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Are you the new Champion of the ROBOT ARENA?

For 2-4 players aged 10+ (7+ year olds can easily play and understand the Training game) 30+ minutes. Costs about £25.00 - £30.00

First thing is not to be put off, or turned on, by the sub-title of 'programming Robots', this isn't a remake of RoboRally. In fact the 'programming' is more akin to the old Ariel game of Sopwith mixed in with some of TVs Robot Wars..

Like RoboRally it does have some remarkable finely detailed miniatures that take the place of Player ID Markers/Dobbers. Unlike those in RR these are plastic, not metal, and the plastic used is the type that has virtually no give in it at all. The copy of the game I have had no player ID colour bases, an accidental mishap during packing, but Heidelbär have provided a set to be fitted over the character's bases, just as in Zombicide, except these are also of a hard plastic which also has no give. Fitting the bases to the figures is not a case of just slipping them on, unless I was very unlucky. 

The mini figures are particularly well detailed. They are so well designed that they would look amazing if painted to professional standard.  These figures represent your Robot and, apart from looking more than decent, they are simply pieces to move around the terrain based squared board, chosen from one of the four available; Mercury, Reaper, The Hound, Volt. The rest of the components are of good quality and design. 

The game boards are quite solid and fit onto the plastic insert (kept in the box base for playing) neatly so they don't move around or tip etc. Each corner of the Arena has a floodlight-type erection made from a minor piece of card-based origami (just follow the folds) and it is on these that the Start Number tiles are laid. It isn't unusual for two players to finish setting their dice at the same time, resulting in them both grabbing for the same Start Number tile and accidentally removing the corner construction. I cannot say 'be careful' when grabbing for a tile as there is no 'being careful' if you are determined to get the Start Number you want - the first to finish does not have to select the #1 Start Tile.

 

There are two game boards supplied. Each side shows a different terrain and a variation of the configuration of the VP score numbers, the pits and walls. Whichever side you use there are spaces marked along the edges for Robots to start from and number spaces where Bonus VP tiles are placed when drawn - the draw is random but the number on the tile drawn is always placed on the corresponding number on the board, thus a 5 tile goes onto the 5 square etc.

For the Initial game (not all the components are required) - the Training Module (played on side A of Board A/B) - each player has a number of similar components; an Overview card (White back) a Robot with matching ID card, a Monitor, a Screen, a Controller and 4 dice (2 x Blue 2 x Red). You only need to play through the starter game once to get the basics of the game and then you can add the remaining components into the mix.

A few explanations:
The Overview card is a basic reference card for the order of play.
The Robot card shows a picture of the chosen 'Bot plus the spread of Die numbers it may use for Movement (Blue die) and Combat/Fire (Red die). As all four Robot cards are the same, with the exception of the name, one may presume that the designers/publishers have it in mind to produce additional 'Bots and cards in the future.
The Dice: Blue is for Movement. Red is for Firing/Combat.
The Monitor board that each player has is for displaying the Module cards - there is a specific order in displaying these.
The Screen is for hiding your dice selections until all players are ready. Screen show colour and visual ID. The inner screen may have some additional information - if you can read Robot Machine Code.
The Controller board that each player has is for determining Move or Fire in the Activation Phase (#2).
Starting Number tiles. These are placed face up on the towers, one per tower, and are taken in the order players complete placing their dice on their Controllers. Once a number is taken the dice may not be moved. Staring number tiles are placed on the player's Monitor boards.

 

Module cards are brought to the table in games after the Trainee Tutorial. They give additional Actions and Bonuses.

Movement is in a straight line N E S or W never diagonal (not strictly true as the Steering Module allows it). Robots move according to the number on the die you have chosen for Movement. Remember that the higher the number you choose the farther the Robot will move but also the later in the turn they will activate - actions are made from the lowest die result upwards.

 

Firing is in a straight line, any of the 8 possible directions, orthogonal and diagonal. The lasers fire in a straight line with unlimited range (stopping only when they hit something); the die number you have chosen only determines when in the phase the firing takes place, again lower numbers go first.  With this is mind, particularly during the Training Game, the only reason I can think of for not always choosing a '1' on your Red die is if you are being cleverly tactical and hoping your opponent will move into your line of fire. If you already have an opponent in your sight then firing first is generally best. Hits do one damage (marked by a small damage token) and three damage equates to being blown up. The Robot is removed from the board but can repair and return next Round.

Note: Some Modules may have restrictions on which dice number you can choose.

Robots moving onto a pit fall down it and are destroyed. If you fall into a pit through bad movement choice then that's poor strategy. If you are pushed into the pit or you push an opponent's Robot into a pit, the pitted Robot is destroyed and the pushing Robot gains 1VP.

 

All trained up and tutorial savvy? Then it's time to join the RFL, the ROBOT FIGHTING LEAGUE - the first part of the Advanced game. You can then move onto KILLBOTS (2-3 players only) where a game mechanic operated killing machine is introduced and the game becomes more nitty-gritty, down to earth, being no longer about VPs, only about survival. 

Finally it's time to slightly alter the rules again and give each Robot it's own special ability piece of equipment as they enter the RFL CHAMPIONSHIP. Best played with 4 players and over all four Arenas. 

 

Overall this is a fun game aimed at younger players who enjoy the Move, Shoot and Destroy games. Although the figures are only Dobbers (it doesn't matter which way they are facing when you select to move or fire) they do enhance the visual aspect of the game.

The www.heidelbaer.de website may offer some assistance on alternative ways to play depending on the number of available players.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015