BattleBots Beat (Part 2): Back to the Studio

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

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Hello there, and welcome back to the Beat, the second-funniest Thursday (normally) running BattleBots review column! This becomes a special two-parter because I realized, “Holy shit, if I just do the re: MARS stream it’s still a 3500 word post,” Also it was 3 AM because I was finally actually watching the episode due to it being a busy week. But we’re here, and we have all the fights, and everything’s gonna be just fine. It’s Season 4 of the reboot! Or Season 9 of BattleBots! Or 20 years of BattleBots since the first tournament at The Pyramid in Long Beach. The winners of that competition were named you might have heard of in the Comedy Central days, kilobot (lightweight, 25-60 lbs.) winner Ziggo (winner of another two lightweight titles in Seasons 2 and 4), megabot (middleweight, 60-120 lbs.) Son of Smashy (Derek Young’s middleweight before he built Complete Control), and gigabot (heavyweight, 120-220 lbs.) BioHazard (a champ in Seasons 2, 4, and 5, runner-up Season 3). Hell, you might know the rumble winners too, even if you don’t know lightweight winner HammerHead. The middleweight rumble winner was Deadblow (Grant Imahara’s bot, later making cameos on MythBusters) and the heavyweight rumble winner was Razer (yes, that Razer, between the Second and Third Wars and before exclusivity contracts).

Twenty years later, in multiple iterations, it’s still here, taking up the torch in the States from Robot Wars. Even if we’re still pissed about Robot Wars being canceled by the BBC again. Yeah it was a few years ago, not the point.

Chris Rose, Kenny Florian, and Faruq Tauheed return for a fourth season, and we saw them all during the live event. Joining the trio in the pits is Jenny Taft, best known as the person in charge of preventing us from getting what we really want, Shannon Sharpe beating the everloving fuck out of Skip Bayless (which is what would happen if they got into a fight). Thanks to the slightly tweaked two-hour format of the episodes she’ll be interviewing teams behind the scenes about their bots and the challenges in getting them up and running.

One of the segments shown, which didn’t involve the robots fighting, was that story I mentioned about Deep Six, which we actually got to see happen now. Dustin Esswein and Team Overboard came up with a bot with the heaviest weapon bar in BattleBots—100 lbs.. It is quite large, as I showed a pic of earlier. But they had only tested it at 10% speed until they got into the Test Box. Where they then tried to spin it up to full power.

It tried to turn with the spin up and the gyroscopic force made it unstable, the bar hit the floor, and the robot actually spat out its own electronics. And ripped a 6-inch hole into the floor. And put a chip into the Lexan wall. That is what Tom Brewster would call pulling a Drizzle.

Onto the fights!

SawBlaze vs. RotatoR
I’m a little surprised that this is the first fight televised of the season. Notably absent from the premiere episode are two fights that they announced when they streamed that opening day’s session fight cards that I really want to see. The first, and the very first fight they announced on those cards, so the first fight of the season, was DUCK! vs. Bombshell, a fight based on the controversy from last year’s Last Chance Rumble, where DUCK! seemed to be the last bot standing until suddenly Bombshell sprung back to life and won on damage done to Red Devil. And then upset Tombstone, much to everyone’s surprise and saltiness because it basically did nothing else that season other than smoke and/or catch fire. (That fight will be televised tonight.)

The second fight was Monsoon vs. Ragnarok. Ragnarok is Tim Rackley’s robot, and you’d know him last season as the big guy with the mohawk on Team Monsoon who was the one who could yell “MONSOOOOOOOON” the loudest. I don’t know if Tom Brewster can yell that loudly. Maybe we’ll get them in Episode 3?

So instead the opening fight is two robots with similar stories. Both first appeared in Season 2 and lost their qualifying fights (albeit SawBlaze’s was with some controversy). Then last season they made big steps  and made the tournament. SawBlaze got topped by Monsoon in that first round, but RotatoR upset Icewave before losing to Bite Force, but took the Most Destructive Robot award as a result. Both look to follow their breakouts by continuing their momentum.

