The object of the game is to get your robots to touch the flags on the game board in numerical order before your opponents.
Players are dealt a hand of cards, whose size will vary. More on that later. All players compose a five-card program in secret and submit it. The remaining cards, if any, are discarded.
The robots perform their programs in five stages, alternating between robot movement and mechanisms on the factory floor that can affect the robot's movement.
The stages are reported on the web site as follows:
First, a graphic depiction of the current board and all robots' positions is displayed. Below that, a table describing the events of the stage appears.
In the first line of the table are the players' names, as well as their robots' colours.
The second line displays the operating mode of each robot. A robot can be real, virtual, or destroyed. When the game starts, all players appear on the same square. At this time, the robots are virtual, and they cannot affect each other. This includes pushing other robots and being pushed, shooting other robots and being shot. A virtual robot is still affected by board elements including board lasers. If, at the end of the first turn a virtual robot occupies a square all by itself, then it becomes real. If there are two or more robots in the same square, then they become real at the end of the first stage that they are alone in their square.
If a robot loses all its hit points, whether through laser fire or because of a pit or a crusher, the robot becomes destroyed, and cannot carry out the rest of its program. The robot is removed from the board immediately. It will be reinstated at the end of the turn, if the player has any robots left.
If a robot is destroyed, then a new one is reinstated if the player has any left (more on the details of this in the End of Turn section). The reinstated robot spends its first full turn in virtual mode, and continues to be virtual so long as another robot occupies its square. If it is in a square by itself at the end of its first turn after being reinstated (or as soon as it ends any subsequent stage alone in a square), it enters real mode, and can affect other robots.
On the third line, the cards active for that stage are revealed. There are seven kinds of cards: FWD1, FWD2, FWD3, RVS1, LF90, RT90, and UTRN.
FWD1, FWD2 and FWD3 move the robot forward in a straight line the indicated number of squares. RVS1 moves the robot backward one square, without turning around.
LF90 and RT90 rotate the robot in place 90 degrees to the left and to the right, respectively. UTRN rotates the robot 180 degrees. None of these three cards moves the robot at all.
The cards also have a unique number assigned to them. This determines the order in which the actions should be performed. Larger numbers happen first. In general, the bigger the movement, the earlier the action happens.
The next line lists what the outcomes of the cards are.
If a robot moves, the table will say 'move to' and then the coordinate of the square that the robot moves to. The coordinate will be in the form r#c#, where the numbers indicate the row and column of the entire floor. The westernmost column is 1, as is the southernmost row.
If a robot turns, the table will say 'face' and the cardinal direction that the robot is now facing.
If two robots interact over the course of a turn, because an robot moves to the square occupied by another robot, then the stationary robot gets pushed. This will be noted on this line, with the time index that the pushing occurs and what square the robot moves to. If it happens before the pushed robot's card takes effect, then it will appear before the readout of the card's action, and if not, then after.
If a movement cannot be completed, because of a wall, or a robot that cannot be pushed because it is up against a wall itself, then the move is completed as much as is possible and the message "obstruction encountered" will appear.
The fifth line indicates what interaction with board elements there are, if any. In the order in which they take affect, they are:
If at any time, your robot moves into a square that contains a pit, the robot falls and is destroyed.
Conveyors move robots in the direction that the arrow in that square indicates.
Robots that begin this part of the stage on a blue-arrowed conveyor move up to two squares in the directions indicated by the arrows. (The robot moves a second time if and only if it moves onto a second conveyor square, in which case it moves in the direction indicated by the arrow in the second square. Otherwise, it moves only one square.) Robots that begin this part of the stage on a yellow-arrowed conveyor move one square.
If a conveyor moves a robot onto a square made of empty floor space or another conveyor moving in the same direction, then nothing interesting happens.
If, on the other hand, the conveyor moves a robot onto another conveyor moving perpendicular to the first, then the robot gets turned as it moves onto the second conveyor as well. If the second conveyor is moving 90 degrees clockwise compared to the first conveyor (i.e. to the right) then the robot is rotated 90 degrees clockwise. If the second conveyor is 90 degrees counterclockwise, then the robot will rotate 90 degrees counterclockwise.
Note that this is quite different from a robot moving onto a conveyor under its own power. In that case the robot doesn't also turn.
In the case where two conveyor squares are trying to move robots into the same square of empty floor, neither robot moves. If they are being moved into a square with a conveyor, then the robot who would move in the same direction as the conveyor does moves, and the other doesn't. If neither robot is moving in that direction, neither robot moves.
If a conveyor would push a robot into a stationary robot, then the conveyor has no effect.
A pusher moves robots one square away from the wall on which they are mounted. Pushers are marked with numbers which indicate the stages during which they are active.
In the case where two pushers are trying to move robots into the same square, neither robot moves.
If a pusher would push a robot into a stationary robot, then the second robot gets pushed if possible. If it's not possible, neither robot moves.
Gears rotate robots 90 degrees in the direction indicated.
Crushers destroy robots. Crushers are marked with numbers, indicating the stages during which they are active.
