Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

Robo Rally» Forums » Variants

Subject: Incorporating old rules with the new rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Kevin Elmore
United States
Missouri
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've been a huge fan of Robo Rally for the past 22 years. While I enjoy the 2016 version, I found myself wanting to bring back some of the feel of the 1994 version. I have read Mr. Garfield's design notes, and I understand why he did what he did. For the most part, I feel these updates are positive, especially for newer or younger players. Much of what I want to revert to are for the benefit of the more experienced players in our group.

Without further ado, here are the throwback rules I will be playtesting with our more diehard players.

Determining Priority
Why I Get It: With individual decks, you can't have priority numbers anymore. Mr. Garfield chose a simple and elegant system for determining which robot executes its action first with the priority antenna.
But… While the updated rules do provide some tension, a lot of the uncertainty has been removed from the game. Who's going to move first? Can I recover if he happens to move first? The solution—while elegant—also removes some of the nail-biting that was a lot of fun.
Suggested Variant: Priority is determined primarily by the unmodified move card of the robot: First is Move 3, followed by Move 2, Move 1, and then Move Back. Temporary options can be used before cards are revealed or after the resolution, but for the sake of simplicity, a player cannot Boink one square to the left to avoid a collision after seeing the card results. If the conflicting robots play the same move card, then the priority antenna is the tie breaker. Only the unmodified card determines priority. Crab Legs will still act as a Move 1. The Sandbox Routine gives you more control.
Pros: More uncertainty on the board while still giving the players a little more control over who goes first.
Cons: It's an additional step in determining priority. It may provide too much uncertainty for some players' tastes.

Robot Starting Space
Why I Get It: Starting virtual bots got really crowded. With some virtual bots, it was impossible to tell which way was forward. The start of each game can get fiddly.
But… The starting board favors some bots over others. In a short race, the bots closest to the flag usually had the advantage. Even if you put the first flag a couple of boards away, some robots had advantage by having conveyor belts right in front of them while others had to twist and turn before getting out of the gate.
Suggested Variant: There is only one starting space. It can be on the start board or even a factory board. All robots start on that space in the form of cardboard or paper representations. You program as usual and are affected by the board elements as usual (including lasers). The only thing different is that you cannot push or shoot robots while either of you is virtual. After the fifth register, your virtual bot is replaced with a real bot unless you're still sharing a space with a virtual bot. In that case, you remain virtual for next turn.
Since you have the same starting space, nobody has priority at first. Therefore, nobody can buy options while virtual (unless you prefer Mr. Garfield's variant where you have a hand of option cards). If you remain virtual past the first turn, you still cannot buy options, which will offset the advantage you have of going another turn without being affected by another robot.
If the notion of remaining virtual for an entire turn leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you could have a rule that as soon as a virtual bot ends a register without any other bots, he is immediately real, though that could result in mass chaos in such a tight space.
Pros: Each robot starts off at exactly the same number of squares away from the first flag. Each robot has the same access to the fastest conveyor belt or the most treacherous pit.
Cons: It's easy to accidentally pick up another virtual bot or bump him so he's turned a different direction. The quality of the virtual bot can make it tricky to ascertain which way he's facing.

Boards
Why I Get It: Well, it'd be cost-prohibitive to include all of the old boards. I suspect Mr. Garfield figured fans would incorporate their own boards anyway, so why repeat anything? The smaller boards make for a smaller package.
But… More boards, man.
Suggested Variant: The original boards are easy enough to include. You may have to explain the rules for crushers to new players and turn repair sites into energy fields. Many of the newer board elements can remain the same: teleporters, portals, ramps, water. Some would need some tweaking: spaces that swap out options may instead give you energy or swap them out where you pay or are refunded the difference. There may need to be some ad-hoc rulings, such as the hover unit being allowed to bypass water.
Pros: More variety in races.
Cons: If you like lining up the boards perfectly, this will be your nightmare. Original boards are 12x12 while 2016 boards are 10x10. On top of that, original boards have walls along the border, which can cause a chokepoint if two original boards are not flush with each other. This variant requires a lot more discussions in the middle of the game, which could lengthen it.

