(In this issue, we welcome Rob Schwartz to our pages. Rob enjoys gaming in general and “game breaking” in particular. Rob has the knack of finding the holes in the system that enable him to either show why a game doesn’t work or romp to victory or BOTH! In his first contribution to GA REPORT, Rob rallies around this new release from the new Avalon Hill. )
(Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2 to 8 players, ages 12 to adult, 30 minutes or more; $50)
RoboRally is a board game originally designed by Richard Garfield, creator of the immensely popular collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering. Two editions exist, the second of which is depicted here. For those familiar with the original version, you should find that the changes and improvements significantly enhance play.
Each of anywhere from 2-8 players controls a robot. The goal of the game is to maneuver this robot through a perilous, hazard-filled board to various checkpoints, or flags. Whoever is first to successfully touch each of these numbered flags, in sequence, with his or her robot is the winner. Controlling one’s robot is accomplished via the use of programming cards. The provided deck consists of various simplistic robot instructions — move forward two squares, or turn left, or the like. On each turn, each player is dealt out a number of these program cards at random. They then program their robots with five of these cards, face down. Once everyone has programmed their robots, the turn is then executed. In each of five steps — commonly referred to as register phases — all robots simultaneously reveal a programmed action, from left to right, and execute that action. Additionally, various board elements — conveyor belts, pushers, gears, and the like — will exert their influence on the hapless droids.
As the robots are all attempting to maneuver through the same area, they’ll occasionally bump into one another, pushing each other off of their intended courses. Thus, the first point of intrigue within the game becomes immediately clear: it is not necessarily sufficient to simply program one’s robot for a series of actions and expect him to arrive at a particular destination when finished. The presence of other robots, pushing one another into various predicaments, sometimes intentionally and at other times by accident, will invariably lend havoc to an already somewhat chaotic game mechanic. Add in the fact that any robot who falls into a pit — or off of the side of the board — is destroyed, and suddenly one finds one’s self programming his or her robot very carefully indeed. Luckily, each player is allocated three robot lives, so the occasional mishap does not necessarily spell doom.
Another source of danger for robots is laser fire. Various lasers are mounted on walls within some game boards, damaging robots unfortunate enough to stop momentarily in their line of fire. Additionally, each robot also comes equipped with its own, front-mounted laser, handy for blasting one’s opponents. Each point of damage a robot takes results in that many less programming cards being dealt to its controller on subsequent turns. Thus, as damage accumulates, fewer choices are available during the robot programming stage, resulting in all sorts of interesting and amusing machinations. And any robot that receives a total of ten damage points is destroyed. Luckily, there are spots on the board where robots can repair some damage. Additionally, a badly damaged robot can power down, losing a turn of play but erasing all accumulated damage. Be careful when powering down, though — your robot’s still on the board, and is therefore vulnerable to more laser fire, as well as being pushed around by other robots.
Arguably, the ultimate provider of intrigue and entertainment is the deck of various option cards. These can only be acquired at special power-up locations on the board, oftentimes out of the way of the flags, but enticing nevertheless. Options are add-ons to one’s robot, granting it additional powers or abilities. Some options are weapon enhancements, others are defensive, and some even allow for new ways to use programming cards. Also, an option can be exchanged to prevent a point of damage on a robot, so they’re always useful to have. Those familiar with the first version of the game will find that some of the more powerful, confusing, or otherwise irksome options have been either significantly toned down or removed. Most of the old favorites are still around, though.
Speaking of changes from 1st Edition, it should be noted that there are no longer “virtual robots.” Every robot instead starts on a special launching platform, attached to the side of the main game board, and rules for respawning destroyed robots accommodate simultaneity without the clumsy aforementioned mechanic. Also, the end of the rules booklet depicts a number of preconstructed map arrangements, with a chart depicting the recommended number of players, the anticipated length of play, and the overall difficulty of the map. Of course, use of these maps isn’t required, and players are still welcome to construct nightmarish mazes of fun and chaos as suits them.
