Brains and Flash are the two bots included with the Power Up expansion, and both are a little more technical to play than the bots in the base game. Like the other bots they each have a specialism in one aspect of the game, so let’s take a look.
Brains is all about tech, which means a theme of gaining and manipulating upgrade cards. Originally Brains had a lot of flexibility with swapping upgrade cards, but it was quite situational, and so we gave Brains the ability to Augment – strengthening the weapon and support rows with face-down cards.
Brains’ power is quite direct, adding cards to rows (and fuelling them with upgrades) to increase in power. However, there is some complexity in managing those rows to make the most of the Bolster ability, as well as making sure you don’t Augment with the cards you might need later.
Strategies as Brains
Brains can get a lot of raw power through extra upgrade cards and use of Bolster, but you’ll need to manage the strength of your rows carefully so that your weakest row is the one you want to pivot to. Using Bolster shortly followed by Hack Shot’s held action can help you quickly switch from defence to offence (or vice-versa).
A strategy I like to use as Brains is to recharge on the third turn (meaning no cards need to be picked up) and immediately use Bolster during the upgrade step to play a card into a row. This keeps you on tempo, whilst also allowing you to aggressively use your high value tokens earlier in the game. You can then continue to use Bolster to pull ahead when your opponent has to recharge a little later.
Playing Against Brains
Bolster affecting the weakest row means that whilst Brains can have a lot of raw power, it doesn’t allow for very skewed strategies. It is also energy intensive, requiring a lot of energy to use but also to keep ‘powered’ through cards.
As one of the slower bots, Brains can be vulnerable to aggression. The turn 3 recharge strategy allows Brains to use those high-value tokens on defence, so use that time to build your weapon row, play your Boost and 0 tokens, then continue to press the assault on turn 4 onwards.
Flash, as you might guess from the name, is about speed. But where Turbo’s speed is represented by movement, Flash’s speed comes through manipulation of Initiative values of cards. Flash’s sub-theme is around the new Disable mechanic, allowing them to effectively gain extra defence or attack by reducing the strength of an opponent’s row.
Flash is a very technical bot, requiring quite a bit of work to get the most out of it. Flash’s power comes from manipulation and control of game tempo as well as your opponents game state, but if you can time and combine your abilities just right you’ll get a lot of power out of this bot.
Strategies as Flash
Being able to go first is situational, depending on your position on the range track, but when used well it can ensure you are attacking from the position you want. The ability to Recharge first (rather than last) lets you surprise an opponent who expected you to be vulnerable. You’ll need to be boosted to set this up though, so an early attack
Where Flash’s ability really shines is in the late game. Quite often, games can come down to whichever bot gets the first successful attack in, and so having energy stores for later in the game is key.
If your opponent is playing only support cards, you can combine Reposition to move a support card to the weapon row, and then use Ion Shield to disable it which can be a very powerful combination.
Playing Against Flash
Disable doesn’t just hurt you the round it is played – that card is missing from your row every single round and so it effectively reduces the row by 1 power every round from then on. Recharging often can limit the effectiveness of Disable by allowing you to aggressively expend higher value tokens.
Whilst Flash can seal up the end-game, early game power is lacking (and there’s often not much Flash can do to add extra power like other bots). This means that early aggression to get a few early hits in can let you take extra risks before Flash is in a strong position.
Micro Bots was designed to fit as much game as possible into a tiny mint tin, but during the design process we just had too much good stuff to fit into a single tin. The Power Up expansion adds two new bots and 14 new upgrade cards. It also includes a new Power Up mechanic, upgraded power tokens, and flexible wildfire cards. Phew.
In a future update we’ll take a look at the new bots, Brains and Flash, but for now let’s look at everything else the Power Up expansion offers.
How to Power Up your bot
Whilst Power Up has a ton of new features, these all revolve around collecting power cubes from the range track. It’s designed to represent your bot zooming around the arena and collecting floating power ups (just like in classic video games).
These little cubes are pretty important, as they lead to all of the other Power Up effects when your bot ends their movement on one. Firstly you swap out a power token for one of the same value in the market (all of which give you a one-time benefit). Then you move your power cube one level up (increasing your bots power).