Damage
Why I Get It: This is honestly my favorite change Mr. Garfield made to the game. I love the spam cards, and I love the hard decisions they can force you to make. There are a decent variety of damage cards to mix things up.
But… You cannot directly destroy a bot. All you can do is plug up his hand until he's forced to play the damage cards—even with the advanced rule. If someone is in your sights, you can only keep firing and make a future hand unplayable. Someone who is on his final stretch won't care about taking damage.
Suggested Variant: Each time a bot adds a damage card to his deck, he also gains a damage chit. Whenever a bot removes a damage card, he removes a damage chit. When a bot accumulates so many damage chits, he reboots. Rebooting involves pulling all damage cards out of the deck and adding two spam cards (and two damage chits) unless you have the firewall. In the original, your bot was destroyed upon taking 10 damage chits. Since that number was tied to the number of cards you could draw each round, there is no longer a requirement to limit it to 10. Maybe 15 damage still provides fun yet is still dangerous. This will require some trial and error to get right.
To truly capture the feeling of the original, the last five damage chits before you are destroyed could lock your registers. Locked registers are not discarded. The locked action keeps firing each turn until you can get yourself to a more manageable damage level. I honestly don't know if I feel this is a good idea or if I'm a victim of nostalgia.
Pros: Makes damage more immediate while not taking away from the fun of damage cards. Destruction of a bot returns damage cards to the pile.
Cons: More fiddly as you have to add and remove both a damage card and a damage chit. All that damage you put on someone is wiped clean when he kills himself.

Respawn
Why I Get It: You no longer have to track where you store your archive. There's a designated reboot point to deal with. In the case of multiple robots rebooting, there's even a method to determine who spawns first.
But… Placement of the reboot token is very important. Put it too close to the flag, and people have motivation to fling themselves off the board for a quick leap ahead. Put it too far away from the flag, and players may become discouraged at having to go so far back. This can be exacerbated on a map where doubling back is required.
Suggested Variant: Each energy field and flag acts as a checkpoint. If you end a register on one of these, then you mark that this was the last checkpoint you touched. The next time you reboot, you spawn on this checkpoint. If another bot is on that checkpoint, you could require the respawning robot to coming virtual, or you could modify the rules so the respawning robot pushes the other one. Designate with player chooses the direction of the push, though I recommend the one being pushed as making that decision.
Pros: This gives players more control as they make an effort to touch checkpoints. If someone respawns near a flag it's because he has already made it that far at least once. You don't have to worry about accidentally placing a reboot token in an advantageous or disadvantageous spot.
Cons: Lots of paper or cardboard on the map. It's easy to accidentally push an archive indicator over when you're moving bots. Runaway leaders will likely remain runaway leaders.

Options upon Rebooting
Why I Get It: With options being bought with energy, it sucks to lose something you worked so hard to acquire. There is an option that lets you steal someone's option, but a) you know who owns it and b) it transfers to you so you can go get your option back. Losing an option completely for falling into a pit is pretty harsh.
But… Maybe you want to play hardball. Maybe you are sick of that player flaunting his crab legs and want a way to make him lose it.
Suggested Variant: When you reboot, you must discard an option. If you wish to lessen the blow, perhaps the player receives energy equal to half the option's cost, rounded down.
Pros: This leads to a more brutal game if that's your thing. It also cycles options back into the market, which may be ideal in a long game. The ease of picking up energy makes the pain of losing an option not as severe.
Cons:: Honestly, I'm not very interested in this variant. I include this because it certainly is a possibility and would be a throwback to the original game. We may try it a couple of times anyway for marathon games.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
↓ first, last name ↓
United States
Fountain Valley
California
flag msg tools
Why is there no Word Games Forum or Subdomain?
badge
There should be a Word Games Subdomain, or at least a Word Games Forum!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Kuildeous wrote:
Determining Priority
Suggested Variant: Priority is determined primarily by the unmodified move card of the robot: First is Move 3, followed by Move 2, Move 1, and then Move Back.... If the conflicting robots play the same move card, then the priority antenna is the tie breaker.

