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Subject: Robots! The Sixth World War rss

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I bought this game many years ago from my FLGS which has long since closed down. I was initially drawn by the art on the cover – a tracked vehicle firing rockets at some giant bipedal droids in the distance, which are returning fire with lasers. The exclamation mark at the end of the title probably helped on a subliminal level.

Flipping over the ziplock bag that it comes in, I read the short blurb on the back cover. The basic premise of the game was described as a return to Earth two hundred years after mankind destroyed itself fighting the third, fourth and fifth World Wars. The space colonies survived and were returning to salvage the remains. Due to the massive radiation levels still present, robots were used to explore potential salvage sites, and to attack other corporations’ business assets.

The contents of the game are of varying quality. The map is a decent size at about 16 by 20 inches. The map graphics I always felt were rather weak. White for desert, grey for mountains, brown for rough and blue for lakes. Somehow the colours just weren’t appealing in any way. It’s as though they picked the worst brown and the worst grey, and made sure that neither went with the blue. The counters are another story. The information is nice and clear and the artwork is very good. The colours chosen for the two sides are unusual – light blue and rust. Very easy on the eye. The rulebook is nicely set out, with clearly numbered and cross-referenced rules. Some elements are slightly ambiguous and some rules aren’t explained clearly enough.

The object of the game is to destroy your opponent’s factory ships. Depending on which victory conditions you use, you can gain bonuses for salvaging more materiel. Initially, you write down where you want your factory ships to land. If it is then found that you are too close to your opponent, one of you gets to replace your ship a short distance away. The idea behind this is that you wouldn’t land your ship on top of the enemy – they carry more than enough firepower to destroy another factory at close range. You then roll to see which of the three sets of resources marked on the board will be in use for that game. This is a nice touch as it makes sure that there is no perfect position for your initial factory deployment. There are still some hexes that are generally better than others, of course, but no hex has easy access to all the different types of resources.

Now, you get to build your initial robot force. Each type of weapon and chassis has a different cost to reflect its advantages and disadvantages. For example, the tracked chassis is cheap and quite fast in open terrain, but it can’t cross lakes or mountains and is very slow in rough terrain. The rocket weapon is expensive but has the longest range of any weapon and split its fire as well as fire over intervening blocking terrain. The basic chassis types are tracked, droid and hover. The basic weapon types are gun, rocket and laser.

The turns are split as follows: player A moves, player B fires, player B moves, player A fires. So although Player A gets to grab important hexes and resources early in the term, they have to survive incoming fire before being able to take advantage of it.

Combat is simple. Each robot can fire at a target. Add up the value of the guns the robot is using and cross reference it against the terrain the target is in. Roll one dice and you get a result. It could be no effect, a weapon hit, a propulsion hit, two hits or an explosion. A weapon hit randomly affects any one weapon on the target robot – a previously damaged weapon will be destroyed. A propulsion hit affects the chassis, a previously damaged chassis being destroyed. An explosion destroys the entire robot. The combat results table appears to have been designed with robots in mind as the target, but it is also used for attacks against the factory ships. This means that it only takes 5 attack points to destroy a factory. When you consider that a robot can carry 9 attack points and the factories are supposedly the size of cities, this seems a bit easy. Of course, any robot carrying that much firepower will draw a lot of fire, especially from the factory itself.

Each turn, new robots can be built from the materiel you are salvaging. You multiply the number of resource hexes you control by the number of working factories you have. You can then use this total to produce new robots or repair robots, or you can hold it over for later, to make bigger better robots.

After 20 turns, the game ends. The reason for this is that the background radiation is so high it’s unsafe to stay any longer. If you destroy all the enemy factories, you win, because your factory ships can switch its electromagnetic shields to an alternative mode that allows it stay on the surface for several hours but leaves it virtually undefended.

There are a few optional rules that can add a bit of flavour to the game, or make it different for more regular players.
The weather option allows random changes to the weather so there may be mud or dust. Mud slows all except hover robots. Dust represents extreme duststorms that affect the robots’ ability to fire at distance, although for some reason it’s still perfectly simple for hover robots to fly.
There is a nuclear destruct module, which I always enjoyed using when I originally played the game. For the potential damage it can inflict, it has a very low cost, being able to inflict damage across an area 14 hexes wide, which is about a sixth of the mapboard. A nuclear armed robot will be lucky to be detonated, as they will draw absolutely all fire within range.
Electronic Warfare modules have a variety of functions. They can provide bonuses for combat, allow robots to combine attacks with other robots and may even be able to make enemy robots switch sides. For their cost, these are extremely powerful in my opinion, and I have watered down their effects slightly for my games.
Drill robots are allowed to travel underground, adding a bit more complexity to the game and allowing more strategies to come in to play.

The game tends to boil down to whoever loses a factory first will lose the game unless they can redress the balance within a turn or two. Normally, only two of your initial three factories are live, the other is a dummy factory – looks and shoots like the real thing, but has no production value. So if you lose a live factory, your production is cut in half, which means you will start to fall behind in the arms race. This allows your opponent to steal more resource hexes from you, further cutting your production. Unless you have a nuclear device nearing its target, you’d better start praying.

Overall, this game is good fun. It doesn’t take long to learn, it doesn’t take long to play, and the problems I mentioned with the rules are no way big enough to spoil the enjoyment. If you can pick it up for a few pounds, it could be a good deal.
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