After you pick up a power cube, your opponent replaces it in any empty space on the range track. This introduces another layer of the mental puzzle, where players are trying to put power cubes in places either they aim to collect next turn, or in a place that is inconvenient for their opponent, forcing them into a position they don’t want to be in. Of course, placing this power cube might give clues as to their intention, betraying their next choice of action card, and so this simple feature adds a lot of extra depth to the experience.
Power Up Cards
Each bot has its own unique power up card. Although all of these cards have identical levels 0, 1, and 3. There is a minor one-time ability at level 2 which aligns with the bots theme or sub-theme, and the level 4 power improves the bots unique ability even further.
The level 4 abilities are really powerful, taking each bots power to the next level. We wanted to have the feel of an ‘ultimate’ ability at full power, mirroring video games where you can pull off a special move when fully charged.
Originally this was a one-time use ability that reset your power level (since the intermediate levels offered passive improvements), however losing your power wasn’t a whole lot of fun. We eventually moved those one-time abilities to the new wildfire cards as held actions (which are unlocked at level 3).
Whilst the level 4 abilities are very powerful, we find that by the time a bot (or both bots) reach it, the game will usually be fairly close to its conclusion. Having both bots at maximum power really dials things up to 11, whilst still keeping the game in balance.
Upgraded Power Tokens
The upgraded power tokens directly replace your existing ones, giving you a one time benefit when you play them (if you choose to).
Just like with the power 1 token making your bot Boosted, we balanced the power that the token gives you so the weaker the number the more powerful the effect. Choosing which token you want at the time you power up, and then which token you want to play (and whether you risk playing a weaker token to gain the more powerful effect) adds another element of choice and tactics.
The wildfire cards are unique to each bot, and are unlocked at power level 3. Each one can be played to either row, and immediately lets you perform an attack with either your weapon or support power (which doesn’t have to be the same as the row you played it into). The unique part for each bot is in the held action that leans into the bots theme even more.
Wildfire cards started life as a separate kind of upgrade that offered a lot of flexibility through an attack combined with some kind of simple ability. At first we designed these to be specific to each bot, then they became more general upgrades that any bot could choose from, and then we went back to giving each bot its own specific card.
Finally, we had to decide how to have a flexible initiative value on the cards, to tie in with the flexible nature of the card. In the end we settled on a modifier of the current health value, getting faster as your bot gets weaker. In effect, this is one of the only ‘catch up’ mechanics in the game (though quite minor).
Any variable initiative value we put on the card would need a tiebreak, and in line with giving players choice (rather than randomly deciding) we opted to have players reveal a card with the lowest initiative going first. The tiebreak mechanism still favours bots with faster cards (such as Turbo or Flash), whilst allowing for a variable initiative value.
So that’s a look at what the Power Up expansion adds. Just like the power up cards take the bots abilities up to 11, we also think that this expansion dials up the gameplay depth as well. It seems like you do too, and around 95% of you have backed the campaign for both Duel and Power Up!
Check out the next update when we look at the two new bots with the expansion – Brains and Flash.
Henry and Astro are the more complex of the two bots in Duel, with Astro requiring time to setup for a strong play and Henry requiring some finesse to bait your opponent into poor situations.
Henry is all about power tokens – an important part of the game and one that most often triggers the choice for that all important Recharge turn.
Fun fact: Henry was modelled on Henry hoover (a durable retro vacuum cleaner familiar to a lot of British people), and I like to think that we captured some of that ability to just keep on going and going longer than any other bot.
Whilst Henry’s focus on power tokens suggests an endurance theme, this bot also has some sneaky little traps to take advantage of opponents misplays.
Strategies as Henry
Henry’s Max Power ability is expensive, and at first glance it might just seem like a ‘safety net’ allowing you to swap a small token for a large one (or vice versa) to make up for a mistake. However it has even greater potential in the mid and late game where you can force the use of lots of held actions during a combat, only to pull the rug out from under an opponent and make all of that extra damage or defence irrelevant.
Henry’s action cards let you get more value out of your power tokens, whilst your opponent gets less use out of theirs. Henry doesn’t need to recharge quite as often for power tokens, which is an advantage in the mid game where you have a stronger row than your opponent after their early recharge, but could leave Henry vulnerable in the late game.
