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VOLT: Robot Battle Arena» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Volt - the suprise hit of PAX 2014 for my group rss

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Colin Marsh
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i played volt a couple weekend's back at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. we rented in from the boardgame library. initially when i saw it i was not exicted as it reminded me of robo rally a game that i would probably need to be paid to play again. as it turned out i couldn't have been more wrong. we thoroughly enjoyed the game, ended up playing back to back games with 4 & even came back to rent it the next day and play again.

overview

volt plays 2 to 4 players. it's a light & quick game. i would guess our 4 player games were 30 minutes or less each time. we were able to easily learn and play the game from the rulebook with no one having played it before.

the theme is programmer-controlled robots battling in an arena. the goal is to score 5 victory points first. victory points are scored by either getting the killing blow on an opponent robot, ending the round on a goal tile, or ( easily the most fun ) knocking an opponent robot into a pit. robots can push other robots by moving into them.

the board & components

the board is a fairly simple grid with 6 scoring tiles numbered one to six along with pits that are placed in a various points on the grid. there is also a central square which repairs all damage to your robot if you end your turn there. the game (i believe) came with 2 double-sided boards so there are a total of 4 different arenas you can play in. all of these arenas are the square and the same size. the scoring squares tend to be located towards the center of the boards where the pits are more variable in their location.

the only other components are 4 robot minitures, dice and some tokens to keep track of damage and special power-ups that can be used as a variant.


mechanics

the mechanics of the game are easy to learn and keep track of. each player has three dice - a red die, a white die & a blue die. they secretly assign these dice to one of two grids that they have - a movement grid & an attack grid. The movement grid gives players the ability to move orthagonally up to 6 spaces. for instance if a player places a die with the value 4 on the left arrow of the movement grid then they will move 4 squares to the left when that die is resolved.

the attack grid allows players' robots to shoot a laser either orthagonally or diagonally in eight different directions. the number assigned to the attack die determines the effect that is triggered when it hits. these give the option to rotate the opponents dice either clock wise or counter clockwise (thereby messing with their plans) 45 or 90 degrees and even the option to push the robot back one square if a six is assigned. this was frequently used in our games where people hoped to knock other robots into the pits.

each round all players assigned their three dice to their choice of movement or attack. there are a few limitations:

-when a die is placed it occupies the space it is on and therefore that space cannot be used again. thus you could not move twice or fire twice in the same direction
-you are also not allowed to assign all three dice to movement, one must be assigned to attack

the order the dice are resolved in is where a lot of the strategy & fun come in. each round all players simultaneously reveal their choices. the dice are then resolved starting with red dice, then white dice then blue dice. beyond that the rules are:

-the lower number always goes first
-if two players are tied, movement goes before attack
-if two players are still tied all remaining dice are totaled for the tied players; the lower total goes first
-if players are still tied random tiles with the numbers 1 through 4 are handed out to the tied players, low numbers go first

i specifically write out these tie-breaking rules because they come up a lot and it's really fun. many times there are situations in the game where it's critical to get the first move or attack and because of this players intentionally use all low values in their programming. if you know going first will allow you to push a robot into a PIT, you might well do this for example.

scoring spaces

in addition to combat and trying to push opponents into pits there is also one space on the board which scores a victory point to any player that ends the round on top of it. this is more difficult than it sounds. the scoring spaces are frequently barraged with laser fire and opponents will often try and push you off of this space. gunning for this space can be particularly dangerous as pits are frequently near them and opponents will plan to direct you into them. each arena has 6 possible scoring spaces. a die is rolled to determine which is active. that space remains active until it is scored. once that happens the space is randomly determined again.

power-ups

after our first game of volt, we decided to toss in power ups. these are hidden and special powers that your robot has; these added a lot of additional fun to the game. examples included:

- an increased movement powerup which allowed you to assign 3 dice to movement in a single round
- a tractor beam power up which switch the position of your robot and the robot that you hit with you laser - this was used successfully to replace one robot with another on the scoring space
- mines - these work liked you'd imagine. you can drop mines on the board which kill opponent robots that move through them. they are particularly deadly when dropped with a red die since opponenets may have planned movement without knowing they would be there.
- magnets - when activated adjacent robots ( and mines) moved with the magnetic robot

there were several others but my personal favorite was

-"hugbot 9000" (not really it's name but this nickname certainly stuck). this ability pushed any robot next to it one space away from it in the same direction. this was very funny. the robot in question spent most of the game moving in and around pits and on several occasions was very successful in pushing others into them. why does no one every want to hug poor hugbot 9000? this was also an example of when assigning low numbers and ensuring priority became very important.

team game

for our third game we played the 2 on 2 team game which was hilarious. the rules are more or less the same. the team has to score a total of 10 points between them. in addition if you kill your team mate that grants a point to your opponent. this led to a lot of chaotic hilarity. my team mate and i spent a lot of time shooting one another. even though this did not result in victory points, it did result in a lot of laughing.

overall

volt was a lot of fun. it works great as a 4 player competitive game and was fun in 2 player teams as well. it's certainly more random as a 2 player team game but given it's short length and how light it is, that didn't much matter. i don't really recall who won only that everyone enjoyed it and wanted to play it multiple times. to me it combines some of the hilarious unexpected outcomes that you get with robo rally but it's much better because the programming mechanics are very simple and not prone to random card draw. there is more than enough randomness when 4 sets of people start moving & shooting and you always feel like you at least got to try and do what you wanted.

moreover while dying will not get you victory points, it doesn't really punish you too much either. you come back in the next round on the edge of the board and can immediately reengage in the action.

the game is also very easy to teach. you can be up and playing in just a couple of minutes. while you definitely need to put some thought into your programming each round, it doesn't lend itself to too much analysis paralysis so the games moves quickly from round to round.

i was also impressed that the instructions suggest a lot of good variations to play. you can do power-ups through a draft, you can randomly assign some number to each player or there's even a power up mode where if you end your turn on the center repair space of the board, you get a power-up.

within a few days of our return from pax, a member of our game group bought the game and we've already arranged a volt tournament for our next board game weekend. i highly recommend this game.
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Emerson @NazcaGames
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Thank you for taking the time to write this great review! I'm glad it was the hit at PAX for you! I always say that it's the people that makes the games great.. you guys rock!

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Adam Robinson

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As one of the gamers in said group, I love how easy and streamlined the rules are. I've always been a big fan of Robo Rally, and Volt really takes it to the next level. Games are fast and furious, with no frustration around the ability to control your robot.

I've introduced it to my colleagues and it now gets some good play at lunch as well.
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Gene Chiu
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aerobinson wrote:
As one of the gamers in said group, I love how easy and streamlined the rules are. I've always been a big fan of Robo Rally, and Volt really takes it to the next level. Games are fast and furious, with no frustration around the ability to control your robot.

I've introduced it to my colleagues and it now gets some good play at lunch as well.


I tried it at Gencon last year and loved it. I used to own RoboRally, but sold it last month. Volt has replace it.

What I didn't like about RoboRally is that for a significant part of the game with few players, there is little player interaction. When one person falls behind or gets ahead, I find you almost end up playing solitaire for a fair portion of the game.

With Volt, it seems like every turn, you interact with other players. Even if you don't manage to actually contact or shoot another player, you always have to consider what they are doing when planning out your move. As the board is smaller with no line of site obstacles, there is always the potential to bump into and shoot someone.
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