Dale Yu: Essen Preview – Twin Tin Bots (Flatlined Games)

Twin Tin Bots

  • Designer: Philippe Keyaerts
  • Publisher: Flatlined Games
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  •  Times Played: 3, all with review copy provided by Flatlined Games

Philippe Keyaerts started out with games like Evo and Vinci, both of which were early additions to my game collection.  More recently, the Belgian designer has produced Small World (a re-theming of Vinci) as well as Olympos.  His newest design is a departure from his previous type of game (all of the previously mentioned games are of the area control type).   His newest game, Twin Tin Bots, is a take on the action-programming genre – and it will make its debut at the 2013 SPIEL fair in Essen, Germany.  It also represents a departure from the usual for the publisher, Flatlined Games, a small Belgian company that was best known for the quirky Rumble in the House/Rumble in the Dungeon.

ttb

As I said earlier, Twin Tin Bots (TTB) is a programmed action game.  Each player controls two robots, and the actions of those robots are decided by a control board which has up to three actions per robot.  The goal of the game is to maneuver your robots around the board to pick up crystals and then transport them back to your base tile in order to score points.  There are 3 different colored crystals in the game: blue (worth 2 VP), green (3VP) and pink (4VP)

Promo graphic provided by Flatlined Games

Promo graphic provided by Flatlined Games

TTB is played out on a hex-based map.  The board provided is double sided – giving an appropriate area for the robots to maneuver for whichever number of players you happen to have.  The rules have suggested setups in order to ensure that all players have an equitable starting position for the game.  At the start of the game, each player has their two robots and base hex equally spaced out around the board.  It is important to note that each robot has a definite orientation in its space, it should always be clearly facing on the sides of the hex it is in.

3d_all_components-640_animated

Further, there are some crystals already placed on the board – all equally available to all the players.  There is also a supply board which contains the remaining crystals to be used in this game.  To help visualize, in a 4 player game, there are 6 blue and 1 green crystal on the board.  The rest of the supply is 3 green and 4 pink crystals – for a total of 14 different crystals available for the entire game.

Each player starts with his program board (again with 3 spaces each for two robots), an identical set of order tiles, and one special order tile dealt face down from the supply so that each player has one order which is unique to him.  A starting player is chosen and play proceeds clockwise around the board until the game end condition is met.

programboard

Each player’s turn in the game follows a simple pattern:

1) Make a modification to a single robot on your programming board

2) Execute all the orders on your programming board from left to right

When you make a modification to your planning – you have a few options.  The big thing to remember is you can only change the programming of a single Robot in any given turn.  You can choose from the following options

·         Place an order in any slot – if that slot already had an order in place, you simply place the new one there and the old one goes back in your hand

·         Swap any two already played orders – you can change the position of any two Orders already played – but again, remember that they both have to be for the same Robot!

·         Remove an order from any slot – simply take an order back and place it in your hand

·         Remove all orders for a robot – take back all the orders for a single robot

·         Do nothing

planning-recap

Once you have made your one modification, you then run all the orders on your program board by going left to right and looking at what actions are described on the action tiles.  You are obligated to try to carry out the order if it is on the board, but if you cannot do the thing the order tile asks you to do, you simply skip it and move onto the next order.

Examples of the orders:

·         Move forward one space – if something is in the space in front of you, you also push that thing by one space

·         Move forward one space (twice)

·         Turn Left

·         Turn right

·         Load a crystal that you are facing

·         Drop a crystal into the next hex in the direction you are facing

·         Zap – shoot a laser beam in a straight line and cause the robot it hits to do one of the above actions

Examples of the different order tiles

Examples of the different order tiles

Examples of the special orders (Each player gets one)

·         Turn twice

·         Make a u-turn (turn 3 times really)

·         Jump

·         Reverse (move one space, but backwards)

·         Double Zap

Again, the goal of the game is to deliver crystals to your base (to score points).  To do this, you must use your orders to move your robot into a hex with your robot facing a crystal in an adjacent space.  Then, you use a “Load” order to pick up the crystal – and when you do this, you physically  place the crystal onto your robot piece.  Then you move your loaded robot back to be adjacent and facing your base where you will use the “unload” order to drop it off.

