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Subject: Robo Rally 2016 Design Notes rss

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Richard Garfield
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I just found out today that the new version of Robo Rally is out. I have been so out of the loop that it was a complete surprise - I wrote Hasbro an email in September asking about it because that was when I was told it was to be out - and I never got a response.

I stumbled over the game in the back of a local game store. Looking at the package I could not even tell it was the new version. I read the text and looked at the picture, looking for some sign it was the new version - eventually I spotted the priority component - which is new - and so concluded that I was in fact looking at the new version of the game..

Of COURSE this game should have a separate page. It is a different game. It is so different that I intending to publish it with a different IP when I wasn't getting any response from Hasbro. But, the people who made the decision to keep it on the old RoboRally page are not entirely to blame - Hasbro apparently went out of their way to make sure it looked like the old RoboRally in every way. It is for that reason I am writing these notes, I feel the player should be able to find some description of the differences and their reasons from a semi official source.

I don't want people who like RoboRally to get this version and be disappointed because it is not what they expected. So let me tell you as the designer what I was trying to do and why. In the following notes I will refer to old Roborally as RR Classic, and new Roborally as RR Rebooted.

The Origin
Koni, my wife, was lamenting the fact that we seldom play my games except when they are under development. This is because when I play games with which I have finished the design I feel bad whenever I see a flaw. Generally when I force myself to play I enjoy myself, but that is my nature. When it came to RoboRally I really had trouble with the flaws, in part because it is one of my earliest designs and I care deeply about it. She suggested I redesign it using my 25 odd additional years of design experience. The more I thought about it the more I liked that idea so I began to think about a RoboRally reboot.

The Deck

The biggest change was players getting their own deck of program cards. This helped with at least two of my problems. First, it flattened the distribution so the chances of getting a usable hand was much greater. It killed me listening to players whine about getting all turns. With the individual decks you can still get amazing hands or hosed - but players almost always have something usable. Second, I hated wrangling the cards. The dealer in RR classic has to deal hands of different sizes which is a small but omnipresent annoyance. If you have a designated dealer it might feel great - but as that dealer in my group I found it tiring - and was amazed at how much faster things went when players kept track of their own decks.

This shouldn't really be thought of as a deck building game - changing your program card pile for the better does happen in a minor way - but the individual decks is much more about flattening the distribution and speeding the game up.

Damage
While someone might be disappointed the game isn't really deck building it is completely deck destruction. The personal decks allowed me to revamp the damage system. In RR rebooted damage is represented by adding bugs to your personal decks, which are blank cards - thus - probabilistically acting somewhat like the old damage which results in a player being dealt less cards. Rather than power down to get rid of your bugs - you must program them and they generate a random move but then disappear.

This made the game much crazier in a way I liked. In RR classic players would power down after a few damage or press their luck. Powering down was skipping a turn, which is a bit of a drag. For this reason players would tend to press their luck more than they should - not because it was a good move but because they would be bored skipping a turn. In RR rebooted players have more options when taking damage and they are generally less boring. A player can ignore their damage for a while, pressing their luck in a similar way to RR Classic, getting smaller and smaller probabilistic hands. A player can find a safe-ish corner and get rid of a lot of bugs, thus effectively 'powering down'. Players now have the option of playing just one or two bugs on a hand in a way that might not hurt them too badly, or even, if they are clever and lucky, help them.

In RR Classic conservative players would bounce between hands so large they don't risk too much on their program, and skipping turns to maintain that advantage. In RR Rebooted all players must deal with the chaos of a damaged robot, a conservative player can take less chances but they will be flipping random moves at some point and adding to the chaos of the game.

The new damage system also allowed new types of damage. So there are Trojan Horses, which when programmed are removed but replaced with TWO bugs. This means you temporarily make your deck worse cleaning up trojan horses - best perhaps to ignore them. Viruses when deleted are put into the decks of nearby players. The blue screen bug simply reboots your Robot, restarting it as if it had driven into a pit or off the map.

Option Cards

In RR Classic players often felt there weren't enough option cards being played. This was sometimes solved by players being dealt one at the start of the game or with some similar fix. I didn't really like that sort of fix - because the option cards were pretty swingy, and getting some crazy option because you took time out of the race and rolled the dice is one thing - but just being dealt it at the start didn't feel right.

Another thing that didn't feel right was that, in a way similar to the decision to power down, the correct play wasn't always the fun play. It was often incorrect to go out of your way to get an option - this is a race after all. Players would do it, however, because they thought options were fun. Wherever one can, it is a good idea to make correct and fun play line up.