Alas, one common source of criticism regarding the game’s nature — and this still carries over from 1st Edition — is that once a player has managed to pull his robot ahead of the pack, it can often be quite difficult to catch up, or otherwise impede him or her. Direct attacks against other robots can be somewhat difficult even when close by, and someone who’s ahead in the game is no doubt off in some other board section seeking the next flag anyhow. Even options are not necessarily helpful in this regard, since there’s no guarantee what sort of option one will acquire or how useful it will be. However, it does seem as if some effort was made by the designers to crisscross the flag locations so as to force robots to intersect paths more often, which addresses this issue somewhat during longer games.
Overall, RoboRally is an amusing and entertaining strategy board game, challenging players to incorporate both straight luck and hidden information into their tactics. The game accommodates a wide variety of number of players with a readily adjustable length of play. The depths of complexity can be appreciated even by hard-core gamers, yet the rules mechanics are simple enough even for children to understand and enjoy. Recommended for anyone who either likes tactical or logistical games, or enjoys chaos and mayhem and blowing stuff up with laser fire. Preferably both. – – – Rob Schwartz
Fall 2005 GA Report Articles
20 Questions: AN INTERVIEW WITH AL NEWMAN by Herb Levy (Al Newman is a game designer with an impressive resume. He's done computer designs, board games, card games and more. He's even graced the pages of GA REPORT with his own brand of insightful game reviews. As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, I played 20 questions with Al to get some of his insights ...
Reviewed by Frank Branham
(Fantasy Flight Games, 1-8 players, ages 12 and up, 2-3 hours; $49.95 ) Fantasy Flight is on an interesting tack. Not only do they create their own totally non-Euro massive adventure games, but they have started on a journey to resurrect a lot of classic 80's and 90's adventure games. This is the sort of stuff that people are paying literally ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 30-90 minutes; Starter set - $24.99; Booster Packs - $14.99 each) Back in the 1970s, Milton Bradley produced a few mass market wargames. (Anyone here remember Chopper Strike? Or Tank Battle?) Without a doubt, they are best remembered for their nicely molded plastic pieces. With the success of Memoir 44 ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Eagle Games, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, 3-4 hours; $59.99) Over 20 years ago, Milton Bradley unveiled its GameMaster Series. These big beautiful games consisted of three titles: Axis & Allies (a game that has maintained a large following and spawned several spin-off editions), Broadsides & Boarding Parties (a game of pirates and plunder that did not find such great ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Patch Products, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes; $22.95) In our world, there are two kinds of people: those who play games and those who do not. The question for many of the first type is: How do you get the non-gamers over to our side? Despite the wealth of games out there, the push from non-gamer to ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Asmodée Editions, 2 players, ages 11 and up, 45 minutes; $29.99) I hate to admit this but I am one of those old enough to remember when Dungeons & Dragons was new. One of the pleasures of those old adventures was what became known as a "dungeon crawl" where a band of stalwart heroes (often accompanied by some of the less ...Read More
Reviewed by Kban
(Jolly Roger Games, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $21.95) If this were a court of law, I’d have to recuse myself for being friends with the author. Al Newman, along with GA President Herb Levy and I, are the heart and soul of LI Gamers, the playtesting arm of GAR. But truth be told, I hate playtesting any game ...Read More
20 and Counting It really is hard to believe. I mean, after all, where does the time go? Can it really be TWENTY YEARS since Gamers Alliance Report published its first issue? Yes, it can. I was always interested in games. Some of my earliest memories involve receiving a big Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley game as birthday presents. We played boardgames a lot in ...Read More
(In this issue, we feature Conquest of the Empire, a revised edition of the classic Milton Bradley GameMaster Series game. The edition features TWO versions of the game, one of which leans heavily on the game design of Struggle of Empires. Here is the game as we saw it in the Spring 2005 issue of GA REPORT.) Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Warfrog, 2-7 players, ages ...Read More
FLASHBACK: TETRIS [No celebration of our 20th anniversary would be complete without acknowledging the contributions of legendary game designer Sid Sackson. Sid joined Gamers Alliance as a Contributing Editor quite early in our run and contributed regularly for years. (For more details, check out the GA Timeline.) His first column (titled "Sid Sackson Says") appeared in the Fall 1990 GA REPORT. Sid did THREE ...
