NOTE: The season is over. I know. You know. However, when I started this article the season hadn’t yet premiered. My plan was to have this out a lot earlier, but… you know, this is BattleBots Update. Despite the results of the season now known by all I still wanted to finish this anyways. If anything now you know what it’s like when I’ve already seen every single fucking fight and I know Bite Force is going to win for the fiftieth time in a row but I still have to pretend like a give a shit about Lock-Jaw for the whole season. NOW YOU HAVE TO DO IT TOO!!!
With that said, welcome back to BattleBots Update. It’s been a hot minute since I typed those words onto my computer webzone. BattleBots’ tenth season has concluded, but early photos of all the teams and their robots were released in advance so we could pick our favorites. People who support BattleBots on Facebook got to see these earlier than everyone else because that’s one of the perks you get from them. Meanwhile people who support BattleBots Update on Patreon get a warm fuzzy feeling in the cockles of their hearts. Was that a plug or a Denis Leary reference? Yes. Also, yeah that was a straight up Patreon plug in the second paragraph of this article. Can you tell that I’m hurting for cash? No? Well what if I told you I just had to part with my Pioneer LaserActive CLD-A100 to pay my bills? There’s like a whole two people reading this who will know what that is and why I’m so torn up about it. Fuck life.
Anyways for the past several seasons I’ve written an “event report” article to kick off the coverage. Unfortunately however COVID-19 had some choice words to say about the public attending the taping of this year’s season. Those words were, and I am quoting the actual virus here, “get the fuck off of my lawn”. I didn’t get to go to the taping of this event and even if there wasn’t the nation’s worst pandemic since the Spanish flu happening I probably still would’ve abstained due to personal reasons. Any way you slice it I was destined to make like Icewave and fuck up that magic trick where you cut the pretty lady in the box in half. No wait– what was I trying to say again?
Whatever. Point is I don’t know what to expect from the robots this year but the point of this article is for me to analyze what I can see and make some determinations based upon what little I do know. I know many of these teams have been posting photos and videos of their robots doing stuff in the test box on social media but all of that just flew right past me because I maintain no presence on any social media platforms so for a good many of these robots this is the first time I’m seeing them. That’s my way of saying I’m probably going to fuck this up big time somewhere along the line. I’m going to provide my “professional insight” on each of these competitors, talk about some potential strengths and weaknesses that may come into play, and finally assign each of them a grade that doubles as a reflection of their likelihood of winning the Giant Nut. Don’t take this analysis too seriously. Or do, I don’t care. I’ve already forgotten the direction and tone this entire website was supposed to take. It’s been like a year and all you lot have heard from me since then is “lol I have schizophrenia”.
I’m immediately reminded of that robot “Mouse” or whatever that showed up at Robogames a few years ago. They either applied for BattleBots or Robot Wars (or both) and didn’t make it in so they brought their machine to Robogames where I laughed at it live on the air on Twitch. Aegis seems a bit more refined and that flipper looks absolutely massive. Does the whole thing flip upward? There’s a wedge in the back too, does the flipper fire in both directions? Can you even do that? I learned nothing from this robot’s page on the official BattleBots site aside from the team really liking trains. Nice work. They have an Instagram account but you can’t browse that website as a guest and I’m 25 years too old for that shit so fuck it. Nice job with the… egg.
STRENGTHS: The robot looks to have a super low profile and thus a very low center of gravity to match. Knocking it around and flipping it over might prove difficult. Aegis’ chassis is also rounded on all sides meaning theoretically it should be able to deflect oncoming blows from any angle. It sort of looks like the flipper component of former competitor Escape Velocity rendered with a fuckton more polygons and a fuckton less armor.
WEAKNESSES: It has a fiberglass shell. This isn’t a goddamned monster truck rally, this is BattleBots. Fiberglass has the benefit of shredding rather than bending and warping like metal but it’s also not as rugged of a building material. Back when Whiplash was known as Splatter they tried the fiberglass armor route and it didn’t work out too well for them. The stronger weapons in the field will devour this thing and it will probably be fun to watch. Maybe we’ll get like, one flip from Aegis.
Well I guess we’re getting our first taste of “another goddamned vertical spinner” this season in the form of Atom #94. I’ve seen so many of these designs that honestly I’m having a hard time describing them in a way that makes them unique and this is literally the first one of the season. I’m already drawing a blank thanks to four years’ worth of vertical spinners that look similar to this one being shoved down our throats. This is BattleBots’ first team from India though. That’s cool I suppose, it’s always nice to see international competitors from countries that haven’t been represented in the past. That’s not a joke, but me saying “nice Colsons” when referring to Atom’s tires definitely is. I’m absolutely positive those won’t take a stray hit from something and detonate on the spot. I wish I was the guy who created the Colson tire; it must be nice making a living selling people clay pigeons with rubber tread on their outer perimeter.
STRENGTHS: All jokes aside chances are Atom’s spinner definitely packs a mean punch. Assuming the robot can land a hit it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that Atom’s opponent would be dissatisfied with the outcome. It appears Atom’s designers have gone with the “wedgelets” approach as seen on Minotaur so we know those little forks will probably be effective. It’s just a matter of whether or not its weapon can cut it. Literally.
WEAKNESSES: As a new competitor with a traditionally powerful and dangerous weapon it’s hard to say whether or not Atom can withstand the strength of its own weapon. The team posted a clip of their robot on Facebook where it attacked a junk truck tire in the test box and it seemed like the tire getting sucked onto the top of Atom resulted in something potentially rattling loose, I could hear what sounded like mechanical instability. Then the robot crashed into the wall and the video stopped. Okay.
Look, I want to like this robot. I really do. Axe Backwards is essentially a drum spinner with no chassis because it’s all in the drum. It’s not the first robot to attempt such a feat, Barberous from Robot Wars comes to mind, but it’s the latest and with how far manufacturing methods and computer-aided design have come in the past 15 years I feel like Axey B ought to be doing a lot better than it currently is. The first time we saw this robot was ostensibly its best performance and that version of the bot was a fucking mess because there was an entire section of it hanging off of the robot’s ass since Kurt Durjan couldn’t fit all the parts inside the drum like he wanted. Axe Backwards still made a name for itself by thrashing Deviled Egg and forcing Basilisk into retirement so I finally got to stop making fun of it. Last year however Axe Backwards won a staggering zero fights because Mammoth threw it out of the arena, Deep Six cut it in fucking half, and it somehow lost to goddamned Marvin.
STRENGTHS: Assuming Axe Backwards works this year and has a functional weapon then the rule of shell spinners kind of applies here: you can’t hit this robot without first taking a hit yourself. Unlike a shell spinner however Axe Backwards spins vertically, not horizontally. This makes it uniquely strong against wedge-shaped robots and also means you cannot flip it over to knock it out, Axe Backwards’ wheels will always be on the ground.
WEAKNESSES: This dumb robot never works. It always starts smoking or it shows up and its drum is just dead on arrival. Last season there was some kind of weird mismatch between the size of Axe Backwards’ wheels and the diameter of its chassis with the teeth on it which necessitated the use of about 40 rolls of black duct tape to artificially increase the diameter of the wheels all so the teeth on the non-functioning drum wouldn’t make contact with the floor. I don’t know how you screw up that badly.
You might be wondering what the hell this thing’s name is. It’s pronounced “axel-ott-oll” and is named after an animal you’ve probably seen in HILARIOUS FACEBOOK MEMES before. It’s also a vertical spinner meaning that I need to find a way to make this entry either exciting or amusing because I could literally lose readers at any point in this article if they stop having fun and decide that I’m past my prime and this website sucks now. Axolotl appears to be the 32rd robot on the list so far who’s sponsored by SendCutSend. Whatever that is. They probably cut metal or something. They’re so common this year I had to check to see if they had a fucking Fiverr account. This is another rookie team who decided making a vertical spinner was the best move to make. It’s not like that’s an extremely hard to balance design that requires a substantial understanding of physics or whatever. Spinning bars go brrrrrr hahahaha.
STRENGTHS: The front part of Axolotl’s frame looks to be inspired by the likes of robots like Lock-Jaw. Take a look at how the front forks are solid all the way down and consist of two pokers side by side. This is definitely a design trait taken from Donald Hutson’s playbook and that’s a pretty bold move. I also noticed Axolotl’s wheels are spaced very far apart which should allow the robot to cover a lot of ground very quickly, though this does come with the risk of said tires getting ripped off.
WEAKNESSES: The robot looks like it’s going to want to pop lots of wheelies. I can’t see the back of the robot but the weight distribution doesn’t seem like it’s balanced in such a way as to prevent the robot from riding upward as it accelerates. I don’t think I need to explain why this is a problem. Also its spinner is set very far inward from the tips of its longest wedge forks meaning opponents will need to ride up onto Axolotl quite a bit before getting blasted by its spinner.
Forge & Farm Combat Robotics
Forge & Farm Combat Robotics
Real talk, pneumatic spikes don’t get near the amount of love they deserve in the sport these days. I can shit talk Bale Spear all I want (and I have) but I respect Earl Pancoast’s decision to stick with a weapon type that is a rarity in this day and age. Now that I’ve said that let’s address the… everything else about Bale Spear. This is not a robot I expected to see return to BattleBots and yet here it is in all its “is that barn on the side of the robot closest to the camera crooked or is it just me” glory. I’m not really sure how to explain it, but Bale Spear looks a little cooler this year even though it also kind of looks like something a toddler would ride around in at a county fair. The new wheels look tough but the frame still seems somewhat fragile. The biggest question on my mind though? Can this new Bale Spear also deliver the legendary SUPERMAN PUNCH?
STRENGTHS: I think Bale Spear is just strange enough of a design to give opponents pause as they try to figure out what the hell this thing is and how to attack it. Bale Spear’s, uh, bale spear (that’s what that spike tool really is called) looks like it can be adjusted on the fly during a battle now so if Earl isn’t landing hits where he needs to he can fine-tune the weapon to land a potentially critical blow. Doing that with a moving target seems like a worthless effort but hey, the option is there and that’s what matters, damn it.
WEAKNESSES: It’s fucking Bale Spear. Yeah, it’s an improved Bale Spear but it still looks like it can be easily damaged and with how complex this version of the robot is compared to the first I’m not so certain it’ll still be able to absorb a dozen hits from bots like Valkyrie and keep going. Are those shaft collars I see exposed on the sides?
Speaking of bots I never thought I’d see again, holy shit Beta is back. By the way before I get any further in this article I should mention that Beta’s name isn’t pronounced the way you think it is; imagine if Lois Griffin said it. And on that note this article ends here because I’m going to hang myself for stooping as low as to make a Family Guy reference. Beta’s weapon is allegedly a hammer but let’s be real here we all know this thing is a cross between a store display for suppositories and a giant novelty-sized dildo made of solid steel. Hammer bots have come and gone but Beta has been around since 2003. You heard me right, this robot is at least 17 years old. John Reid, whom you might recognize as “the guy from all those memes about suffering”, retired his previous robot Killerhurtz to bring us Beta and boy is this thing God’s gift to robot combat.
STRENGTHS: Killerhurtz was able to swing a spiked axe hard enough to pierce most armor types 20 years ago. Beta is able to swing a blunt object at such a velocity and strength that it can bust parts off of opponents and dent armor panels like they’re tin foil. The last time we saw Beta it was obliterated by Tombstone, but Beta made its opponent work for that victory. Tombstone is known as the killer of all bots but Beta just could not be KO’d. Very few competitors can say they’ve taken a fight with Tombstone to the judges and Beta is one of them.
WEAKNESSES: Beta is like a mullet; business up front party in the back. You can come at Beta head-on or from the sides (mostly) and not damage the robot, but if you manage to bite it on the ass it looks like you can do some serious damage. Beta has exposed rear wheels and if this robot is anything like Terrorhurtz, which still competes in the UK, there’s probably a tail or brace of some sort on the robot’s backside to keep it from popping up when it swings its hammer. If that gets broken off or bent then it’s game over for this dildozer.
GRADE: B, for Beta
THE BIG DILL
Team Food Fight
Team Food Fight
Emmanuel Carrillo looks like a man who would destroy you in arm wrestling and that’s not a joke at the expense of his apparent disability. You know this man does everything with his left arm and when it comes to doing reps do you think he only does half as many? Fuck no, he does all the reps on the same arm. This guy could lift a truck and I’m betting his robot can as well because when it comes to building a lifting device I think this man knows what he’s doing. He’s the expert. Like Dave Attell once said, “if I need directions I’m asking the guy with one leg because he clearly knows the fastest way to get there”. As for why Emmanuel named his robot after a pickle I can’t explain that. The Big Dill is just a lifter, plain and simple. This is what you get when you go to Subway and order a cold cut combo and tell them to hold the cheese, meat, and bread but add extra pickles.
STRENGTHS: There’s a lot of real estate in The Big Dill’s lifting forks, they’re kind of like Complete Control’s minus the upper clamping portion. In lieu of that The Big Dill has some extensions to aid in bracing against a lifted opponent in order to drop them off at the Pulverizers or Killsaws. If given the opportunity I could see some impressive gotchas from this robot and even if the lifts are near misses the forks are so long that The Big Dill could still potentially roll an opponent over with its weapon’s travel distance.
WEAKNESSES: The “fun fact” provided for The Big Dill on the BattleBots website says that the robot is an amalgamation of Emmanuel’s previous creations and the more you look at this robot the more you can see exactly what they’re talking about. That big ass white plow seems a little out of place and doesn’t quite match the rest of the chassis. I can’t explain it but it’s like someone took a piece from a pirate-themed Lego set and stuck it on a ship from the space police ones. Also it kind of looks like The Big Dill is missing front tires? Like this thing is using a recycled chassis from a previous design that had four wheels? Not exactly a good sign.
