Richard Garfield's Robo Rally Avalon Hill Game
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- The board game is a strategic race of survival and sabotage
- Use playing cards to direct robots' moves through the racecourse
- Dodge obstacles and make it to each checkpoint to win
- For 2 to 6 players
- Includes 6 double-sided gameboards, double-sided start board, 6 robot figures, 6 reboot tokens, 36 checkpoint tokens, plastic priority antenna, 6 checkpoints, 48 plastic energy cubes, 30-second sand timer, 6 robot player mats, 40 upgrade cards, six 20-card programming decks, 6 special programming cards, 74 damage cards, vac tray, label sheet, and game guide
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The robots of the Robo Rally automobile factory spend their weekdays toiling at the assembly line. They put in hard hours building high-speed supercars they never get to see in action. But on Saturday nights, the factory becomes a world of mad machines and dangerous schemes as these robots engage in their own epic race. In this board game, it takes speed, wits, and dirty tricks to become a racing legend! Each player chooses a robot figure and directs its moves by playing cards. Chaos ensues as all players reveal the cards they've chosen. Players face obstacles like industrial lasers, gaping pits, and moving conveyer belts -- but those can also be used to the player's advantage! Each player aims to make it to each of the checkpoints in numerical order. The first player to reach all of the checkpoints wins. Copyright Wizards of the Coast LLC. Hasbro and all related terms are trademarks of Hasbro.
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The story says you play as factory computers who have become bored with their existence and thus have setup a bit of fun in the off-time, where you race little factory robots against each other. You lay down a variety of different boards to simulate factory floors that have become rally-race-deathmatch-arenas. Dodge around dangerous obstacles, zoom down conveyor belts, get shot by lasers, and watch chaos unfold as a poorly-played card destroys your best-laid plans. Robo Rally is a game of challenge and chaos. Each turn you get a hand of 9 "programming" cards that have simple instructions. These might be "move forward 1" or "turn left". Place five cards to program your robot- and here's the genius part- players all move at once through the five programming steps. There are also simple rules for priority, but a small mistake on register 1 will mean big chaos happens by register 5. You bump into each other, shoot each other with lasers, and often just mislay your cards and watch your robot wander off toward danger helplessly- blame it on a computer glitch!
New Mechanics Controversy:
I'll try to explain some of the controversy so you can see why the reviews are all over the place for this game. Original game designer Richard Garfield (of Magic: The Gathering fame) returned to make a more modern version of the rules. The original version of Robo Rally had a lot of randomness and could be very prone to frustrating players, so an update was perhaps overdue. As an example: In the old game you would get random "upgrade" cards to add cool things like double lasers or increasing your top move speed. In the old game this random draw meant you could get upgrades that were useless to your strategy while an enemy rides off into the distance. That could be frustrating especially to new players or people who like a lighter game, but long-time players generally learned to accept the quirkiness. Garfield came up with a new system where you would purchase upgrades for your robot, giving you a little more control over what to get, and making your choices more strategic. Avalon Hill, publishers of this game, took Richard's feedback and tweaked it a little so the version in the game doesn't quite match the master's plan. So now you have two different ways that longtime fans are angry- the game was changed, and it was changed in a way the designer says he didn't intend.
So why should you ignore these complaints? The new rule is actually fine. In the new game, you lay out a number of upgrade cards at the beginning of each turn creating a rotating store. Players start with a little bit of bank, and can pick up more tokens as they race. If you're behind, you can wager on finding that big upgrade you need. If you're ahead, you might risk taking some time to charge up to assure your victory. It's actually a really great and fun system that adds complexity to the game, while still keeping a dose of randomness from the old game.
But it's not all roses right?
There are definite flaws to the new version, mostly down to pricing. This will sound odd, but the new version is too inexpensive. At a launch price of around $40USD, they had to cut corners. Robo Rally comes with a lot of components that all need to be issued in good quality, so it easily needs to cost twice that price to make a "good" set. They scrimped in smart places so it's a good package overall, but it does show. As noted, they cut you down from 8 to 6 robots- but how many of us regularly game with more than 6 people anyway? The real cheapskate items are the programming cards- they used mini cards that are maybe 1/3 the size of playing cards, so your'e constantly shuffling tiny cards. I'd gladly pay a little more for full-sized decks, easily the most needed part in the box. Checkpoint markers that you collect throughout the game are cheap paper chits, that's almost inexcusable. However, again, you get a great game in a package that's dirt cheap so far as deluxe board games go. Frankly, this is borderline nitpicking and shows you how serious fans are.
