REVIEW: Insane Robots

Friday, September 28th, 2018

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Insane Robots
Title Insane Robots
Publisher Playniac
Release Date July 12th, 2018
Genre Card battle, Board game
Platform PC, Xbox One, PS4
Age Rating E for Everyone
Official Website

Insane Robots is a turn based board/card game. The story starts off with you, a lowly robot who has lost his memories, getting thrown into some sort of tournament with other robots to fight to the death. You have committed some sort of crime and gone “insane”, so this is your punishment. Fortunately, we have a little guide assuring us that this is all part of a plan. So you throw yourself into the tournament to eventually get to the winner’s podium, where you must overthrow the Kernel, who is responsible for this mess.

Gameplay starts out on a hexagonal board with other robots, your opponents, spread out. The goal is to find them and eliminate them. Of course, this is a tournament, so they can eliminate each other too. Boards will also have some spots you can visit to collect money, used to purchase augments or fill up your health at shops. There’s also things that can get in your way like mountains, forests, and water that take longer to traverse. It is turn-based, so you move and then all the other competitors can move. When you encounter another competitor, a battle ensues.

Insane Robots | Battle screen

The battles start out with you and your opponent having three cards in your hand. Cards can be placed in your two attack slots, two defense slots, or boost slot. Each card has a value associated with it ranging from one to five, and that determines how effective that card is. For example, if you placed an attack card with three energy bars and an attack card of five energy bars, that would come out to having eight attack power. The same holds true with defense cards.

There are also cards that can augment your attack cards already in play. These are hack, glitch, lock, and switch cards. Hacking increases your attack or defense by the amount of energy bars the card has. Or, if you use it on your opponent, it decreases it. Glitch randomly changes your attack or defense, and the more energy bars it has, the better the chance it will be a desirable outcome. Switch simply switches the card you have in play with your opponent in their respective slot. Lock makes it so your opponent can’t hack, glitch, or switch you, but the lock breaks after one attempt.

The last slot, boost, has a variety of effects. Boost cards can simply add more power to your attack or defense. They could make it so if you get attacked, your opponent suffers the same damage too. There’s also one that negates an opponent’s attack entirely. The best one I found is a card that just doubles your attack power. These are just a few of the boost effects I’ve seen, and there could be more.

Insane Robots | Attacking

It’s worth mentioning there is no “deck” in this game and there is no deck building. When you get more cards in your hand, it’s simply a random chance to get any card you’ve “unlocked”. As you go through the story, you can unlock additional cards. Playing a card during a battle uses up time energy. You start with one time energy and with each turn, you start with one more, until you get to six. Most cards use one time energy, some better ones use two, and attacking uses three.

An interesting thing you can do is combine cards that are of the same color to produce a different card, or enhanced card. For example, if you combine two attack cards, it turns into an attack/defense card with the value of both cards combined, up to a maximum value of five. This can be played on either attack or defense slots. It’s something to consider when deciding what to do on your turn.

The way attacking works is your attack power is simply put up against your opponents defense power. Let’s say your attack power is ten, and your opponent’s defense is five. Then you will break their defense and do five points of damage to their health. Break their defense and they’ll no longer have defense cards in play. If you don’t, their defense cards stay. In either case, attacking will always remove your attack cards from play.

Insane Robots | Board gameplay

Overall I think this system is fine, but almost a little too straightforward. There really aren’t a lot of strategies to employ here. It simply boils down to build up your attack and defense, try to make it so your opponent can’t lower it, try to lower your opponent’s, and whittle down their health as best you can with the cards you got. Because there’s no deck building, you know what your opponent can do at all times. There’s very little variety between opponents. It almost feels like the game was designed to be just really well balanced. This isn’t a bad thing, but it comes at the cost of a lack of variety. Ultimately, it feels like the winner comes down to luck. I never felt like I ran through some strategy I put together. The one bit of variety comes from augments.

Each character you play as starts with a different augment, but you can purchase additional ones. These can affect stuff on the board, or stuff in battle. Ones for the board often just allow you to move through certain terrain unimpeded. Ones for battle have a variety of effects. Some can increase the likelihood of drawing certain types of cards. Some increase the value of certain types of cards. By the end of the game, I had augments that gave me a +1 to every attack card, a plus +1 to every defense card, and made it so playing defense cards didn’t cost any time energy.

These augments are pretty small effects, though you do want to keep them in mind. Still, it doesn’t really help out the lack of variety too much. No matter what, I never really had to change my basic strategies. It’s just sometimes one opponent would do one thing more than another would do another thing. The systems in place don’t really allow for different play styles.

Insane Robots | Board events

The board aspect of the game also feels a bit unnecessary. I feel like the intention was to encourage players to get through battles efficiently so that they don’t lose too much health and have to heal up. In my experience though, shops were always plentiful, and healing is fairly cheap unless you take a lot of damage. The tournaments could’ve just been a series of fights. Another issue I have is that opponents seem to have pretty random augments. Sometimes they’d be really beneficial, other times they’d be wasted on them.

The final level of the story (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.) requires you to have several characters upgraded in order to fight the final boss. So if you’re like me and just used one character the whole time, I hope you’re ready to replay all the tournaments as other characters so they can actually be of use.

Insane Robots | Purchasing upgrades

The story was also pretty rudimentary. I called the big reveal at the end from the very start of the game. Still, for card games like this, the story is just kinda there to teach players how to play, right? Then you go online and battle with friends. Well, that presents a whole slew of other issues. First off, I could not get online multiplayer going at all. I don’t know if just no one is playing this or what. There is local multiplayer though. This doesn’t have the board game aspect at all, and each character has preset augments. You can’t customize them. Also because you’re playing on one screen…you can see what the other player has in their hand. I guess you can look away during your opponents turn? It feels a bit poorly thought out.

Overall, it’s not like the game has any huge, glaring issues. At the same time, I don’t think this has much to offer people, especially if they really like card games. People that like card games tend to like things like building their own decks and thinking of different strategies, but there’s nothing like that here. It took me about 15 hours to beat, and costs $20. It’s not a bad game, it’s not a great game, it’s just mediocre. I could see this being appealing as a beginner’s card game for kids, or those that feel a bit intimidated by more complex card games at least.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the publisher.

About Jason Quinn

Been playing video games since before I could form coherent sentences. I love a wide variety of games, from fast, technical action games to slow RPGs. Aside from video games, I have a love of music, film, and anime.