The legend. This robot literally needs no introduction because for three of the past four seasons we’ve seen Paul Ventimiglia show up to the event and then show everyone else up by knocking their creations to kingdom fucking come. Bite Force began its life as a tank-tracked robot with a lifting/grappling arm and if it weren’t for the fact that this version of Bite Force is immortalized in toy form I wouldn’t believe that for a second. This is the vertical spinner that everyone else tries to be and fails for one reason or another. Paul’s legacy in the sport goes deep and he knows what he’s doing. Bite Force has as many championship wins as the likes of legends like Biohazard and at 16 consecutive wins it’s just one battle victory away from tying with Hazard who set the record at 17 wins in 2003. This is the kind of “I’m not fucking around” we’re dealing with here.
STRENGTHS: Bite Force has only gotten stronger year after year, sometimes even in the middle of a goddamned tournament. The jump from the 2015 to 2016 version was a major risk, and Chomp even killed it in one shot, but Paul believed that to be a fluke and proved everyone wrong when he came back to win the championship two more times. Bite Force once used the popular Motenergy/E-Tek style motor to power its weapon, however in the middle of the 2019 season the robot swapped it out for a quadruple Magmotor setup with a custom gearbox. Then it proceeded to annihilate everything in its path and win its third Giant Nut. It’s too OP.
WEAKNESSES: Bite Force isn’t actually competing this year.
Minotaur has always been “the Brazilian Bull” and the most-feared robot to come out of that country but last year Black Dragon hitched a ride over from Brazil as well and not only did it put on a hell of a show but it also met Minotaur in the finals of the “Desperado” tournament and beat the shit out of it. Who’s the king of Brazil now? Black Dragon is somewhere between a vertical spinner and a drum spinner, it’s weapon is like a “fun size” candy bar version of Minotaur’s drum but it packs just as much if not more of a punch. There was a flamethrower on this robot last year but I think the team gave up on that bullshit because it worked against them in their first fight with Texas Twister; Black Dragon took a blow from Twister’s spinning disc and that immediately caused the flamethrower to blow the fuck up and turned Black Dragon into a literal flaming wedge. The judges said Black Dragon lost that fight. I say the judges are stupid.
STRENGTHS: Minotaur’s not here this year to defend its honor so as far as “robots from Brazil who will make you shit your pants and then kick your shit-filled pants so hard that the shit goes back into your ass so you can shit your pants a second time” goes… it’s essentially a blank slate for Black Dragon. The worst thing you can do is underestimate Black Dragon’s weaponry because the moment you do that you’ve already lost the fight. This is a robot with three career knock-outs, all of which just a few seconds past the one minute mark.
WEAKNESSES: Black Dragon has exposed weapon belts. There’s a redundancy built into the robot’s pulley system where it’s running two belts, but both of them can potentially be snipped with a particularly well-placed shot from something as dangerous as another spinner to something as simple as a spike that rips the belts. It’s not an impossible outcome, Black Dragon has shed belts before. For as powerful as its weapon is it can sometimes blow itself out and when that happens the robot becomes a wedge incapable of scoring any points.
Team Black Widow
Team Black Widow
Quick question, do you have eight bolts, some scrap pipe, a barbecue pit, and a can of silly string laying around? Congratulations, you too can build this exact robot! Somebody has to play the role of Radioactive each year and this season Black Widow auditioned for the part and the producers said “by golly this kid’s got it!!” Black Widow looks like it was intended to compete at an event that happened 10 or 15 years ago but its builder left one thing unfinished and accidentally got sucked into a soul-destroying career job that caused him to age 35 years in the span of 7. Nothing about this robot leads me to believe it can beat anyone else at the event but at least it shits silly string out of its ass like Spiderman after a bad ringer at Del Taco.
STRENGTHS: The team tried.
WEAKNESSES: Pick anything, it probably sucks. My favorite part of this robot is tied between the legs whose welds look like they were done by a five year old and the drum whose teeth are just begging to be torn off the minute they make contact with literally anything. They’ve got the kid doing the “one foot on the robot because we’re cool” pose because if one of the adults did it the entire baseplate of the robot would separate from the upper armor. There’s exposed wiring and everything, what the fuck do you people want me to say?
Bots N’ Stuff Robotics
Bots N’ Stuff Robotics
Bloodsport is one of those robots that I think is probably here to stay. After an impressive showing in 2019 the only reason it didn’t make it into the Round of 16 was because it was shoved into some bullshit “play-in” match with Uppercut and Rail Gun Max and out of these three robots Bloodsport was the only one with the balls to throw the first punch… which resulted in it ricocheting across the arena and up over the inner spike strip eliminating it from the tournament. That version of Bloodsport bore a striking resemblance to classic heavyweight Tornado Mer, however this new robot looks like Hazard not only let Son of Whyachi and Bite Force take turns fucking it but also let them bust inside because it’s got the overall look of Hazard with the front prongs of Bite Force and the triangular weaponry of Whyachi. Too bad the team didn’t update their shirts though. Yeah, I noticed.
STRENGTHS: This thing is vicious. It obliterated The Four Horsemen because that’s what happens when you put minibots against a spinner this nasty; the producers did the same shit with Creepy Crawlies and Son of Whyachi several seasons ago (and ironically Ian Watts was involved with both the Horsemen and the Crawlies). But Bloodsport also hacked Breaker Box to pieces, toughed out a win over Lucky, and in an unaired fight turned Sharkoprion into the messiest plate of illegal sushi I’ve ever seen in less than a minute. It got fucked by a dumb play-in bout and I think with the a little luck the spinner is easily Top 16 material.
WEAKNESSES: Unless this issue has been addressed – and I’m hoping it has – Bloodsport gets “tired” very fast. I don’t know if its internals just get too hot or what but at times, namely during the Lucky fight, we’d see the spinner either not reach top speed or just simply not work at all for up to a couple dozen seconds. It would then fire up again and seem perfectly fine but those windows of weakness are critical points of vulnerability.
Bronco has been a mainstay of the reboot seasons, it’s competed in every single one of them, though it has yet to win a title or even reach the championship. Last season was Bronco’s worst one yet because it didn’t win a single goddamned qualifier. You heard me right, in case you somehow forgot, this legendary machine managed to finish the 2019 season with a staggering zero wins and four losses. It all started with Bite Force damaging Bronco’s flipping arm, which then snapped in two when it fought Free Shipping. Then Huge chopped it down to size before the robot was utterly humiliated by the new breed of flipper: Hydra. In my coverage last year I suggested this might be a major turning point for Inertia Labs to really rethink their design and approach with Bronco and that we just might see them come back in 2020 with an entirely new look. Guess I was wrong because this looks like the same shit on a different day.
STRENGTHS: Let’s not undercut Bronco’s technical achievements here, Zander Rose and Reason Bradley are the undisputed masters of pneumatics. As soon as Toro showed up in 2001 they knew they had something special that was worth pursuing and because of that pursuit we now have a heavyweight flipper capable of throwing opponents 20+ feet into the air. Bronco can take your robot and literally throw it on top of a fucking house.
WEAKNESSES: This is the exact same robot that went 0-4 last year. I’m certain there have to be improvements somewhere (probably internal) but unless I’ve lost the rest of my vision this looks like the same Bronco that performed so badly that I believe the team packed up and left before taping wrapped. Inertia Labs has this fetish for stupid body jewelry on their robot, like those “twangers” or whatever from last year. As long as they are strictly business this year and don’t try any funny shit maybe they can turn that 0-4 around, but everyone now knows Bronco isn’t the invincible behemoth that’s guaranteed to make a deep run every year.
Speaking of 0-4 robots from last year, here’s Captain Shrederator. There was once a time when getting paired up with Shrederator was a death sentence for your robot. Shrederator was born from the remains of Phrizbee after the collapse of BattleBots in 2003 and the robot that carries the name today is somewhere between the heavyweight Phrizbee and the super heavyweight Phrizbee Ultimate. Out of this robot’s previous 8 fights its only win was an exhibition battle with Vanquish. You know, the robot that was sliced in fucking two by Icewave? This was post-Icewave so Vanquish was already crippled and on borrowed time. I want to say there’s a good robot in here somewhere but this robot’s 2-9 reboot record just doesn’t paint a very prospective picture. I’d love to be proven wrong though.
STRENGTHS: Brian Nave has been in the game for nearly two decades. He’s also competed almost exclusively with shell spinners. Not only does he know his way around the pits and how to do things in the most efficient ways to save on time he’s also very intimately familiar with the nuances of how the shell spinner design works. Captain Shrederator’s outer shell has yet to be destroyed (not counting the polycarbonate sections or the occasional broken tooth) so you know it’s a bulletproof case. It just needs to not suck, it’s as simple as that.
WEAKNESSES: This thing keeps breaking down and for all the experience that Brian Nave has with spinners it seems Captain Shrederator is particularly susceptible to the “getting ping-ponged into the wall and killing yourself” routine that a lot of shell spinners suffer from. Last season this was supposedly due to a wiring problem but if it happens again I’m just going to call bullshit and say that this robot is an irredeemable waste of not only time but also red, white, and blue paint.
The Machine Corps
The Machine Corps
Oh boy, here it comes. The robot that everyone loves to hate on because its builder is not only a woman she’s also quite progressive too (and if you’re one of those people there’s a robot here this year that we’ve yet to get into that just might make you kill yourself due to sheer bigotry). It’s the robot that “shouldn’t have beaten Disk O’Inferno”. It’s the robot that “spends half of every fight laying on its side”. It’s none other than Chomp. Look at this goddamned behemoth. It’s the only walker in the field this year meaning it’s allowed to weigh 500 pounds; that’s a quarter of a ton. Chomp’s hammer was stupidly powerful at 250 pounds, I would hate to be the poor motherfucker who has to go out there and find out how hard a 500 pound Chomp can swing an axe. Chomp’s lower half contains its locomotive system while its upper half is a goddamned automatic turret armed with a hammer and a flamethrower. Someone tell Zoe Stephenson that this is BattleBots, not Mechwarrior.
STRENGTHS: It’s the only walker. In the past BattleBots would grant a 50% weight bonus to walking robots, however now they offer a ridiculous 100% weight bonus. Chomp weighs as much as two heavyweight robots stacked on top of each other and I don’t think a lot of y’all have allowed this to sink in. 500 pounds is insane. There will be robots who do not have the muscle to push or lift Chomp because at best their drivetrains are built to handle about 550 or so pounds and that figure includes the 250 pounds that the robot itself weighs. The moment one of these robots gets in Chomp’s face her axe is going to drop with enough force to make fucking diamonds.
WEAKNESSES: It’s the only walker. Walkers are traditionally extremely slow robots and having seen Chomp move I can confirm that while this robot is a literal marvel of engineering it’s also Pressure Drop 2.0. The only thing protecting Chomp’s ankles from being bitten is that yellow perimeter of armor. Hopefully that’s enough to stand up to the likes of the more dangerous spinners this year because once you get through that caution tape it doesn’t take much more to strike a dead blow.
Awesome, my favorite green-themed Cure cover band is back this year! Granted, I only have one “favorite green-themed Cure cover band” but still you gotta start somewhere even if that victory is a de facto one. Chronos participated last year but suffered way too much damage by the time it had completed two of its four qualifiers and had to bow out, but god damn were those some incredible fights. Chronos first fought Gigabyte because we’ve all wanted to know what happens when two shell spinners meet (spoiler: one of them dies). It caught the short end of the stick in that battle… but kept that stick and brought it with them into their second fight as a minibot, Timeline. Against Copperhead, Chronos delivered what can only be described as a double KO hit but did come out ahead. That mega hit damaged Chronos’ shell badly however, which forced the team to concede their other fights. It did return for an exhibition match during which its outer spinning ring fucking exploded. Awesome.
STRENGTHS: Chronos has all the destructive power of a shell spinner with the added bonus of also being invertible because it’s a rare variant of the design known as a “ring spinner”. This allows the robot’s wheels to reach both the top and bottom of the chassis while keeping its entire outer perimeter dangerous. If last season is anything to go by Chronos also spins up incredibly fast so once it starts clocking people there’s very little in the way of wait time before it’s deadly again.
WEAKNESSES: This robot has a slight air of “form over functionality” going for it that was really apparent last season. Chronos has a lot of moving parts, most of which were visible through its clear lid. It made for a truly beautiful display of craftsmanship… in the pits. You can’t see all that crap in the middle of a battle when your spinner is blasting people to kingdom come. While Chronos is invertible, its weapon doesn’t seem to be. The ring will still spin, but it attacks with sloped blades and with the robot inverted the only thing getting thrown into the air will be Chronos due to the reverse corkscrew effect.
Team Bad Ideas
Team Bad Ideas
“Mom can we get Complete Control? / We have Complete Control at home. / Complete Control at home:” Yeah, the jokes write themselves. I’m sure someone else has already beaten me to the punch but whatever I write these articles from an underground bunker and my only contact with the outside world is what this volleyball that I’ve been talking to tells me. When Complete Control retired from BattleBots after self-immolating due to Warhead’s incomprehensible baddassery Overhaul was there to sort of fill the void, but we don’t have Overhaul this year because Charles Guan’s supply of blue light-up sneakers ran dry. Somebody has to fill that void and that “somebody” is Kevin Milcz- Mileck– Milzes– uh, Kevin, and his robot Claw Viper. It’s the successor to Sewer Snake that we never knew we wanted until we saw it.
STRENGTHS: Grappler/suplex robots are definitely in their own league of dangerous, you can’t attack your opponent when your opponent has your dumb ass raised three feet in the air perpendicular to the ground. And if Claw Viper goes for that trick where it raises you up and lets go? You better hope you land on your wheels or at least have a srimech because that might be the end of your tournament run. Claw Viper is a lot like Gruff – who we’ll see later – except rather than having a flamethrower capable of melting most known chemical compounds Claw Viper has an upper hand. Literally.
WEAKNESSES: The robot seems “small” somehow. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Minotaur is small for example, but a robot that’s very compact can sometimes mean that parts are so close together that warping or damaging the frame or another part of the robot can have a domino effect since there isn’t enough space for parts to “breathe” for lack of a better term. But hey if this thing’s bulletproof and its claws are as sturdy as Gruff’s this might not matter one bit. Also it looks like a scorpion, not a snake. There I said it.