As I mentioned SawBlaze has some more defensive options than just a plow, or its signature tridents. The wedge Jamison Go put on the robot for this fight is actually made from 3/4-inch rubber in order to absorb horizontal spinners’ blows. That works, because even after all the damage they did last season Victor Soto and Team Revolution decided to up the power and the bulk on the disks. That seems reasonable, except for the part where they hit something in the Test Box. And that damaged the spinners. And the frame. That could be an issue down the line, but it’s already an issue in this fight, because instead there’s only one spinner on the robot. One of their weapon bars is on one side, while on the other is a forked wedge. I imagine this would be their anti-spinner setup, using the forks to try and tank the hits and get under the opponent. SawBlaze is very clearly not that so it’s less than optimal.

SawBlaze came in with a box rush to pin RotatoR and was immediately successful, starting the pyrotechnics early, creating that shower of sparks it’s known for. After being released RotatoR could get away and was able to get under SawBlaze with the forks but couldn’t really do anything with it as SawBlaze could get away without sustaining too much damage, and the rubber plow could hold up. And they could just keep stalking, keep going after RotatoR’s fork side, not giving RotatoR a chance to turn around and actually use its weapon bar. Instead the bar was hitting things like the wall as SawBlaze could pin it and saw away, and in the case of getting them in a friendly corner, use the pulverizer as well, as they did in the last minute.

SawBlaze continued taking RotatoR on a tour of the Box and its hazards, finishing at the hazards it started on, the screws. The final seconds had RotatoR fighting just to get off the screws, which they were able to do by the time the buzzer sounded. It went to the judges, this year all former builders (Jason Bardis of Dr. Inferno Jr. and The Disk O’ Inferno fame; the previously mentioned Derek Young; and Lisa Winter, builder of Tentomushi). This year is a 3-2-2 scoring format, with 3 points for damage and 2 for aggression and control—as I said yesterday, I think 5-3-3 would be better because I’m not sure the difference between 2-0 and 1-1. It wasn’t much of a problem for this one though, as SawBlaze wins by unanimous decision.

Cobalt vs. SubZero
So this was not the original fight scheduled. That was supposed to be Cobalt vs. Captain Shrederator, and there’s been some feuding on Facebook by Jerry Clarkin about Brian Nave swapping out the fight because Team Logicom was low on spares, since Shrederator Tiger Claw was returning for King of Bots 2. That would make it a rematch of This is Fighting Robots, where Team Carbide’s Tungsten beat Tiger Claw in the semifinals en route to winning This is Fighting Robots (over John Reid and Gabriel Stroud’s Tánshè). Oh hey, here’s that fight, thanks Dave!

Cobalt and Tungsten look really similar, right? However Tungsten also had an axe that went around that flywheel which they elected to not use in the Shrederator fight. that’s the biggest difference. They are not competing in this year’s King of Bots, because producers. Yes we know that one makes zero sense, that out of the 15 international teams they let in, a champion was not one of them.

Out of the new robots, Cobalt is one of the ones to watch out for because of the pedigree of Tungsten and Team Carbide’s flagship, Carbide, the one-time champion and two-time runner-up of “modern” Robot Wars. As in, they were in the Grand Final all three seasons of the reboot. The Season 2 Cobalt was inspired by Carbide, beating Overhaul but took their sweet-ass time to spin up against Bombshell and got their wheels cut off by the undercutter as a result.

Anyway, back to controversy. The original fight was Cobalt vs. Captain Shrederator but Team Logicom asked if there was a way to swap out the fight because they were low on spares and if they got trashed by Cobalt they would be out for the season. They were apparently a last-second addition (because of Chomp’s withdrawal) and were getting ready for China and King of Bots when the producers called, and according to Nick Nave the team had about three days to get the robot done and shipped.

The reason Jerry Clarkin is miffed is what happened in the fight. The good news is SubZero looks a lot sleeker and more maneuverable. The bad news is from the get-go they went head-on on Cobalt whose strategy was to “hang back,” (not the best move by driver Alex Horne) Cobalt’s wedge easily got under SubZero and just totally wrecked it. It just sent parts all over, and took out a wheel which was pointing at a 90 degree angle, the side armor, the frame, and even damaged the underside of SubZero. And maybe an air tank? Sorry, according to the post-fight report, TWO air tanks. And damaged the ram which operates the flipper. Jeez.

