as it would seem. There are plenty of hazards to avoid, like lasers, conveyor belts, bottomless pits, and more. Robots can also push each other off course, and shoot each other as well. A damaged robot gets less command choices, making it tougher to get to where it needs to go.

The players take the role of these bored work computers and will choose the commands to program their robots.

The Components:
My version of the game is the latest printing from Avalon Hill, which has some component and rule differences from previous printings.

This version comes with four double-sided game boards, and a double-sided starting board. The game boards are a little thin, but they do their job. They are designed to work with each other, so you can put boards together to make a larger arena. You also get a character sheet for each robot to keep track of damage, lives, and program commands, and a couple reference sheets.

A bevy of tokens is used to keep track of health and lives, and a when your robot has powered down. These tokens are also quite thin.

The best components of the game are the eight robot miniatures and the eight flags, which come with stickers to number them. The only problem I have with the minis is that some of the robots look similar, and are all painted the same silver color, so you can lose track of where you are at on the board, which can be devastating to your turn. If you paint, you will definitely want to pain these, simply to make them more distinguishable from each other.

You also get a sand timer, and two decks of cards, one with the program commands, and the other with optional weaponry.

The Gameplay:
The rules are available online, so I will just do a quick overview of how the game plays.

The board(s) will be set up using the plastic flags, either following a layout from the back of the instructions, or creating one yourself. The starting locations board will be placed next to the main board, and the 2-8 players will randomly get their starting locations for their robot. Each player will have a character sheet matching their robot, 3 life tokens, and a power down token.

Each turn, a certain number of program cards will be dealt to each player, depending on their robot's health, and from these cards, they must choose 5 commands for their robot to perform, in the pre-selected order of their choosing. A robot with full health will have 9 cards to choose from. For each point of damage they have, they get one less card. When a robot takes 10 points of damage, it is destroyed and loses a life token. Since 5 commands must be chosen, once a player takes 5 or more points of damage (meaning the player will be getting less than 5 cards to choose from), previous commands start locking in. So if a player only gets 3 cards on a turn, those 3 cards must be chosen for the first 3 commands, and the final 2 commands will be from the previous turn(s).

The commands are pretty basic. They are Move Forward 1, 2, or 3, Move Backward 1, Rotate Left, Rotate Right, and Rotate 180 Degrees. However, the board is full of walls, hazards, and other things that players want to avoid or land on, so precise programming is needed in order to move your robot where you want it to go. Getting less cards each turn, or having locked commands can make things difficult for a player. Fortunately, after choosing your 5 commands on a turn, you can choose to skip the NEXT turn in order to power down and remove all your damage.

Once everyone has chosen their commands (a sand timer is included to help keep things moving a bit faster), they are resolved one at a time. Everyone flips over their first program card and carries it out. After each card, the board hazards activate, such as conveyors, spinners, pushers, and lasers (including a laser fired from the front of each robot, that can damage the others if in the path). This means, that while choosing your 5 commands, you must take into account any hazards that will move or spin you, and plan the commands after these hazards accordingly. Because once the 5 commands are chosen, those are what will be carried out, no matter what happens to your robot on the board.

It also must be said that robots cannot share a space, which means robots may be pushing each other. Each command card has a number on it, and higher numbers have a priority over lower numbers. A robot will simply be pushed when another robot moves into them, which can have a brutal (and often hilarious) outcome from what that player thought was going to happen based on its programming. A set of 5 cards that were being chosen to gracefully move the robot around a wall and a pit can suddenly find that robot falling into the pit when the commands are activated from one space over thanks to a push from another robot.

The goal is to have your robot stop on each space containing a flag in numerical order. The first player to do that wins as soon as that last flag is landed on.