Team Caustic Creations
Team Caustic Creations
While we’re talking about snake-themed robots let’s get Copperhead out of the way. It’s back, and it’s brought some friends too; it has minibots now. Think about that joke for a while. I said Claw Viper was small, but Copperhead packs a lot of heat into a dinky little box too, just look at the team photo. It’s a fucking step stool. Copperhead is technically a new-ish robot but it actually began its life as Poison Arrow a few seasons ago and some of you might recall Poison Arrow hitting Son of Whyachi so hard that the legendary former champion died in a single hit. Others will probably recall Poison Arrow’s detachable ass. Copperhead doesn’t feature a detachable ass, however technically all of its opponents do if they aren’t careful around this thing. We don’t have Minotaur, so Copperhead is our du jour drum spinner of the season. (I refuse to count Black Widow.)
STRENGTHS: Copperhead hits damn hard. It wasn’t able to repeat what Poison Arrow did to Son of Whyachi but it still blasted the fuck out of that robot and gave it everything it had. Copperhead also smashed into Chronos and sent that thing flying at least six feet into the air and destroyed Chronos’ weapon in the process. Those two fights were losses unfortunately, but they still highlight the raw power Copperhead is capable of unleashing. Robert Cowan, a noted engineer, is one of the designers of this robot and while he’s not the team’s secret weapon (that would actually be the magical Jafar snake staff) it can’t hurt to have him kicking around.
WEAKNESSES: This robot is the definition of “glass cannon”. Yeah it shazam’d Son of Whyachi and Chronos but both of those hits came at a very pricey cost: Copperhead either lost control of its weapon, lost control of its drive, or both. There is such a thing as hitting too hard and that’s Copperhead’s main problem, its poor little body can’t take it. Hopefully that’s changed for this year but I really don’t know how you’d account for something as nebulous and hard to pin down as “mom says the music is too loud”.
Deadlift has the dubious distinction of being the last confirmed robot participating in this season of BattleBots. Before all of the team photos were added to the official website we only had posts from Reddit and social media to go by when it came to who was there and who wasn’t and wouldn’t you know, a bunch of meatheads weren’t really social media-savvy. (Don’t worry guys, I’m the opposite of a meathead and I stay the fuck away from that mess too.) Deadlift has a certain look about it that’s somewhere between the original tank-tracked Bite Force and a “Mini Me” version of SubZero; I’m not sure how to feel about this machine. It doesn’t have a pneumatic weapon and instead is purely an all-muscle lifting machine, but at the same time it’s literally just an arm with no grappling mechanism to speak of. Opponents are just going to slide right off. Also, the team’s page says everyone had to deadlift their robot. Ha. My sorry ass plays Ring Fit Adventure and I could probably deadlift this fucking thing. A “deadlift” is not the kind of lift you’re thinking of; bodybuilders and Olympians perform either the “snatch” or the “clean and jerk” and no I am not making those names up. A deadlift is just starting from a squat and lifting something clean off the ground until you are fully standing. Shit’s easy.
STRENGTHS: This isn’t so much a strength for the robot as it is a strength for me but apparently I have the balls to straight up tell a bunch of bodybuilders that deadlifting their robot is “easy”. That said, Deadlift itself looks pretty sleek and does have some options when it comes to attack. I mentioned the lifting arm has no attachments but that doesn’t mean it can’t come at an opponent with its arm already raised and use it as a makeshift clamp in a pinch. It’s not a very strong perk but at least it’s something. It’s also incredibly short meaning there’s a chance it can prove to be a hard target for many opponents.
WEAKNESSES: I just don’t see this robot as being a dominant force in the field, not when there are other lifters and clampers out there who can do what Deadlift does except better. Claw Viper for example, someone we just talked about, has a more robust weapon array than Deadlift. Even Gruff, who also doesn’t have a method of lifting and clamping, at least has their goddamned backwards rocket engine to roast their opponents’ balls. Deadlift is probably really good at the one thing it was built to do but you have to have more variety in attack and strategy to win the Nut.
I can think of only one robot whose team would have the gall to stick their fucking Twitter handle on their weapon and yep it’s the guys who wear aviators indoors. Unless you’re Tom Cruise you don’t get to wear those, and Tom Cruise is a dick so I’m revoking his Aviator Card so now no one can wear them. Ever. Jack Barker is a bit of a prodigy and early on in his roboteering career he destroyed opponents internationally with a competitor similar to End Game. When he inevitably brought that robot to BattleBots he saw a fair amount of success; End Game may have lost the “15th place play-in” rumble in 2018 but not before ripping Brutus’ goddamned face off and throwing it into the arena lights. You might also recall End Game throwing Son of Whyachi into the wall which resulted in Whyachi’s hammers smashing a bunch of inner Lexan panels and the lights behind them. That explosive rookie year didn’t repeat last season because all I really need to tell you is End Game managed to lose to the robot that looked like a fucking frog. There’s no coming back from that.
STRENGTHS: End Game’s weapon has explosive potential, literally. Whether it’s sending entire robots flying through the air or just pieces of them – like when it ripped Cobalt’s wedge off and embedded it in the fucking roof – End Game’s spinning disc has the power to really ruin someone’s day by sending them out of the arena with a laundry list of shit to fix in the pits. Even when End Game loses it normally doesn’t go down without making the winner work for that victory, except the time End Game and Brutus killed each other in that stupid rumble while War Hawk sat in the corner and jerked itself off.
WEAKNESSES: It’s historically too self-destructive. End Game is the high maintenance girlfriend we all had in high school who seemed like our soulmate until we found out she was bipolar and certifiably fucking insane. Sure the sex is great but I draw the line at covering every reachable inch of your body with Sharpie-scrawled Nirvana lyrics just because you’re having a manic episode. End Game’s self-righting mechanism has also proven to be a piece of shit. The team thought they were hot shit with their matching aviator-styled righting arm until it didn’t work and became just a stick of aluminum later in the season that also didn’t work.
We don’t have Blacksmith this year so Extinguisher is going to have to do. Ironically whereas Blacksmith’s entire schtick is the fact that its hammer has a flamethrower inside of it Extinguisher is literally armed with a goddamned fire extinguisher this year so everybody who thinks they can attack the fire truck with a flame-based weapon better watch the fuck out. Last season this robot was a hot mess, figuratively and literally. Its weapon took about four episodes to complete a swing and in Extinguisher’s last battle P1’s minibot got stuck under it and lit the whole thing on fire. Now you know why this robot comes with a fire suppression system built into it; few robots have died more ironic deaths than Extinguisher.
STRENGTHS: Extinguisher is one of the robots who’ve been completely redesigned this year so it’s hard to compare it to last year’s machine since it’s pretty much a brand new creation. From what little footage exists of it so far it looks fairly stout and the similarities to Blacksmith weren’t just for jokes, this robot looks like its front end can take a pounding while it swings its hammer at you. Assuming the hammer works, that is. Also maybe this is the year we’ll get to see Extinguisher’s vertical spinner? I’m not exactly enthused to see another vertical spinner, but the team’s had one since last year and they’ve never used it.
WEAKNESSES: This robot is a complete unknown. John Flaacke has had success as a competitor elsewhere but at BattleBots he managed to lose to The Four Horsemen. Motherfucker, you had a fire axe that weighed as much as each of those shitty little robots and not once could you land a hit that flattened one like a pancake. Hopefully Extinguisher’s new “we stole one of Shatter’s old hammers when no one was looking” weapon proves more effective, otherwise you better have the paramedics on standby. And another fire truck, just in case.
I’m so fascinated with Team Whyachi. They’ve got the funds to bring not one, not two, but three fucking robots to this show… and yet Resse Ewert can’t seem to find a pair of Levi’s that don’t have a hole above the knee? How the fuck does that work? “Yeah we know a lot about cow tits because we invented this belt thing that washes them but fuck me when it comes to denim”? Last year Team Whyachi debuted Hydra to massive success, this year Fusion is their new star child. Named because it was meant to be a combination of Son of Whyachi and Falcon (for some stupid reason), Fusion features a set of vertical discs at its front and the team’s signature horizontal triangular blade at its rear. This robot has been turning a lot of heads because of its extremely unconventional design, such as how it has two independent sets of drive wheels and of course its aforementioned weapon loadout. Only time will tell if this robot inherited the best of both of its forefathers… assuming there was anything good about Falcon to inherit aside from having an extra thumb or something.
STRENGTHS: It’s a robot from Team Whyachi. New or not the pedigree alone is enough to automatically make this a robot to keep your eye on, and with its bizarre weaponry good luck trying to figure out how to come at this thing. If Fusion leads in with its horizontal spinner, or if an opponent tries to maneuver around to attack from the back, the robot will just land a hit, spin around 180 degrees, and come rip their face off with its other weapon. It’s an easy combo to envision and with both spinners going full blast that’s a killer double tap waiting to happen.
WEAKNESSES: It’s a spinner from Team Whyachi. I’m not one to knock something like Son of Whyachi or whatever, but it seems these last couple seasons the team has been trying to dance the fine line between pushing their weapon motors just to the brink of failure and unintentionally crossing that line for real. Son of Whyachi has gone down in literal flames for the past two seasons and that doesn’t bode well for Fusion’s prospects. Also, Falcon.
GAMMA 9 FROM OUTER SPACE
Gammatronic Robot Brigade
Gammatronic Robot Brigade
Yes, that’s the actual full title of this robot’s name. We’re probably only going to see it billed as “Gamma 9” though. It’s good to see the Gammatronic Robot Brigade still alive and kicking after all these years, Curtis Nemeth isn’t kidding when he claims he’s got one of the oldest teams; they predate BattleBots entirely. I think the only other people who can claim that are Chuck Pitzer and Donald Hutson. Gamma 9 took a break last season but was around in 2018 wherein it lost to The Four Horsemen, but not because The Four Horsemen were effective against Gamma 9; instead the clusterbot demolished Double Jeopardy, two of the constituents of The Four Horsemen died (there were only three – don’t ask), and no one was paying the fuck attention to realize that Gamma 9 should’ve won by KO. I’d be pissed as fuck, and maybe Curtis was, but the good news is he didn’t throw in the towel and Gamma 9 is back with the world’s second-deadliest rake to prove he’s not fucking around.
STRENGTHS: Experience is probably the most valuable asset Gamma 9’s team has. Aside from that this robot bears more than a passing resemblance to the team’s old robot Gammacide which was basically just a giant fuck-off sized bulldozer. I can see the new Gamma 9 being what Gammacide would’ve eventually evolved into if the original run of BattleBots kept going and Comedy Central didn’t insist on having Carmen’s Cleavage Cam smack in the middle of every single fucking battle of the fifth season resulting in its untimely cancellation.
WEAKNESSES: Historically, the Gamma lineage has not been the most successful; across four robots and eight events they have a career record of 5-10 at BattleBots. And no, I’m not retroactively giving them an extra win as a gag because of that shit with The Four Horsemen; they do not have a winning record after 21 years of BattleBots. That’s only a number however, because it took me 17 years before I won a division at any robot combat event I went to. Streaks can be broken, though I don’t know if Gamma 9 can realistically take it all the way. Right now I’d say focusing on attaining a winning career record would be a more worthwhile accomplishment.
As far as clusterbots go Gemini has always had a pretty good thing going for it; as per BattleBots rules 60% or more of a multibot needs to be disabled in order for it to be considered “knocked out”. For an example of this rule not being enforced please re-read the section above about Gamma 9. That 60% is measured by weight and both constituents of Gemini weigh exactly the same because, like the name implies, they are twins. To get a KO you need to kill both of them, one isn’t enough. It’s a great strategy in theory but ever since this robot showed up in 2016 it’s spent more time killing itself than actually winning any fucking fights. That sucks because we keep getting these glimpses of genius but when you have two robots attacking the same target it’s not out of the ordinary to expect to see them hit each other instead. AND THEY CAN’T STOP DOING THIS.
STRENGTHS: The previously mentioned bit about how BattleBots rules a KO victory against a multibot really plays to Gemini’s favor because you essentially wind up with two 125 pound middleweights flanking and confusing their opponent. A middleweight versus a heavyweight is still a battle stacked in favor of the heavyweight, but when you have a second identical bot in the fray that changes the dynamic. Two bots is where it’s at, don’t be fucking around like The Four Horsemen thinking you can bring four (or three) lightweights into the arena and have that pan out in your favor. It won’t. Perhaps most interestingly this year are Gemini’s “big boy pants” as the team calls them; you probably noticed in the photo that one of the Gemini robots looks like a real son of a bitch, that’s the special armor configuration new for the 2020 season.
WEAKNESSES: The new armor reduces Gemini to one robot. It effectively roids up one of the bots so much that it graduates into a heavyweight competitor for a one-on-one battle instead of the usual “surround and attack” offensive. This is a brand new thing for Gemini and while it’s a great idea in theory I’m not so sure it’s going to be effective in practice; what we have here is just a middleweight robot wearing a fuckton of armor, not a heavyweight robot. Also since there’s only one robot in the fight if it gets knocked out there’s no second wingman to keep the battle going, that’s it. Game over.
Ladies and gentlemen, the cat is officially back. The first meme to be born from this stupid website has returned after three years of soul searching. The end result of said search? Pretty much the same fragile-looking design as before just with more holes drilled in the casing to ease up on weight. That chopper has gotta be some kind of wicked because it’s not like Ghost Raptor’s wheels require a goddamned forklift to load on. That has to be where all the weight is and if that’s the case Chuck’s about to make a lot of people pay for thinking it was funny to call his robot “Sabertooth Cat” half a decade ago. I’m more afraid than any of you fucks because I legit photobombed this dude on national goddamned television with a cat sign… shortly before Son of Whyachi smacked the shit of Ghost Raptor hard enough to turn it into a Transformer toy.