Playing Against Henry
Playing against Henry is a marathon, not a sprint, and a lot of Henry’s power is from their unique action cards. Saving your defensive abilities to nullify a potential hit from either Power Shot or Disruption Blast lets you keep pace with Henry and force a recharge earlier.
Henry’s ability, Max Power is expensive to use. If you can manipulate Henry into using it at times where the player won’t get ‘Max’ value (by changing 1-2 damage, or swapping some of the middle strength tokens) Henry will quickly run out of Energy. Even better, if you can turn the tables and trap Henry into playing a power token poorly whilst low on Energy, you will nullify its purpose completely.
Astro’s theme was clear early on – a sniper that plays defensive, maybe tricky, and takes just a few big shots.
Fun fact: The original concept for Astro’s appearance was to be loosely modelled on R2-D2. Whilst you can see some similarities, everyone’s favourite Astromech also informed the name.
In the early design, Astro was the weakest of the bots. After all, playing defensively may stop you losing, but not losing is not the same as winning. We worked to give Astro some unique abilities to overcome the offensive weakness of being at long range, whilst nudging players towards the intended playstyle. As the game developed Astro became one of the strongest bots, and subsequent re-balancing resulted in Astro being a powerful bot, but one that required some setup (and early vulnerability) to succeed.
Strategies as Astro
This bot loves being at long range. Not only does it provide extra defence (allowing time to build a strong set of action cards), but also many of Astro’s abilities are at their most effective at long range.
It is also clear that Astro leans heavily into support cards. The extra movement they provide (which Astro usually wants to retreat) along with defensive or controlling abilities allow Astro to stay safe whilst building up for a big Sniper Shot.
Cards like Traction Control really let you lean into Astro’s play style, whilst Arm Weapon can be used to take Sniper Shot for a second time before your opponent can recover!
Playing Against Astro
Astro wants to build a large support row, with any upgrade cards that offer extra defence, and take a small number of powerful shots. To defeat Astro, players need to take an aggressive stance.
Moving out of long range is one important tactic, and opponents of Astro would do well to keep pushing the range marker towards short range. Even if Astro can counteract this with Stealth Mode, it can only be used once per recharge. If you’re lucky enough to have a held action with move (or advance) on it, saving it for Astro’s Sniper Shot can save you a ton of damage.
Of course, whilst Astro is playing defensive Support cards, the opponent is best building a strong weapon row. Though the cards that give defence equal to support might seem impenetrable, they are single use only (until a Recharge). Judicious use of power tokens can eventually overwhelm these defences whilst Astro’s counterattacks will seem weak by comparison.
This update is the first of a few s-bot-lights (get it?) on some of the bots and other features of Micro Bots. This time, we’ll be taking a look at the two bots gracing the front cover of the game, Turbo and Sparky, and diving a little into how to play with (and against) them.
Turbo is one of the recommended starter bots, and has the privilege of gracing the front cover of Micro Bots: Duel. So let’s take a look at this shiny blue bot.
Turbo, as you might guess from the name, is the bot that’s all about speed and mobility. This translates to Turbo’s Overdrive ability which allows Turbo to move along the range track just for the cost of some energy.
Typically, movement has both a risk and a reward – whilst it can effectively lower the opponents defence, it also does the same for you. Turbo’s ability to manipulate the range tracker allows you to get into short range, make an attack, and then retreat back out again. It also threatens the potential for extra defence, which might make your opponent play more conservatively without having to even use Overdrive.
This means that Turbo has a flexible playstyle, where their ability can be used to increase either your attack or defence, but situationally.
Strategies as Turbo
This mobility means Turbo wants to play a hit-and-run game, moving to short range to get a hit in at low defence and then getting to safety before the opponent can strike back. This comes at a fairly steep energy cost, but Turbo has other ways of manipulating the range marker. Paying close attention to the initiative values of the cards you play, and guessing your opponent’s choice, can allow Turbo to effectively take 2 turns in a row by going last and then first. A card like Pre-Empt is almost guaranteed to go first, and lets you get into a good position on a previous turn before escaping to safety with a successful attack.
