Man Machine – RoboDerby Express review

I was delighted to speak to Clint Herron recently (on episode 42 of the podcast to be specific) and we discussed the history of his new game Pirate Dice: Voyage on the Rolling Seas. Based around Roboderby Express, a print and play inspired by the classic RoboRally by Richard Garfield, one of Clint’s requests was that his original version remain available when Pirate Dice was released and it remains available right now. New contributor James Rowlinson takes a look at one of the best P’n’P games out there that definitely seems worth the ink! 

RoboDerby Express sees players take control of super computers that program robots to race around the board and whichever robot gets to the end first wins. The game started its life as a basic two player game where the board and components would fit on just one sheet – all you would need to do was label up six dice per player, print out the four board section and two player mats. The game ended up being nominated for 2011’s Golden Geek award for Best Print & Play and the BGG community fell in love with it. The game has now had a design overhaul, a three and four player expansion, alternative boards, level changing add ons and now boasts new game modes like Capture The Flag.

Two player action! Amazing how all this fits on one single sheet of A4… or maybe two.

Every player’s robot on the board is represented by a die with a little robot and number representing its health on each face, and each player also has a further five dice that have various movement options displayed. These range from ‘Move forward’ 1,2 or 3 spaces, ‘Turn left’ or ‘Turn right’ combined with a small number in the top corner. Each turn plays out over two phases, the first seeing each player rolling their five movement / instruction dice for their robot. They then place one or more on the player mat, re-rolling any remaining dice and again placing at least one on the mat, continuing until each player has filled up the four instruction slots available to them.

The second phase has you move your robots along your carefully constructed movement route. Each player looks at the die in Slot 1 and declares that previously mentioned small number displayed on the top. Whoever has the highest number executes their move first and this continues until all the dice have been resolved – then it all starts over again.

So far the game sounds simple enough and it really is, however… did I mention there are lasers? And that sometimes as a supercomputer you can find enjoyment in messing with your opponents plans?

On some of the dice faces, there is sometimes a laser symbol as well as movement. If your current move shows the laser sign, your robot will fire straight ahead; should an opponent be in the firing line they lose one health point. Note that all robots also fire at the end of Phase two. When robots lose health things start to get tricky; less health means you have the less command over your robot and your commands will get locked in place, meaning they must be executed every turn until you repair. Sustain too much damage and you’ll constantly be turning left or whatever. This can really throw a spanner in the works. [You really went there? – Michael]

You can also mess with your opponents robot should you roll one of the two special commands on the instruction dice and place them on your mat. One forces them to skip one movement die, the other inverts their well planned instructions – and both are pretty awful.

A bit more printing brings you expansions galore! Three or four players, tricks and traps… it’s a true labour of community-based love.

Overall this is a great title. I would encourage anyone who has been on the fence about the quality or worth of print and play games to take a closer look at RoboDerby Express; just download the rules, have a look at the build requirements and jump in. However, if print and play is not your thing or printing and labelling the dice doesn’t sound like a fun filled evening fear not! The game has been picked up by a publisher! It’s had a re-theme to pirates but still manages to keep the core game mechanics and it looks great. Here’s the Kickstarter page where it’s already smashed through its target.

RoboDerby is a game that will continue to get play time in our house and I suspect I will be jumping on new boards and expansions as and when the community release them. You’ll find a great forum post outlining the different themes and expansion sets available with links right here – check it out! And if you’re after blank dice, there’s no better place than blankdice.co.uk!

RoboDerby Express was designed by Clint Herron in 2011. The initial print and play version only accommodates two players, but expansions are available that bump that up and add different gameplay elements. Pirate Dice runs on Kickstarter until July 27 – have a look and back it today! Thanks to James for his article – follow him on that there Twitter, why don’t you?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Man Machine – RoboDerby Express review

  1. That looks awesome! I’m a huge Roborally fan, but something like that looks just that bit quicker and leaner. Will be taking a look at grabbing a copy at some point I think.

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