STRENGTHS: Chuck Pitzer knows how to think on his feet. Surely you remember Ghost Raptor’s debut fight which was a shit-show of epic proportions. Ghost Raptor versus Complete Control was the first battle ever filmed for the new seasons of the series after 12 years of being off the air, and what happened? Derek Young stuffed a fishing net into a box and Ghost Raptor struck the wall with its blade and snapped it in half. I’m surprised the series wasn’t immediately fucking cancelled again right then and there. But Ghost Raptor won the fight and from then on Chuck showed that he could adapt his robot to suit all kinds of opponents; he built a train plow for Warrior Clan and a special lifting apparatus to keep Icewave at bay, both of which were successful. If anything bizarre happens to Ghost Raptor this year, Chuck’ll deal with it.
WEAKNESSES: It still looks like the same robot from 2016. Mostly. Ghost Raptor’s rear end was its undoing because it was just so fragile. The robot was not able to withstand the beating dished out to it by Son of Whyachi and by the time the judges called the fight Ghost Raptor’s chassis had been cracked into two pieces and the whole thing was a goddamned mess. That back right corner looks dangerously weak in terms of structural integrity, to me at least. The weapon bar is solid metal this time though so I doubt we’ll see it snap in two again… but I’ll keep the Sabertooth Cat jokes ready just in case. Chuck took three years to rebuild this robot but his folly is that in doing so he also gave me three years to prepare for his return.
Robotic Death Company
Robotic Death Company
If there’s a robot out there who can prove shell spinners still have it in this era of robot combat it’s not going to be Captain Shrederator who does the talking, it’ll be Gigabyte. Gigabyte, Megabyte, and their retired counterpart Super Megabyte have been busting heads for well over a decade and have recently competed internationally and destroyed a bunch of Chinese robots in the King of Bots series of events. Is that someone faking being in the Special Olympics just so they can clean up shop and win a gold medal in every event? Yes. Was it still fun to watch though? Absolutely. Back in the United States however – where we don’t contribute to 30+% of the planet’s pollution – Gigabyte has met its match many times over and sometimes in the most bizarre of ways. Gigabyte failed to impress as Invader back in 2016, and in 2018 I’m sure you can’t forget the time Tombstone blew this robot’s entire fucking shell off which resulted in Gigabyte vanishing until the Desperado event.
STRENGTHS: Gigabyte has become so refined over the years that it’s hard to really pin down what could possibly be improved on the robot. John Mladenik has already gone and conquered the entirety of China for that bullshit that happened with Gigabyte’s central axle in 2018. It’s not a perfect robot, but when it’s working you’d be hard-pressed to find a way to come at this thing without getting destroyed in the process. Gigabyte has lost – several times – but in most cases the winning robot didn’t come out unscathed.
WEAKNESSES: Like all shell spinners Gigabyte stores a virtually incalculable amount of kinetic energy within its shell and when this is unleashed into an opponent that’s great… but when it gets kicked back into Gigabyte that generally spells trouble. We’ve seen this spinner get shunted into the wall hard enough to stop it from working and if you’re a robot like Duck who’s in the business of wearing down spinners there’s not a whole lot Gigabyte can do except turn into a really expensive hockey puck. Also the flame paint-job looks sucky on a shell spinner. That’s one hell of a fashion don’t.
Can somebody please tell me what the fuck this thing is? Its design seems simple enough like I should understand it, but I don’t. It’s a grappler, that much I get, but like… how? It looks like the arms are mounted on some kind of rotating apparatus that itself is mounted on a pivot, so it has a sort of “scooping” motion that it can do. There’s a video on the team’s website of the robot awkwardly lugging around a cinder block, that it drops, though the arms also have angle grinders attached to them. I don’t know what this thing is actually capable of doing but I don’t see any gimmicky hamburger robots and shit this season so unless Grabot gets paired up with literally anyone other than another lifter this thing stands no chance.
STRENGTHS: The grappling arms are a very creative design. I can’t say I’ve seen anything like them before, especially considering that they have room for optional attachments for additional offensive capabilities (such as the aforementioned angle grinders). It’s invertible and the weapon looks like it can probably work if the robot is flipped over; the wheels also have a bunch of offset spikes on them to prevent Grabot from getting stuck on its side, though I don’t really think that should’ve been a major concern. There are some good ideas that went into the planning of this robot, it just seems like the execution might not be up to par.
WEAKNESSES: It looks fragile as fuck. Creative weaponry or not I can’t see those arms standing up to any amount of punishment. I don’t need to point out what literally any spinner in this competition can, and will, do to this thing but Grabot even seems weak to a lot of the assumed lower-tier robots in the field like Extinguisher and Rusty. The arms don’t look like they can withstand being slammed against the wall and if they get caught at an angle they’ll probably bend out of place. If this was a FIRST Robotics competition I’m sure this robot could carry a lot of boxes into a Scoring Zone or something, but all I see this robot doing is leaving in the same box it arrived in except in a lot more pieces.
Gruff competed last year and fell just short of really turning some heads; it’s only win was in a rumble against Marvin and Gemini, meaning that by virtue of just showing up Gruff automatically won. Its three other battles were against some of the nastiest spinners of the season: Copperhead, End Game, and Tombstone. Gruff dragged these battles out to the full three minutes with only one exception, it died at 2:59 on the dot against End Game. Regardless, Gruff gave all of these opponents a real run for their money, especially Tombstone. The only other robot on this list to take a Tombstone fight to the judges is Beta. Gruff’s extremely low profile and ridiculously strong armor made it a genuinely hard robot to dispose of, it really only wound up losing because its opponents had to literally twist Gruff’s entire fucking frame to destabilize it and hinder its mobility. Gruff is back, it looks even more solid, and I think if you’re looking for a dark horse to bet on maybe you should try this dark goat instead.
STRENGTHS: I’m going to assume Gruff is just as sturdy this year as it was last year, if not sturdier. Just looking at the robot you can tell that it’s been completely overhauled and is ready to try and catch something from a baseball launcher with its fucking teeth. It looks like a tinier version of Lucky with dummy thicc armor. Gruff’s lifting arm also features a unique nylon strap as opposed to a chain that can break or a gearbox that become seized, that’s the reason why this thing was able to take hits from Tombstone and still work like nothing was wrong. Oh yeah, and Gruff also has two backwards-facing fucking rocket engines to melt the faces of anyone dumb enough to stay in this robot’s line of sight.
WEAKNESSES: Gruff doesn’t have a way to severely damage an opponent unless it can pin them against the wall and just blast them with fire, but that’s still dependent upon whether or not the opponent in question is susceptible to fire in the first place. It can control a fight all day long but unfortunately the scoring system is weighted toward being able to cause meaningful damage to an opponent. I’m getting serious “Bite Force 1.0” vibes from Gruff this year however, so with a little persistence it might be able to close that gap in the judges’ points but it won’t be easy.
It’s not uncommon for BattleBots teams to merge with each other and collaborate on new designs, and that’s the case with HiJinx. This robot comes to us from some of the people who were originally behind Skorpios during that robot’s first couple of seasons, namely Orion Beach who still kind of resembles the guy from Internet Comment Etiquette. Zach Lytle took the helm of Skorpios, Orion stuck around for a while, that team absorbed the one that created Wrecks, and now there were so many people on the team that five of them banded together and broke away to make this thing that kind of looks like a title card to a level in Sonic the Hedgehog. HiJinx is pretty much all weapon and that blade has some ridiculous reach. It’s also painted with a specific trademarked pigment of pink that digital cameras cannot actually capture so if you want to see how pink this thing really is you’ve gotta go see BattleBots in person. I’m not joking, someone owns the rights to that pink.
STRENGTHS: This is literally just a hoverboard combined with a lawnmower, the lack of fucks on display here is staggering. I’m not sure how much HiJinx’s blade weighs but considering everything is contained in just that little horizontal chassis (the tail on the back is purely for stability, it doesn’t look like there are any components inside of it) it wouldn’t shock me to hear that the weapon is in excess of 60+ pounds. Maybe not as heavy as Tombstone’s blade, but certainly approaching it. I’d imagine at full speed and with the reach this weapon has there’s going to be more than one robot whose day gets ruined.
WEAKNESSES: That’s an awful lot of weight centered on just one pivot point; it might be distributed in a manner that favors the rear end of the robot to keep it leaning backward and bracing on its tail but I’m not so sure that’ll matter if the robot changes direction too quickly. Neon Valkyrie over here looks awfully susceptible to tipping forward, digging into the floor, and flinging itself across the arena. Are we sure that the Wrecks guy didn’t work on this one too? Because he’s got experience in those kinds of fuck-ups.
It might not look like it but this robot is entering the 2020 season of BattleBots with a career record of 7 wins and 4 losses. No, those numbers aren’t backward. Huge is a design that epitomizes the concept of being just stupid enough to work. When it debuted in 2018 everyone looked at this thing like it was a joke bot, but that was before it hacked SubZero to pieces. Then it made Free Shipping blow the fuck up and catch fire. Then it hacked Chomp apart and busted up Chomp’s iconic pneumatic hammer in the process. Huge was on a three battle winning streak… until Icewave poked its head into the arena and won a staring contest with Huge resulting in the robot snapping apart at the middle. Huge bounced back though and won four more fights in 2019, one of them over Bronco. So yeah, this thing with the big ass plastic tires and spinning blade is the most serious non-serious-looking contender you’re going to see. And it can see you, too.
STRENGTHS: Unless you’re armed with a hammer it is genuinely impossible to attack any of Huge’s critical components, they’re all raised off of the floor at least 18 inches. Even if you do have a hammer – like Chomp and Jasper did – odds are that you’ll probably wind up connecting with Huge’s spinning blade and it’ll fuck your weapon up and break it, because that’s exactly what happened in those two fights. That said, you really can’t control this robot. So little of it is in contact with the floor that all you’re going to do is ineffectively beat at its wheels until it cleaves into you with its bar.
WEAKNESSES: Huge seems to be very prone to “getting tired” as a season wears on. We’re looking at a robot that’s made it to the Round of 16 both times it’s competed thus far and in both instances it hasn’t exactly had an easy road getting there. Unfortunately it appears all these fights start to take their toll on Huge somewhere after the third one. In 2018 it broke it in half and never really recovered from that kind of ass beating. In 2019 Huge made some big strides by taking out Gigabyte and Bronco, but was noticeably more sluggish against Hypershock and even moreso against Whiplash which resulted in a loss. Reliabiliy is key and with a more robust assortment of parts this might be the year Huge gets beyond the Round of 16.
A hydraulic flipper. “Don’t you mean a lifter? Aren’t hydraulics really slow and powerful?” Yes, but apparently they can also be extremely fast and powerful too. Don’t ask me how, ask Jake Ewert because he built this fucking thing. Last season Hydra made its BattleBots debut and won every single one of its fucking fights by knock out. Its four qualifying “Fight Night” bouts culminated with Hydra going 4-0 by making Bronco end its season 0-4 and out of the goddamned arena. Very rarely do we ever get to see one of those moments where the monkeys touch the monolith and discover fire, but we witnessed that last year with Hydra. We also discovered Hydra’s drive system was apparently built from an Erector set that Jake found at a Goodwill because as soon as this robot made it to the Round of 16 it lost, but it’s looking extra sharp this year.
STRENGTHS: Hydra’s flipper can do what Bronco’s can and then some plus it takes up far less space inside the robot. It fires fast, retracts fast, and throws opponents handfuls of feet into the air. Remember, this thing beat Bronco. This is by all accounts the “new blood” and potentially the dominant breed of flipper. With a little work on the drive system, which I’m guessing has at least been improved, there aren’t many scenarios where I don’t see Hydra making another solid run at the title. This is last year’s Founder’s Award winner, a literal game changer.
WEAKNESSES: Those two little silver covers on the back corners of Hydra are still there. If you recall what happened last season one of them got knocked away by Minotaur revealing an exposed sprocket and drive chain. This is what Minotaur targeted to knock Hydra out in a matter of seconds, and they appear to still be on the robot. I assume they are also still covering the same fucking thing. They aren’t exactly an easy target to reach but anyone looking to disable Hydra knows exactly where to hit it to cause the most potential damage.
Shenanigans & Co.
Shenanigans & Co.
Ah yes, everyone’s favorite mutant radio-controlled car from the 90’s is back once again to do drifts and peelouts in the arena to really show off the power that 9.6V Tyco battery is packing. It’s kind of hard to believe that this robot didn’t adopt its signature “so did your mom get pregnant after using a highlighter as a dildo” look until three years into its career, and it’s also harder to believe this robot has more losses than wins. This is a machine that in its rookie year almost beat Bite Force, knocked out UltraViolent by separating its baseplate from its… everything, and of course single-handedly ended the fad of attack drones with a fucking garden rake. By all accounts this nasty spinner should have a much better record than it does, yet in 2018 the only opponent in managed to beat was that stupid hamburger.
STRENGTHS: When it works, Hypershock’s weapon is one of the deadliest spinners in the field. Most spinners are either a bar or a toothed disc, but for a brief period Hypershock experimented with blades that looked like ninja stars that would slice rather than indiscriminately shred things. It looks like the new discs for this year aren’t the ninja stars though, so here’s hoping the robot hasn’t succumbed to “just another goddamned vertical spinner”-itis. The robot’s other main strength is Will Bales himself. The man is extremely good at thinking up solutions on the spot and you need not look any further than Hypershock’s famous rake for proof of that. When presented with a unique opponent Will has the ability to cook up some uncanny solutions that sometimes are just crazy enough to work. This man destroyed a thousand-dollar goddamned drone with a rake that could not have cost more than a really nice pizza.
WEAKNESSES: Hypershock is notoriously unreliable, like to a genuinely disappointing degree. By all accounts this should be a robot that’s taking ass and kicking names and yet we’re always seeing it break down or get completely eviscerated. Hypershock seems to swing back and forth between having good years and bad years and while that honestly means jack shit in the grand scheme of things if you’re the type of person who compulsively looks for patterns then I hate to say it but we’re due for a “bad year” for Hypershock in 2020.
