Main Logo

The Ghosts of Magic Past





I used to pride myself on playing Magic: The Gathering badly. Nothing gave me more pleasure than to come up with an incredibly negative white deck, and then bring a multi-player game to a shuddering, grinding halt, in which no-one had any chance of winning, or in fact of achieving anything, ever.

Then one Sunday, two of my former victims finally got their revenge, when we decided to play one of my favourite games, RoboRally.

We had three boards, and three flags. Starting off on a relatively simple middle board ("Pit Maze"), we then travelled to the left-hand board:

My home-made "Research Lab" board.

...for the first flag before heading back across the Pit Maze to the right-hand board:

The insanely complicated "roundabout" board, with a fiendishly difficult flag placing.

Now I'm sure that everyone who's ever played this board will know that it's a right sod, reminiscent of what the Hanger Lane Gyratory System would be like at rush-hour if people had lasers mounted on their car bonnets.

It was at this point I discovered a rather large flaw in RoboRally, which is that it's prone to stalemate if people aren't actually interested in racing. Theoretically, there are two ways to win at RoboRally:

1) By winning the race.

2) By having everyone else die three times (you each get three lives).

But the flaw is that while it's easy for people to kill themselves while racing, it's not actually that easy to hunt people down and kill them, especially not if they are trying to avoid being killed (as opposed to racing). This is because it's not designed as a combat game, but as a racing game that incorporates combat.

So if, say, only one person is trying to complete the actual race, and if say, two people didn't even bother to go for the first flag, but just spent several turns option-whoring1, and if those two people then, say, headed for the area of flag two with the intention of simply screwing up the third player's every attempt to make said flag two, and if say flag two was incredibly difficult to get to anyway, and if say, they both had weapons which - as well as inflicting damage - could totally disrupt your movements by pushing or pulling you one square off your intended course...'d end up in a stalemate.

They couldn't force a victory, because if I had wanted to, I could just have retreated across the board and made it damn near impossible for them to hunt me down. But conversely, if I had tried to make the third flag, I'd almost inevitably fail, and most likely die in the attempt.

So we called the game quits.

Me (green "Squashbot") shot to fuck and powered down, parked after my third failed attempt to make flag two (with one death in the process), with red Trundlebot (TAFKAC) and blue Twonky (General Tangent) patrolling. (Note option-whore TAFKAC's collection of option cards at the top of the image.

I now have only one thing to say, to everyone I've ever played Magic with: I'm really, really sorry. I had no idea it felt this bad.

1If you end your turn on a double-spanner square, you can get an option card, which gives your robot some new nifty ability (shields say, or some some kind of uber-weapon). "Option-whoring" is when you park yourself on a double-spanner square and then spend the next several turns spinning on the spot in order to collect option card after option card.