Cobalt was trying to get SubZero, which was on its side, over and out, which didn’t quite work, partially because they were just cleanly cutting through it, and again, that’s the underside. You don’t see that. SubZero could self-right and tried to move, but with the wheel and frame damage the fight was over before they had a chance. Cobalt wins by KO in 1:08, and if there’s a reason why Jerry Clarkin’s retiring, I think I found it.

Kraken vs. Ribbot
The carnival of the aquatic animals, the anglerfish and the frog. Kraken, the pneumatic crusher (as opposed to basically every other crusher, which use hydraulics) is new and improved, with hopefully stronger teeth and now boasting 40,ooo lbs. of force. And flames! And minibots that look like narwhals. The kids get to drive those. Ribbot is a four-wheel bot with interchangeable weaponry underneath a whole bunch of frog-shaped foam, including a lifter, an undercutter, and their weapon for this fight, a vertical spinner. They wanted the spinner to combat the grab of Kraken.

The fight began and Kraken got right in there, grabbing onto the cosmetic frog foam and taking Ribbot to the pulverizer. The foam might have helped more than conventional armor in that case because of that hammer. When Ribbot finally got free (which took a minute because Kraken’s teeth was sticking to the foam, but they got it out quickly enough) it showed its power in the disk, because after getting back in Kraken’s grill they were able to bend Kraken’s teeth with a big shot. But that didn’t change the effectiveness too mcuh, as Kraken could keep the squeeze on, going through that foam (which created a pop) and through the chassis (second pop) and trying to deposit Ribbot on top of the screws/get Ribbot off the teeth. The foam was flying showing the robot’s weapon motors (no other armor too?), though not burning as the flamethrower hadn’t been working. Kraken used the pulverizer to get Ribbot off and kept getting grabs. It went to the judges, after which Kraken gave a belch of flame right by the foam and singed it—apparently that’s a wiring issue. But that’s mostly cosmetic so no crazy harm, only slight harm! Kraken wins by unanimous decision.

End Game vs. Death Roll
More of the lives aquatic! The croc is back, and Death Roll looks decidedly less crocodilian, and hopefully hardier than getting shredded by the didn’t-swap-the-fight Captain Shrederator. And it has my favorite srimech of the season, a beefy arm holding a spoon knife. Strong Bad approves. Meanwhile, End Game returns after a strong rookie season that crashed out in the “Another Vertical Spinner 15-Seed Rumble.” That was the name of that thing, right? Their biggest thing? Also a srimech, which has the Aviator shades that the team has. There’s almost definitely a “DEAL WITH IT” meme that’s been made with this but all I saw on Google was Avengers stuff. This also doubles as your Battle of Oceania, since it’s New Zealand vs. Australia.

The two spinners met in the middle and End Game got the better of it, as Death Roll immediately started to death roll. Or I guess death bounce. All over the place. Anyway, it was like End Game was playing a game of keep-up, or at least keep it rolling. And a piece of something flew off of probably Death Roll and took out a light. Things came crashing from the ceiling, and Chris Rose yelled at the Kiwis because there’s a finite budget dammit! It didn’t matter though, as through all the hits and being sent flying around the Box by End Game, Death Roll was still ready, still mobile, still spinning. The two bots met in the middle and got a big hit, and this time it was End Game being sent flying and landing on its back. And the srimech was either dead, or I think it was malfunctioning from the get-go considering it seemed like it started at a not flush angle. Either way, Steven Martin egged them to self-right, which End Game couldn’t do. So as Team Death Roll said, “It was going to be all about the first hit. We didn’t get that.” But they got the last hit, and that’s the one that counted. Death Roll scores the win by KO in 1:35.

HyperShock vs. Valkyrie
Two bots that I’ve enjoyed watching, though their best work was in two different seasons. For HyperShock, it was Season 2, where Will Bales won Best Driver for things like swatting a drone out of the sky with a rake. (Three years later that still sounds a bit ridiculous.) Shenanigans & Co. tried to take that to 11 last season, and ended up making it a little too crazy where it would get static and cause interference to itself from the speed. So as Will Bales put it for Season 4, “We have to suck less.” It’s not blindingly highlighter yellow. It’s still a neon yellow. I hope it glows in the dark, that’d be pretty cool. Season 5?

Meanwhile Valkyrie returns, complete with Faruq (and the audience) singing Wagner’s motif though nobody has cried “Ho-jo-to-ho” just yet. I will give the writers many points if they can work that one in there. Last season it started off slowly but worked its way to respectability by fighting as much as they possibly could and got a spot in the Last Chance Rumble. And the first double KO in the reboot in a whiteboard match against Overhaul! The undercutter has a bunch of possibilities, and for this one they went with their bar, Sweet Caroline, a substitute for the Spirit of Boston that Lock-Jaw broke last year. (About time someone did that, play “Gloria” forever St. Louis, you’ve earned it.) The not so good part of that bar is it takes nine seconds to get up to speed. Against the fastest robot in BattleBots. With a man who drives like he gives zero fucks. (Frederick Moore also gives zero fucks behind the wheel, but key part is fastest robot.)

Yes, obviously HyperShock went for the box rush, nine seconds is an eternity against HyperShock. It blitzed in there and managed to get Valkyrie onto the screws and that was nearly the battle right there. The battle clock was not only still on the screen, but still read 2:59. This took under two seconds to go the 40 feet and slam into Valkyrie and almost end the fight.

Oddly enough, I am taking the pic from BattleBots Update. Yoink!

Valkyrie did get off the screws and survive, as HyperShock could use its own single disk (as opposed to last season’s double disks) to rip into Valkyrie’s armor. Effective HyperShock, how I have missed you. Anyway, Valkyrie got knocked upwards, which is the part where HyperShock noped out of there because Valkyrie can do the horizontal spinner thing where if knocked off-kilter with the weapon skyward it can use the weapon throttle to control its hitting the ground (and drop it on the opponent). As HyperShock pushed Valkyrie towards a pulverizer one of the wheels got damaged, and though the foam of the tire remained on the bot, that’s still a loss of traction for the speedster. The two pushed around the pulverizer spot, probably Valkyrie’s considering the hammer was hitting HyperShock more, and both felt the attrition.

HyperShock started smoking, so cue the “oh great here we go again” line as they were burning out the drive motors. But Valkyrie wasn’t moving at all on one side and got counted out. HyperShock has indeed sucked less, as it’s a win over not a cheeseburger. HyperShock wins by KO in 2:14. Afterwards, Will Bales gave a great interview about building robots. Yes, I apologize that I need to use Facebook video but that’s the only way I could find it.

Blacksmith vs. Quantum
Blacksmith returns for a third season… and once again gets a matchup against a bot projected to be near the top of the standings. I mean it’s impressive. It hasn’t won many fights, but it is durable and is always game. Which is I guess a positive? It’s facing off against Quantum, the brother of King of Bots champion Spectre. In addition to the many featherweights they’ve built (like a featherweight version of Razer called Venom and a featherweight version of Warhead named Predator), they also built the revamped House Robots. No that’s not a joke, that’s the kind of respect they have, that the BBC had them build the reboot’s House Robots.

So Blacksmith went with their “heavy top armor,” which is AR-500 steel, a hardened, ballistic-grade steel. Which, after a glancing blow from the Big Time Hammer©®™, Quantum went straight through like butter. Well shit. Not only that, but they got the fabled Razer lift, the thing that happens when a crusher not only pierces the armor but actually lifts the robot. Kraken might have had a lesser version with the Ribbot foam, but this is not frog foam.

And now behind the curtain. They cut to them getting free, and then Quantum stuck its tooth (single tooth for this fight) back into Blacksmith, getting at a tasty bit. And held, and held, and Al Kindle was noting after a while they hey, they’ve held me a while, shouldn’t they have to let go? And Quantum was doing donuts in an attempt and might’ve thrown a drive chain. And the fight was stopped to unstick the robots.

They actually filmed this fight twice. And each time Quantum’s tooth got stuck in Blacksmith’s armor. The interesting thing about AR-500 is that when pierced it tends to rip and barb, and as a result it grabbed the tooth when they tried to pull it out. The first time they needed a 2000 lb. hydraulic press and two hours. After this, and because under 60 seconds had elapsed in the fight, there was a rematch which they put the remaining time back on the clock. And then Quantum’s tooth got stuck again, this time also because it went through a speed controller, the cause of the smoke. However, because more than 60 seconds had elapsed, it went to the judges. Quantum wins by unanimous decision in an abbreviated 2:16 bout. There’s a picture of the tooth stuck in Blacksmith’s armor panel that I can’t currently find. But in short…

Science Channel fight: Marvin vs. Gruff vs. Gemini
The first rumble of the year features two new bots and one old two bots! We know Gemini by now, so I’m not gonna go into detail. Two bots, same in terms of format and weight, they friendly fire each other a lot. Okay good.