Man am I glad to see this robot come back. I’m always tickled when a veteran returns to BattleBots; the only robots older than Icewave this year are Son of Whyachi, Beta, and I guess Gigabyte and Tombstone on technicality. You could probably also lump Captain Shrederator in there as well. Icewave is the only robot with a gasoline-powered engine running its weapon and that’s fucking cool because we live in an era where electric motors have finally either caught up to or surpassed the output of fuel-driven motors but Marc DeVidts kept Icewave’s iconic engine because A) it’s fucking awesome and B) he’d have to change the name of his robot otherwise. “ICE” stands for “Internal Combustion Engine”, not because Marc is a big fan of water below 32 degrees.
STRENGTHS: You remember what this thing did to Vanquish. And Huge. I don’t need to say any more than that. Icewave can, has, and will lay waste to any opponent that faces it with inadequate armor. Icewave’s blade is capable of ripping entire chunks of armor off of opponents but perhaps its most devious feature is how the tips of that blade are painted to match the color of the arena floor; this sounds unimpressive until you realize that it causes an illusion that makes the weapon look smaller than it actually is. That’s some four-dimensional shit right there.
WEAKNESSES: As a robot with an internal combustion engine Icewave is prone to stalling. Historically this has proven to mean certain death for any robot of this type and Icewave is no exception to the rule. I’d like to imagine as technology has advanced that the likelihood of a stall is smaller and in the event of one there are ways to remotely reignite the engine, but you never know. Icewave is also very easily kept at bay with the right kinds of attachments because its motor is contained inside of that giant thing on top, but if you look again this year you’ll notice that lid is curiously slanted to protect against exactly that. We’ll see.
Vegas Combat Robotics
Vegas Combat Robotics
Jackpot is what Bite Force would look like if male enhancement pills actually worked. This thing has a stupid amount of reach with its massive twin blades. The whole assembly looks like some kind of car part that’s been misappropriated into something that’ll kill everything within twenty feet of it, and that probably includes Jackpot itself. One thing I’m not proud to admit is how long I looked at this stupid robot and its Vegas-themed paint job and wondered where the “diamond” card suit icon was. There’s a club and heart on the front, a spade for the “A” in the robot’s name on the side… and no diamonds? Then I realized the fucking weapons are the goddamned diamonds. Son of a bitch.
STRENGTHS: Reach. Jackpot is 2020’s Deep Six because COVID-19 deep six’d Deep Six. There are too many numbers now, and I have officially confused myself. But anyways, Jackpot has the ability to punch opponents in the dick from halfway across the arena and even if its blades aren’t the strongest or most destructive ones in the field just being able to have that reach advantage automatically stacks the odds in Jackpot’s favor. It’s just going to come down to driving skill and that’s an unknown for this bot.
WEAKNESSES: Jackpot is clearly aping the Bite Force look, you can’t tell me otherwise. That’s fine, people copy champions all the time in this sport; 47 out of every 3 robots entered in China’s King of Bots were copies of Tombstone, and one of them was named “Unlimited 2 BBQ” or some stupid shit like that. If the design works, it works. However Jackpot’s front forks could prove to be its Achilles’ heels; the only thing stopping them from being bent downward and digging into the floor is the teeny bit of a single bolt that sticks out over the robot’s chassis. If the forks get bent outward or if the bolts themselves simply shear off from force of impact that could turn Jackpot’s royal flush into just a toilet flush.
I’m not sure if Matt Spurk brought Kraken to BattleBots as a serious contender in 2018 – the robot’s debut season – but when that goofy motherfucker got a hold of Red Devil’s treads and bit into them and caused one whole side of them to seize up? I don’t think anyone, including Matt, was expecting that to happen. Kraken was then executed by Chomp and died from being bonked on the head too hard, immediately bringing Matt down from his high. When Kraken returned in 2019 however the machine no longer looked like a fucking joke, it was a goddamned dragon. I don’t describe very many robots as “sexy” because I’m not one of those weirdos who buys the hot rod magazines for the cars instead of the tits but to me 2019 Kraken was like one of those car fuckers seeing a classic Chrysler ’47 Camaro Thunderbird or whatever the fuck.
STRENGTHS: This year’s iteration of Kraken looks about the same as 2019’s with a couple of noteworthy distinctions. First, and most importantly, it looks like the team has ditched their flamethrower. This is probably for the best because let’s be real here there aren’t enough scenarios where a flamethrower is useful enough to keep it incorporated into your design as a permanent fixture. Dumping that obviously freed up some weight and I almost want to say the “throat” part of the robot looks more sturdy because of it, but then I noticed there’s just a patch covering the hole where the flamethrower used to be. God damn it, Matt. Anyways the other thing I was going to point out is Kraken’s new set of smaller teeth will probably do a much better job snagging opponents than last year’s wavy-cut metal teeth did.
WEAKNESSES: I do not know how much of this robot has been enhanced since 2019; if this is the same chassis that we saw last season with the flamethrower butthole just spackled over then we might be looking at a frame that’s already been under a lot of stress. Remember, Son of Whyachi fucking murdered this thing last year. Kraken has a unique advantage with its oddly shaped chassis, there’s a lot of nothing at the front corners for opponents to hit, but this weird shape can also play to Kraken’s disadvantage by requiring the robot to have perfect aim just to use its weapon.
Team Mutant Robots
Team Mutant Robots
You guys remember when Lock-Jaw had those really cool spring-loaded jaws? Like, back when its weaponry actually lent some explanation behind the robot’s name? Donald Hutson’s goofy ass super heavyweight Diesector managed to win two championships with nothing more than some biting jaws and swinging sledgehammers, but I guess that was 20 years ago and these days if you want to be competitive you have to build a stupid vertical spinner. Lock-Jaw is still a solid contender, it’s never not made a deep tournament run, but it’s also never won a tournament; the closest we’re talking here is a semifinals finish in 2018. Paul Ventimigilia has been Donald’s folly on more than one occasion, and with Paul out of the picture this season this is Lock-Jaw’s best case scenario for a win.
STRENGTHS: Donald Hutson has been building robots longer than most of the people reading this stupid website have been alive. Experience is the most valuable tool a competitor can have and just in BattleBots alone Donald has been in the arena nearly fifty fucking times; 33 of those fights ended in a victory, and only 10 of those losses have come from the reboot seasons where the standard tournament structure has been thrown out the goddamned window in favor of this “Fight Night” shit that barely makes any sense even when it’s explained to you for the hundredth time. That means of the 40 times Donald fought in what were mostly single-elimination tournaments he won 82% of the time. He doesn’t fuck around.
WEAKNESSES: Lock-Jaw has developed a smoking habit these past couple years. This hasn’t stopped the robot from making deep tournament runs, but it has stopped it from winning the tournament itself. Although the fights aren’t official, Lock-Jaw lost both of its battles at the 2019 Amazon RE:mars Expo by smoking itself out and that’s about the story of its entire 2019 season too. Donald claims to be pulling 49kW through his robot’s weapon and maybe that’s a little fucking excessive? Dial that shit back, dude.
Team Bad Kitty
Team Bad Kitty
No, this isn’t a multibot; that’s just Mad Catter’s hammer attachment in the team photo. Mad Catter is an interesting case of identity crisis because Martin “The Pussy Pounder” Mason’s shirt says “Team Bad Kitty” on it which hearkens back to 2016’s season where a noticeably more toned-down Martin acted as a fabricator for that robot. Then Bad Kitty’s teams split and resulted in Chronos and War Hawk… and then War Hawk competed in China as “Cat King”… and then War-Hawk-forward-slash-Cat-King and Mad Catter existed at the same time… and now War Hawk is gone and only Mad Catter remains, but newcomer The Big Dill is also tangentially related to this robot too. I don’t understand this. Also I don’t know if that’s actually Martin’s nickname but it is now. Hope you like BattleBots Update’s shittiest meme of 2020! (For the love of God please do not call Martin that. Seriously.)
STRENGTHS: Mad Catter seems reasonably well-equipped to handle combat; War Hawk did fine(-ish) and Cat King performed decently in China. If you want to see the personification of a solid 7/10 here it is. Mad Catter has interchangeable weapon pods, though I’m guessing we’re going to see a lot of the vertical spinner for obvious reasons. Also somehow they were able to fit both a spinner and a lifter into one pod, but then only a hammer in the other? Was that an issue of space rather than weight? It doesn’t matter, we’re never going to see that weapon except for in this team photo.
WEAKNESSES: Everyone who builds bots that have interchangeable pods (and even some who don’t) all have the same weakness: they can, and will inevitably, split apart like a Kit-Kat bar. In the past we saw Ultimo Destructo get smashed to bits by the Pulverizers, Hydra chaos dunked War Hawk hard enough to blow it apart into three fucking pieces, and even Mad Catter itself caught a bad blow from Rail Gun Max last year that left the robot looking like a Nintendo Switch that someone dropped down a staircase.
Do you remember Aftershock from Robot Wars? Eh, who am I kidding. Of course you don’t. Everyone who reads the BattleBots articles on this website probably didn’t read the Robot Wars ones, and vice versa. But Aftershock was a vertical spinner with a nasty one-toothed disc that I vividly remember laying out some fucking judgment. I bring up Aftershock only because Malice is pretty much that robot except turned sideways. That is a stupidly thick disc, I’m talking “the deep dish pizza of horizontal spinners” here. It’s so thick that the team refers to it as a horizontal drum spinner, I’m not even making that up. Ever wonder what Tombstone would be like without its bar? Now you know. Malice is such a landmark design that it carries the team’s official name, Team Malice. Normally that isn’t important but this is a team with more than fifty championship wins in all sorts of divisions with all kinds of robots. This is the one that carries the team name.
STRENGTHS: Remember that game we used to play on this website back in its early days, “Spot the E-Tek”? Well, have you spotted it yet? I know the original Briggs & Stratton “E-Tek” motor has long been discontinued and the drop-in replacement is actually manufactured by Motenergy, but for old fogeys in the sport like me “E-Tek” is just the name. It’s like how Texans call every soda a “Coke” including stupid shit that isn’t remotely close to Coke like Mountain Dew, beer, and Gatorade. The point I’m making is that motor is making that disc spin fast enough and with enough muscle behind it to make your head explode.
WEAKNESSES: Despite being team’s flagship robot, Malice is still a newcomer with no fight history that I am able to determine. While there isn’t a doubt in my mind that this robot is capable of bringing the pain it’s hard to guess how well it will do. For example, how the hell is this thing assembled? It looks like there’s maybe a steel “skeleton” of sorts and the rest is what appears to be spacers of some sort and carbon fiber. Don’t get me wrong, this is durable stuff, but when the motor weighs 40 lbs by itself and the disc weighs about another 50 how much weight do you have for “the rest of the robot”?
Everybody’s favorite killer swing set on wheels is officially back for season numero dos. Coming straight out of the Huge “a design so stupid it actually works” school of thought, Mammoth managed to win its debut fight by throwing its opponent out of the arena into that spot behind the inner wall of Lexan. Granted this win was against Axe fucking Backwards, but still you’ve gotta admit that was an impressive showing right out of the gate; even with no functioning weapon I was expecting Axey B to win that battle. Mammoth was understandably a bit rickety given how… mammoth… it is, but with some structural reinforcement I can see at least another surprise victory or two from this machine.
STRENGTHS: There’s pretty much nothing you can really hit on Mammoth, the majority of its important components are kept way off of the ground similar to Huge. There’s only a welded pipe frame and air you can hit around the robot’s perimeter. For as ridiculous as it looks, Mammoth can score a win if an opponent underestimates it and lets their guard down. Or if their opponent is Axe Backwards. I sarcastically called Mammoth a shittier version of Nightmare “like if I tried to build it”, but in a demo fight last season Mammoth defeated Nightmare. By KO.
WEAKNESSES: The big (heh) difference between Mammoth and Huge is that Mammoth’s drive system is vulnerable. I don’t mean just the wheels, I mean the wheels and gearboxes and motors and even the wiring. All of these components are close to the floor and when we saw Mammoth lose it was because these components were expertly targeted. Even though Mammoth has been designed more efficiently for this season its drivetrain is still an easy shot on a giant dartboard.
Don’t get me wrong, I think themed robots are cool. If you want to drive a race car but instead you accidentally signed up for BattleBots, you build P1. If you want to fuck a dragon, you build Kraken. If you want to never win a fight ever, you build Axe Backwards. Easy, but fuck me if this robot isn’t a hot mess. Beginning its life as the star-crossed Parallax in 2018 I can safely say the high point of P1’s career in BattleBots was being stepped on by a T-rex in that godawful commercial for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a movie that I eventually did see while staying in a psychiatric hospital. That’s the worst goddamned place to watch a movie that you already know you’re going to fucking hate. Fuck you P1 and your stupid flipper that says “YEET” on its backside.
STRENGTHS: P1 has an extremely low profile. This is because it’s obviously imitating the look of a Formula One race car which have low profiles in order to maximize how aerodynamic they are. Aerodynamics don’t really play a major role in the shape of a BattleBot, but having a center of gravity that’s essentially “the floor” does. The reason why the “suitcase” version of Chomp was an Olympic gymnast in the arena is because its center of gravity was somewhere close to fucking Jupiter, so when you crank that way down low you wind up with a robot that’s extremely hard to flip, and that’s P1. (And should P1 get flipped the robot can either flip itself back over or drive upside-down.)
WEAKNESSES: This is a robot from a team with a lot of heart but it’s cursed. At some point in time either Brandon Zalinsky or Luke Bittenbinder accidentally pissed off a gypsy or something, I don’t know. By all accounts Parallax should’ve at least been a halfway decent robot and P1 as a complete rebuild should’ve been even better, yet each of these machines completely failed to perform. I’m not sure what needed to be done to bring P1 up to snuff, but considering it lost to Sidewinder last season I think just calling it quits and building a third robot would’ve been a smarter move.
