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Robots

A 2020 Kinderspiel des Jahres nominee, Robots is about learning to understand other players and how they perceive time, while guessing how far the robot has traveled.

Published by Pandasaurus Games, Robots is a cooperative family-friendly game that also comes with a competitive variant.

Gameplay

To setup the game, shuffle the stack of cards and place them in the center of the table. One side of each card shows a track with the robot at the start, and objects at various points along the track. In the bottom right corner is a number: one, two, or three. Players take turns being the robot.

Each turn, the robot player draws the top card of the deck and looks at the back (being careful not to show it to anyone else). The back shows three different speeds: slow, normal, and fast. Each speed also has a number, one to three, associated with it as well as one of the objects you will find along the track.

The card currently on top of the deck is the current track, and the robot player checks the number on it. He then consults the card in his hand. The number tells him which speed the robot is going at this turn and which object on the track the robot will stop at. He announces the speed to the other players. He then says beep, indicating that the robot has started moving on the track. When he feels the robot has reached the correct object, bearing in mind the speed it is moving at, he says beep a second time to indicate that the robot has stopped. The other players then discuss among themselves what object they believe the robot stopped at, based on the length of time between beeps and the robot’s speed, and announce their guess.

If they guessed the correct object, the players earn three chips. If they were off by one object they earn two chips, and if they were off by two objects they earn one. Another player becomes the robot for the next round. The game ends after eleven rounds and the players calculate how well they did based on how many chips they earned.

Alternatively, you can play the game competitively, in which case all players make their own guess, earning two chips if they got the correct stopping point or one chip if they were off by one, while the robot player earns one chip for each player who guessed the correct stopping location. In this rule set, you play until everyone has been the robot three times, reshuffling the deck if need be.

Robots Components

Review

While playing Robots, we were reminded strongly of The Mind. The mechanics are different, and Robots is much more targeted towards families, but it is similarly a game about learning to adapt to other players, learning how they think, and their sense of timing. It’s a game you want to play multiple times with the same group, and where part of the enjoyment is learning to click more and more with them.

When you first start playing Robots, it can seem like pure guess work, figuring out where the robot is likely to stop. But there is a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as you slowly learn how the other players think and get their sense of timing. The three different possible speeds add an extra layer of challenge, but you can also choose to remove that and simply have the robot moving at the normal speed when playing with younger players or beginners.

The game is small, portable, and light — easy to pack and play on the go. If you choose to play without the chips (keeping score on a phone for example) you can even play this game while standing in line quite easily, simply having the current robot player hold the stack of cards. The cards themselves are sturdy, oversized, and easy to read.

This is a game targeted towards kids and families, and the artwork is pretty kid-oriented, however the fast game time and previously mentioned portability makes this a great fit for adults, too. You do run the risk in larger groups of some players feeling left out during the discussion and guessing phase, which makes the competitive mode a great addition, with everyone getting to make their own guess.

Robots is beautiful in its simplicity. It strips the rules down to something really simple and uses the speed as well as the destination to give you just enough different elements to keep the game challenging.

Pros: Very portable and can be played just about anywhere, very simple rules but still challenging to play

Cons: Some players might feel left out during the guessing in cooperative mode

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.