In Robo Rally each player is using ‘program cards’ to navigate their robot across a tricky factory floor, replete with conveyors, pushers, cogs and pits to fall in. The first player to reach an agreed set of marker flags wins.
What makes Robo Rally tricky is not necessarily the other players but the game itself; which conspires against you. Firstly you only get a certain amount of program cards (forward, reverse, rotate), so your options are limited as to what you can do with them – you start the game with nine, but may get less and less as play continues. Your task is to program your robot with 5 commands that will be carried out in a specific order. That would be straightforward enough on a plain factory floor, but all the board’s features are – if you get your timing wrong – going to push you off course. And having gone off course, your robot continues to carry out its program until all five commands are done – if it’s not crushed, pushed off the board, or fallen in a pit first. And it veers off course it can end up taking damage, which unless repaired, compromises your program options (for every damage chit, you lose one program card at the start of each round). Added to this pressure is the fact each player only has 30 seconds to make their program decisions due to a timer – which might seem harsh at first, Robo Rally is a game that thrives on mistakes made under pressure.
The other players can also – purposefully or otherwise – send you off course by bumping into you, and you them. Each robot has a laser mounted on the front, so ending a turn sat in front of a neighbour costs damage. Finally there are also Special Action cards which bring further variation to the game.
So at heart the game is not about creating a straightforward race, but making mayhem: the mayhem of people getting things wrong and bumping into each other!
NOTE: Robo Rally has since been redesigned and re-released. We haven’t yet played the newer version!
It’s chaotic, it’s firefighting, it’s at times brutal. The game is basically out to get you, all of you, and on top of that you’ll probably have one player who takes to the programming with ease and sails around bumping people off while everyone else struggles. Whether that’s funny, or just annoying, is down to the individual.
It's possible to target other players if you have time and the cards on your side.
Everybody takes their turns at the same time. A 'power' score on the program cards denote who moves first if and when Robots cross paths.
It can be crazy trying to figure out how to make your cards work, especially as during the game your cards can not only drop from 9 to 5, but even lower, meaning some of your program moves are "locked in" giving you an extra obstacle to work around.
Not only do the cards come out randomly players also get a selection of game boards to choose from. You can have a quick one-flag game or a much longer multiple-flag one.