For this new season of Battlebots, The Young Folks’ music editor Ryan Gibbs and contributing writer Joey Daniewicz will be giving their impressions of each episode in our recurring feature Battlebots Chat. These will be a little more informal than our regular television, film and music reviews – after all we think it’s a little complicated to give a rating to something that we both consider to be a competitive sport as opposed to a game show or a reality television program.
Battlebots is a robot combat program that aired on Comedy Central for four seasons between 2000 and 2002 and then on ABC for two more in 2015 and 2016. In 2018, the show was revived by Discovery Channel,.
If you want the history on Battlebots and robot combat in general, SB Nation ran an oral history on the show’s first run in the late 1990s and early 2000s that is well worth your time to read. You can also read more about this season’s competitors over on the show’s official site. Also worth reading is Battlebots Update, which, like us, provides analysis of each Battlebots episode.
You can watch this week’s episode of Battlebots over on Discovery Channel’s website.
Joey: Another weird night, right?
Ryan: Yeah, and not in the same way as last time either.
Joey: How many of these fights would you say went really well?
Ryan: There were two very, very close, very good battles, one that wasn’t close but was just very fun, one that was kind of there and one that might have been the worst battle of the season so far
Joey: I always feel a little underwhelmed when a primary weapon stops working, even if the fight’s close. Not underwhelmed, that’s harsh.
Ryan: You say that, but I can think of a lot of finals from the original series that fit that description.
Joey: I just feel the potential go. But let’s get into it.
Fight One: HUGE. (W) vs. Chomp
HUGE.: Entered by Team HUGE of South Windsor, Connecticut and built by Jonathan Schultz. HUGE previously defeated SubZero and Free Shipping. Its weapon is a vertical spinning blade mounted on two massive wheels made of reinforced plastic.
Chomp: Entered by The Machine Corps of Seattle, Washington and built by Zoe Stephenson. Chomp has previously lost to Warrior Dragon and Overhaul. Its weapons are a pneumatic powered hammer and flamethrower.
Ryan: Well this was fun!
Joey: YES IT WAS!
Ryan: HUGE is such a strange robot and it looks like it should be a joke. The thing has plastic wheels! But it’s legit. And well built. And delivered a pounding to Chomp here
Joey: I thought it was possible that the wheels might melt, again, but you know what looked melted instead? Chomp’s mallet. This was a very, very convincing mangling.
Ryan: Chomp’s mallet looked liked a Salvador Dali painting by the end of this fight
Joey: This is the sort of damage you watch the show for. I was surprised to see that Chomp can self right without it.
Ryan: To Chomp’s credit, it didn’t just flop around this time either. It totally pushed Huge around a few times there
Joey: It did! I was worried for a second. But HUGE is 3-0! Holy crap!
Joey: Definitely shouldn’t be underestimated.
Ryan: It’s in the tournament, no doubt about it now.
Joey: For sure. Although we’ll have to see it actually go up against other, more serious contenders. I remain skeptical.
Ryan: It did beat Free Shipping before this and that robot was driven by Gary Gin, one of the best drivers in robot combat.
Joey: Buuuut Free Shipping hasn’t exactly been a success.
Ryan: Man, they sure like sending HUGE up against flamethrowers, huh? First Free Shipping and now Chomp.
Joey: They do! And it’s been FINE.
Fight Two: WAR Hawk vs. Brutus
WAR Hawk: Entered by Western Allied Robotics of Seattle, Washington and built by Rob Farrow. WAR Hawk defeated Axe Backwards in its first fight of the season. Its primary weapon is a dual-toothed spinning disk.
Brutus: Entered by Team Brutus of Somerville, Massachusetts and built by Adam Bercu. This season, Brutus has a win against Son of Whyachi and a loss against Red Devil. Its main weapon is a vertical spinning disc
Ryan: This was a two horizontal spinner fight, and it kind of felt like when you play Mortal Kombat and you pick Scorpion and your friend picks Sub Zero.
Ryan: Basically! These little, fast horizontal spinnerand a wedge robots are the top tier in the Battlebots metagame, right? Everyone seems to have decided that THIS is the design. In a sport where the top robot is a HORIZONTAL spinner.
Joey: I know, right? I think it’s a very easy design to pull off, though. Which makes it make sense. Also: it gives you so much speed! Brutus is so fast!
Ryan: Brutus kind of had this one all fight long huh? Even before the KO.
Joey: Brutus is good stuff, man. That thing can punch.
Ryan: Brutus beat Son of Whyachi. Remember that.
Joey: Who hasn’t though, am I right?
Ryan: Well Biohazard, for one, but that was nearly 20 years ago.
Joey: It’s a joke Ryan! But yeah, Brutus can be super good and I think this showed that.
Ryan: I think Brutus is coming into its own now that its team dropped the gun gimmick. Be honest, that totally overshadowed that robot last season.
Joey: Don’t talk shit about the gun gimmick.
Ryan: I always will. As for WAR Hawk? It seemed to have some driving problems early and there was a lot of this fight where WAR Hawk had a weapon but was driving weird, while Brutus was driving fine but had no weapon. And Brutus easily came out on top. And then it KO’ed WAR Hawk.