So my solution was to give all players a hand of 3 option cards and some energy. The option cards have an energy cost - and players can get energy through their program or picking up energy from certain squares on the board. The cost allowed me to balance the options a little better, and giving players a hand of options allowed them to pick the option that supported their play. If your cards weren't to your liking or if you played them all you could purchase new cards for 2 energy, which would go to your hand. Players can still go out of their way for more energy at the cost of speed in the race - effectively getting more options - but even a player focused entirely on racing will be getting options.

I have not played RR Rebooted as published - but it looked like they were replacing this system with some sort of 'shop' you bought from. I am skeptical it is as good as what I had but I hope I am surprised. If it isn't, I you might try as this document suggests.

Priority

Priority wasn't a big deal to me but with everyone having their own deck little numbers weren't going to work as well. I played around with a few different methods of determining which robot had priority and settled on a fixed transmitter on the board - whoever was closest had priority. Ties were broken in a clockwise sweep. (I haven't seen the rules but discussions here on BGG make me think there must be an error in the rules or examples - it is really quite simple).

This had some minor effects on the game, which I liked but may not be to everyone's taste. When robots are in a position they might interfere with one another it is often easy for the player with priority to do so, in more subtle ways than before, since they might push with low speed cards. I found in my games that I was making more programs that took into account the fact that I might be pushed and I didn't know how far - rather than simply playing my highest priority card and hoping to get out of the way first.

Conclusion
I hope this helps show players of RoboRally what RR Rebooted is about. I was worried about putting this really different set of mechanics on a game that many players liked as it was - it was one of the reasons I did a poll on BGG 2 years ago. If you really like RR Classic you may be disappointed because I am fixing problems you don't have. But if some of what bothered me resonates with you, maybe you should take a look.





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Jack of Clubs
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Thank you so much for this explanation! As a huge fan of RoboRally, I am naturally a bit apprehensive when something about it changes. This looks pretty good though. Yes, it's not the same RoboRally, but it seems to scratch the same itch that the older version did. I look forward to playing this version.

The thing I am most curious about is the composition of the individual decks. What cards are in there, and how big is the hand size?
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David desJardins
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One nice thing about RR Classic is that it scales pretty well to shorter or longer games. It seems like the scaling in RR Rebooted might be less robust: in short games you can practically ignore damage, because it takes time to build up. The cost of taking damage depends on how close you are to the end of the game.

I also wonder about separating the spawn points from the flags. This seems like it invites abuse/manipulation, is that intentional?

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Jonathan Morton
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Phelddagrif wrote:
If you really like RR Classic you may be disappointed because I am fixing problems you don't have.


I really like RR Classic and I'm excited that you're fixing problems I didn't have! It sounds like a great new version and I'll be very happy to have both in my collection. Thanks for making the effort to get this published.
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Stefan Lopuszanski
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As others have said, thanks for the designer notes. Would love a longer write-up detailing your design over time if you could. Things like this are always great for aspiring designers to read.
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Ben Kyo
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Thank you for taking the time to write this.

Now we just need someone to buy the game and find out how much has been changed from the intended design...

I've been without a copy of Roborally since giving away my complete set of the original game and expansions to a friend about 12 years ago (I was/am in Japan, the game wasn't, my mother moved house, it needed rescuing), so I am very tempted to pick up this new edition.
 
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Luis Canela
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well i want to buy it, but, it was difficult to know which is the new edition even for you, imagine how will it be for me?

I have a very old version of RR (not same as the picture appearing in BGG) so wheenever I see a different box I know is newer than mine, but, how to know is the new new version? especially I was thinking to buy online.

Thanks for all the info.

by the way, can we use older maps in this new version?
 
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Luca Giordano
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lcanela wrote:
well i want to buy it, but, it was difficult to know which is the new edition even for you, imagine how will it be for me?

I have a very old version of RR (not same as the picture appearing in BGG) so wheenever I see a different box I know is newer than mine, but, how to know is the new new version? especially I was thinking to buy online.


I think that the easiest way is to check the number of players ... 8 players for RR classic, only 6 for RR rebooted.
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Xelto G
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DaviddesJ wrote:
One nice thing about RR Classic is that it scales pretty well to shorter or longer games. It seems like the scaling in RR Rebooted might be less robust: in short games you can practically ignore damage, because it takes time to build up. The cost of taking damage depends on how close you are to the end of the game.

