Players control robots with "program cards" in order to survive and reach checkpoints.
|Setup time||10 minutes|
|Playing time||120 minutes|
|Skill(s) required||Simple programming|
RoboRally is a board game originally published in 1994 by Wizards of the Coast (WotC). It was designed in 1985 by Richard Garfield, who would later create the card game Magic: The Gathering. RoboRally was rereleased in July 2005 under the Avalon Hill label, and again in 2016 by Wizards of the Coast.
In RoboRally, players assume control of one of many "Robot Control Computers" in a dangerous widget factory filled with moving, course-altering conveyor belts, metal-melting laser beams, bottomless pits, crushers, and a variety of other obstacles; the concept is that this is what the control computers do for fun after hours. The goal in a game of RoboRally is, apart from survival, to be the first to reach a pre-designated number of checkpoints in a particular order. However, the real difficulty in RoboRally is movement, which is accomplished with the randomly dealt program cards.
The program cards specify movement, such as move one space forward, turn left or U-turn. The cards have to be arranged by the player in the specific manner they wish the robot to move. Each player receives up to nine cards each turn. They use five of the cards to specify their robot's movement for the given turn, playing each card face down into one of five available "registers". All robots move simultaneously, each player revealing each register in turn. Robots attempting to move into the same space at the same time are resolved by priority numbers printed on the cards. A robot moving into an occupied space "pushes" the blocking robot (even more of them) into the next space. Players with damaged robots receive fewer cards: with one point of damage, the player receives eight cards, with two points, seven cards, and so on. When a player's robot takes five or more points of damage, its registers become "locked", keeping specific program cards in play until the robot is repaired. Each player has a very limited amount of time to place their cards, which combined with the unpredictability of the plans of the other players, often leads to one's robots moving in unexpected ways.
Robots can also carry optional weapons and devices, which add to the carnage and mayhem. These devices can cause additional damage, allow robots to move differently, affect the movement of other robots, and disrupt opponents' plans in other ways.
The game embodies an inversion of the concept of computer simulation games: rather than a computer simulating some real world action, human players simulate the actions of computers.
The basic game includes six different boards, which allow players variety of play as well as the ability to alter the length or difficulty of games.
The original metal pieces in RoboRally were designed by Phil Foglio, who also did the artwork for the game. The Crash and Burn, Grand Prix, and Radioactive expansions were designed by Glenn Elliott.
Andy Butcher reviewed the second edition of RoboRally for Arcane magazine, rating it a 7 out of 10 overall. Butcher comments that "anyone who's looking for great way to while away a couple of hours and have fun is strongly advised to check this out – it's simple to learn, extremely replayable, and most importantly, a great game – although you do need at least four players to get the most out of it."
James Ernest commented: "Why is RoboRally one of the best hobby games ever? Besides being a completely solid game at heart, RoboRally succeeds at one of the hardest tricks in game design: it is genuinely funny. I don't just mean that it has funny jokes in the rules or funny robot characters. It has those things, but putting jokes in a rulebook is relatively easy. The richest humor in this game comes from the play of the game itself."
John ONeill of Black Gate commented that "all the challenge comes in the nature of your idiotic robots, and the numerous ways they can stumble stoically — nay, joyously — towards their own destruction on the factory floor."
Editions and expansions (with board names)
Between 1994 and 1999 Wizards of the Coast (WotC) released the original game, four expansion sets, and a limited edition board.
- RoboRally (first edition, WotC, 1994): Basic boards (6), unpainted metal miniatures with detached plastic bases (8), movement cards, option cards, and counters.
- RoboRally (second edition, WotC, 1995): Basic boards (same 6, with lighter coloring), unpainted metal miniatures with integrated metal bases (8), movement cards, option cards, and counters.
- Armed and Dangerous (WotC, 1995): Additional boards (6), additional option cards, and counters.
- Crash and Burn (WotC, 1997): Additional boards (2)
- Grand Prix (WotC, 1997): Additional boards (3), with randomly selected reprinted basic boards on the backs.
- Radioactive (WotC, 1998): Additional boards (3)
- “Origins ’99” (WotC, 1999): A single new board (King of the Hill), only given to finalists in the championship tournament.
