What is it? A role selection game a la Puerto Rico, but with aggressive robots
The Deets: 3-6 players, 30-90 minutes
Designed by: Gil Geolingo
Published by: Sherwood Games
Do you like Puerto Rico but maybe feel that it could use a lot more aggression?
Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart draws inspiration from the style of role selection popularized by the once-number-one game on BGG, but instead of building a productive plantation colony, you’re building giant, smashy robots.
Like Puerto Rico, you have 6 roles to choose from. When you choose a role, everyone gets to perform the action, but you get a little bonus.
You need to collect resources by mining, build new robot parts, and fight your opponents. You can also try to grab the Coal Heart iteslf, which does massive damage and also heals you, especially if you can hold on to it for a while. And there’s gear – special cards to give you a one time boost.
As you play, you’ll add new parts to your robot which enhance your efficiency. Bonuses will provide combat abilities, but also tie in extra actions or other gains to certain roles, even when you aren’t the one choosing them. Interestingly, each Robot in the game has unique abilities – the two robots we demoed had a focus on resource production and combat, respectively – pushing players towards different strategies and providing an avenue for replay value. Some people (*cough* Farmerlenny) might not prefer the asymmetry, but it adds a unique flavor to the game.
Obviously with combat there has to be some kind of consequence. As the robots smash each other and knock their hit points down, they might break. If your robot is broken, you aren’t eliminated but it does limit how much you can do with each action. You’ll have to take every opportunity you can to get repairs and get back on your feet. Breaking a robot at just the right moment could snatch victory away from their glistening metal paws.
Victory is achieved in one of two ways: you can break every other robot, or you can fully upgrade your own.
In order to provide a faster demo, our robots started with a few extra combat parts, and we certainly managed to tear ourselves apart in a matter of a few rounds. It’s an odd balance between typically Euro-style sensibilities – action efficiency, engine building, and resource management – and smash-your friends destruction and interaction, but that seems to be happening more and more these days. Someone who likes the mechanics of Puerto Rico but is looking for something new and different may find what they’re looking for within these giant fisticuff-throwing machines. I admit, even my dark thematic-gaming soul was softened by the joy of building my robot and smashing Andrew to bits.
Whether the game is too swingy, or might become frustrating to players who either want something more actiony or less chaotic than the middle ground, or is neatly balanced between the two, only time – and a few full games – will tell.
Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart was funded on Kickstarter, and should be available in stores relatively soon.