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Subject: RoboBall: a rubble-rousing RoboRally variant (rules, long)
From: (Joseph Grace)

ROBOBALL (v1.0 - March 23, 1995)

RoboBall is a full-contact, rubble-rousing RoboRally variant to promote close quarters robot interaction in a fun, full participation fashion. I envision it both as a free-for-all (a la vanilla RoboRally) or as a team-oriented game (2+ players per team). In any case, all play is focused on the RoboBall. So, full contact, close quarters, highly interactive robo-fun is the order of the day.

I hope you enjoy RoboBall. Please let me know by usenet post or e-mail:

GENERAL RULES (as in vanilla RoboRally except as follows)

Robots have infinite lives.
House rules as appropriate.


The RoboBall begins play in a central location on the factory floor.
Each team starts play with an equal number of robots, each of which is controlled by a player. (E.g., in free-for-all solo action, each team has one player.)
Each team has a specific, unique starting and victory location (called home base or just home) roughly equidistant from the RoboBall starting location. All robots from each team begin play at their team's home base (in virtual mode, if necessary due to co-located robots).
The team homes are represented with flag markers. These locations archive and repair (single wrench) as flag locations normally would.
Whichever team successfully first gets the RoboBall back to its home wins the game. However, as usual, victory is awarded only if the RoboBall ends the phase on the home.
No team robots need be alive at end of phase for a team to achieve victory.


There is an indestructible hover-ball called the RoboBall which begins the game near the center of the factory floor. The RoboBall is about the size of a rotund robot and hovers just above the floor. It has practically no intelligence.
Almost without exception (but see "RoboPogoMode" and "RoboBall Extraction Mode", below), the RoboBall behaves as an indestructible, powered-down robot.
Except under special circumstances, the factory floor devices move the RoboBall just as they would move a robot, so the RoboBall is subject to walls, pushers, and conveyors as normal. Gears, and crushers have essentially no effect on RoboBalls.
Basically, the RoboBall moves only when tractor-beamed (by a player robot) or pushed. Otherwise it remains stationary (i.e., no inertia). Nothing can harm it, and it cannot fall into pits or off the edge of the board (even if pushed off the edge; see "RoboPogoMode", below).
In all cases of damage, the RoboBall behaves as a wall, i.e., it absorbs any damage to itself without any effect. In particular, lasers, crushers, and special options have no effect on the RoboBall. Also, just like a wall, it can be shot through (with the appropriate option) without, itself, taking any damage.


The ball may be directly moved by a robot in two ways.
First, a robot may push the RoboBall just as it would push a robot.
Second, a robot may drag the RoboBall via a trailer-hitch-tractor-beam (hitch, for short). Under normal conditions, a hitched RoboBall will follow in the exact path of its (currently) dragging robot.
In particular, when hitched and dragged, the RoboBall occupies the same spaces which the dragging robot takes, except that it trails behind the robot by one space (i.e., adjacent to the dragging robot). As a dragging robot vacates a space, the RoboBall occupies the just-vacated, trailing space.
When a dragging robot turns, the RoboBall remains stationary and hitched to the dragging robot.
Also, if a robot enters a conveyor belt, the robot will continue dragging the RoboBall as it moves under power of the conveyor belt. Once again, the RoboBall will trace the path of the robot and, barring interference, will follow the robot in the appropriate trailing, adjacent conveyor belt square.
If, at any time, the RoboBall cannot enter the previously occupied space of the dragging robot (e.g., when a conveyor belt moves the dragging robot but another robot occupies the space just behind the dragging robot), then the hitch is instantly broken to that robot, and the RoboBall will no longer trail that robot.


Under normal circumstances, a robot drags the RoboBall. However, since the RoboBall can also be moved by other robots or factory floor devices, a hitched robot may also be dragged by the RoboBall.
This dragging is mandatory for a hitched robot. To avoid being dragged, a hitched robot must unhitch itself at the end of a phase. (See Trailer-hitch-tractor-beam, below.)
A robot is dragged by the RoboBall in the very same way that a robot drags the RoboBall. However, since multiple robots can be hitched to the RoboBall simultaneously (but only one per team), a few additional complications arise and are addressed as follows.
Analogous to the situation when two robots are conveyed to the same space simultaneously under conveyor power (and neither succeeds but, instead, both remain stationary adjacent to the target space), so do robots automatically lose their hitches and remain stationary when dragged to the same space by the RoboBall. In other words, since there is no priority to determine which dragged robot gets to occupy the space, none does, and they all lose their hitches. In this case the RoboBall automatically unhitches those robots and advances beyond that point without them.
Essentially then, the RoboBall can drag at most one robot at a time, and, if two or (at most) three robots are in position to be dragged, the RoboBall automatically dehitches from all the draggable robots and drags none. The unhitched robots remain behind, each in their location adjacent to the location where the collision would have occurred. In this case, only the dragging robot remains hitched.