You could even put numbers on the movement cards to break ties further, before having to consult the antenna. For an off-the-top-of-my-head suggestion, number the Move 1's 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; number the Move 2's 8, 9, 10; and the Move 3 is 11. (These go to eleven.) Move Back is 2, and the Agains are 0 and 1. The turns don't need numbers because you can't get into or out of anyone's way when you're just rotating in place.

Pro: You get a bit more control. Your Move 1 (7) is the fastest Move 1, so you'll go before any other Move 1's unless they also used the (7), in which case the antenna determines priority, which is public knowledge. If you play the Move 1 (6), you'll *probably* go before other bots doing a Move 1, etc.
Con: You'll have to mark numbers on your cards. Some players will complain about having to do "math". Planning for priority might make programming take a bit longer.

Quote:
Robot Starting Space
Suggested Variant:....
Since you have the same starting space, nobody has priority at first. Therefore, nobody can buy options while virtual (unless you prefer Mr. Garfield's variant where you have a hand of option cards). If you remain virtual past the first turn, you still cannot buy options, which will offset the advantage you have of going another turn without being affected by another robot.

I really like that! It's a good trade-off for being virtual, and a good incentive to not remain stacked with another bot.

Quote:
Boards
...and turn repair sites into energy fields.

You could even leave them as repair sites: If you end a turn on one, you can get rid of one bug card off the top of your discard pile (or two, if it's a double wrench).

Quote:
Cons: If you like lining up the boards perfectly, this will be your nightmare. Original boards are 12x12 while 2016 boards are 10x10. On top of that, original boards have walls along the border, which can cause a chokepoint if two original boards are not flush with each other. This variant requires a lot more discussions in the middle of the game, which could lengthen it.

You could leave a one-space-wide gap between the old boards and the new boards so that the new ones are effectively 12x12, with a single row of plain floor around them. That way, they stay in a consistent grid and there are no extra walls blocking passage from one board to another.

Quote:
Damage
But… You cannot directly destroy a bot.

Yeah. That's the one thing that bugs me about the new damage system. A bot could theoretically sit there in your way forever, and you can't do anything about it no matter how much damage you do. There's no "death by a thousand cuts". Realistically, if you shoot something enough, you should eventually be able to reduce it to bite-size chunks that you can ignore and won't block your path.

Another possibility is to say that if a player draws a hand with at least X bug cards, the bot reboots immediately. X could be as high as 9, which would make this unlikely, but still possible. Off hand, I'd recommend 6 or 7 - which would mean you only have 2 or 3 programming cards in your hand, and you really should be doing something to get rid of them by that point.

Quote:
Respawn
Suggested Variant: Each energy field and flag acts as a checkpoint. ... If another bot is on that checkpoint, ... the respawning robot pushes the other one. Designate with player chooses the direction of the push, though I recommend the one being pushed as making that decision.

I would suggest that the pushing direction should be determined at game setup, just like you do for the "regular" rebooting point. You can easily designate it by the orientation of the flag - the bots are pushed in the direction that the triangular flag points.

Quote:
Options upon Rebooting
Cons:: Honestly, I'm not very interested in this variant. I include this because it certainly is a possibility and would be a throwback to the original game. We may try it a couple of times anyway for marathon games.

I agree. Since you're not getting rid of any damage when you reboot, having to lose an option in addition to gaining two more damage seems too harsh.

I'm thinking there should be an upgrade, or perhaps a variant rule for all players, that they can spend energy to discard damage. I assume 1 energy per bug card would work. Just a thought (not having played this version yet).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Xelto G
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Yeah. That's the one thing that bugs me about the new damage system. A bot could theoretically sit there in your way forever, and you can't do anything about it no matter how much damage you do.

In a short time, they'll end up with a bunch of damage cards in their hand. So either they'll have to move eventually, either because they got a hand that gave them a limited choice... or they'll have to play damage cards, and take the random selection they get from it.

If anything, they're less likely to remain stationary forever. With the old system, they could power down and remain so until they're ready to move. This way, they're going to move, but with far more limited selection.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin Elmore
United States
Missouri
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I played three players last night with all of these proposed variants except for adding old boards (wanted to see how much bite the new boards could have) and destroying options upon reboot (because I was never that fond of the rule anyway).

