Most games require luck, but every now and again, you come across a game where the only thing you need is skill. Ricochet Robots is one of those games.
Ricochet Robots is a 1999 game by Alex Randolph, which is suitable for an infinite number of players (although it is unlikely to happen). Players can select from four of eight double-sided boards, so long as four different colours are visible on the internal gauge.
Players must move the correct robot into the colour and shape in as few moves as possible by travelling is straight lines and can only change direction or stop if they hit a wall.
Set-Up & Gameplay
There are many different rules and variations for Ricochet Robots. I found this out by mistake, having been in Canada and purchasing it from a French board game shop. I never learnt French at school, so I was unable to get the finer details of the game, and it took four rule books to find the correct translation.
As previously mentioned, there are eight double-sided boards that you can select from (two red, two blue, two green and two yellow) and one of each much be present on the four boards which make the playing field - which is joined by a central piece.
On one side there are angled barriers that if a different coloured robot touches, will bounce off at a 90⁰ angle, which adds to the strategy. Alternatively, if they are of the same colour, they will pass straight through. In the basic version, there are four colour robots (red, blue, green and yellow). However, you do have the option to add a black robot into the mix, to spice things up.
Over the four boards there are 16 squares that you have to guide the correct robot into. Each of the four colours have four differing shapes (half-moon, planet, star and …. I’m not really sure what the fourth piece is to be honest); there is also a 17th piece a colour vortex/black hole, which any robot can land on. Before the game starts, the four (or five) robots can be placed on any square, and is down to player discretion. As a result, there is not only an infinite number of possible players, but there is also a possible infinite number of game set-ups possible.
In terms of how to play, there are 17 face-down tiles that correspond to the 17 tiles on the board. Players select one at random and all players at the same time try to workout the fewest number of moves to get the correct robot into the corresponding square on the board. The player who makes the first bid will be given the first attempt, so long as no other players find a quicker route and undermine them within the limit of the timer. Oh, did I mention that all this has to be worked out in your head?
Once the time is up, you may physically move the pieces. However, if the player miscalculates the moves or forgets how they got there, the opportunity moves on to the next highest bidder. If the player gets it right, they win that corresponding token. The player with the most tokens at the end of the game is the winner. Players may use the other robots as part of their strategy, using them as walls to bounce off. For a one-player game, you have until the timer runs out to get the correct robot to the correct space.
Final Thoughts on Ricochet Robots
When I purchased Ricochet Robots, it was not what I was expecting from the game. I was expecting a game where everyone had a colour robot to move, and was a bit disappointed to find out this was not the case. However, whilst the game, and its subsequent rules, are simple to understand, this game is far from simple, and it will not appeal to the majority of gamers for two main reasons.
Firstly, it is a puzzle game, and it really requires you to think and have a good memory of your previous moves. Secondly, and more importantly, the game is extremely unbalanced. I bought this game as I love puzzles, and this game really appealed to me. However, to iterate my point, in the last game a friend and I played, I won 13-4, which is hardly fair or balanced. With other games if you fall behind, there is a chance that you can come back and win or adapt your strategy to stand a fair chance. However, with this game, if you are playing someone who loves these types of puzzles, you do not stand a chance. We tried adapting the rules to make the game balanced by taking it in turns to state our solutions, but whilst most games were much closer, it still does not counter the difference in puzzling abilities.
The robot components are of high quality, and the box is appropriately designed to store the playing pieces. However, as it is a puzzle game, as you can imagine, player interaction during is minimal to non-existent. The unlimited number of players is great for when you have a large group, however, unless you are taking part in one of the tournaments, the unlimited number of players is more likely to be replaced with five max.
The game has 96 combinations of board, which combined with the self-selected starting points keeps the game feeling fresh when evenly balanced. When I first started playing the game, I didn’t really enjoy it, and found it quite boring. However, the more I play it the more I like it. I often drift into space and forget that we are actually playing this game though. It is for this reason that I cannot play this game on my own.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of Ricochet Robots, there are not really many people that I can really play this game with to get the maximum enjoyment. However, if you know someone who loves board games and who really enjoys their puzzles or are quite intellectual (and have friends that are similar), then I would highly consider buying this game. If not, or you prefer games that are not taxing, then I would highly recommend that you give this game a miss.