Sunday, April 08, 2012

Ricochet Robots

Ricochet Robots is a puzzle board game I've played a few times now. The basic idea is you have a board with 4 robots and a lot of walls on it. Then a tile gets flipped up telling you to move a specific robot to a specific square on the board. Robots move in a straight line until they run into a wall or a robot. The goal is to find the fewest number of moves to get the indicated robot where it needs to go.

The first person to see a solution yells out the number and starts a one minute timer. Everyone can keep looking for a shorter solution and then whoever was the first to name the lowest number demonstrates it. If it works, they win a point and the board stays in the new configuration for the next puzzle. There's a different scoring method where instead of the first person to name the lowest number getting the point instead it's the first person with the fewest points who named the lowest number who wins.

People seem to be pretty mixed on which one to play. The first has the flaw that if someone is just slightly faster they'll end up with all the points and there's no way to differentiate between fourth and fifth, for example. The second has the flaw that most games simply don't matter at all. Assuming most people can find something to get right they'll be able to tie things up pretty easily and then you'll only have the last couple puzzles mattering at all.

I was thinking if there could be a better way to solve the problem... They don't work on a board since you can't make everyone prove they saw the solution but on a computer implementation you could have everyone submit a solution and anyone who found it splits the point. You could also have the timer reset each time someone names a lower number. (I was thinking the optimal strategy in the real rules when you're ahead is to just name a high number to start the timer and then sit on your real solution until the clock has almost run out. This prevents people from trying to see your solution.) This way people get rewarded for getting puzzles solved correctly in a reasonable time frame. It also rewards someone who gets a particularly hard puzzle right by weighting it as being worth more. The game may end up coming down to a couple specific puzzles but at least this way it comes down to the hard ones and not to the last ones.

I donno. I like it with the first one wins rules but then I do get things first some of the time. I won the game during Lounge Day with 7 of the 17!

1 comment:

Robb said...

"Ricochet Robots is a puzzle board game... "

To me, this is the important word in the description. Ricochet Robot is essentially a puzzle. Sure, there's a speed element - but like many puzzle-type games, the fun is in solving the puzzle, not winning the game. If you enjoy the exercise of finding the solutions, you'll enjoy the game, whether you're quick at it or not. I'd rather just de-emphasize scoring entirely. This is why I prefer the "first one to call it gets it" rules - you spend less time looking at people's points - but I'd be just as happy to play this game by throwing all the points back in the box.