Start short games with damage cards already in your deck.
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Marshall Miller
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How exciting! I can't wait to check out the new edition - RR has always been one of our favorites.
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Daniel Kearns
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Holy crap!

I really want to love Roborally but I really reallyreally hate it for all of the reasons you mentioned. The fixes you describe sound fantastic!

I WILL be picking up this new version! Thank you!!!
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This Garfield fellow seems like he might have a future in game design.
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Andy Latto
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Thanks for all the info about the changes in the new game, and the reasons for them! I like the old game, and think I will like the new game even more.

Phelddagrif wrote:

I have not played RR Rebooted as published - but it looked like they were replacing this system with some sort of 'shop' you bought from. I am skeptical it is as good as what I had but I hope I am surprised. If it isn't, you might try as this document suggests.

Can you provide the details we need to play the designed version of the reboot? Specifically, the details of how and when you get energy would seem to be needed.
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Kevin Jonas

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Interesting. Thanks for the explanation. The actual rules are a bit different than the explanation.
 
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David desJardins
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I hope Hasbro will post the rules on the web.
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Mike Gallo
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DaviddesJ wrote:
I hope Hasbro will post the rules on the web.


This is the number one thing holding me back from picking up this version. As exciting as I am for a new way to play RR, I find that I can usually either find a video of the game or just download the rulebook myself. I'm willing to take a risk on if I'll like a game or not, but I want SOME information going into it.

If there is anyway that an insider could get a digital copy of the rulebook in the files section, I think we would be most grateful. whistle
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Richard Garfield
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Quote:
The thing I am most curious about is the composition of the individual decks. What cards are in there, and how big is the hand size?


In the original documents I have the following:
Each player gets a 20 card deck, 3 left, 3 right, 1 U, 5 one, 3 two, 1 three, 1 backup, 2 again, and 1 energize.

Again and Energize are new - again does nothing as the first instruction and repeats the previous instruction otherwise. Energize gives one energy, used for buying and playing options.

Handsize is the same - 9 cards.

Quote:
One nice thing about RR Classic is that it scales pretty well to shorter or longer games. It seems like the scaling in RR Rebooted might be less robust: in short games you can practically ignore damage, because it takes time to build up. The cost of taking damage depends on how close you are to the end of the game.


The way I figured it was damage was close to half as bad as RR Classic. You are cost a card every time you go through your deck, which happens every two turns. As you get more damage the effect diminishes in two ways - your deck becomes bigger, and your chances of chaining bugs (playing 1 and getting rid of more than one by rolling them from your deck) increases.

I tend to play longer (not super long - but 4-5 checkpoints) more damage-y games - with lots of doubling back. I did not consider much shorter games and if hasbro didn't the damage might be underwhelming for short games. My first fix would be to double the laser damage on shorter races. Very short races probably just won't work as well, however, so this may simply be a weakness with the new system.

Quote:

I also wonder about separating the spawn points from the flags. This seems like it invites abuse/manipulation, is that intentional?


I was really concerned with players driving into pits to respawn at more favorable points. I wasn't against that happening, but didn't want it to be common place or too abusive. My conclusion with playtest was that if you were careful with your race construction you could minimize it but not eliminate it, which was fine for me. Often the extra damage you get with reboot and the lost part of a turn made it marginal or detrimental to do.

Quote:
by the way, can we use older maps in this new version?


Yes, with some fiddling. The only tricky part is the respawn point. You can choose any square on the map to be a respawn point but some are going to work better than others. Central open squares are best probably. Alternatively you could just use the old 'backup' rule and have respawns be at the last checkpoint or flag you touched.

Quote:
Can you provide the details we need to play the designed version of the reboot? Specifically, the details of how and when you get energy would seem to be needed.


Since I haven't seen the final version I am not sure what has changed. One thing that I know has changed though is the options. The original rules for the options were as follows:

Players begin with 3 option cards and two energy. By paying the option card cost the player can use the card at any time (I didn't see any timing issue with this but left it up to development to make sure of). Players can also, at any time, buy the top card of the option deck for 2 energy. There is no option handsize limit.

Players get energy by playing their energy card (1 energy), being the first to a pitstop (there is one energy on each one), or starting their turn on a pitstop. The flow of energy from your deck is hard to predict and somewhat under a players control. If you are lucky and skip half a turn you can program Energy - again - again and get 3 energy on your journey through your deck. Some players will, however, not even play their one guaranteed energy because they see the movement situation as being too important.



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Chris Laudermilk
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Another thank you for the original post.