Final Thoughts:
I see this game as having two ways to approach it. It can be played as a strategy game, which means fewer players and perhaps a larger board. The cards are dealt out randomly, but there is still plenty of strategy, such as keeping your damage low to get more cards to choose from, use the board hazards to your advantage like moving closer to the flags with conveyors, or having the spinners rotate you so you don't have to waste a command on turning, etc. With less players and a larger board to spread out on, the chaos is lowered greatly. I didn't touch on it in the gameplay, but there are also spaces where the robots can land to get upgrades, such as better or more powerful weapons, or movement options.

Or my favorite way to play this game is more akin to a party game, with a small board layout and lots of players. This means that the robots are going to be cramped together, pushing each other around more often, causing plans to fall to the wayside. The chaos is high, but I think it's way more fun to play it this way. There are plenty of better straight-forward racing games out there for those that want a more serious game, this game was just made to screw each other over and watch the hilarious results as players unexpectedly fall into pits, or keep bouncing into the wall they thought they were going to move past. I also like to pass out three options cards to everyone and have them choose one to start with, which also adds to the chaos.

This certainly won't be the type of game for everyone, and unfortunately I have some friends/family that get too frustrated to have fun with it. It's not a game you can take seriously, especially with a lot of players playing, you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the ride. It's fun to root on your "little robot that could" knowing it probably can't. The character cards even provide a little flavor text describing each robot using humor to show that this isn't a game to take seriously.

The worst part of the game is the shuffling between every turn. All the program cards need to be shuffled every time so that they are all available. This part takes the longest, because you want to shuffle well so that players don't get stuck with the same cards from turn to turn. Other than that, everyone is always involved because all the action happens simultaneously.

Following the BGG guidelines, I rate this game an 8. Fun to play, especially when you have a larger group of players that don't want anything too mind melting.

Thanks for reading!

:Cue Credits:

If you would like to read my other reviews, you can find them at my geeklist: A Year With My Games.
Wed May 23, 2012 3:21 pm
Author: DavidvD
Lots of bots on a small map is the way to go. And you have to have at least 4 players to enjoy the game on one map we found. And players have to accept beforehand that there is a lot of luck involved, you are depended on the cards you are dealt and the actions of the other bots. The game is about laughing about the other players bots bumping into walls, getting crushed or falling in pits, until you own bot gets pushed and you get stuck in the flame-thrower. Love it!
Wed May 23, 2012 7:49 pm
Author: Barticus88
Eight bots. Eight flags. One board.
Wed May 23, 2012 8:48 pm
Author: JeVo
14 players on the side lines of the board The Vault.
everyone has chosen his starting position secretly.
the four centerfields are all checkpoint 1.
check point 2 is outside the vault.

Fight your way in, Fight your way out and win.
Wed May 23, 2012 10:23 pm
Author: hakko504
Barticus88 wrote:
Eight bots. Eight flags. One board.
And how long were you planning on playing that one? 8h?
Thu May 24, 2012 7:54 am
Author: Stu Holttum
DoomTurtle wrote:
All the program cards need to be shuffled every time so that they are all available. This part takes the longest, because you want to shuffle well so that players don't get stuck with the same cards from turn to turn.


Buy two copies of the game....then you have the boards to do bigger maps, and you can alternate between the 2 decks of programs each turn, and be shuffling in between moves.
Thu May 24, 2012 1:21 pm
Author: zimonyi
hakko504 wrote:
Barticus88 wrote:
Eight bots. Eight flags. One board.
And how long were you planning on playing that one? 8h?

When we play with six flags, eight bots and unlimited life (meaning you haveall players playing all the time) we finish in roughly four hours. Note that this is with a one minute timer and not the sandglass rules for laying down cards.

Archie
Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:28 pm
Author: shobalk
JeVo wrote:
14 players on the side lines of the board The Vault.
everyone has chosen his starting position secretly.
the four centerfields are all checkpoint 1.
check point 2 is outside the vault.

Fight your way in, Fight your way out and win.


This sounds really fun
Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:36 pm
Author: m22chan
14 bots enter, 1 bot leaves (as the victor)! Its like death race... but with cutsey little robots.
Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:59 am