RoboRally by Avalon Hill is one of my favourite games and has not too long ago come in a nice, new updated version that solves a lot of the problems and annoyances with the old set and is highly recommended. It does not, however, solve all the problems and it also seems that Avalon Hill do not intend to reprint the old expansions for the new edition (not that all of them were all that good anyway). What I have done is to collect a selection of house rules and clarifications, for the benefit of other players of this excellent and hilarious game.
- Download this page as a Word-document: RoboRally.doc
- Read a more lengthy article about what I think about RoboRally (in norwegian only), written for my local game club magazine: RoboRally_review.doc
Option cards in the 2nd edition set
Below are some suggestions for clarifications and house rules for the 2nd edition option cards. In particular, it suggests a procedure to determine which option cards trumps which other option cards ("If I am radio-controlled, can I still use my conditional program?"), which the new rulebook should have had. The order is decided semi-arbitrarily and it is felt that the most important thing is to have an order.
- Abort Switch
Clarification: This option can only be used on program cards when they are revealed, it cannot be used to replace a locked program card that remained in the program from the previous turn. It can be used after a bot has been scrambled, even if a locked register was scrambled.
- Circuit Breaker
House rule: Decide at the start of each turn if you want to have this option active or not. If you want to leave it inactive, place the card face down; it has no effect that turn.
- Conditional Program
Clarification: This option can only be used on program cards before they are revealed, it cannot be used to replace a locked program card that remained in the program from the previous turn. It can be used to replace a random program card the bot got from the Scrambler or Abort Switch, even a random card that replaced a locked card. It can not be used in the same register phase as the Abort Switch, as the Abort Switch is used after revealing the card.
- Crab Legs
House rule: This option can only be used a maximum of 3 times per game. Place a damage token on the option card after each use; when it has been used 3 times it has no further effect.
- Fire Control
Clarification/House rule: When you choose to lock a particular register, what you are essentially doing is inflicting a point of damage and then choosing exactly where that damage goes. Played strictly by the card, this option locks a register without actually inflicting damage, which leads to some odd problems which are not covered by the rules. This way of doing it is both simpler and better.
- Radio Control
Clarification: This option basically trumps all other options - a bot that is radio controlled cannot use other options such as Abort Switch or Conditional Program to influence its own movement and it cannot be scrambled (the bot that is doing the radio controlling can be scrambled, which is heaps of fun!). The bot being radio controlled still has full control over his options that do not affect his own movement. If the bot doing the radio controlling is destroyed, the radio controlled bot continues to be radio controlled for the remainder of that turn, using the other bot's planned program.
Clarification: This option card can cause a locked program card to be replaced with a new, random program card, which will also be locked. If it replaces a locked program card, the target bot may use its Abort Switch or Conditional program to replace the new card, something they could not do with a normal locked card.
The 1st edition Radioactive expansion
What follows are some suggested house rules for using this expansion with the 2nd edition of RoboRally. Radioactive is one of the better expansions, though it has a tendency to leave players with a sackful of option cards if some house rules are not used.
- Chop Shop
House rule: Chop Shops have the following effects only: At the end of a turn, a bot that is on a Chop Shop may either recharge one of its options with limited used (Ablative Coat, Mini-Howitzer, etc.) or replace one of its option cards with a randomly drawn option card.
If there are any Chop Shops on the board, then naturally option cards with a limited use should not be discarded once they have been "used up".
- Radioactive Waste
House rule: To prevent players getting a ridiculous amount of extra options, bots only receive an option card for being in radioactive waste at the end of a turn, not at the end of each register phase.
Optional house rules
Following are some generic house rules intended to improve the gameplay.
It appears that not everybody likes this mechanism, because it is quite easy to suddenly die a couple of times after each other, which leaves a player, through no fault of his or her own, clinging onto their last life token and having to play very carefully (which is boring) for the rest of the game. On the other hand, not using life tokens opens up for the possibility of tactical dying (i.e. deliberately committing suicide in cases where this would be beneficial, something that is also boring). The following house rule seeks to limit these problems somewhat.
- Each bot starts with three life tokens. Each time a bot is destroyed, it must discard one life token. When a bot discards its last life token, it is out of the game permanently.
- Each time a bot touches its next checkpoint it gains another life token, up to a maximum of 3. You only get a new life token for touching the next checkpoint in line. So if you have just touched checkpoint 2, you only get a new life token for touching checkpoint 3. You do not get life tokens for touching repair sites.
- Each time a bot destroys another bot, it gains another life token, up to a maximum of 3. You only get a life token if you destroyed the other bot by inflicting the tenth point of damage on it or if you pushed it into a pit/off the board. Messing with a bot's program using the Scrambler or Radio Control so that it moved off the board on its own does not count.
- A bot may discard one or two life tokens at the start of the turn, before program cards are dealt. Each life token discarded repairs up to two points of damage. A bot may not voluntarily discard its last life token in this manner.
Being destroyed when you have no option cards left really isn't that bad. This house rule adds a few more choices and can make death a little less trivial.
- When a bot is destroyed, in addition to losing a life token, it either loses three option cards or starts the game with three points of damage, or some combination of the two. The classic option is to take two points of damage and lose an option, though a player could choose to lose two options and start with only one point of damage, or not lose any options at all and start with three points of damage. Bots that had no options when they were destroyed must restart with three points of damage.
- A player who has the Superior Archive Copy option card only needs to discard one option card or start with one point of damage.
Note that strangely enough the rule that said that destroyed bots start with two points of damage in 2nd edition as well is only mentioned indirectly through the Superior Archive Copy option card. Sloppy...
Tried and tested home-designed courses. Under "boards used", abbreviations are as follows:
B1 - First edition basic set
B2 - Second edition basic set
A&D - Armed & Dangerous
R - Radioactics
Boards used: Vault (B2), Maelstrom (B1/B2), Chop Shop (B2)
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