Designed by Pekka Koukkula for Doorway Games Osk. (A Member of Arctic Union Finland)
We have played this game so many times that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t previously reviewed it, but checking through the GGO archives I find that is indeed the case. So let me put that right, right now.
TINY ROBOTS is a very clever, tile collecting and placing, fun, abstract game of putting together circuit boards to build, as you may have guessed, Tiny Robots.
The game is explained in a simple set of rules, so simple there are only 4 points on how to play, a couple more for scoring and a couple of illustrations to ensure you understand the instructions, for the word “instructions” suits the text better than Rules of the Game.
Apart from the “rules” there are 125 game tiles, each 10cm long and 3cm wide. One side of the tile has a predominant colour whilst the other side is Blue with white circuitry nodules of varying shapes and sizes, but always with 90 degree angled joints. On some of the tiles, colour side, there may be a Technical symbol, a + (cross),a O (circle) or a – (negative sign), other tiles have no symbol.
The tiles are tumbled onto the centre of your playing area leaving room in front of each player for their personal workshop. The tiles are all shuffled and kept colour side down (or circuit side up), they should not be sorted in any way.
Players take their turns in clockwise order and have 4 actions available to them. They may choose to do any and/or all of these actions, once (per turn) in any order.
Choice one: Pick one tile from the board and add it to your Robot (or start your first Robot) keeping it circuit side up, though of course you can look at your own tiles.
Choice two: Turn 3 tiles over to show their colour side, exactly 3, no more, no fewer. Once everyone has seen them turn them back to circuit board side up.
Choice three: Remove one tile from your Robot and return it to the supply.
Choice four: declare a completed Robot and score it, taking note of your tally, before discarding the tiles back to the box.
What you are trying to do is create a Robot by building as near a complete circuit board as possible; unconnected nodes will count as negative points, minus one point per unconnected node, against you. Robots have to be made up of a minimum of 3 tiles, no maximum except that which commonsense concludes. As you can only make one Robot at a time and that you need to complete as much of each Robots circuitry as possible, plus there are the bonus necessities, you are probably best to keep building Tiny Robots.
You score points for your Robot as follows.
+1 pt per tile that makes up your Robot
Double the points scored if the Robot tiles are all the same colour.
An additional +4 pts if your tiles show 3 different technical symbols (tiles without a symbol do not count)
An additional +6 pts if you have 3 same technical symbols.
It doesn’t say it in the rules but you cannot use a tile/symbol more than once when scoring; it would be illogical to think otherwise.
By selecting your tiles from the supply by those that will fit the circuit board you already have in front of you are likely to suffer less penalty points but also score fewer bonus points. You need to try to build Robots that will yield the highest possible number of points on their coloured side whilst having the least unconnected nodes on their circuit side. It sounds easy but it isn’t.
You should always take the option to turn over 3 tiles. Of course other players will see them (a little like the Pelmanism game) but you still get first option on them, though you do not have to take a tile that you have turned over, you can always pick another one. During the course of the game the tiles in the supply will not remain in the same place as they are not kept in a grid or tidy pile (this time unlike Pelmanism where the cards are in rows and columns) and so the game takes on a new angle, you now also have to remember the colour and possibly symbols by the shape of the circuits – intriguing and also quite frustrating.
On the face of it all you appear to be getting is a box of coloured tiles with various coloured shapes printed on them and less rules than for Ludo, yet the game play is a lot deeper and more thoughtful than just a box of tiles, it can actually be a series of quite complex puzzles, especially as the robots do not need to meet any visual or practical standards; ie they don’t have to look like our preconceptions of a Robot, for example Robbie, R2D2, Marvin or Orac etc.