As a veteran, these variants felt natural to me. It harkened to the old days. Any extra time added by incorporating these variants were countered by our familiarity of the old rules. Still, I had a few observations about these variants.

Priority: I may make this an official rule in my game. I like the uncertainty of whether the other bot was going first or not. We played on an unnecessarily large board for three players, so we didn't have many collisions, but there were just enough to make this satisfying.

Damage Chits: Being on such a large board, we didn't take a lot of damage. It's hard to judge this. Taking a damage card and a chit wasn't difficult. It was interesting because if you lost track of how damaged or undamaged a bot was, you could count his chits. I initially said that taking more than 4 damage would result in registers locking, but I am leaning toward abandoning locked registers altogether. Playing spam cards is chaotic enough. I'm still on the fence on this.

Same Starting Point: I'm a huge fan of this. Two of us chose IMO the more efficient direction to get to the flag. The third player chose a different direction, but he caught up with us. I feel that would have been less satisfying with the starting board. We placed real robots at the end of the fifth register. We placed the priority antenna on the start space, though it wasn't necessary.

Checkpoints: Using virtual bots to indicate checkpoints is easy enough and added only a little clutter to the boards. I know from experience how messy it can get if multiple bots are fighting over a checkpoint with virtual bot markers on it. We didn't have that last night. One unfortunate side effect is that while two of us touched checkpoints on the way to the first flag (on the second board), one player had not. He got pushed off the first flag and the board and had to go back to the starting position (approximately 20 squares away). This blow could be lessened by having a reboot token on each board with a choice of where to respawn, but part of the challenge of the older version was to manage your save points along the way. I don't think of it as too harsh, but I'm not the one who was flung back 20 spaces.

Shooting off Options: This was not in my original list of variants. I forgot all about this rule until one player asked if that rule carried over from the original. In the original, you could choose to prevent one damage by having an option blown off. I like this rule because it's the player's choice (and the new version doesn't have the laser that targets options). Without damage chits, I probably would not normally consider sacrificing an option to prevent damage. The damage chits may make this seem a more attractive option.

One very minor downside to bringing back some old rules is that it raised some questions about other rules that were changed in this edition. For example, when someone ended his turn on a flag, I was asked if he can heal damage now. I had not considered bringing that rule back because a) there's already a method for removing damage from your deck and b) it would require looking for a damage card in your deck to remove. This question may never have arisen if I didn't use the old flags. Perhaps I don't need to use all the old pieces.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
↓ first, last name ↓
United States
Fountain Valley
California
flag msg tools
Why is there no Word Games Forum or Subdomain?
badge
There should be a Word Games Subdomain, or at least a Word Games Forum!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Kuildeous wrote:
Shooting off Options: This was not in my original list of variants. I forgot all about this rule until one player asked if that rule carried over from the original. In the original, you could choose to prevent one damage by having an option blown off. I like this rule because it's the player's choice (and the new version doesn't have the laser that targets options). Without damage chits, I probably would not normally consider sacrificing an option to prevent damage. The damage chits may make this seem a more attractive option.

Right! This makes for an interesting decision since options have different costs now. While it may be well worth it to discard a 1-option to prevent a damage, you might not want to discard an option you paid 5 energy for. However, now not all *damage* is worth the same amount. It might be worth it to discard a 5-cost option to prevent a Worm or a Trojan Horse, even if it's not worth it for just a Spam.

Quote:
One very minor downside to bringing back some old rules is that it raised some questions about other rules that were changed in this edition. For example, when someone ended his turn on a flag, I was asked if he can heal damage now. I had not considered bringing that rule back because a) there's already a method for removing damage from your deck and b) it would require looking for a damage card in your deck to remove. This question may never have arisen if I didn't use the old flags. Perhaps I don't need to use all the old pieces.

If you're planning on ending the turn on a repair site, you simply discard your cards for that turn with the damage cards on top. Then you discard the one that's showing.

It seems to me that this version of the game very much emphasizes the software, as opposed to the hardware. Damage is "bugs" in the software, rather than physical damage to the robot's body. This seems a bit inconsistent, thematically. Firing lasers causes software errors?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.