Friday, January 27, 2017

Of Ricocheting Robots and Pyramids

OK, since I have been thinking about real-time, turnless games, let us look at Ricochet Robots, which I feel pretty safe saying is one of the classics of the genre.

Ricochet Robots is a speed puzzle game. One of those games where there are no turns. People just compete to solve the puzzle on the board the fastest.

You create a board out of four double-sided pieces. The boards both have both the goals on them and righty of different walls. It's not an actual maze but there are still enough walls to give the robots plenty of things to bounce off of.

There are four different colored robots, in the form of sturdy plastic pawns, that you randomly put on the board. Each turn, the goal is randomly drawn and players compete to find the shortest number of moods to make the robot that matches the color reach the goal.

Each move is moving any given robot. They move in a straight line, never a diagonal one, until they hit a wall or the side of the board for another robot. That ends the move. 

So, the game doesn't come with built in perfect solutions. Depending on the position of the robots in the gold it's chosen, different solutions will be available.

Ricochet robots was designed by Alexander Randolph, who was one of the earliest designers for modern game designs. He also gave us Ghosts and  Twixt, among other games. He was friends with said Saxon and I have heard that the two of them help organize the freelancers who designed 3M's game line. (They had a network of game designing friends)

I have also read that ricochet robots was a extensive redesign of one of his earlier games, Moonstar. Now, I have played Moonstar and so I can see the resemblance. At the same time, if he did redesign Moonstar into ricochet robots, is a serious improvement on almost every level. It's both much more intuitive and much more flexible.

But I really have to admit that I admire Ricochet Robots more than I enjoy it. It is a brilliant design, combining both a speed game with a very thought-provoking system of puzzles. It is like a party game met a brain building exercise.

But it isn't the kind of game I normally go for. I do think is one of the best of its kind but it rarely saw play and not everyone enjoyed it. So it ended up getting purged from my collection.

More recently, I discovered that Russ Williams (Hi Russ!) had made a Looney Pyramid variation on Ricochet Robots. All you needed was three monochrome stashes and a chessboard. Well, I keep a chessboard bandana in my Looney Pyramid tool kit so it took me two minutes to set up a game.

If you already know how to play Ricochet Robots, Ricochet Pyramids is beyond easy to learn. Put the chessboard down where everyone can see it. Randomly placed a small pyramid in each color as the robots. Randomly place nine towers made out of a big pyramid and a medium pyramid (one for every color combination with three colors) to serve as goals and terrain. With the remaining pyramids from the three stashes, draw one of each size to determine which robot has to reach which tower.

The real question is, does it feel anything like playing Ricochet Robots? The answer is it feels almost exactly like that.

The most significant difference, at least for me is that Ricochet Pyramids is played on an 8 x 8 board while memory serves me that Ricochet Robots is on a 16 x 16 board. The smaller board creates a  more tighter environment.

That being said, you could easily make the board bigger, even putting for checkerboards together if you felt like it. You could also add more colors in more robots and towers without changing any of the rules.

In all honesty, at least for me, the biggest question is would it be harder to get people to play this than Ricochet Robots? Let's be honest, homemade games don't have the same chrome appeal as fully manufactured games. 

But, the pyramids are awfully nice looking and chessboards can be as nice as you want them to. Really, a glass or mirror chessboard with the pyramids and you'd have something really nifty looking going on.

Ricochet Robots is a really fascinating design. However, it was not a game that I enjoyed for many of my friends enjoyed enough to keep. But, thanks to Russ, I can still experience it when I feel like it. Shucks, I probably will playing Ricochet Pyramids more than I would play Ricochet Robots.

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