Playing Against Turbo
Turbo leans towards the more aggressive side, as larger rows of weapon or support cards can overwhelm the amount of influence the range track (and consequently Turbo’s movement ability) has on the game.
Whilst Turbo’s Overdrive ability can be used to effectively provide extra attack or defence power, doing both is energy intensive and so Turbo may need to recharge more often. Taking advantage of this through conservative use of power tokens, as well as using energy for upgrade cards rather than one-time bot abilities, can let you build up the power to overwhelm Turbo.
A final, though challenging, play is to try to predict where Turbo wants to be and take advantage of the far ends of the range track. After all, Turbo can’t gain any extra attack power through movement if you’re already at short range, and equally can’t gain any extra defence whilst already at long range, nullifying Turbo’s unique power.
Sparky is our big yellow bot, which from the special effects (and colour) you might guess is all about Energy manipulation. Sparky funnels that energy into raw damage, aiming for short, brutal games.
Sparky is the bruiser of our bot lineup. Almost the inverse of Astro (who we’ll discuss in a later update), Sparky is all out aggression at close range, and the Energise ability is about as simple as it can get – spend 1 energy, gain 1 damage.
Sparky’s theme is energy manipulation, and this is mostly achieved through attacks like Energy Shot and Discharge Shot. Of course Sparky needs to hit for these to be effective, and that’s exactly what they are set up to do (with Energise making it that much easier to gain those effects).
Strategies as Sparky
Sparky really wants to be at close range, and have as quick a game as possible. If both players decide to sit at short range and exchange punches, this big machine is going to come out on top.
Sparky’s ability to punch through extra damage means they can make more use of lower value tokens, and regaining energy with Energy Shot can let Sparky go that little bit longer before a recharge. Upgrade Cards like Interceptor Array can be used to give a bit of defence as you build up your weapon row, whilst Charged Shot turns your already strong weapon row into overkill.
Playing Against Sparky
Whilst Sparky wants to be at short range, it should be no surprise that a counter strategy is to try to retreat to long range as much as possible. This forces Sparky to invest more energy, and more power tokens, into pushing damage through.
A great strategy against Sparky is baiting the use of Energise to take low amounts of damage (1-2) draining Sparky’s energy over several smaller hits rather than a few big hits. If Sparky is able to use Energise to bump up the damage to the maximum 3 just a couple of times, then that’s enough power to win the game without even needing to recharge.
Sparky is unlikely to have much in the way of defences, and is more reliant on power tokens to add that extra defence. So making smaller attacks that drain Sparky’s tokens can also force an earlier recharge whilst you build up a larger support row. If you can survive early aggression, you should be in a good spot to fight back against a weaker Sparky.
I’m so happy to announce that Micro Bots has funded, and so we can guarantee that some little mint tins will be packed full of fun and making their way to you in future.
If you’ve already backed the campaign then thank you! From myself for being with me again on this journey, and a huge thank you from Simon for helping bring to life his first published game!
If you haven’t yet pledged, you can pick up the base game for just £10 (~$12), or get the Power Up expansion included for just £8 ($10). As a mint tin game, shipping worldwide is super cheap, so don’t miss your chance for another great pocket sized game!
Tomorrow, I’ll be hitting the big launch button and the campaign for Micro Bots will be live. You can pick up the base game for just £10 (~$12), or get the Power Up expansion included for just £8 ($10). As a mint tin game, shipping worldwide is super cheap, so don’t miss your chance for another great pocket sized game.
The campaign will launch will be at the following times, and I look forward to seeing you there!
Americas: 4-7am (UTC-8 to UTC-5) UK/Europe: 12pm (GMT) Middle East: 4pm (UTC+4) East Asia/Oceania: 10pm (UTC+10)
Prometheus Game Labs is launching Micro Bots, by Simon Beal, on Kickstarter on February 1st 2023. The campaign is running for 23 days, during which backers can pledge funds to support production and in return receive a copy (or multiple copies) of the game. The game fits into a mint tin, and offers a head-to-head duelling experience for two players in around 20 minutes. Designed to pack a lot of game into a small (and cheap to ship) package, Backers can pledge from just £10 plus shipping, or add the Power Up expansion which is launching alongside it for a further £8. Print at home digital versions are also offered as part of the campaign.
Micro Bots is complete at launch, meaning there is no long post-campaign development and production cycle. Shortly after the campaign ends, files will be prepared to go into manufacturing, and backers will receive the game in the same year (with a general distribution release soon after).
About the Game
Micro Bots is a game of duelling robots with big lasers, that fits into a mint tin. The game, designed by Simon Beal, is reminiscent of early video games where players each choose a bot with unique abilities and cards to do battle against each other.
Players choose to play either weapon or support cards which increase in power the more these cards are played. When combat occurs, and there’s a lot of it, players choose from a set of power tokens to boost their attack or defense. These tokens are limited until a player spends a turn to ‘Recharge’, and so carefully using these power tokens to out-think (and out-play) your opponent is crucial. Micro Bots delivers a tense, tactical experience within 20 minutes and packs away into a pocket sized box.
Number of Players: 2 Game Duration: 20min Age: 10+
Micro Bots is the first signing from Prometheus Game Labs – a game designed by Simon Beal and co-developed over the past year. Packed into a mint tin, Micro Bots delivers a tight two-player dueling experience in 15-30mins.
Micro Bots: Duel, along with the expansion Power Up, is launching on Kickstarter in February. Click below to be taken to the prelaunch page:
In Micro Bots you take on one of two bots maneuvering around an arena, shooting at each other, and aiming to be the first one to destroy the opponent. Each bot has a set of starting cards and a unique ability that changes the way they play.
Every round, you both play one card from your hand. Cards are played to either the Weapon or Support rows on either side of your bot card, which increase in power the more cards you have there.
When combat occurs (and there’s a lot of it), you will both play Power Tokens (from 0-5) to boost your attack or defense power. These tokens are exhausted until playing a Recharge card, so trying to predict which number your opponent is going to play (and how to counteract them) is key!
Recharging lets you refresh up your Power Tokens, gain energy, and replay some of your cards, but it leaves you vulnerable. Deciding whether to hang on for one more turn or Recharge early could be the difference between winning and losing.
Micro Bots delivers a tense, tactical experience as you each try to outwit and outplay each other, all in 15-30mins and a pocket sized box.
Micro Bots is inspired by retro video games, the very first of which is an unreleased game called Laser Droids that Simon developed more than 20 years ago. The game is intended to feel like two vehicle like robots battling out in an arena. More succinctly it is best described as Robot Wars (or Battle Bots in the US) with big lasers!
Simon and I have playtested each others designs in the past, and my first exposure to Micro Bots was when Simon was looking to brainstorm a concept for a new idea. Simon and I are both fans of Aeons End (a cooperative boss battler deckbuilding game) and Simon wanted to develop an arena type of boss battler from an old design of his – Laser Bots. I wasn’t considering taking on other designs at the time, but as he showed me the original mint tin game for context, I realised it would actually be a great fit for Prometheus Game Labs. It was a tight, two player game that fit into a tiny package and offered a lot of potential depth of play.
As we worked together on the game, we changed a few of the core mechanics. The single program row became two rows, giving players choice of focusing on their offensive or defensive capabilities. The dice rolling for combat became Power Tokens, allowing players more control over their outcomes and the opportunity to ‘outplay’ their opponent in a way that I love to bring to Prometheus Game Labs games. The final big change was to increase the maximum damage from 1 to 3, which balanced more exciting ‘big’ moments in the game without allowing a complete blowout.
Whilst we settled on the design for Duel fairly early on in the process, there was so much extra design space that just wouldn’t fit in a single tin, that we opted to launch Power Up alongside it. Alongside two new bots, Brains and Flash, this expansion lets you collect cubes from the range track (reflecting your bot zooming around the arena and picking up these special power ups) that improves your power tokens, increases your bots unique powers, and unlocks special Wildfire cards. As well as a chance to include some of the more complex Upgrade cards, Power Up has been a lot of fun to develop in a way that extends the base game further and offers even more interesting decisions.
You can read more about the development from original game to the Laser Bots mint tin game in an original post from Simon here.