If you are able to successfully do this, you place the crystal next to you, and you will score VP for this at the end of the game – again 2VP for blue, 3 for green, 4 for pink.  Each time that you remove a crystal from the board, you place a new one from the supply board as close as you can to the center hex on the board.  All of the gems that enter the game will be in the center.

There are plenty of things that can stop you from delivering the crystal to your base – namely, all the other robots in the game.  As you are carrying the crystal around, if any robot comes adjacent to you and uses a “Load” order, they pluck the crystal right out of your arms and start carrying it themselves!  Also, you could be “Zapped” and be forced to drop the crystal on the ground.   You also need to be careful that you are not forced (via a Zap) to drop off a crystal onto another player’s base.  If that happens, then they get the crystal and score all the points for your hard work!

The game goes on until one of two conditions is met.  The most likely condition is that all of the gems have been placed on the board – when the final supply gem is placed, the current round is finished and then three more complete rounds are played.  Points are added up, and the player with the most points wins!   The less likely condition (and one which I have never seen happen) is that the game immediately ends if a player reaches a set VP total – in a 4p game, it is 9 points.

My thoughts on the game

Many of the action planning games are known for their length.  And I don’t mean this in a necessarily positive way.  I’ve been stuck in a few games of RoboRally where people were so far off track that it took us over 2 hours to finish a board.   TTB does not seem to suffer from that problem.  The board is small enough that you are never that far away from a crystal or your base.  Furthermore, because everything is so close, something is bound to happen to move the game towards the end.  Crystals can be stolen and quickly delivered… or someone can zap you into delivering a crystal to a different base.  In any event, the endgame is triggered in a 4p game after the 7th crystal is delivered – so this really helps keep the game into the manageable 45-60 minute time frame.

http://www.flatlinedgames.com/files/games/twin_tin_bots/howdifferent_banner.png

Each individual turn goes quick (for the genre).  There is definitely a lot of time that could be spent planning, but since players get to look at the board in a static situation when planning their moves, it makes the computation easier.  Unlike many other planning games, you don’t have to try to anticipate the actions of your opponents when planning your own moves.  In TTB, you see the board, plan your moves and then execute them with nothing able to interrupt that flow.   In addition, as you can only change one thing each round, this gives you less to think about each time.   I find the planning easy in this game – partly due to the fact that I can only make one change.

The one thing to keep in mind as you play is that you don’t need to deliver that many crystals to win.  This low scoring game keeps it competitive as a single pink crystal near the end of the game could be more than half of your points!  In our most recent 4p game, scores were 8-6-6-5.  And the third place player did have a pink crystal on his robot that he just ran short of actions to deliver for the game winning move.

Components: Twin Tin Bots is a big-box affair with tons of bits inside.  The plastic molded robots are sturdy and well designed.  You do have to put the teeny tiny stickers on the robots yourself when you first get the game, and I would definitely recommend tweezers to do this job as my fat fingers were way too big to get the stickers off the sheet and onto the plastic pieces.  The crystals also appear to be custom molded and are nicely made.  The rulebook is a hefty 40 pages thick! – but in includes rules in 4 languages – English, Dutch, French and German – which allowed the small company to only have to print one rulebook for the whole run.

the actual minis - pic taken by the publisher

the actual minis – pic taken by the publisher

 Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Jonathan Franklin – Remember the agony of Tzolkin when you wanted to add and remove workers on the same turn?  TTB has that in spades because you can only reprogram one of the two bots at a time.  The programming is intuitive and smooth because the choices are fairly limited.  At the same time, the size of the arena means it is a highly interactive game.  As Dale notes above, the zap/drop + load action is often used at precisely the moment you are about to deliver a gem because your movements have become predictable.

There is an interesting set of choices in whether to keep your bots close to each other on the board or cover more area by splitting the party.  There are some really cool moves if you keep the bots close to each other, such as a strategic drop by one bot and a load by the other one, saving one of the bots from having to turn around.  At the same time, you are leaving more area on the map for others and if both of your bots are bouncing into walls on the same turn, that is not a good thing.

I found TTB a good balance of fun and frustration, but cannot recommend it for people who don’t like spatial puzzles or dislike having their hard work undone by the other players.

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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