Tuesday, October 6, 2015

For people who don't like Robo Rally

Robo Rally is a very divisive game: some people really love it, and others just cannot stand it, to the point where they'll get up and leave if it hits the table. Personally I've loved it since I first played it, but I definitely understand why it drives some people crazy, as their carefully constructed movement plans inevitably fall apart over the course of what are often confusing, non-linear turns.

VOLT: Robot Battle Arena appears to be an attempt to capture the intent of Robo Rally (robot races and battles with pre-programmed moves) while eliminating the frustrations, and it largely succeeds.

The game is played  on a simple grid map (the game comes with a few different ones to choose from), and each player uses a hidden player board to plan their three moves for the turn, with choices being to move forward, backward, left, or right, or to shoot in one of nine possible directions. The moves are planned using six-sided dice, but they aren't rolled randomly. Rather, the player chooses what numbered side to place on each move, with the number determining either the distance moved, or the severity of the attack.

The only catch is that you cannot do the exact same maneuver twice in one turn. For example, you can't move a number of squares to the left, fire off a shot, and then move left again. This makes strategic planning a bit more important.

Players earn points by occupying certain board squares at the end of a turn, or by destroying opponents' robots. The game ends when a player has scored five victory points.

An advanced game option adds module tiles that give players special abilities for their robots, as well as a few additional game variants such as team play and a best-of-three multi-game option for longer games.

By eliminating Robo Rally's randomized deck of movement cards, VOLT gives players more deliberate and useful options each turn. The reduced player count (2-4, as opposed to Robo Rally's 2-8) keep the games a little shorter, and the increased emphasis on taking out opposing robots means you have to pay a lot more attention to what your opponents are doing, where in Robo Rally you're just hoping they'll stay out of your way.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) I would give VOLT a 3.5  if we were doing half stars. It's a fun and engaging game that is simple to learn but gives you a lot to think about while playing, but that same simplicity keeps it from being something I want to play often.

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