BattleBots 2020: Episode 4 in Review

Ah, another day, another fresh set of battles. This really has been the season to be grateful for what we have. Time with family, time to ourselves, time to sit back and unwind, sit in front of the fire and watch a festive edition of BattleBots. For everything that’s been wrong with this year, at least we have our favourite show here to comfort us in the darkest of times.

It’s done just that for another week, albeit not without its usual dose of controversy that appears to be a recurring theme for this season. It’s not caused as much division amongst the fans as it has the past couple of weeks, but it still seems enough to have raised yet more questions about what it is exactly that the judges are actually looking at/smoking this year. If you’re reading this, you know which fight I’m on about, and we’ll get there in due course. We have much good, bad, and a little bit of the ugly to discuss today.

Slap Box vs Tombstone

A straight-forward fight to kick things off, and one outcome which I think we all saw coming. Slap Box might be a promising newcomer with a decent lifter on it, but as far as baptisms of fire go, this is up there with Black Widow being made to fight Hypno-Disc on its Robot Wars debut. Not the fake walker from this season, an actual walking Black Widow from the heady days of 2001. 

Tombstone is Tombstone, Ray Billings is Ray Billings, and this fight was only ever going to go one way. Much to the disdain of the mother on the Slap Box team, her sons’ bot came in for a pretty hard time pretty much from the get-go. It entered with two front wedges and four wheels, and left with one wheel and no wedges. It got a couple of good shots in at Tombstone, but losing its two wedges in the first ten seconds was never a good sign, and this was the perfect recovery for ol’ Ray and co. after a disappointing first fight. They even broke a camera!

Stop! He’s already dead!

A slight redemption for Tombstone, and a harsh opening for Slap Box.

SlamMow vs Pain Train

One of the battles I had a really hard time predicting, due to these being two new bots I haven’t really seen anything of, I was never really sure how this was going to go. Pain Train is a cool-looking bot, no doubt about it, and it has recently come to my attention that Team Shreddit’s beetleweight Shreddit Bro is actually something of a beast. Maybe that would translate well into the heavyweight class? Meanwhile SlamMow, from robot building’s best boi Craig Danby, looked like it could be alright, if used effectively, but after televised sh*tshows from Apex, Foxic, Predator and Foxtrot, it’s fair to say my confidence meter was in the “unconvinced” zone, and made me lean slightly towards Pain Train.

However, I wasn’t counting on Pain Train being completely f*cking useless. It never looked controlled, its weapon never looked like it would ever cause any real damage, and SlamMow picked it up and toyed around with it for fun before it just decided to die in the corner. It even managed to get a much-anticipated suplex in for good measure, being one of the first bots I remember actually pulling it off without flipping itself over. It managed to do that on its own about halfway though the match anyway.

Personally I think the gnome helped

Craig finally has a win to savour, and he sure made the most of it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when he fights a robot that actually works properly, but this was still a convincing W. And as soon as Pain Train learns to divert the pain away from itself, then maybe it’ll have a shot at the bracket. But at this rate, not likely.

Skorpios vs Perfect Phoenix

From one battle that was too close to call, to one that went exactly how I thought it would. The people seemed to disagree with me, they probably called me crazy, yet it is I who have the last laugh.

The pre-match build-up was dominated in a surprisingly wholesome manner, with a focus on Zach Lytle’s “Bot Bash” parties, encouraging youngsters into the sport and robotics in general, including Perfect Phoenix’s eleven-year-old driver Tyler Nguyen, and Skorpios’ new weapon operator Bennett Funk. Turns out Lytle is an influential fellow and inspiration in getting new builders into robot building, and these two boys are full of praise for the dude. Good stuff. Am I too old to have a Bot Bash party myself I wonder?

Getting all the lovey-dovey mush out of the way, Skorpios dominated this battle. I said before the fight that its front armour plating would be too much for the overhead bar of Perfect Phoenix, and approximately three hits into the fight that’s exactly what happened. Unlike the Bloodsport fight, Skorpios’ plan worked as the front held firm, and proceeded to shove Perfect Phoenix around until it got entangled in the screws. The hammer saw didn’t cause what I would define as “damage”, but it did enough to immobilise its opponent, with Zach seemingly enjoying beating an eleven-year-old boy a little too much.

“BREAK HIS F*CKING LEGS YOU STUPID PR*CK”

Anyway, both bots are now at 1-1 with their records, and both are still in with a decent shout at the top 32. I feel like we’re still yet to see the best of these two (especially Perfect Phoenix), but they’re still in a good position to advance. And at least they’ve inspired people, supposedly.

