Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Emerson Matsuuchi

Heidelbär Games

No. of Players:
2 -4



G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

1994, my second year at university, Bill Clinton was president of the United States and Boris Jelzin was ruling Russia. The boardgame novelties were still manageable, and new games were being sold for more than just one year. The gaming world had also to wait for two more years, before Frank founded Kulkmann's G@mebox....

But it was also the year, in which the first edition of Robo Rally was released. Since then, I am playing this great robo race game. My wife and I really love the game, but we also learnt that a lot of other players have more or less problems with the necessary visual thinking while programming the robots. As a result, we cannot present the game as often as we like.

That's one of the reasons why I was deeply interested in Volt after I had heard that the game uses a similar programming mechanism, but with easier access to the rules and simpler visual thinking demands on the players. The other main reason why I was interested: it's one of the two first new game of the new founded HEIDELBÄR GAMES publisher. Yes, HEIDELBERGER is back, well at least the old development group around CEO Heiko. So, let us see, how they are managing their “comeback”.

First fact: Volt has an impressive look! The gamebox is used to create a battle arena with arena pillars on the four corners. Four boards can be used for different arena set-ups with each board diveded into square spaces. Most of these spaces have no special function, but – depending on the board – there are also arena elements that block or damage the robots. Moreover, pits swallow and destroy the robots completely. Workshop and victory point spaces on the other hand are of much less annoyance for the players, the first used for repairs and new equipment, the latter – logically – for gathering victory points.

A round consists of three phases. The first phase is the preparation. Each round a new victory point token is drawn and placed on the matching space in the arena. It's also the phase in which destroyed robots re-enter the arena. So you are not out of the game after the destruction of your robot, but you have to wait for the next round to begin.

The second phase is the main body of the game. In this phase the players secretly plan the actions of their robots and carry out the results of their programming. Three steps are programmed simultaneously ahead behind a screen, hidden from the other players. Four dice, two of them red (the lasers), the other blue (the movement), are available for the programming. Those dice aren't rolled, but must be placed on a control unit, one for every of the three steps. One die per control unit must be placed on one of the eight “keys” of the unit, representing the direction in which the robot moves (in case of a blue die) or shoots (red die). Three steps, but four dice, so one die remains unused in every round.

The players can freely choose the number of each die. This is important for the blue dice, because the number on the die equals the number of spaces the robot will move (in the indicated direction). But the number is also important to determine the players order. To understand this, you must know, that after the programming all players take away their screens and carry out each step simultaneously. So, we start with the first programming step with the player with the lowest number on his die. In case two dice show the same number, the robot with the blue die moves before the robot with a red die shoots. And if there is still a tie, the start number that is taken by each player after programming determines the order.

The order is quite important. As you will guess, a robot will be damaged if it is in shooting direction of another robot that fires (with a red die). But if the robot moves before the red die is carried out, the robot may be out of sight. Of course, it is also possible that a robot moves in the shooting direction. Or it is pushed in the line of fire by another player, because robots can push other robots while moving forward. And because the boards are not very huge, you will be frequently pushed, ending in a unexpected position after the activation. Of course, the rest of your programmed steps are carried out from the new position, and so robots move chaotically, shoot in senseless direction or sometimes move into pits by their own.

Unlike the locked programming slots in Robo Rally, there are no disadvantages for damaged robots in Volt. But if a robot takes its third damage token, it is destroyed and the player who triggerd the damage gets a victory point token (the same applies if a robot is pushed into a pit).

Victory points in the arena can only be collected in phase three. If a robot stays on a victory point after phase two, it automatically gets the victory point. This seems to be easy, but there is always a lot pushing, so your original plans are often affected by the other robots. Equipment cards (called modules in the game) further improve the robots during the game. Two of these cards are drawn at the set-up, and more can be obtained on the workshop spaces in the arena. These cards make the robots unique, there are shields, grenades, teleports and many other special functions that make the game more interesting, but also even more chaotic. The game immediately ends when one player gets the fifth victory point.

Volt is not a completely new game but it reimplements Volt - Robot Battle Arena. However, the new version has more options and includes new game modes. The most interesting one is the introduction of a killbot for games with 2 or 3 players. In this mode, an additional card-driven AI robot enters the arena next to the players. As a result, the game gets more chaotic and the open spaces decrease like in the four player game. More robots are being pushed, and the plans of the players are often destroyed. But it's only an option, you can always play without this dangerous AI robot.

I liked playing Volt a lot. As presumed, it is a lighter version of Robo Rally, much more compact and much more a fighting than a racing game. New players have less problems with visual thinking (because you don't need to rotate your robot) and the number of steps to think ahead (three steps instead of five). The game plays very fast, I seldom played a game more than half an hour. In the end, I will keep both games to play with my different gaming groups. My wife still adores Robo Rally, but a lot of other players liked Volt more. And I guess that especially younger (male) players prefer the fighting arena game, as it is more direct and the fights are more more frequently.

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Copyright © 2019 Ralf Togler & Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany