BattleBots Beat: More BattleBots Bracket-Busting?

Senor Weaselo

Senor Weaselo

Senor Weaselo plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. When he isn’t doing that, he enjoys watching his teams (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers), trying to ingest enough capsaicin to make himself breathe fire (it hasn’t happened yet), and scheming to acquire the Bryant Park zamboni.
Senor Weaselo

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the Beat! Last week, we saw Tombstone’s frame finally give up the chain, Bombshell doing what it seemed to be its only purpose in life, and Minotaur be Minotaur. This week the other side of the bracket comes into play as we see who joins the Brazilian Bull and the Mutant Robots masterpiece Lock-Jaw in the semifinals and the season finale. Onto the fights!

(3) Bite Force vs. (14) HUGE

How they got here:
Bite Force went 4-0 with 3 KOs and 4 dominating fights. the only Bite Force had that wasn’t a KO was their first against Blacksmith. After that, KOs over HyperShock, End Game, and Bombshell. End Game’s was the longest in a nice tidy… 62 seconds. Especially with Tombstone out on the other side, Paul Ventimiglia and Aptyx Designs look in as good shape as they can possibly be to win their fourth BattleBots title, which would put him level with Carlo Bertochinni and BioHazard—the other three titles were Green Wave, a middleweight overhead spinner that won the Rochester R3 middleweight crown in 2005; Brutality, an overhead spinner which won the heavyweight title in the Pro Championship in 2009; and Season 1 Bite Force.

HUGE, meanwhile, has been one of the darlings of the competition. A robot that’s the product of proofs of concept, the beetleweight Tiny Huge and the featherweight Huge. Here’s a picture of all three!

Courtesy: The BattleBots wiki

The HDPE (high-density polyethylene) HUGE even managed to win its first three fights, over SubZero, Free Shipping, and Chomp, which led to the question, “Okay but how would it fare against a spinner?” And against Icewave it did not go well, as one wheel got cut spoke by spoke, and then the robot got broken in half. That dropped it all the way down in the rankings from wherever it previously was all the way down to 14th. In fairness, as much damage as HUGE did to those other three bots it didn’t get a single KO.

As for the fight…
The two robots took their time before they started engaging, as they were driving around, trying to circle each other. I wondered if Bite Force would have a tougher time than Icewave because, although it is also a spinner, it’s a vertical rather than a horizontal which means it doesn’t have as much radius to attack those wheels. Well, just goes to show what I know as Bite Force came dead center between the wheels. After they recoiled back, Bite Force went slightly off-center, but again, going for the body of the robot rather than the wheels.

That happened a third time and something and someone threw a chain out. That would be Bite Force’s weapon chain, as the vertical bar was no longer spinning, while HUGE’s weapon was. So Bite Force had to try and take a page from the Season 1 iteration that won it all and be a spinner killer using itself. They did that, though the piece that held the weapon together got damaged.

HUGE was ahead on points and started to spin back up… and then fell apart like a house of cards, breaking in half again. Huh. That probably wasn’t good. The wheels tried to turn, but it’s like a broken axle with the wheel trying to turn around, it’s not going to go anywhere. Also yes, there is Botcam starting from around Bite Force loses the weapon.

It’s a big robot, they like putting things on it, it’s a different angle than the others. So Bite Force survives and advances to the quarterfinals, winning by KO in 1:37.

(6) Icewave vs. (11) RotatoR

How they got here:
For Icewave it’s been primarily doing a fucking lot of damage. Namely, it broke Vanquish in half and it broke HUGE in half. It did not break Yeti in half but that’s because Yeti’s receiver died in two or three hits. Icewave’s lone blemish was a controversial split decision loss to Skorpios, which after losing functionality in its weapon out-drived and pushed Icewave all around, winning the other three points. See, RotatoR knew better and just took Skorpios’s arm completely off and didn’t let up, and that was the crux of their argument for getting in. After losing a JD to Petunia, the palindromic spinner KOed Predator, which admittedly doesn’t count for much, and beat Warrior Dragon and Skorpios in impressive fashion, which did count for much. The smart strategy of which disk to primarily attack with has been RotatoR’s key to success.

As for the fight…
I was a bit surprised that RotatoR went with the spinning disks instead of the bars for reach reasons, but I guess since the disks were not under attack most likely they kept their signature weapon on. They started off going lower disk first to act as the wedge, which I also was curious about. So naturally, in my skepticism, that worked like a charm and after the first three or four hits Icewave’s mighty blade had stopped. Which meant that RotatoR’s top disk could go to work, immediately taking a chunk out of the engine bay, and then pieces off the engine. So now the blade definitely wasn’t going to spin. Hell, if it had been spinning and the engine had been firing that would have been even worse for Icewave since the engine’s still firing, which if my assumptions are right (probably not) could lead to explosions? That fortunately did not happen. Unfortunately Icewave was in real trouble at this point and to do something, it was Icewave trying to use the front wedge to either break one of the weapons or at least push RotatoR around.

It could work to push but only in limited qualities because we got the RotatoR spin/13 Black move! Although it was more defensive than last-ditch offense. RotatoR at this point had total control to just cut piece after piece off of that engine, relentlessly working on that top part.

The good news for Icewave was that the robot survived the fight and it went to the judges. The bad news was that the last hit with a few seconds left cut through the engine bay on the other side that RotatoR had started working on. In three minutes they had completely cut through Icewave’s engine. Let’s say it altogether: RotatoR wins by unanimous decision. They’ll take on Bite Force. As for Icewave, Marc DeVidts might be thinking of another type of weapon motor now that Icewave is free of its engine, though he’s open to ideas.

Possibly our last look at Icewave. Photo via Marc’s blog.

(2) Bronco vs. (15) WAR Hawk

How they got here:
One was expected, the other had to battle. Bronco was one of the three 4-0 robots, along with Tombstone and Bite Force. It had the fewest KOs, only having 2 (Bombshell and DUCK!), but how cool does it look to send robots 12 feet in the air and over the wall? Or in the case against DUCK!, between the wall? Meanwhile, WAR Hawk surprised me. I originally thought they weren’t going to have a shot at it after going 3-1 and beating Axe Backwards, Overhaul, and Free Shipping, and getting drubbed by Brutus, but they did enough for there to be a 15-seed rumble, which veteran Rob Farrow played perfectly, letting the other two go at it before picking them both off and earning that 15 seed.

As for the fight…
Yes, Bronco went back to the “pwanger” armor configuration that we had seen against all the other vertical spinners. Meanwhile, WAR Hawk came in with not one, but TWO minibots to impede Bronco and that lethal flipper, everyone’s favorite, WAR Stop, and also WAR Chick, basically the same robot in a slightly different color.

And the minibots came out attacking at full force, and since you can get high-centered on them, Bronco was successfully pestered, opening it up for WAR Hawk to get the opening hit or two in on Bronco’s flank. But they were able to turn away eventually and finally got the jump, flipping WAR Hawk over, which meant the vertical spinner had to drive around to find a nice wall to bash into to self-right, a definite weakness. Bronco also had to self-right at this point because somehow the robot was bouncing on its side. They self-righted at a close enough time, where Bronco came back after WAR Hawk, flipping it into the screws.

For a moment I thought that that’s how the fight would end, with another ring out in favor of Bronco, this time the opponent being chewed up by the screws. And WAR Hawk was for a time, which meant that Bronco could go hunt minibots and got enough of WAR Chick to see that the wheels came off on the slo-mo. The screws eventually spit WAR Hawk out, where Bronco could get right under them for a finishing flip if they should flinch back into life. But that didn’t happen, as WAR Hawk was counted out. Bronco wins by KO in 1:38.

(7) Yeti vs. (10) Whiplash

How they got here:
Yeti surprised everyone last season by being the bot that just kept coming at you with aggression and that spinning drum, managing to make it all the way to the semis before finally bowing out in a knock-down drag-out brawl where both weapons went. After beating Witch Doctor, the loss to Icewave left Yeti in some peril, and a last-second win over Bombshell wasn’t enough to put Yeti comfortably in stone, but the dominating KO over Petunia was more than enough. Meanwhile, after Splatter sputtered in 2016, losing to Warrior Clan, it all clicked at the heavier weight classes (the wiki notes they were more successful at the 15 lb. class before then) with Whiplash in 2017 at RoboGames, and a revamped Whiplash went ahead and went 3-1 and only losing to Tombstone, and with it the Vasquez family robot, with team captained by father Jeff and driven by younger brother Matt, has been one of the feel-good stories of the season.

As for the fight…
This was the highlighted fight on Discovery, and since I had more pressing Wild Card Game matters to attend to I didn’t get to see it until later.

[DFO] favorite Greg Gibson noted that Matt Vasquez is the better of the two drivers, but he’s the more reckless one. It was going to come to a driving match either way though, and if it became weapon to weapon so be it. Yeti only had one lifting fork attached rather than the full pair, surprising considering with Warhead and HyperShock out Yeti has the current dance machine crown, and because Whiplash has that lifter.

Naturally with the idea of “out-drive” the two bots met nose to nose and weapon on weapon, trying to get that upper hand. Whiplash got that upper hand because something spat out of Yeti. Meanwhile Whiplash took that time to get their first lift in and see if they could pin Yeti against the wall. They couldn’t quite get that, but it counts as control and strategy points too. Meanwhile Yeti escaped and knocked whatever the hell that piece was away.

The two came together and Whiplash got another lift, not quite getting the full flip because Yeti’s lifting fork was able to prevent it, and landed right on Whiplash. They went back to squaring off weapon to weapon, as Whiplash was trying to get the plow to get under. After several nose to nose moments Whiplash finally got to the side, away from the weapon, and got Yeti over, before flipping it back over with the disk portion of their weapon. They also used the lifter as a clamp, clamping under Yeti and taking it drum-first into the wall. This took out yet another BattleBots sign. Eh, it happens.

Yeti tried to get some distance, to get up to speed and get some sort of new maneuver, but Whiplash was staying on them, feeling free to go weapon to weapon, pushing Yeti around, towards the wall, the screws, and what-not. Yeti, slightly smoking, ended up going over the killsaws as they started popping up and the weapon stopped after that. Yeti’s drum was out which meant Whiplash was in control with 45 seconds or so to go.