Mad Catter vs Ribbot

And now back to the fights I had no idea about, because these two bots are virtually the exact same. Two four-wheel drive boxes with interchangeable weaponry, rocking two powerful vertical spinners, both decked out as animals controlled by madmen. A battle for the ages that would leave me, and many others, with a headache over who would come up trumps.

I leaned slightly towards the side of Ribbot, still unsure whether Mad Catter’s spectacular victory over Fusion was little more than a fluke. On the basis of this, it was not. Martin “The Mentalist” Mason’s bot was able to disable the frog’s weapon in one massive hit, and spent the rest of the battle flipping it about and shunting it around the box. The frog was tattered and torn, but could only have itself to blame. Ribbot dominated the first thirty seconds or so of the bout, tearing some of the side armour off Mad Catter, before one particularly big hit seemed to leave the Ribbot team thinking they’d won the battle there and then, turning away to attack Mad Catter’s minibot. Exposing their frog booty to the (and I can’t reiterate this strongly enough) fully-functional Mad Catter, the cat took full advantage to disable their weapon and nearly send them flying out out the arena. As far as being architects of your own downfall goes, this was a pretty spectacular example.

Deannnnnnnnnn-neow! Time to whip this frog in the keister, Jeffrey!

In what was essentially the episode of Community we never got to see where the Greendale study group beat the big-wigs at City College at the sport of robot fighting, the community college band of misfits that is the Mad Catter team stuck it to the kids from WPI, proving that the community colleges we see on TV aren’t actually too bad after all. Mad Catter (incredibly) storms to a 2-0 record, while Ribbot slumps to a 1-1. As if 2020 couldn’t get any weirder. 

Gamma 9 vs Chomp

Ah, how the student becomes the master. It’s the Batmobile vs Mechsuit match-up we all secretly wanted to see.

For those of you who can remember as far back as 1999, you’ll remember Gamma 9’s predecessor Gammatron, a walking/hopping heavyweight with a rotating turret with a pickaxe atop it. It was pretty useless, and it only managed one (untelevised) victory over the decidedly average Robot Wars contestant Suicidal Tendencies. Gamma 9 was also pretty useless in its last outing on BattleBots, but its new Batmobile aesthetic has got people excited. You know what else has got people excited? The Doctor Who New Years’ special! Just kidding, no-one’s excited about that. The correct answer is Chomp, the new 500 lbs. monstrosity from the deranged mind of Zoe Stephenson. Twice the weight of any opponent in this years’ field, the robot is an engineering marvel, but whether it actually proves effective in the box is another question entirely. 

It turns out the answer is a big yes. In another fight that went exactly as I thought it would, Gamma 9 came out of the blocks quickly, but didn’t really do anything of note. It circled around Chomp, which isn’t exactly difficult given it waddles across the box about as quickly as a senile old man with a stick, but seemed too scared to drive into Chomp, given it was always keeping its weapon pointed straight at Gamma 9. When Kurtis Nemeth’s brick bot did actually take the plunge and drive into its opponent (or was baited into it, depending on your outlook), it did manage to get a couple of impressive lifts in, but was also subjected to repeated blows to the head from Chomp’s mighty hammer. So many in fact, that the final blow at the end of the match completely immobilised Gamma 9. 

Still looks better than ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ amirite folks?

A deserved win for Chomp, and a solid 1-0 start which bodes well for the rest of the season. I’ve seen one or two complaints stating that Gamma 9 deserved to win the judges’ decision (seeing as it did actually go to one), but to my mind this was clearly Chomp’s win. A clean sweep in damage, seeing as it literally made its opponent stop working, and as for control and aggression, Gamma 9 spent half the battle trying to dodge Chomp’s hammer, despite getting a few good lifts in. 

The next battle, however…

Shatter vs Malice

Ah, another shining example of how great the active weapon rule is. When will the producers learn?

A battle that saw old friends coming together, with Adam Wrigley’s former teammate with Shatter, Bunny Soriol, splitting from the team to form Malice, this one promised sparks would fly. It seemed to divide opinion as to who would win, with many seeming to take Malice’s dominant display over Axe Backwards as gospel that it would win the fight. I was more in the school of thought that a win over Axe Backwards means f*ck all, and that Shatter would be able to absorb Malice’s weapon hits, disable the spinning weapon, and get a few good hits in with the hammer to win the battle. Pure logic all the way.

And to be fair, I was half right. The first swing of Shatter’s hammer came right down onto Malice’s spinner and tore the weapon belt clean off. Sadly, the hammer head was also, er, shattered, in that hit, essentially rendering both bots f*cking useless for the remaining two minutes and forty-five seconds. Malice did more of the pushing than Shatter did, which also started smoking a little bit towards the end, but Shatter wouldn’t go down without kicking and screaming, wailing away with the blunt end of its hammer on the top of Malice. It wasn’t exactly doing any damage, but it supposedly constitutes as aggression, does it not?

You can actually pinpoint the second when the hammer rips in half. Aaaaaaaaaaaaand… now!

And this is where the controversy comes in. Malice took the W on a split decision, much to Bunny’s delight, who upon hearing of their victory made a noise akin to a Mothman mating call, which, I assume at least, means she was pretty stoked about the victory. Adam, meanwhile, took the defeat on the chin, but was noticeably disappointed with the decision. And I can understand why, because a lot of this seems to be down as to how you interpret the rules. Who actually did the most damage? Who was more aggressive? Was either bot actually in control at any given moment? Malice seemed to win the damage points, even though it only managed superficial damage to the armour and didn’t actually disable the primary weapon of Shatter. The only primary weapon not working at the end was that of Malice. I’m not saying I disagree with the decision I think Malice did just about edge the fight, but when a battle like this is essentially left to blind luck and how each individual judge interprets the rules, its understandable how frustrating these inconsistencies leave fans and builders alike.

“They ask how you’re doing and you just have to say that you’re fine, but you’re not really fine”

It’s a topic I could go on and on about, so for now let’s just move on to the main event.

Bloodsport vs End Game

It’s been a rollercoaster ride of things going according to plan, to stating the obvious, to things I had no idea how to predict. This main event most assuredly falls into the latter category. 

Both these bots had such impressive opening wins. Bloodsport tore new holes into Skorpios all over the shop, while End Game sent Tombstone hurtling out of the arena in approximately fifteen seconds. Both were sitting pretty at 1-0 records, and whoever won would be all but assured of a high seeding in the championship bracket. Almost everyone who hedged their bets at the outcome predicted an End Game win – probably due to the fact it had just easily dispatched the big daddy ofhorizontal bar spinners, so what chance would Bloodsport have? It’s true that a typical horizontal vs. vertical spinner matchup sees the vert come out on top, but something told me Bloodsport had this in the bag. Its weapon is truly frightening, and it sounds like there’s a jet engine instead of a heavyweight fighting robot in the box whenever it’s turned on. That, and we only saw End Game fight for about fifteen seconds. How would it hold up against a bot as durable as Bloodsport?

As it turns out, not that well. A couple of solid shots to the right-hand side of the Kiwi clash bot locked up one of its wheels. Then another wheel fell out, the weapon belt came loose, and smoke began to pour out of it. Bloodsport, meanwhile, circled around End Game, like a Great White Shark stalks its prey. It also came away from the battle almost unscathed, its two front wedgelets being the only casualties of the fight. Bloodsport, that is, not the shark.

End Game used smoke screen! It was not effective.

 If there were any doubts about Bloodsport’s ability for this season, this all but put them to bed as it joins Malice and Mad Catter (yes, really) on a 2-0 record. As for End Game, a harsh reality check was had today. And a hearty chuckle was had by me as I went against popular logic for another correct prediction. Ho ho ho.

And that about wraps things up for this weeks’ review. It feels like a bit of a longer one than usual, but maybe that just means there’s more to talk about. Controversy, entertainment, a wild Martin Mason, this show really has it all sometimes. On a personal note, it might not have been the heady heights of 6/7 this week, but considering how much of a mindf*ckery the fight card was this week, I’ll take a 4/7 showing any day. 

I sincerely hope that this newest episode has brought that extra bit of festive cheer you wanted, and that reading my strange, outlandish ramblings on proceedings only added to the feeling. It sure has made my Christmas. If you wanted to help a guide a struggling writer into 2021, be sure to follow the blog, or the blog’s Twitter @robosocks14. Would you even go so far as to want a chat? E-mail me at therobotsoccerleague@gmail.com. I don’t bite, I swear, I just like having people to talk about robots with.

Before the year ends, there’ll be the current 2020 power ranking published on here. In the new year, expect coverage of, and predictions for, BattleBots: Bounty Hunters, the continued coverage of the main show, as well as some sort of ramble about the active weapon rule, which I’m sure will come at some point in the not-too-distant future. 

But for now, thanks for reading, and the happiest of new years to you all.

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