In Europe (German by Amigo, and Dutch by 999 Games), a different series was released. It incorporated a few rules changes and fewer components to make the game simpler. The damage and life tokens are larger and thicker than those of the original American release. The movement cards are color-coded. Forward (Move) cards have blue arrows, Backward (Back Up) cards have red ones and Turn cards yellow ones.
- RoboRally (Amigo, 1999; and 999 Games, 2000): Basic boards (4, lettered instead of named), prepainted plastic bots (4), color-coded movement cards, counters.
- Crash & Burn (Amigo, 2000): Additional boards (4, lettered instead of named), prepainted plastic bots (4), option cards.
The Avalon Hill edition also changed the cards. The new Move cards have only an arrow in the corner instead of the number with the arrow, which means you have to look at the full face of the card to distinguish them. It also has larger counters. Character sheets were introduced to track damage, life counters, power-down status, and program cards. Each sheet also contains a copy of the turn sequence for reference. The graphics have been redesigned to make the functionality of board elements clearer. The rules were also simplified to remove the concept of virtual robots.
- RoboRally (Avalon Hill, 2005): Double-sided boards (4), Docking Bay (a double-sided starting grid, one-third the size of a regular board), plastic bots (8), movement cards, option cards, plastic flags, and counters. The board combinations are Chop Shop & Island, Spin Zone & Maelstrom, Chess & Cross, and Vault & Exchange.
|Board||Wizards of the Coast||European||Avalon Hill|
|Cannery Row||1994 – RoboRally||1999 – RoboRally (D)||—|
|Cross||1994 – RoboRally||1999 – RoboRally (C)||2005 – RoboRally|
|Exchange||1994 – RoboRally||1999 – RoboRally (B)||2005 – RoboRally|
|Island||1994 – RoboRally||2000 – Crash & Burn (E)||2005 – RoboRally|
|Maelstrom||1994 – RoboRally||2000 – Crash & Burn (F)||2005 – RoboRally|
|Pit Maze||1994 – RoboRally||1999 – RoboRally (A)||—|
|Chasm||1995 – Armed & Dangerous||—||—|
|Circuit Trap||1995 – Armed & Dangerous||—||—|
|Coliseum||1995 – Armed & Dangerous||—||—|
|Flood Zone||1995 – Armed & Dangerous||—||—|
|Gear Box||1995 – Armed & Dangerous||—||—|
|Laser Maze||1995 – Armed & Dangerous||—||—|
|Blast Furnace||1997 – Crash & Burn||2000 – Crash & Burn (H)||—|
|Machine Shop||1997 – Crash & Burn||2000 – Crash & Burn (G)||—|
|Back Stretch||1997 – Grand Prix||—||—|
|Canyon||1997 – Grand Prix||—||—|
|Pit Row||1997 – Grand Prix||—||—|
|Pinwheel||1998 – Radioactive||—||—|
|Reactor Core||1998 – Radioactive||—||—|
|Shake ’N’ Bake||1998 – Radioactive||—||—|
|King of the Hill||1999 – Origins '99||—||—|
|Docking Bay||—||—||2005 – RoboRally|
|Chop Shop||—||—||2005 – RoboRally|
|Spin Zone||—||—||2005 – RoboRally|
|Chess||—||—||2005 – RoboRally|
|Vault||—||—||2005 – RoboRally|
A large number of additional game boards and elements are available via Internet communities, created by fans of the game.
In August 2008, GameTableOnline.com (defunct and redirected to a porn site, as of October 2020) licensed the rights for an online version of RoboRally from Wizards of the Coast.
- Vasel, Tom (2005-06-19). "Interviews by an Optimist # 49 - Richard Garfield". Archived from the original on 2007-08-14.
- "Origins Award Winners (1994)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
- "Origins Award Winners (1995)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
- "Origins Award Winners (1997)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-01-30. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
- Butcher, Andy (January 1996). "Games Reviews". Arcane. Future Publishing (2): 80.
- Board Game Geek (2009-03-16). "RoboRally".
- Game Zombies (2009-03-16). "Game Zombies: Review of RoboRally".
- James Ernest (2007). "RoboRally". In James Lowder (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 258–260. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
- Shayed, Marc (August 18, 2008). "GameTable Online Adopts Wizard's Online Boardgames". GamingReport.com.