Sometimes you play a game that makes you bash your head against a wall—Ricochet Robots is that game. I don’t just mean that in the sense that this game can be extremely brain-burning, it’s also literally what you do in the game. Ricochet Robots might sound like a convenient use of alliteration but really the game could not be more aptly named.
The old adage “easy to learn, hard to master” doesn’t begin to describe Ricochet Robots. It’s simplicity taunts you, and it starts as early as setting up the game. The game board boasts its ability to be configured in over 1500 different ways—how’s that for replay value? Four robots (or five depending on the variant) are placed on the board in any random position. Target chips are placed near the board face-down (4 each in red, green, blue and yellow). With the sand timer primed and ready to flip at a moment’s notice, the game starts.
The player(s) are poised and ready for the first target chip to be revealed. Upon flipping everyone quickly identifies the color and symbol on the chip and tries to find the corresponding color and symbol on the board. The board itself resembles what I would imagine a typical warehouse assembly line to be—lots of metal tiles, walls, dividers, rivets, and black-and-yellow-striped work zones. The single goal of Ricochet Robots is to determine the most efficient way to move the designated colored robot to the target position. The struggle and therefore “brain-burning” aspect of the game is that you must first picture the robots path in your mind. Once you feel you’ve come up with an efficient amount of moves to get the robot to the target, you announce it to the other players and the one minute sand timer is activated. All other players now have one minute to come up with a more efficient way to reach the target. When the time runs out, whoever announced the lowest number demonstrates how they reached that number by physically moving the robot (or combination of other robots) until the robot lands on the target. If they successfully defend their claim they will keep the target chip as a score marker. The player with the most target chips wins.
The robots can’t simply move around the board. Movements can only be made vertically or horizontally and, once moving, robots have no “brakes.” Once a robot has been set in motion, it moves straight and cannot stop or change its direction until it hits other robots, walls, or the center and edges of the board. Once a robot encounters an obstacle, it can either stop or make another move. If it makes another move, it continues moving until it gets to the next obstacle, where, again, it can stop or keep moving, and so on. To toss in one more variable, there are angled, colored barriers that send the robots zooming off at 90 degree angles. The catch with the barriers is that if the barrier is the same color as the robot, the robot simply phases through it and continues on as if it weren’t there.
Here is where the Transformers are separated from the GoBots. The ability to move one robot x-amount of spaces to reach a target is challenging but doable. Visualizing the exponentially numerous possibilities of moving other robots in order to affect the way the designated colored robot needs to move is next-level spacial awareness. Those that can see the board in this way will always have a leg up on the competition.
Ricochet Robots is literally a game about bouncing off the wall. I have no shame in saying it makes me want to bash my head against the wall right along with those robots. I might preface that by saying that the frustration I have in playing this game is the most fun kind of it you can think of. I enjoy the challenge. The board game label might be a stretch for some people. Perhaps you would prefer to call Ricochet Robots a puzzle or an activity. No matter what you might call it, I call it fun.
The little robot figures are adorable, and I mean that in the coolest way possible. They remind me of those little toy erasers you could add to your No. 2 pencil in grade school. The quality is up to par and the boards do the job. The most recent Z-Man release of the game comes with tons of boards and the Silver Robot with the Silver Robot variant rules.
Ricochet Robots has a unique characteristic apart from any game on my shelf. It can be played solo or with an infinite amount of people—no joke, the box actually says the game is for “1 – ∞” on the side.
One of the Three Laws of Robotics states that a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm—I can’t promise you won’t leave this game without a headache, but I can promise that the pain is worth it.