I have an old WotC edition copy that is very, very well-used. My group didn't really have any of the issues the new version is supposed to fix, so we are not a good audience for it.

I like the concept of the introduction of bugs, but for me that is outweighed by the individual decks. Just don't like that aspect at surface glance.

Options were never an issue with us. Sometimes someone would score a crazy one and run around hosing everyone. No big deal, the game was hilarious fun & watching the now-terminator Twonky (for example) shooting everyone up was as much fun as trying to win the race. Of course with us, Twonky was more likely to blast himself into a hole or off the board. Which was just as entertaining.

Anyway, I'll wait to play someone else's copy and continue to enjoy my "Classic RR."
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Kevin Jonas

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Mr. Garfield, you can check out Matt and I talking about our first play through on this thread.
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1688161/why-are-there-no-re...

The option cards work similar to King of Tokyo. You deal out number of players plus 1 to a common market. At the beginning of the round in order of priority people have a chance to buy a card. You do not start with any energy cubes. You have to pick them up or play the energy card. One guy played power up, again, again, and then next round bought the temporary card that gives 3 energy. It was an interesting start for him.

I believe the card distribution is the same.

Unless we missed it in the rule book we didn't see a way to get rid of damage cards. However, they weren't much of a problem. We played a 2 flag 2 board game to get acquainted with the rules. We ended up going through the entire Spam deck (generic damage) and quite a bit of the specialty damage. I don't think anyone played a damage card. We wondered what would happen in a longer race, would we run out of cards? Now that makes me think we missed a way to get rid of cards.

I am hoping for more custom cards. There are like 5 or 6 cards you can purchase to put into your deck, so kind of deck building. I would like to see more of that. Or maybe a set of cards always available for purchase, but more expensive. So you can either buy the cheaper option cards or save up for a big card.

While there was always room for expansion I think some of these new rules allows for more possibilities.
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Richard Garfield
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Quote:
Unless we missed it in the rule book we didn't see a way to get rid of damage cards. However, they weren't much of a problem. We played a 2 flag 2 board game to get acquainted with the rules. We ended up going through the entire Spam deck (generic damage) and quite a bit of the specialty damage. I don't think anyone played a damage card. We wondered what would happen in a longer race, would we run out of cards? Now that makes me think we missed a way to get rid of cards.


Huh - I am not surprised damage wasn't an issue on the short race you describe but I am surprised you ran out of damage cards and it still wasn't a problem. I wonder how many damage cards they put in the game? I would think there would be at least 60 for 6 players and I would have gone to 120. In fact thinking about how many you need I would probably consider some sort of rule allowing players to consolidate damage to higher denominations if it was an issue in playtest.

The ability to get rid of damage was one of my favorites - I hope that hasn't disappeared. The rules (in case it did) was that you could program a bug and it would be removed from your deck - but when revealed in your program would be replaced with the top card of your deck. You could chain several bugs together in this way, so if your robot was really messed up you could perhaps heal a bit faster.

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Lee Fisher
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Coolstuff lists 74 damage cards

Quote:
Contents: * 6 double-sided game boards
* 1 double-sided start board
* 6 robot figures
* 6 reboot tokens
* 36 checkpoint tokens
* 1 plastic priority antenna
* 6 checkpoints
* 48 plastic energy cubes
* 30-second sand timer
* 6 robot player mats
* 40 upgrade cards
* 6 20-card programming decks
* 6 special programming cards
* 74 damage cards
* 1 Vac Tray
* 1 Label sheet
* 1 Game Guide
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Kevin Jonas

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I need to read the rule book. Matt came into the FLGS and and immediately asked me "where did you get that!" He grabbed a store copy while I opened my box. He then grabbed my rules when he got back to the gaming room. While he read the rules the rest of us played Deep Sea Adventure. So if we played it wrong I blame him Yep Matt, throwing you under the bus on the internet!

What you described sounds way more interesting. The two biggest issues I have are the priority and the damage. The rest I knew what you were trying to accomplish and why the change was made, either I liked them or not my style. Though now I wonder how much Hasbro has changed

This is an interesting discussion to see what the designer wanted and the publisher published.
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Hesy
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sirpoonga wrote:
You do not start with any energy cubes. You have to pick them up or play the energy card.


You do start with 5 energy cubes.

sirpoonga wrote:

Unless we missed it in the rule book we didn't see a way to get rid of damage cards. However, they weren't much of a problem. We played a 2 flag 2 board game to get acquainted with the rules. We ended up going through the entire Spam deck (generic damage) and quite a bit of the specialty damage. I don't think anyone played a damage card. We wondered what would happen in a longer race, would we run out of cards? Now that makes me think we missed a way to get rid of cards.