Marvin is Hannah Rucker’s bot, which makes Team 42 Robotics (yes, Marvin’s a reference to the paranoid android himself, +42 Hannah) a spin-off of Black & Blue, especially with Hal Rucker actually milling the bot. Like Daddy DUCK!, it is a brick and a solid piece of aluminum. Unlike DUCK! it has a spinning weapon, a flywheel interestingly made of UMHW plastic (like HUGE) with a pair of steel teeth. Gruff is a tested and true wedged lifter/clamper that has competed at other events, most recently taking the bronze at RoboGames 2018, losing to Original Sin and Touro Maximus—the usual suspects at RoboGames.

The best part of this rumble is of course the first appearance of the green square! Like the G train, it’s a rumor, but a wonderful thing when actually seen. Marvin started off aggressive but went right up Gruff’s wedge, and the piece of the flywheel that did hit Gruff broke off the steel tooth, so it was unstable due to the weight imbalance. Meanwhile Gruff could go to work on Gemini, flipping the red one, lifting the black one, coming back to Marvin, using the clamping portion of its weapon. Marvin’s other tooth also broke off, so its weapon was not very effective. And Gruff could just parry a Gemini twin using the wedge and the clamp.

There’s not really too too much to report in this one, as it was a thorough manhandling by Team Gruff. It went to the judges, where Gruff won by unanimous decision.

Main Event: Tombstone vs. Lock-Jaw
Strangely enough, the last time we saw these robots on our timelines was a day prior, where they went a combined 0-3 (Tombstone lost to Witch Doctor; Lock-Jaw lost to Whiplash and Skorpios, even if Kenny didn’t believe it). That is not something you get to say often about Ray Billings and Donald Hutson’s robots. Of course for this fight that would be their futures, since this season was filmed in April. The last time these two fought was 2009 at the BattleBots Pro Championship, where Root Canal won against Tombstone in the final of the loser’s bracket. Root Canal would then lose to Brutality, the first of Paul Ventimiglia’s three BattleBots heavyweight championships. Yeah, some things aren’t a surprise, like Paul Ventimiglia, Donald Hutson, and Ray Billings being the top 3.

Anyway, Lock-Jaw is going back to its triangular-shaped plow to use that to basically do what Witch Doctor did. It’s worked against Brutus, Valkyrie, and Son of Whyachi. Even if due to “primary weapon” Brutus won that fight. Season 2 went overboard, we all know that. Tombstone is going with its longest weapon bar, and Ray actually had an interview with Jenny talking about the strategy behind which bar to use (for instance, his red bar this year is his anti-wedge bar, which unlike the others is sharpened in order to impart the energy on the wedge and not bounce right off it). And he let her spin the weapon up in the Test Box. Which has got to be really, REALLY cool. Whether the face or the heel of BattleBots, Ray Billings just likes fighting robots. And that’s a good thing.

Tombstone turned to an angle as Lock-Jaw approached to try and stop that lethal blow. It was a shot right on the plow, and the customary ass-ton of sparks occurred. They came together and it was more of a direct head-on collision and Tombstone got some airtime. Not as much as against Witch Doctor, so it was a softer landing, but that’s exactly what Donald Hutson wanted as Lock-Jaw moved in to push as Tombstone had its bar turned away.

And then Ray turned Tombstone on a dime to its right (clockwise) and ripped Lock-Jaw’s left (facing front) wheels off. Both front and back. Well, whether Lock-Jaw lost mobility or Donald Hutson knew that that was it and there were more fights to go, that was it. Tombstone wins by KO in 0:48.

That does it for tonight, and it’s just as well as it’s now 4 AM local time and I should probably go to bed at some point. We’ll have something special going on for next week, which includes that DUCK! vs. Bombshell fight, the debut of my current rooting interest Shatter! as it takes on Witch Doctor, and the main event, a rematch from RoboGames 2017, Minotaur vs. Whiplash. See you next week, back at our normal time!

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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Jenny Taft is also the person that gives us Women’s World Cup coverage on Fox…
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