The real killer for some is that the rules in the book are fairly poorly written, with lots of long sentences that don't actually make things clear enough. You'll want to go online and find a fan forum where people are discussing errata if you begin to play this game at all seriously- you'll need a helping hand soon enough. I found that a good dose of common sense will get you up and running in no time, and if there's any confusion you can just make a house rule until you can look it up online. I hadn't played the old game in 5+ years, and I was up and running with the new version in fifteen minutes. What more can you ask for?
If Avalon Hill had launched this as "Robo Rally Starter Edition", I'd be ecstatic. It's a classic game with rule updates that make it way more fun to play. Beginning players and people who get scared if you lay down anything more serious than Catan can play the new version and love it, whereas I've seen a lot of people fail to appreciate the old game. Sure the components are a little cheap, but the package costs what it should. Later on, they could release "Robo Rally Deluxe Edition" with 8 robots and full-size programming cards, and gamers of the world should rejoice. As-is, my girlfriend begs me to play "The Robot Game" regularly, and she often destroys me even though I'm a programmer at my day job. That's how a good game brings people together, so I know it works.
Disclaimer for the old game geeks:
If you're a longtime fan or someone grumbling that Richard Garfield's version didn't make it to the final print, you can find his comments online and patch your game to his ideal with barely any changes to the base game. His idea for the upgrade store, as I recall, doesn't require any new materials at all. Just read his rules and you're done. When the conversion is that simple, it's hard to hold a grudge. Give this new game a try, and you'll love it. It really is a good game (if they'd just print a second edition of the rulebook with errata - that needed another pass).
Wait I'm new here help!
Don't be scared if you've only played Monopoly and you barely know what that "Catan" thing is. The 2016 edition of Robo Rally is a lot more friendly than the old one. Anyone who can follow a list of five directions can get the hang of the new Robo Rally. If you play with very small kids below the 12+ listed age range, there's a game called "Robot Turtles" which is the gradeschool version of this concept. All you need to know is that this is a highly chaotic, slightly random game that rewards skill and strategy. It is best played with 2-6 players, and gets a lot longer the more people you add along with laying more complex boards to play on. Robo Rally even teaches you to think like a programmer, as you have to think 5 steps ahead before you lay your cards. You learn quickly that what you WANT to happen and what DOES happen can be very different. You have to watch the real results and update your mental model to get ahead, a skill essential in programming. You do not need to be a super-analytical person to start playing Robo Rally, but you do have to accept that even experienced people make a big mistake once in a while. You'll eventually blow a big game with a mislaid card, so just laugh it off and bide your time until the next game. You'll show them who's the boss next time!
I loved Robo Rally. It was one of my favorite games but the 2016 edition is of such poor quality that I wished I hadn't opened it so I could send it back.
First, it's now a six player game. This used to be an amazing game for eight players and was one of our go-to games. The rules have changed significantly as well, but not for the better. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy using the old rules with updated components, since my old components have seen a bit of wear, but even that is not an option since they are not in any way compatible with the old rules. I'd be willing to give the new rules a try but the components are of such poor quality I think I'd be embarrassed to bring it to the table.
The robots are painted, which is cool, but there are only six of them and they are rather cheaply made; having hollow interiors rather than the solid pieces before.
I knew the programming cards were smaller and I was perfectly fine with that, since it could help the game take up less table space, which would be a plus. However, all of the cards are of really low quality; so thin they barely have any snap to them at all. This is true of the upgrade cards, as well. I'm afraid to even try to shuffle them.
The checkpoint tokens are now printed on the same thin cardstock as the player mats rather than the thicker chipboard of the reboot tokens (or most other game board tokens.) These will not last long at all. Plus the player mats are on the same pages with these inferior tokens meaning the edges will not be cleanly cut like the previous player mats because they are attached to the card and need to be punched out; leaving nubs on all four edges.
Even the flags, which were a nice transparent acrylic before are now a cheaper, rubbery translucent plastic.
It's amazing that so many very high quality games are being manufactured by relative nobodies on Kickstarter, while Avalon Hill, backed by the third largest toymaker in the world, Hasbro, is churning out complete crap components. Avalon Hill should be ashamed of this edition.
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