Lasers do damage to robots. If by this time, a robot is standing on a square where a laser on the board would hit it, then it loses one hit point for every such laser. If another robot stands between a blue laser turret and you robot, your robot does not take damage.
If your robot takes on laser fire, your column of the table will say so, for example, "-1 HP".
The sixth line of the table shows the laser fire of the robots. The coordinates of the squares each robot fires into will be listed, using the same system as above, e.g. r4-6c7, meaning that the laser passes through squares r4c7 through r6c7. If your robot's laser hits an opponent, then that opponent's name will appear just below the squares your robot shoots. That player will lose one hit point.
The seventh line lists each player's current hit points, after all of the above is taken into consideration. Each player starts with ten HP. Between turns each player is dealt cards equal to their number of HP - 1. (So a player at full health gets nine cards.)
If your HP drops to zero, then your robot is destroyed. At the beginning of the game, you get three robots. If you destroy them all, you are out of the game. If your robot is destroyed, this information will be displayed in the table at the point where it happens.
If your HP drops below six, i.e. past the point where you would be dealt enough cards to make a complete five-card program, then the card dictating the last stage's part of the program gets "fused", or locked in place. Whatever card is there when this happens will be in the same position for your next turn. This goes on until that robot is destroyed, or repaired to the point where it has enough HP to build a long enough program to reach it.
For example, if your robot is shot by a laser and now has 5 HP, you would only be dealt enough cards next turn to make the first four stages of your program. Whatever card is used in the fifth stage of the current program is locked in, and will serve as the fifth card of your next program. If you take another point of damage, then the fourth card in your program is fused as well.
If a register gets fused this way, the information will be displayed in the table at the point where it happens.
The eighth line, which may or may not be in a given table, updates checkpoints.
If a robot ends a stage on a square marked with a green wrench icon or a flag without being destroyed, then it has touched a checkpoint. If that robot gets destroyed, then the next robot will be reinstated on this square, rather than at the start. In the case of a flag, your robot has now tagged it, and can move on to the next one.
After this, the next stage begins, starting with a depiction of the board as it now stands.
After five stages, a final graphic showing the state of the board at the end of the turn appears, then the table covering the end-of-turn actions. They are:
The player's names on line 1.
The player's modes on line 2.
The most recent checkpoint touched by each robot. If a robot's mode was "destroyed" the robot will be reinstated in the indicated square.
The flags touched by each robot are displayed. Flags are counted as touched if the robot is on the square with the flag at the end of a stage.
The fifth line may not appear. It lists whatever options, if any, robots have accumulated. A robot can pick up an option if it ends a turn on a two-wrench repair station. (It can also choose to repair two points of damage instead; see below.) A robot may have more than one option.
Options alter or improve the way a robot behaves. It may give a new weapon, or change the way a robot moves, or modify current weapons. Some need to be programmed, and this will be noted in the description of the option when a player receives one. More information about the specifics of options will be forthcoming.
You can choose to sacrifice an option instead of losing a hit point. All options are lost when a robot is destroyed.
If you are on a repair station or a flag square at the end of a turn, you can repair damage: one point for a one-wrench station or a flag, and two for a two-wrench station. If the player chooses to repair damage, his/her robot cannot also get an option.
Finally, a review of HP and robots remaining is given. At this point it is announced whether a player wishes to reboot.
A reboot takes an entire turn, but restores all HP. While your robot is rebooting, it cannot execute a program, cannot fire its laser, and cannot interact with a checkpoint. Other robots may still push it, and lasers can damage it. If your robot is damaged during a reboot, you will be missing the usual amount of HP on the turn after. Options and checkpoints are still intact for the player.
A player can call for a reboot to occur only at the end of a program, it must be before s/he finds out the results of the turn.
An additional table may be added at the end if any robot has fused registers. This is for reference so that all players can see what cards are in those registers easily.
For each turn, the GM will send out your HP, robots left, fused registers, if any, and cards.
Send back a five-card program (less if you get fewer than five cards). Also declare whether or not you want to reboot for the turn after. If it matters to you which of two similar program cards (i.e., two FWD1's) should come first, please specify by number. If not, they will be ordered as they appear in your hand.
If you have an option, you should also say at what point you would like to sacrifice it in taking a point of damage. Default is at HP 6.
Turns should be submitted no later than five days from the day the GM sends out cards. The GM will take up to two days to compile the turn, ask questions, and accept corrections. (If the GM is also a player, his/her program should be completed at this time as well.)
Going into effect as of Turn 4 of Game 1: There is an electrified fance around the perimeter of the entire board. If a robot moves to leave the board, whether because of their program or if moved by other robots or board mechanisms, the robot will lose 2 HP and will encounter an obstacle.
The material in this rules document in yellow was added during Turn 8 of Game 1, but has been assumed by its game master to have been in effect throughout Game 1.
The material in this rules document in pink was added during Turn 10 of Game 1, but has been assumed by its game master to have been in effect throughout Game 1.