Aww yeah, you guys wanna know the best thing about being a deadbeat writer talking shit about robot combat on the internet? I get to watch all the people I used to have petty high school beef with grow up, have lives and careers, and build BattleBots like we all said we dreamed of doing. Meanwhile I’m over here losing antidepressant weight playing Ring Fit Adventure and not even bothering to heat up the raviolis before I eat them straight outta the can. Anthony D’Ambrosio is in the hot seat for Pain Train, like Adam Wrigley was for Shatter, and in case you’re wondering which team member is Anthony, he’s the dog. GOTTEM. Pain Train plays a unique role in this season of BattleBots though, it’s the only “egg beater” style drum spinner. We’ve yet to really see one of these in BattleBots aside from Rail Gun Max and its equivalent Hobgoblin from Robot Wars who detonated on the launch pad. Pain Train is here to show the world if its future contains eggs. I don’t know what that means.
STRENGTHS: Pain Train is very compact, like Minotaur. Now that I think of it this robot kind of looks like a cross between Minotaur and Monsoon, two robots that are missing from the roster this year thanks to COVID-19. Pain Train has the wide two-wheeled chassis of Monsoon with the tight and compact efficiency of Minotaur, these two traits plus an untested weapon could be a surprise. It also appears there’s still some “crunch room” on Pain Train’s sides and back so even if this robot takes a stray blow or two it should be able to stay on track.
WEAKNESSES: Egg beaters are still an unproven design in BattleBots. Sure they are similar to drum spinners, and are essentially just a derivative branch of that design, but they differ enough in their surface area and how they transmit their kinetic energy to be their own beast. Rail Gun Max was firmly a middle of the road machine and Hobgoblin flipped over and died, Pain Train has a lot to overcome to prove this design can hold its own.
Team Perfect Phoenix & Hardcore Robotics
Team Perfect Phoenix & Hardcore Robotics
Earlier I made a joke that involved including Bite Force in this article despite Bite Force not actually being present this year. I guess you could say the joke’s on me because even though Paul is absent he’s still here in spirit. You really think those two bewildered kids designed and built this machine with adult supervision? Read the fun fact about this robot on its official competitor page: Perfect Phoenix is older than its driver. That’s right, you know where I am going with this. Perfect Phoenix is better known as former BattleBots heavyweight champion “Brutality”. (It won an untelevised tournament in 2009.) Paul ain’t even here, but he’s still “here”. Honestly I think Perfect Phoenix is a stupid name, it sounds like something from Final Fantasy which probably goes a long way in explaining why it doesn’t make any sense to my dumb ass. This machine is legendary enough that it ought to just be called “Paul Ventimiglia’s Brutality” the same way we introduce literary classics like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
STRENGTHS: Perfect Phoenix is essentially just Brutality with new paint and probably some adjustments and fine-tuning, after all this is the BattleBots equivalent of a classic car we’re talking about here so it needs a little TLC to keep the engine running. This robot arrives this season carrying an undefeated 5-0 record and if that wasn’t impressive enough the new owners of Brutality are proteges of Ray Billings. Yep, this robot has gone from the hands of one champion to being under the direction of another. I said this was Lock-Jaw’s year to win but it wouldn’t surprise me if Perfect Phoenix turns out to be the road block that prevents Donald Hutson from winning. Again.
WEAKNESSES: This is a powerful machine, but it’s old. That in and of itself isn’t inherently bad, but design conventions and technologies have advanced quite a bit in the 11 years since Perfect Phoenix was built. Perfect Phoenix’s weapon is based off of a design pioneered by Hazard way back in season one, and that was twenty years ago. I’m of course referring to having two or more brushed DC motors connected to the same gearbox which has a single output gear that spins the weapon. Tornado Mer took this to its illogical conclusion with six fucking motors back in the day, but Perfect Phoenix is running a more subdued version with only two. We’ll see how well it works out and whether or not this bot is still fit for competition.
So far we’ve seen the ghost of Bite Force, the granddaddy of Bite Force, and the Vegas-bound ‘roided out younger brother of Bite Force; now we get to see the inbred cousin. Rampage looks like someone watched half of the 2018 season of BattleBots, confused Bite Force with Brutus, and then tried to copy the design of the champion from memory. The result is so bad that I had to check to see if this was one of those hilarious Chinese clone robots from King of Bots that somehow washed up on American shores, but nope I just see a whole bunch of white people. This whole robot looks like it was made entirely by hand, which is cool, but Sharkoprion was also made entirely by hand and when I look at Sharko I don’t bite my lower lip and try not to laugh.
STRENGTHS: Rampage could very well be a glass cannon. The team claims to have some experience in the sport, but either Rampage is their very first heavyweight or they’re just hobbyists with no practical experience in the field of engineering. Regardless, this does give Rampage a unique “danger” quality that most robots don’t have; Rampage’s inexperience combined with the fact that its weapon might be unknowingly cranked up to 11 and then some could be an explosive cocktail that leads to a really incredible and surprising KO win.
WEAKNESSES: This whole thing looks like if you stubbed your toe on it you would come out the victor. Rampage’s wheels look old and yellowed and the rubber is probably brittle because of it. I can’t tell what – if anything – is keeping the lid on the robot because I see no screws and over where the armor meets the wheels the corners are warping upward just begging to be caught by someone else’s vertical spinner. None of Rampage’s leading wedgelets are sharpened into an actual wedge shape, one of them is sharpened but appears to be upside-down, and none of them look to be level with each other. There are gaps in the chunks of metal that comprise its side panels and said panels are awfully close to the wheels and just begging to be bent inward to jam them. This doesn’t have “0-4” written all over it, it has “0-1 with three forfeits”.
It looks like the rarest Pepe of all is back for another round of brawls. Ribbot looks pretty goofy, however it completed its debut season last year with an even 3-3 record. It’s most impressive win was holding its own against End Game and knocking the Kiwi competitor out in a brutal fashion. Definitely was not expecting that from a robot covered in a bunch of frog-shaped foam. Speaking of, BattleBots told Ribbot’s team that if they wanted to compete again they had to ditch that foam because the cleanup crew was tired of mopping up the aftermath of Clifford the Big Red Dog hatefucking a memory foam mattress every time Ribbot showed up for a fight. (This year they’re using vacuum-formed plastic shells to achieve the same appearance.) Ribbot has a number of attachments at its disposal but as you can guess the one we’ve seen most often is the vertical spinner. Joy.
STRENGTHS: Ribbot falls into the category of robots that are capable of doling out some serious damage while also luring its opponents into underestimating it because of the whimsical design. Ribbot had some embarrassing losses last year but to finish with an even 3-3 is nothing to scoff at, a lot of other robots fared far worse. Although we haven’t seen much of them yet, Ribbot is also a “Swiss Army bot”; that term seems to have fallen out of use already but the team having weapon options that include offensive (spinners), defensive (plow), and strategic (lifter) capabilities provides a relatively unique advantage.
WEAKNESSES: This robot’s wheels are giant and exposed. I think the intention here is to have the wheels positioned in such a way where the robot can lose one and continue on unhindered like Whiplash, but ripping tires off is generally worth a lot of points in the eyes of the judges even if the robot remains fully mobile afterward. Last year Ribbot’s wheels were “protected” by an initial layer of foam cushioning, which had the potential to foul up a spinning weapon, but with BattleBots putting the kibosh on the team’s foam those tires are now just out there begging to be chewed on.
In 2017 this robot lost its debut fight in a matter of seconds. In 2018 it was awarded the Giant Bolt for “Most Destructive Robot”. Rotator is perhaps one of the best and most endearing examples of “be careful who you make fun of in middle school” that the sport has ever seen. Despite tripping at the start of the 2018 season Rotator eventually made a name for itself when it decapitated Icewave and destroyed its weapon engine so savagely that to this day I’m positive the cleanup crew is still finding pieces of it in the fucking arena. Rotator wasn’t finished however, oh no, because in 2019 it defeated Tombstone by KO with one second left on the clock when it expertly used its angled train plow to destabilize the former champ and cause it to literally burst into flames. Also, when Rotator’s weaponry hit Tombstone’s and shattered the shrapnel hit the arena side wall hard enough for the safety team to perform a thorough inspection of one of the panels and ultimately replace it. Holy shit.
STRENGTHS: Rotator is a fucking beast. Its design, in a way, also falls into that “so stupid it actually works” category because while its palindromic layout seems wasteful (there’s a whole weapon facing the wrong way all the time) it actually means the robot is never more than a quarter turn away from being able to strike an opponent. Also having one disc on the floor and one in the air ensures that the robot always has the same configuration no matter its inversion state and it can always strike at two different heights. On top of that, Rotator has also become modular which defeats its initial design and name but provides the team with much more in the way of armor options and has turned the central drive pod of the robot into a very tough nugget to crack.
WEAKNESSES: For all the praises you can sing about Rotator’s innovative weaponry the shitty truth is that the discs are prone to breaking down and they do this a lot. Usually what ends up happening is one of the two weapons will stop spinning and most of the time it’s the low disc meaning Rotator has to start driving backwards in order to hit someone. Additionally, Rotator’s bar spinners are prone to breaking apart in spectacular fashion. I already mentioned the Tombstone incident, but Death Roll also snapped one of Rotator’s bars in half. The robot is tough overall, but unreliable with its offensive capacity and that’s always been its downfall.
Team Iron Force
Team Iron Force
Looking at this robot I can probably guess which Robot Wars house robot was David Eaton’s favorite because Rusty looks like someone was dead set on building a really badass version of Sir Killalot but when David went into his garage to see what he had all he could find was part of a tractor and a salad bowl. Rusty is a great robot… if this were 1997. Unfortunately it’s 2020 and while I can’t deny the charm exuded by Rusty charm doesn’t win fights. That said, I still have a soft spot for this gentle giant and its hammer-esque weapon is certainly unique. It doesn’t appear to be pneumatic or reciprocating or anything like that, but it does look like it might be good for a one in a million shot on some unlucky chump.
STRENGTHS: Despite its appearance Rusty is probably a lot more durable than it seems. There’s a lot of redundancy with the welding on the parts of the frame that are exposed so chances are the inside of the robot is equally as sturdy. With the exception of the little wedge forks Rusty’s front end looks pretty stout and the inverted angle might prove useful in deflecting blows from undercutters away from its tank tracks. Speaking of, I think Rusty is the only robot this year with tracks; tracked robots have an overall more vulnerable drivetrain, but they make up for this by generally always having more tread in contact with the ground than their wheeled opponents do resulting in a major advantage in a shoving match.
WEAKNESSES: I think Rusty is just too campy of a robot to really be effective. It’s one of the few competitors with serious personality but that seems to have come at great cost. For example, if Rusty gets pushed onto its side – which will probably happen at some point – I don’t see how it would be able to get back down onto its tracks. Also we all know how and why tank tracks have earned the nickname “Killsaw Magnets” so it goes without saying the vulnerability of that drive system could be a problem. But then again Bite Force managed to win season six with tank treads so what the fuck do I know?
Sawblaze and Skorpios debuted in the same season with pretty much the same design. They also exited their debut seasons in their first rounds respectively because Skorpios attacked the screw hazard and Sawblaze got fucked by the PRIMARY WEAPON rule that year. Since then the two bots have evolved apart with Sawblaze becoming the beefier of the two machines, giant hunk with a spinning “hammer saw” weapon and its trademark Shrek flamethrower. Initially this flamethrower was on the weapon arm with the cutting saw with the intent being, presumably, to slice into an opponent while simultaneously shooting fire into the cut. Now the flamethrower is just a static device mounted on the front of the robot and mostly is there for show because the spinning disc has taken center stage in the design.
STRENGTHS: Jamison Go has been pretty good with his calls on what equipment to use on his robot for each battle. While Sawblaze is mostly known for its 30 lb dragon-shaped spinning disc it also still has its original slicing disc configuration in its back pocket. Which weapon the robot uses is largely dependent upon what kind of armor Sawblaze’s opponent has and in most cases there’s some notable damage done even if Sawblaze doesn’t win the fight. I’d be remiss not to bring up how wholly destroyed Son of Whyachi’s iconic weapon was at the end of its tussle with this dragon.
WEAKNESSES: Sawblaze is a “dustpan” style robot… just without the dustpan. Instead Jamison designed Sawblaze around a triple-pronged front fork but the intent of the design is still the same. The forks weigh less and allow for a more robust weapon system while also making Sawblaze less susceptible to the floor hazards (and I guess the broke-ass floor itself too), however they come with the drawback of being less durable than a dustpan wedge. Every time Sawblaze has lost it’s been because one of those prongs, usually the center one, catches a stray blow and gets bent upward rendering most of Sawblaze’s front end useless. That’s always going to be the primary target for Sawblaze’s opponents.
Aquatic Machine Force
Aquatic Machine Force
Formerly known as Sharkoprion, Sharko has returned for its final performance at BattleBots under the helm of Edward Robinson. Ed is among the last of his kind, the type of builder who just throws something together in his garage and who doesn’t own a bunch of fancy tools and materials with which to make his robots. Life has dealt this man a hand consisting entirely of cards that aren’t even in a normal playing deck. This dude is trying to play Poker with a Blue Eyes White Dragon, a 100 kilometer card from Milles Borne, a Diner’s Club International card, a Psychic Energy, and the Old Maid card. He’s making it work though, and despite all of this he’s still made it to BattleBots dressed as a carnival ringmaster because in a previous life Ed used to actually perform at carnivals and fairs. Seriously. The Final Sharko has found a new home with the two other guys in the team photo, one of whom was the team captain for Deviled Egg a few years ago, so if Sharko fails to perform this year then at least someone will be there to offer it an egg in this trying time.
STRENGTHS: Old Sharko was a much flimsier robot, this is essentially an entirely new thing. Old Sharko was made from propane tanks and wheelchair tires and while I’m not sure what junkyard this particular robot’s parts came from I can say without a shadow of a doubt this New Sharko is a substantial improvement over its predecessor. Gone is the vertical spinner, because the last thing we need is another one of those fucking things, and in its place is a bomber plane-esque flipping snout that can also bite down when it retracts. If there was ever a swan song for a guy with a shark fetish to sing, Ed might as well be Celine goddamned Dion.