You get rid of damage cards by playing them. If you play a damage card, you remove it and replace it with a random programming card (top of the deck).

If you didn´t have any problems with damage cards, play with the advanced rules on the last page of the rulebook (do not discard the cards you didn´t play this round, just draw up to 9 nine cards).


Phelddagrif wrote:
Quote:
The thing I am most curious about is the composition of the individual decks. What cards are in there, and how big is the hand size?


In the original documents I have the following:
Each player gets a 20 card deck, 3 left, 3 right, 1 U, 5 one, 3 two, 1 three, 1 backup, 2 again, and 1 energize.


Yep, that´s the distribution Hasbro used.

Phelddagrif wrote:

Players get energy by playing their energy card (1 energy), being the first to a pitstop (there is one energy on each one), or starting their turn on a pitstop. The flow of energy from your deck is hard to predict and somewhat under a players control. If you are lucky and skip half a turn you can program Energy - again - again and get 3 energy on your journey through your deck. Some players will, however, not even play their one guaranteed energy because they see the movement situation as being too important.



In the final version engergy cubes are put on special places on the board during setup. You can pick them up by ending a register phase on them. You also get a cube from the supply if you end your 5th register phase on a energy field.
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Matthew Sanchez
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So in my excitement to play I missed 2 things that have come up.

1. Discard damage cards after played - this would not have affected us as no damage cards were played until the last round. However the variant where you keep your hand would make that matter much more. I'm very very in favor of that. That could change everything.


2. Start with 5 energy. Totally would have cause more options. I'm in favor of that.


Side note: we part of our running low on damage cards might have had to do with my getting Dual laser and someone else getting pusher. This resulted in a blood bath for the two leaders. It unfortunately didn't affect the play before the end of the game.

Kevin when are we trying again? I'd also like to see Mr Garfield's starting options rules. This could also be a very big change.

Also Kevin I don't mind being thrown under the bus. Won't be the last time I mess up reading a rule book.
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DAMAGE CARDS
Page 15 of the rules talks about Damage and Reboots. When you receive a damage card, place it in your discard pile. When you shuffle your programming deck, the damage card will be in it.

When you play a damage card in one of your registers, you must take the following steps:
1. Carry out any instructions on the card
2. Immediately discard the damage card by returning it to the appropriate damage card draw pile.
3. Take a programming card from the top of your deck and play it on your current register.

There are 4 types of damage cards.
SPAM - players take one of these when shot by a board or robot laser. When played, you play the top card of your programming deck in that register.
WORM - when played, you must immediately reboot your robot
TROJAN HORSE - when played, take 2 SPAM cards
VIRUS - when played, any robot within a 6 space radius of you must take a virus card from the draw pile

If a damage card draw pile runs out, any player who would have drawn that type of card must choose a damage card of another type.

When I play a damage card in my register and it's another damage card, should I perform the action on the card, keep turning over cards from my programming deck until I get a non-damage card, or just stop at drawing one card and not do the action on the new damage card?

UPGRADING ROBOTS
Each player starts with 5 energy cubes. From the top of the upgrade deck, take the same number of cards as you have players and place the cards faceup next to the draw pile.

At the start of each round, players may purchase upgrade cards for their robots using energy cubes. If one or more cards are missing from the shop, draw cards from the top of the upgrade deck to fill up the shop. If nobody bought any upgrades from the previous round, take the upgrade cards shown and remove them from play. Refresh the shop by drawing new cards from the upgrade deck.

I'm not sure I like the rule about wiping the upgrade deck if nobody purchases them from a previous round.

You can have a maximum of 3 permanent and 3 temporary upgrades. You can buy new upgrades, but you'll need to discard one of your existing upgrades.

PRIORITY ANTENNA
I like the idea of the priority antenna to help the players who have a harder time getting started go first. I might change the location to somewhere closer to the middle of the board to see how it changes things.

I never liked the idea of taking away registers for the reason Mr. Garfield mentioned. It makes for a boring game as you keep getting damaged and the game becomes less fun when you're waiting for everyone else to finish. Initially, I thought it was just going to be junk cards like the bullet cards in Colt Express. I was pleasantly surprised when I read that you can get rid of your damage cards and saw that the virus card actually affects those around you.

Thank you Mr. Garfield for such a good game. I play it with my 12 year old son to trick him into learning computer programming.
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