Game Buzz: Twin Tin Bots

Philippe Keyaerts has had a long and distinguished career designing games. However, his catalog really only consists of five games – Vinci (1999), Evo (2001), Space Blast (2004), Small World (2009), and Olympos (2011). Now there’s another:

image by BGG user ehanuise
image by BGG user ehanuise

Twin Tin Bots is a new game from Philippe Keyaerts and Flatlined Games. It’s a game for 2-6 players that takes 50 minutes to play. The game was Kickstarted back in May in its second attempt.  It was released at Spiel this year, and wound up at #4 on the GeekBuzz.  The game is about robots harvesting crystals and uses a programming mechanism that will inevitably draw comparisons to RoboRally.  However, it is different because you’re operating two robots at once and can only change one order per turn.

image by BGG user ehanuise
image by BGG user ehanuise

The game comes with a two-sided board (one side for 2-4 players, one side for 5-6); a two-sided crystal track; 18 plastic crystals; 6 plastic bases and 12 plastic robots; 6 programming boards; 96 order tiles; 13 special order tiles; 3 countdown counters (1-3); one active base token; 3 rock tokens; 3 blob tokens; 6 teleport tokens; and 3 mud tokens.  Each player begins with a base and two robots, all of which are placed on the board in positions according to the number of players.  Orientation of robots does matter – each should be facing a hex side.  They also get 16 order tiles, one random special order tile, and a programming board.  The countdown tokens are given to the starting player (chosen randomly).  Three more crystals than the number of players are placed on the board.

On your turn, you first may change the programming of one robot, and then must run the program of both robots.  Each robot has three programming slots, so when you change programming, you either put one order in one of the six slots (replacing one that was there if applicable), swap two slots of a single robot’s programming, remove a single order, reset the entire programming of a robot by returning all tiles from its program to your hand, or pass.  Orders include moving forward (pushing a single robot or obstacle in front of you); turning left or right; loading a crystal your robot faces; unloading a crystal on a space of the board (including empty spaces, robots that are empty, or bases); and zapping a robot in front of you to move, load, or unload.  There’s also a double modification tile that can be used once per game, allowing you to change two programs in a turn.  Special order tiles can be reused, but give you something unique you can do – turn twice; avoid a zap; u-turn; forward up to 3 spaces; forward and load in the same turn; forward and zap in the same turn; forward and push multiple items at once; jump over stuff; back up; double zap; avoid having crystals stolen; or long range zap.  You can get more special orders by delivering blue 2-point crystals to your base.

Once you have changed a program (or not), you run each robot’s program from left to right on your board.  Robot 1 will always go before Robot 2.  All instructions must be followed if possible.

The game ends when a player brings 7-11 points of crystals (depending on the number of players) to their base.  Alternatively, the game ends three rounds after the last crystal enters play – the first player discards a countdown tile each time it is his turn again.  The winner is the one with the most points.

Let’s go ahead and get the RoboRally comparisons out of the way – there’s a thematic similarity with robots, and a mechanical similarity with programming actions, but that’s really where it ends.  RoboRally is more of a race, where TTB is all about competition for resources.  Your programming in RoboRally changes after ever five moves (unless you’ve received damage), whereas the programming in TTB only changes one thing out of six possible moves.  RoboRally is more confrontational with lasers, pits, and smashers – TTB has zaps that just make someone move a little.  RoboRally has the luck of the card draw, TTB has a set of 16 tiles you can use as you wish and get back after use (for the most part).  RoboRally is pure Ameritrash, TTB is more of a Eurogame.

I absolutely love the programming mechanism (see my post on eleven games with programming for more), and am glad to see another game using it.  Twin Tin Bots looks like it offers some tough decisions, but some high strategy in trying to figure out how to get around and collect crystals while only changing one robot’s actions at a time.  It forces you to think in two different directions at once, and I can see how that will be a struggle for the spatially challenged.  I doubt this is going to be a game for everyone, but it’s one I’m really looking forward to trying out.  Thanks for reading!

Thanks for playing!

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