WEAKNESSES: Sharko has some big ass exposed tires, I’m talking the size of Golden Corral dinner plates. For our international readers, I made this distinction in plate size because Golden Corral is an all you can eat buffet of substandard food patronized entirely by Americans who could stand to lose about as much weight as this fucking robot actually weighs. While those tires are easy targets Ed does know his way around the sticks so I’m pretty sure unless something goes wrong most of the hits this robot takes will be to its armored face, but one wrong move and this robot is down for the count.
If Shatter were the cover of an album on Spotify I’d mark that shit “Not Interested” because I know the music is going to sound like a cassette tape someone accidentally baked into a meatloaf with vocals that’ll be about as understandable as Kurt Cobain pre-shotgun. But when you take those vaporwave colors and geometric shapes and stick them onto a robot? You have my attention. Many years ago I said the original Chomp looked like a shitty Aggro Crag but I’ve gotta say Shatter has stolen that award. This thing looks like a very fragile piece of origami and each and every one of those little triangles is an individual piece of ablative armor. Shatter claims its weapon is that giant pick axe but in reality it’s all the tiny paper footballs it’ll distract opponents with.
STRENGTHS: Under that No Man’s Sky box art that Shatter is using for armor there are a lot of interesting features of note. This year, for example, Shatter now has an inner chassis under its flashy armor made from a solid piece of milled metal. Returning with the robot are its Mecanum wheels which allow the robot to effortlessly drift and drive sideways so that its front end, and its hammer, are always facing its opponent. You can’t get around to the sides or back of this thing because much like a Jesus painting Shatter will always be staring you down. And finally, we have the axe; in a time when we needed Beta most, Shatter stepped in to fill the void that Suitcase Chomp kept jumping over.
WEAKNESSES: Because Shatter is so complex of a machine there are a lot of potential points of failure. The build quality behind Mecanum wheels has advanced considerably over the years but they are susceptible to arena debris and Shatter is a robot whose entire identity is based around creating exactly that. Additionally we’ve seen the robot underperform in the past because the clutch for its hammer either broke down or threw a chain which severely reduced the robot’s firepower. When it works it works great, but when Shatter doesn’t work the whole robot just becomes irredeemably terrible with little in the way of a Plan B.
Bot Bash Party
Bot Bash Party
Earlier I mentioned how this robot and Sawblaze arrived at the same time and wound up evolving in separate directions. Skorpios also has a “hammer saw” weapon, however while Sawblaze adopted the “triple prong” design Skorpios followed the path of a V-shaped front wedge complete with a backing plow and some little fangs that curved up from the points of the V to hook onto opponents with. Ultimately both robots have the same weaponry but their differing chassis shapes lend themselves differently to similar situations. It looks like for this year Skorpios’ aforementioned little curvy hooks have been replaced with sharpened strips of solid steel however, so we’ll see how this affects the bot’s performance. I’m still expecting it to karate chop the fuck out of everyone though and I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t.
STRENGTHS: After its crappy debut year Skorpios turned into a real bolt from the blue. In 2018 we saw this robot return with a vengeance as it sliced up Lucky and successfully kept Icewave at bay for three solid minutes. The only reason why Skorpios didn’t qualify for the Top 16 was because by the time it had finished its qualifiers it was so beaten up that it couldn’t continue despite its 3-1 showing. This thing doesn’t die and in 2019 not only was Skorpios an underdog from the start by winning both of its demos at that Amazon thing but it also kicked Sidewinder’s ass so badly in the main season that Sidewinder’s team had no choice but to forfeit their remaining two qualifiers.
WEAKNESSES: Skorpios’ weapon arm is not very durable; to touch back on why it didn’t make it into the Round of 16 in season eight it was because Rotator had torn the arm off and the team replaced it with an angle grinder which Hypershock later also destroyed. Despite those wins, Skorpios just could not continue even though it should have. The times we’ve seen Skorpios lose it’s because it either took a shot directly to one of its wheels, killing the efficacy of its front wedge, or it started losing armor panels. Once one of those falls off a lot of the rest start to come with it, they must all be load-bearing armor panels or something.
Team Already Broke
Team Already Broke
We don’t have Duck this year, but you know what we do have? A robot that kind of looks like Duck if Hal Rucker started huffing spray paint. The epitome of that dumb “we have X at home” meme, Slap Box will just have to do this year. That aside, the robot is a close enough variant of Duck that it just might be as effective as the water fowl that came before it, if not more so. I say “if not more so” because unlike Duck, which has just the plow and nothing else, Slap Box has different configurations it can use depending on its opponent. We’re mostly talking about the difference between a regular lifter and “something so Tombstone kills us in two hits instead of one”, but the difference in weight allows for better armor configurations in situations where having a big fuck off plow isn’t needed.
STRENGTHS: Without having seen this robot before I get the impression we’re looking at a quick, efficient, and strong lifter. This is a pure control bot whose only aim is to leave opponents pinned on the spike strip and to ensure whatever Chinese sticker company that makes those handprint decals stays in business until 2077.
WEAKNESSES: Somewhere under Slap Box’s hood is a flamethrower. I think I’m finally at the point where I’m just going to throw out a blanket statement that those weapons are a waste of weight allocation. Compete Control Mark V was the best use of a flamethrower BattleBots has or will ever see, everything else is downhill. Just focus on the lifter, guys. Also apparently some of this team helped out with Gemini? If that’s the case then we’re looking at a driver who might not be up to par, but without a teammate to continuously attack on accident who knows, maybe Slap Box will actually prevail?
How much would someone have to offer you to essentially “buy” your team? By that I mean sponsor your robot exclusively and in return have the naming rights to your robot and team as well as the appearance of the robot itself? Craig Danby, pioneer of “robots that totally work in the garage we swear but the minute the cameras start rolling they quit working for some reason”, took one such offer from Mowbot, a company that makes electric lawnmowing robots. As for why SlamMow is a grappling robot instead of something more indicative of a lawnmower I can’t answer that, but nonetheless I hope the lawnmower company saved their fucking receipts. I kinda miss Predator and Foxtrot now; I guess it’s true what they say, you never really know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
STRENGTHS: Overhaul has been MIA for a couple of seasons now and since Derek Young is a judge that means Complete Control is out of the picture. We’ve been needing a grappler robot for a while and Craig tells us SlamMow is “THE” suplex bot. Somewhere, Kenny Florian has just perked up like a prairie dog. I won’t deny the team that statement because looking at SlamMow this thing is literally just a fucking lifting clamp with wheels. There’s barely even a chassis, it’s almost like one of those exaggerated caricature drawings you can buy at a theme park from an artist who couldn’t get a job drawing a Sunday funnie.
WEAKNESSES: It’s Craig Danby’s robot.
I know the name of this robot has like 20 fucking E’s in it but I’m going to make like Vanna White on her period and say that I don’t have the time to tap that many godforsaken vowels. There are many schools of design in robot combat and SMEE is the latest, and only, one this season to come from the field of “it worked as an antweight or beetleweight so let’s try it as a heavyweight”. The 3 lb version of SMEE was based around the gimmick of essentially being a yardstick with wheels on either end. A wedge, in other words. But you can’t bring a wedge to BattleBots, so the heavyweight version of SMEE has the same look and feel as the original except the wheels are now on the inside, there’s spinning blades on the OUTSIDE, and the whole robot can bend around into the shape of a U in order to strike with both blades at the same time. I don’t know how any of this is supposed to work in practice but it can’t possibly be any worse than Wrecks or Preying Mantis, the former of which was too powerful for its own good and the latter of which wasn’t powerful enough to move at all.
STRENGTHS: SMEE is fourteen goddamned feet wide.
WEAKNESSES: SMEE is fourteen goddamned feet wide.
SON OF WHYACHI
One of only two former champions at the show this year, Son of Whyachi was the original great from Team Whyachi. It bears their namesake, a nonsensical Japanese-esque word made up by some white dudes in Wisconsin. You can’t scoff at ’em though because when push came to shove they bent the rules and competed as a heavyweight with a walker weight bonus and won a championship because of it… and then the rules were changed the following year and Son of Whyachi has underperformed every season since. Team Whyachi has had more rule changes than fucking championships, but like clockwork the nasty triangular blades of death are always ready for another go.
STRENGTHS: We know what kind of power those spinning hammers are capable of unleashing; we’ve seen Son of Whyachi smash opponents to pieces, shatter the inner Lexan walls, and whack other bots so hard that they get jammed into the fucking floor and lose. There are eight fucking motors running Whyachi’s weapon. Eight. That’s one for every Chaos Emerald in Sonic plus an extra one just to be a dick about it.
WEAKNESSES: The era of overwhelmingly destructive bots like Whyachi has been tumultuous to put it lightly. Destruction still wins fights, but robots such as these where their whole gimmick is spinning a 120-pound mass of steel at “holy shit” levels of speed have been on a downturn for quite some time. We’ve seen the kinetic energy of Son of Whyachi’s weapon used against it in the past, with success, so there’s definitely a road map for defeating it. The real question is does Team Whyachi have a surprise detour planned?
Lilith Specht is a woman with a dream: to be the first female champion of BattleBots, something Zoe Stephenson has also been chasing, and Andrea Gellatly too. However on the role to achieving this goal Lilith would also be the first transgender champion of BattleBots… assuming Vlad The Impaler didn’t lose its ding dong back when Mechavore sliced it to fucking bits. That would make Vlad the first on technicality. Sporkinok’s weapon looks like a goddamned bike helmet at first but in actuality it’s a spork. You know, something that can’t decide if it’s a spoon or a fork. The irony and symbolism here wasn’t lost on me, don’t worry Lilith I get the joke. I can dig it. Or poke it. Because it’s a spork and you can do both of those things with one.
STRENGTHS: Attacking this robot constitutes a hate crime punishable at the very least by being cancelled on Twitter.
WEAKNESSES: As first time competitors in the heavyweight division Lilith and her team have brought a robot that certainly challenges some design conventions, but in actuality it looks like they took the worst parts of former competitors Hypothermia and Complete Control and smashed them together into a single robot. Big ass wheels, a design that looks front-heavy, and a weapon that might not be powerful enough to lay down the law. Sporkinok will be more of a win for equal rights and trans acceptance than it will a win in the arena.
Last season we saw the best goddamned SubZero that Jerry Clarkin could build after he retired the two-season shit show that was “Mecha SubZero”. He rebuilt the entire machine from the ground up only for his first opponent to wind up being Cobalt who absolutely annihilated this robot in under a minute. SubZero was trashed so badly that it straight up vanished for the majority of 2019’s Fight Night and didn’t make it to four fights. Jerry said he was going to sell SubZero, win or lose, and god damn if you didn’t just feel bad for the guy. So who bought SubZero, then? His crew. SubZero was a joint effort between veteran competitors Team XD and Team Hammertime, and Team XD stepped up to the plate to purchase SubZero and continue this robot’s legacy. SubZero’s story is not yet over, it still has more opponents to shout “GET OVER HERE” at. I’ll wait so you can finish leaving me a comment telling me that was Scorpion’s quote, not SubZero’s. You’ve been played.
STRENGTHS: SubZero is one of very few flippers this year putting it in a unique position to capitalize on the power vacuum left by Bronco when it spectacularly shit itself and went 0-4 last season. Bronco showed up to the 2020 season looking like the exact same fucking robot so Inertia Labs either have giant nuts for real or they’re just giant nuts. I’m with #TeamSubZero on this one. We stan SubZero in this house. Talking like this is making me physically cringe.
WEAKNESSES: SubZero has a 14-14 career record coming into this season. That’s a lot of fights, and that’s only BattleBots we’re talking about here. This machine has seen some shit over the years and it’s proven that it’s good for a win exactly half the time. If anything you could say this is one of the most consistent robots out there because that’s a decades-long balancing act that can’t be easy to manage. But… fourteen losses is still a lot of losses.
Team Seems Reasonable
Team Seems Reasonable
Great, this thing again. Tantrum is a robot that at the very least is evolving and that’s a good thing because back in 2018 when this thing debuted it had one of those flipping arms powered by a spring-loaded mechanism and it did fuck all. It beat Battle Royale With Cheese in a fight that went to the judges despite Tantrum toppling the cheeseburger like 30 seconds into the goddamned battle. Then Tombstone killed Tantrum and we didn’t see it again until next year when designer Aren Hill was like “what if I made a vertical spinner like everyone else except I made mine needlessly complicated to the point where it just never worked?” Tantrum 2.0 was born, a robot with a vertical spinner mounted on a sliding track that could “punch” forward. This appears to be the design that Aren is hedging his bets on because he didn’t redo the robot a third time and thank god for that because in a parallel universe he did do that and I’m writing jokes about a Tantrum 3.0 that’s armed with a pneumatic penis.
STRENGTHS: Despite not being an effective robot Tantrum has proven to be extremely durable. Much like how I’ve described Minotaur and Copperhead, Tantrum is a tight little box of metal that looks like it should be a middleweight or something but no, it actually does weigh just as much as its opponents. We’ve seen Tantrum get decommissioned by the likes of Yeti before but those are outliers and Tantrum can generally survive until the bell even if it loses.
WEAKNESSES: This thing just fucking blows. I get the logic behind the weapon, and don’t get me wrong it’s definitely a creative approach to liven up the goddamned snoozefest of vertical spinners, but I just feel like there’s something “wrong” with the design. It’s just not a reliable weapon. The hosts mentioned last season that Tantrum sent a 100-ish pound weight flying a few feet into the air but when confronted with Gemini – two bots that each weigh 125 pounds – we didn’t see a whole lot of airtime. Something doesn’t add up with this robot and it’s far too complicated for me to armchair analyze, so unless Aren has worked out the gremlins I’m assuming we’re going to see another lackluster show.
Tombstone has won 20 of its 24 previous fights (spanning 2015-2019). Of those 20 wins, 17 of them were by knockouts so brutal that I’ve genuinely run out of ways to describe what it looks like when a robot has its entire asshole yanked out and stretched over its own head. By virtue of shattering it into a zillion pieces Tombstone has ensured that we would never forget the likes of Radioactive; had that robot just casually lost to someone else it would’ve been delegated to trivia status, but no all Tombstone had to do was blow it the fuck apart and now it has nearly five million YouTube views and is the third suggestion when you start typing “tombstone vs” into the search bar. This thing wins fights. Ray doesn’t fuck around. He fucks up sometimes, but he doesn’t fuck around.