GAMERS ALLIANCE GAME CLASSICS Hall of Fame
One of the popular features that appear in Gamers Alliance Report is our Game Classics series. In this series, we feature quality games that, for various reasons, sunk into relative obscurity. These games were deserving of a better fate. Here are the 20 games (listed in alphabetical order with publisher, dates of publication and GA REPORT issue in which ...Read More
(Reiner Knizia has carved out a reputation for quality game designs and plenty of them. But not all of them have made a big splash in the marketplace as they missed out on the recognition some of us believe they deserve. In this installment of Game Classics, Larry Levy sets his sights on one of the lesser known Knizia card games: Ohio. )
OHIO (Jumbo, ...Read More
GAMERS ALLIANCE TIMELINE by Herb Levy
20 years is a long time to be publishing a magazine - ANY magazine. Given the track record of publications centering on games, in all modesty, 20 years is incredible! In looking back, we thought it would be interesting to see how we got from Point A to Point B. So, here is our timeline of events that have ...Read More
by Paul Sauberer
I am not a game designer, publisher, or developer. Now, however, I am a “Game Historian”. What unlikely series of events led to the creation of this term, much less my actually becoming one? Let’s start by turning the clock back to circa 1979-1980. Disco is dying and polyester leisure suits are mercifully falling out of fashion. Yet amid this cultural upheaval, ...Read More
(In this issue, we are pleased to welcome Paul Sauberer to our pages. Paul grew up in Annapolis, Maryland and was a fan of Avalon Hill games back in the 1970s, when he first got 1776 at a local toy store. Once he got his drivers' license, he made frequent trips to the AH offices in Baltimore to buy games directly. Paul also played sports ...
Reviewed by Greg. J. Schloesser
(Goldsieber, 2-4 players, ages 11 and up, 45-60 minutes; about $30) Stefan Dorra may not be as prominent as more famous designers such as Reiner Knzia, Wolfgang Kramer or Klaus Teuber, but through the years, he has quietly been producing some wonderful games. Included amongst these titles are such games as Tonga Bonga, Medina, For Sale and Zum Kuckuck (aka ...Read More
Reviewed by Frank Branham (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; $45) "Sparkly!" That was how I greeted the demo kit Avalon Hill sent out at my local game haunt. In reply I received a forest of groans. When you look at the production of this hardcore s/f sort of mining colony outpost wargame is all looks quite...precious. The ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Tailten Games; 2 players, ages 9 and up, 30-45 minutes; about $40) Inspiration comes from many sources. For Murray Heasman, inspiration from Ireland's Celtic heritage and the patterns found in the Book of Kells has yielded Project Kells, a beauty of an abstract game. Project Kells comes with a board, 6 kings, 6 variant cards, an illustration sheet, a rules booklet ...Read More
(In this issue, we welcome Rob Schwartz to our pages. Rob enjoys gaming in general and "game breaking" in particular. Rob has the knack of finding the holes in the system that enable him to either show why a game doesn't work or romp to victory or BOTH! In his first contribution to GA REPORT, Rob rallies around this new release from the new ...
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Queen Games/Rio Grande Games; 2 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $24.95) For some reason, there has been a flood of two player games appearing lately. Whether this trend is just an anomaly or the start of something big, only time will tell. In the meantime, one of the more interesting entries in this recent deluge comes from Stefan Feld ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Rio Grande Games/ Ravensburger, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes, $29.95) Sometimes a game surprises you. That's Life (aka Verflixxt in its original Ravensburger edition in Europe) arrived as a dice game. But a dice game with only ONE die?!?! Seems strange. But in the talented hands of Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling, the game takes on more ...Read More