In each round, the objective is to collect the chip in the center. One space on the board, the target space, has the same color and symbol as this chip. Your task is to figure out how the robot of that color, the active robot, can be made to end up on this target space in as few moves as possible. The player who can succeed in the fewest moves collects the chip ... and the one who collects the most chips wins the game!

Planning the robots' moves

At the start of a round the robots move only in the players' minds. In other words, each player tries to imagine the shortest route to the target space without actually moving the pieces. Robots move horizontally or vertically as the players direct, but they have no brakes! This means that once a robot is set in motion, it cannot stop until it hits an obstacle. Obstacles are the edges of the board, the walls pictured on the board, the center-piece and other robots. When a robot hits an obstacle, it can either stop or ricochet at right angles, left or right, until it hits another obstacle---and so on indefinitely.

Each movement of a robot to the next obstacle counts as 1 move.

Playing out a round

A round begins when a player picks up a chip and places it on the center-piece. Each player then tries to figure out how the active robot (the robot whose color corresponds to the color of the chip) can be brought to the target space (the one with the chip's color and symbol) in as few moves as possible. In most cases, one or more other robots will have to be moved to serve as obstacles: these moves must be counted too.

If the chip in the center is the cosmic vortex (which has all colors), any robot may be considered the active robot and be brought to the cosmic vortex target space.

On its way to the target space an active robot must hit and ricochet off (turn right or left) an obstacle at least once. If it could reach the target space without ricocheting, another route must be chosen.

As soon as a player has found a solution, he may bid aloud the number of moves he thinks is required and set up the sand clock. The other players have now 1 minute to make their bids. There is no order of bidding and players may bid more than once. Successive bids will usually be lower but may also be equal and even higher (for example, when a player finds a previous lower bid unsound). Once a player has made a bid, he may not change it to a higher number.

When the sand clock runs out, the lowest bidder plays out the round. He moves the robots as he had planned, counting his moves aloud. If the number of moves he makes matches or is lower than the number he bid, he collects the chip and the round is over. If he fails, he must return the robots he moved to their starting spaces (double-sided colored marker tokens) and the turn passes to the player with the next higher number. In case of equal bids, the player who is behind in the game (has the fewer chips) has precedence. This continues until a player succeeds. If no one succeeds, no one gets the chip, which is returned and reshuffled on the table.

As soon as one round is over another can begin. Slip the marker tokens back under the robots that were moved, pick up a new chip and place it on the center-piece, etc.

End of the game

A 2-player game ends as soon as a player has won 8 chips; a 3-player game when a player has won 6 and a 4-player game when a player has won 5. If more than 4 are playing, continue until all the chips have been won. Of course, players are free to end in any other way they agree to before the start of the game.

Note: most situations on the board can be solved in less than 10 moves, but occasionally a situation will arise that seems to require twenty or more. Such situations are interesting as problems, but in a game they tend to be frustrating. Therefore, we recommend that if, after 4 or 5 minutes no one has made a bid, one of the players set up the sand clock. If at the end of the minute there has not been a bid, return the chip to the table, reshuffle and replace it with another.

Tournament variant

When playing in a tournament setting, we suggest the following change: in case of equal bids, the player who bid first has precedence.

Ricochet Robot, Copyright © 1999 Hans im Glück Verlags--GmbH