STRENGTHS: Come on, it’s fucking Tombstone. If Tombstone’s weapon is spinning there’s a near 100% chance you’re fucking dead, kiddo. And you might think a Tombstone blade is just a blade, but you’d be wrong; Tombstone’s arsenal contains blades made of different metals for different impact potential, different angles for slicing, and even different shapes for doing things like cleaving at exposed wheels. Each blade has a personality and is precision-machined to do one specific thing, even if all of those things are just some derivative of “kill the other guy until he’s dead”.
WEAKNESSES: This is one of the last robots from the “so simple it just works” era of design. There isn’t anything fancy under the hood of Tombstone, it’s literally just some NPC gearmotors for drive, a big ass E-Tek/Motenergy motor for the weapon, some batteries, and a chain connecting the weapon and motor sprockets. I’m serious. The simplicity is a strength, there are less points of failure, but that same simplicity is a weakness because it makes each point of failure that much more critical. When Tombstone loses it goes down hard.
The fuck is this “Diet Bite Force” shit? Y’all ain’t even trying to hide the fact that you’re just aping someone else’s look and hoping no one would notice. If this were RuPaul’s Drag Race instead of BattleBots I think they’d be within their legal rights to straight up fucking kill you. The team wants us to think this robot is named “Tracer” because it has a paint job reminiscent of PCB tracing, but we all know it’s because someone on that team plays Overwatch and has a Pornhub playlist full of Source Filmmaker porn. Or had, I guess, since Pornhub nuked all that stuff. Don’t ask me how I know all this shit, this isn’t about me this is about Not Bite Force over here.
STRENGTHS: Tracer’s minibot looks like a genuine pain in the ass to deal with. Team Whyachi pioneered the idea of an “annoyance” bot with the little wedges that went with Warrior Clan (named “Meddler”) and those saw enough success that other teams took notice. Since we already know Team Kymera are doing the BattleBots equivalent of uploading someone else’s anime AMV’s to YouTube they’ve gone ahead and taken the annoyance bot idea too. In this case, however, the minibot looks effective because it’s literally just spikes on the tiniest chassis possible. With a little luck those long spindly spikes could stab a drive chain or get jammed inside a weapon slot.
WEAKNESSES: If you’re playing as McCree, then generally a well-timed flashbang will buy you enough time to shoo- ah fuck wrong Tracer again. This robot doesn’t look like it can self-right. Maybe it can? Like if its weapon is spinning and connects with the floor it can springboard itself back over? Its wheels continue into the backside of the robot but with the way it’s laid out it doesn’t seem like it’ll come to rest in a position where those wheels will be on the ground.
Of all the robots to come out of MIT, maybe it’s Uppercut that’s the real sleeper “hit”. The lineage of MIT bots traces back to Overhaul in 2015. When that robot died and refused to shake anyone’s hands its corpse exploded and released a bunch of spores that became Sawblaze, Brutus, Road Rash, and another Overhaul. But Alex Hattori’s Uppercut is another one of those MIT robots; Alex was on Sawblaze’s team for a year and I guess all he learned was that you can make a robot that looks like a trapezoid nightmare, arm it with something that looks suspiciously like a fisting dildo, and make a deep run in your debut season.
STRENGTHS: For all the shit talking I do about Uppercut’s shit packing weapon it can land a hard blow. There is very little to hit on a robot like Mammoth and yet last season Uppercut still managed to whack Mammoth so hard that its wheels exploded and the robot caught fire. Uppercut qualified for the Round of 16 in 16th place meaning it was destined to be killed by Bite Force, but with no Bite Force around to keep Alex in check he could very well be the MIT bot that sweeps the tournament. Either way I’m sure we’ll see some stupid yo-yo tricks.
WEAKNESSES: I don’t know whose idea it was to put what amounted to bicycle handlebars on the sides of Uppercut to prevent it from getting stuck on its side, but they look like shit and are an easy target for opponents. I believe on more than one occasion one side of the stabilizer bars wound up getting knocked off of the robot and caused some problems. They’re kind of tucked behind the plow, but not at the ends, and if Uppercut gets flipped over there’s absolutely nothing protecting them. Also if you take the weapon off and look at it by itself it’s like that gag from Always Sunny where the flexing arm logo looks like a penis.
In the past I’ve given this robot recognition for having a team who were relentless in their pursuit of the Nut, never giving up and using every single opportunity possible to stay in the game no matter how stupid the gimmick was. Leanne Cushing and her team ended their rookie season with a 4-3 record. They failed to qualify for the Round of 16 yet they still found a way to pull three more fights out of thin air to try and hang in there. Leanne has cornered the market on destructive undercutters and between this robot and Hijinx I think Valkyrie has what it takes to pull ahead and assert itself as the dominant design. Does it have what it takes to actually win a championship? Probably not, but you never know. Also that dude next to Leanne in the photo is Frederick. He isn’t wearing 3D glasses he just has a very unique type of colorblindness that requires him to wear red/cyan anaglyph glasses all the time.
STRENGTHS: Valkyrie’s weaponry is nothing short of nightmarish, when it’s working at least. The first time we ever saw this robot it bumped into Ultimo Destructo, its disc fell onto the floor, and the robot high-centered itself and died. Not a good debut, but in that same exact season we saw Valkyrie bounce back and knock an entire fucking tread pod off of Red Devil that continued to flop around like a severed lizard’s tail. Even in its 2019 season Valkyrie finished with a respectable 4-2 record, bringing its career standing to 8-5. Not bad for a robot that once lost to Ultimo Destructo. Much like Tombstone, Valkyrie also has interchangeable weaponry the team can use based upon their opponents. This year, and in Valkyrie’s official season photo, it’s sporting the baddest-ass ninja star I’ve ever seen. Fuck yeah.
WEAKNESSES: When Valkyrie doesn’t work… things go south fast. Valkyrie appears to have invertibility, and it kind of does, but due to the robot’s weight distribution and I think even the gyroscopic forces of its weapon it struggles to move around when flipped over. The robot is also prone to wearing down its tread extremely quickly as it has to drive against the forces its weapon produces; in the past we’ve seen additional polyurethane tread that was added to the robot’s wheels literally just slough off like zombie skin as it fights for traction. It’s a little too strong for its own good.
Team War? EZ!
Team War? EZ!
For the sake of not having OpenOffice yell at me because it perceives me to have the grammar of a special needs second grader I’m going to write this robot’s name as “WarEz”. Actually that still looks like shit because now it resembles the name of a Geocities website where you can download illicit programs. Fuck it. This robot looks like its team really liked Whiplash and Hypershock, couldn’t make up their minds, and also couldn’t measure the parts for anything worth a shit because god damn is this robot massive. I’m sure the people at SendCutSend were rethinking that sponsorship; there’s probably as much money sunk into the laser cut armor of this robot as there is in the entire fucking arena.
STRENGTHS: For being a quick build from a rookie team WarEz looks “all business”. You can tell what the robot is here to do. It might not be able to do it very well, or at all for that matter because we’ve yet to see it until just now, but it’s nice when you see a design and you just “get it”. If Hypershock is the renegade Tyco RC menace with the neon paint job then WarEz is the more subdued New Bright knock-off that looks a little cheaper but will still get you there.
WEAKNESSES: Did they build this thing on top of a real life Mario Kart? Asking because the last time I saw wheels that big on something there were cars being crushed under them. God damn. WarEz doesn’t even come close to having the biggest wheels in the field but by virtue of where and how they are placed they just look disproportionately massive. WarEz obviously is going to have a traction and stability advantage over opponents, but that coming at the cost of having four really easy targets could spell disaster. Er, I mean “DisAzzTer” or whatever the fuck.
Team Fast Electric Robots
Team Fast Electric Robots
Can you believe Whiplash’s predecessor “Splatter” was slept on by the BattleBots producers back in 2015 and 2016 as an “alternate” competitor? Yeah the robot might not have been the behemoth that it’s become today but to think once it was given its time in the spotlight this robot hasn’t failed to reach at least the quarterfinals. Matt and Jason Vasquez have never not known a life without robot combat, kind of like how Gen Z will never know a life pre-internet or 9/11 or whatever. The Vasquez’s have had at least four fewer planes fly into random shit in their lives, though. It’s hard to knock on Whiplash, the original King of Control in the arena, because while the design is kind of stupid “it just works”. There’s a spinning vertical disc mounted inside of the lifting arm. That sounds stupid as fuck but when you watch this robot in motion it’s like poetry. Somehow these two kids have turned what amounts to a stop sign in a goddamned tornado into a precision instrument.
STRENGTHS: Whiplash is the perfect brawler bot. It can throw a punch with its spinning disc, it can go for a grab with its lifting arm, and if you manage to toss the robot over it can right itself in less than a second. Last season Whiplash’s front plows appeared to be shock-mounted with rubber feet behind them, similar to the treads of Heavy Metal’s wheels from the newer Robot Wars series, and they were complete shit. I don’t know if the rubber pads didn’t dissipate impacts poorly or what but both Whiplash and the anecdotally-mentioned Heavy Metal suffered because of these things. I see no such rubber pads on Whiplash this year, that’s definitely a step up.
WEAKNESSES: Bite Force and Tombstone have been the only two robots to stop Whiplash’s advancement toward the Giant Nut. Bite Force is absent this year and Tombstone is definitely within Whiplash’s wheelhouse as an opponent it can beat; these two robots have met as their alter egos Last Rites and Splatter and the Vasquez’s have come out ahead before. I’m not suggesting Whiplash has a clean run for the title, but this is their best shot and the only thing I see stopping them is a fluke loss or a surprise rookie.
Team Witch Doctor
Team Witch Doctor
This is honestly what this whole article has been building up to. Dead (heh) last in the roster of this season’s competitors is Witch Doctor, last season’s runner-up. I’ve had my eyes on Witch Doctor since 2015 as a potential contender for the title because when this thing lands a blow good god does it ruin shit. This is a robot that in its rookie year took seven blows to the face from Tombstone, broke Tombstone’s legendary blade, and only lost because that seventh hit flipped Witch Doctor over before it had a self-righting mechanism. Witch Doctor came back the next year with a srimech and even though it’s eventually been eliminated from the tournament Andrea Gellatly and her team always fix what killed the robot the previous year. This year? It’s hard to tell but it looks like Witch Doctor’s self-righter isn’t as exposed and overall it looks like it has a much lower profile. The purple is also nice.
STRENGTHS: This might be the one. Last year’s championship was a hell of a fight and the deciding factor was when Witch Doctor lost the use of its srimech. That device looks like it’s tucked in a little better so we won’t be seeing a stray blow from a spinner cause its chain to fly off and render the robot dead in the water. That lower profile is also matched with different top armor – added in 2018 to prevent another Red Devil incident – that’s no longer grated but one solid piece of metal (still painted like a skeleton rib cage however).
WEAKNESSES: My money is riding on Witch Doctor this year. After last season’s incredible showing I am certain the only thing capable of stopping Witch Doctor would have to be the likes of Whiplash or another top contender that the robot has yet to face. Tombstone doesn’t even stand a chance because at the Amazon RE:mars event Witch Doctor exacted its revenge on the former champ and cucked it in front of Beef Jesus, or whatever the Amazon guy’s name is.
I really gotta stop making these comeback articles so damn long. This post is 23,000 words long and I feel like it was a complete waste of time because I managed to post this article fourteen weeks late. We already know who wins so these predictions are kind of moot but at least it’s amusing to be able to match my “grades” with the performances of the robots to see how close I was. Again, even though the whole season has been airing I avoided spoilers while working on this post, the grades aren’t biased in the slightest. This is also why robots who participated only in the “Bounty Hunter” episodes were given grades as if they were actual competitors because at the time I wrote this I wasn’t aware that Bounty Hunters was even going to be a thing (meaning we can throw out the ratings for bots like Bronco, Son of Whyachi, and Icewave). I promise I am only marginally upset about that. (Okay, I broke that promise already.)
So even though we know who season 10’s champion is I’m still going to write these incoming season articles as if we don’t know, and I’m not even going to say who won in this article because I want to maintain that charade. Like I said, you guys are kind of getting a taste of what I go through whenever I’m at the tapings of these events and see all the fights ahead of time; I know nobody upsets Bite Force but I have to write Bite Force’s articles as if there’s the possibility that the king is on the ropes when I know for a fact he isn’t. It’s like watching a shitty romantic comedy and knowing that the guy and girl eventually do get together in the end so there’s no point in watching the fucking film unless you’re there with a date and just trying to get head after the show.
But yeah, I’m late to the party but if anything that just gives you an excuse to relive the season again as we go through it together. 14 articles seems do-able, plus the Bounty Hunter ones… which I guess I’ll just do at the end? Or in the middle? When the fuck did these things air? Who knows. Who cares? Thank you for rejoining me on this doomsday cruise. Thank you for your patience. Mental illness is a sonofabitch and the lasting damage done by personal shame can go a long fucking way, but I know I’m better than the people and events that kept me down. Fuck all that noise. If you would like to support BattleBots Update there have been some changes to how you can do so, here’s a breakdown:
- Patreon is still around for monthly pledges.
- Ko-Fi has replaced the one-time donation thing (still uses PayPal).
- Redbubble is now offering BBU stickers!
- PrivateInternetAccess has a partnership with us for VPN service.
- Facebook page is still up, too.
And you may have noticed there’s also new Amazon ads on the right side of the page offering bot-related stuff. Those ads are supposed to reflect the page content so I’m hoping Jezz Ballzos notices that this is a robot combat site and shows appropriate ads instead of targeting in on a throwaway joke about dildos and running ones for cock-shaped “personal massagers” instead.
Buckle up. Or don’t, because I’m going to be driving like we’re in a school zone and I’m also asleep at the wheel.