But Whiplash was starting to cut out a little, either due to receiver stuff or the floor, where it looked like “letting up.” (Obviously it wasn’t, so something was weird.) They were able to take Yeti back to the killsaws, but afterwards the drive started to smoke. There were about 15 seconds left so Whiplash was surviving the bell, but this meant that a fight that had been in Whiplash’s control the entire time was suddenly in doubt.

It wasn’t enough doubt, though, as it’s Whiplash getting the win by unanimous decision, and moving on to face Bronco in the quarters.

I have to say, RotatoR over Icewave was the upset of the round (though I knew that would be the strategy), and the right side of the bracket looks a lot less messy than the left. The 2 and 3 seeds are both still around, after all. Onto the quarters!

(3) Bite Force vs. (11) RotatoR
One robot we expected in the quarters at the beginning of the season, one we did not. This time Rotator went with the bars to give Bite Force less surface area to hit—it would be able to mangle the aluminum disks easily. Not that Paul Ventimiglia minded about the bars, actually being okay with the weapon-on-weapon clash if need be.

He got something like that on the first shot, but Bite Force sent RotatoR soaring with an upper cut. And then the former champ did not let up, continuing to hound RotatoR, taking off one of the wedges, taking off a wheel, and altogether just going right through Victor Soto’s bot like it was just standing there. And it was eventually. Bite Force gets its 5th KO in 6 wins, this one in 1:20. Bite Force is back in the semis!

(2) Bronco vs. (10) Whiplash
Legends of the game (Zander Rose and Reason Bradley of Inertia Labs) against previous unknowns (the Vasquez family of Team Fast Electric Robots). In fairness, Jeff Vasquez has been building robots for a long time, and they fought in the Comedy Central days. But as I said in the text for the Whiplash–Tombstone fight, it wasn’t until RoboGames 2017 where it all clicked with Whiplash in its 220 lb. configuration, winning the silver, aka the last robot that gets to lose to Original Sin, taking the design of their 2016 Splatter and generally making it better. Matt Vasquez is 19 and has outdriven Michael Mauldin, Christian Carlberg, Ian Lewis, and Greg Gibson in their four wins. That’s a banner list right there. Also there’s a picture with him with T-Minus which I found adorable. T-Minus was Inertia Labs’ middleweight robot, finally winning the title in Season 5, in part because they did this.

Anyway yeah. The picture of Matt with T-Minus is adorable, but also gives timeframe. That was what, 2003, 2004?

Meanwhile, Bronco kept the anti-vertical pwangers on, but I was surprised they didn’t have the armor they had against SawBlaze, the top armor, and watching the fight I wondered if that would prove costly at all. I figure that due to the pwangers, Whiplash would instead come from the back and try and use the spinner with the overhand.

Crazy enough, when the two robots met front and center for the first moment, Whiplash’s plow in front was doing its job and Bronco couldn’t get under. And as I expected Whiplash came with that overhand, and what I didn’t expect was that Whiplash would then lift Bronco against the wall, trying to pin it on its side. This did lead to a very stylish way out of there by Bronco, using the flipper on the side Lexan to get back around, which you’d think could turn the fight since it re-spaced. But no, Whiplash stayed on the longer Bronco, working the sides, pinning them into a corner where the pulverizer could come into play, cutting the ring. Again, it was some brilliant driving by Matt Vasquez. He was using the plow to prevent the flipper, and in armor jiujutsu, using the pwanger armor against Bronco to make it easier to try and get a lift. The versatility was playing very well and the disk was coming in and attacking from the top and the side as seen fit. Bronco did eventually get a flip but Whiplash did a 360, it wasn’t the big send-them-flying kind of flip. So they kept at it until there looked like a big purge of gas from Bronco, maybe something happening to one of the nitrogen canisters, as they use nitrogen in the pneumatics instead of CO2. Either way, Bronco’s wheels stopped moving. The flipper still worked as they tried to use it to show propulsion, but that still does not count as controlled translational movement. And it also started smoking. Those are all generally bad.

The Vasquez family thought Bronco was going to win it all this year and said so in the post-match interview. That was not the case, and the 2-seed follows top-seeded Tombstone, out before the semis, and the season finale. Whiplash wins by KO, just under the bell in 2:57.

And then, there were four. Minotaur. Lock-Jaw. Bite Force. Whiplash. Two former champs, two first Nut hopefuls. Who will win the Giant Nut? And we’ll have to get some exhibitions too, right? I’ll break it down… tomorrow night. See you then!

Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. When he isn't doing that, he enjoys watching his teams (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers), trying to ingest enough capsaicin to make himself breathe fire (it hasn't happened yet), and scheming to acquire the Bryant Park zamboni.
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BTW for anyone who hasn’t been watching the tournament has been terrific so far.

Low Commander of the Super Soldiers

I’ll echo that. The whole thing is very over the top and extremely entertaining.


I introduced the DFO version of Yeti to Greg Gibson and the Battlebots reddit and it did NOT go well:



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Game Time Decision

Blake Borltes begot Bilbo Baggins