Each and every team in RoboBall has a trailer-hitch-tractor-beam (hitch) initiator. This initiator can be used to attach a tractor beam from a team robot to the RoboBall. No more than one robot per team may be hitched to the RoboBall at any one time. However, given no hitched robot on a particular team, any member of that team is eligible during any phase to hitch to the RoboBall. Also, the tractor beam can be initiated from any of the four sides of a robot.
To hitch the ball, you merely direct your robot so that it is in contact (i.e., in an adjacent square without any intervening wall) with the ball at the end of a phase and declare that you are hitching the RoboBall. You may declare to hitch the RoboBall, as long as no other member of your team is hitched to the ball. The ball will hitch to your robot immediately.
A hitched robot remains hitched to the RoboBall even if the robot turns (i.e., rotates). In other words, once attached to a robot, the RoboBall remains hitched to that robot as long as that robot maintains contact with the RoboBall (and does not declare to unhitch, below).
To detach from the RoboBall, you declare to unhitch at the end of any phase in which you are hitched to the ball. The ball will detach immediately.
A powered-down robot may not make any hitch declarations.
Multiple robots may hitch the ball simultaneously. In case of timing issues, normal movement priority for the current phase determines order-sensitive hitch declarations (i.e., in case one team wants to hear another team's hitch declaration before declaring its own). In other words, the team whose hitching robot moved first declares first.
Also, within a team, an unhitch declaration may happen before a hitch declaration (regardless of intra-team movement priorities).


As suggested above, gears have no effect on robot hitch'es.
The RoboBall automatically detaches from any hitched robot which is separated from the RoboBall (e.g., when the RoboBall is being pushed sideways (relative to the hitch orientation) by another robot, or a robot is destroyed); once detached, a robot must re-hitch to the RoboBall as normal (even if the ball miraculously reappears adjacent to it later in that movement phase).
Also, if a robot pulls the RoboBall into a pit or off the factory floor while the RoboBall is hitched, the RoboBall automatically detaches at the edge of the pit or board, thus freeing the robot to plunge into the pit or off the factory floor. The RoboBall remains safely at the edge of the pit or floor.


In cases where the RoboBall is pushed beyond the edge of a pit or board, the RoboBall instead enters "RoboPogoMode", automatically detaching from any hitched robots. Essentially, when in this mode, the RoboBall bounces up above the (or any other) pushy, offending robot (i.e., about one robo-height, five and a half feet above the factory floor) allowing the robot to move underneath the RoboBall. Each phase a robot (usually the offending robot) remains in the space below the RoboBall at the end of movement, the RoboBall RoboPogo bounces on the head (via a RoboPogoStick-like action) of the co-located robot for a point of damage. This damage occurs immediately after laser damage.
Lasers may fire under a RoboBall which is in RoboPogoMode.
The RoboBall cannot be tractor-beamed while it is in RoboPogoMode. When the space below the RoboBall is vacant at the end of laser damage, the ball leaves "RoboPogoMode" and drops back to normal height just above floor-level. At such time, the RoboBall once again becomes available for hitching as normal (i.e., for that phase).
If, for example, a robot moves forward into a pit while pushing the RoboBall (e.g., on a move-3), the RoboBall will instantly enter RoboPogoMode at the space just before the edge of the pit to allow the offending robot to dash (underneath the RoboBall) to its destruction into the pit. Assuming no other robot occupies the RoboBall's space at the edge of the pit, then (at the end of that phase) the RoboBall would once again return to normal hover-level.
If a robot attempted to push the RoboBall into a pit but did not itself move into the pit (e.g., on a move-1 up to the edge of a pit), the RoboBall would instantly enter "RoboPogoMode" at the pit-edge allowing the offending robot to move directly underneath itself. Then, just after laser beams fire, the RoboBall would begin RoboPogo'ing the offending (or any unfortunate, co-located) robot into submission by bonking the co-located robot for one point of damage ("ta da top uh da hed").
In the event that a robot meets its demise while beneath the RoboBall, the RoboBall would leave RoboPogoMode and return to normal hover-mode (i.e., become available for hitching at the end of that phase). Otherwise, it would remain co-located above the offending robot (to deal another point of damage again next phase, as necessary).
A conveyor belt cannot convey the RoboBall into a pit or off the edge of the board. Instead, the RoboBall does its RoboPogo dance to avoid moving under conveyor belt power. At the end of phase, the RoboBall once again returns to normal altitude and is available for hitching at that precipitous location.


If, for some reason, the RoboBall becomes inaccessible and all players agree that the RoboBall is inaccessible, the RoboBall enters RoboBall Extraction Mode (R.E.M.). In R.E.M., the RoboBall executes a full turn (five phases) of randomly drawn instructions from the top of the instructions deck, beginning at the next start of turn.
These instructions are dealt face-down in order drawn, and revealed upon execution in the appropriate phase.
For execution of the movement instructions, the RoboBall is considered to face the direction in which it most recently moved (whether by robot or board device). For example, if the RoboBall was most recently pushed in a particular direction, then the RoboBall is considered facing that direction at the start of execution of its five instructions. (Ignore any intervening gear rotations since the most recent RoboBall move.)
During (and only during) R.E.M., gears do affect the RoboBall, i.e., since the RoboBall has an orientation, the gears can change the RoboBall's direction of movement.
Crushers still have no effect on the RoboBall.
As usual, the RoboBall balks at any instructions which would lead to its own pit-or-board-edge-demise and treats such instructions as noops (by executing no instruction for that phase, and, in the next phase, skipping to the next instruction).
This extraction process may repeat as necessary until the RoboBall becomes accessible at the end of a turn. If a RoboBall remains in R.E.M. across consecutive turns, it inherits the same facing (at the beginning of the new turn in R.E.M.) that it had at the end of the previous turn.