Joey: Yeah. Bizarre stuff.
Fight three: Petunia (W) vs. Captain Shredderator
Petunia: Entered by Team PCP of Anna Paulowna, Netherlands and built by Mischa de Graaf. Petunia has a loss against Monsoon and a win against Rotator on its record this year so far. Its primary weapon is a pincer-style crushing beak.
Captain Shredderator: Entered by Team Logicom of Ormond Beach, Florida, built by Brian Nave and driven by Joe Johnson. Captain Shredderator has lost against SubZero and End Game. For this fight, Joe Johnson, Team Logicom’s mechanic, subbed in as driver for Nicholas Nave. Captain Shredderator is a full body spinner, a circular robot that is designed to rapidly spin its entire body, making the whole thing a weapon.
Ryan: So this was the fight that I was alluding to when I said it was one of the worst fights I have ever seen in Battlebots.
Joey: I’m sorry, Ryan. I have to go. I actually have plans for a gaming convention in Florida.
Ryan: Oh no, I guess we’ll have to let your mechanic take your spot
Joey: I wonder if he’d have stuck around if they weren’t 0-2.
Ryan: We’re not being silly here, by the way, that gaming convention was the reason the driver left the tournament. I knew we were in trouble when the mechanic, who replaced the driver, said he’d never driven a robot in competition before. Also, the driver this season was a replacement himself. The regular driver of Shredderator, his dad, was participating in another tournament held at the same time in China (if you want to know where Beta and Nightmare were this season, they were there instead)
Joey: Was this really a driving error, though? Seems like their bot is just kind of…..bad.
Ryan: Well, LOGICOM has been fighting with full body spinners for years, dude.
Joey: Do we know what happened in that China tournament?
Ryan: Yes, but I don’t have the results on me. But Jet Li is the host of that show, believe it or not!
Ryan: But yeah, I don’t think the problem was Shredderator, although that robot might need some tweaks at this point. It’s kind of an old design.
Joey: It got pierced!!!!!
Ryan: This was just a bad showing from Shredderator from a control standpoint. Petunia did the smart thing by taking advantage of the situation.
Joey: Especially with a few fake grapplers tonight (Chomp, Skorpios) it was nice seeing what an actual grappler can do.
Ryan: Petunia still reminds me a lot of Razer from Robot Wars. It’s just an image I’ll never shake from it.
Joey: Hopefully that spells good things for Petunia.
Fight four: Yeti (W) vs. Bombshell
Yeti: Entered by Team Yeti of Wasila, Alaska and built by Greg Gibson. Yeti has a win against Witch Doctor and loss against Icewave so far this season. Yeti’s weapons are modular and can be switched depending on the fight, this time it has its trademark spinning drum and two lifting forks.
Bombshell: Entered by Chaos Corps of Atlanta, Georgia and built by Michael Jeffries. This season has been rough goings for the 2016 Battlebots runner-up, already having suffered losses against Bronco and Lock-Jaw. Bombshell’s primary weapon is a vertical spinning disc.
Ryan: This was a close one!
Joey: It was! I really think this was Bombshell’s fight, but the judges considered it equivalent to a KO in their heads. Yeti was very fortunate.
Ryan: This is one of those fights where I wish they were still uploading fights to Youtube for context, because I’d really love the readers of the column to see to have access to it above out comments and make their own decision. It’s a hard fight to describe in the manner we talk about Battlebots for this column, because it was so close, and it was close in very different ways for each robot
Joey: Who would you have made your decision for, had you been a judge?
Ryan: That last image of the match where Bombshell was immobile and on fire is a hard one to shake, buuuuut it would be a tough one.
Joey: It’s hard to totally argue with that.
Ryan: They traded control all throughout the fight.
Joey: Did they really?
Ryan: Bombshell disabling Yeti’s weapon was definitely a plus in its column
Joey: I mean, they did of course, but it was definitely in Bombshell’s control by a significant margin.
Ryan: Yes, that’s right. I think they both did an equal amount of damage too.
Joey: But I’ll give it to you, it’s hard to reconcile when a bot basically /does/ get knocked out.
Ryan: Especially when it was knocked out by its opponent, not by pure chance. Although in this case Yeti did play a role in Bombshell’s immobility.
Joey: Will be fun to read the comments on the web!
Ryan: So will the ones for this last match.
Main event: Icewave vs. Skorpios (W)
Icewave: Entered by Team Icewave of Burlingame, California and built by Mark DeVidtz. So far, Icewave has won both of its fights this season by knockout, first by ripping Vanquish in twain, and then by disabling Yeti. Its weapon is horizontal spinning bar.
Skorpios: Entered by Offbeat Robotics of Santa Rosa, California and built by Orion Beach. Skorpios defeated Lucky in its first fight of the season. Its weapon is a vertical blade mounted on a hinged arm.
Ryan: I know this was a controversial decision, but I actually agree with the judges on this one.
Joey: So, about what I said, how it’s important to control your opponent…I’m pretty much of the opinion that your bot can get flayed alive and it doesn’t matter if you can still do that. And I’m very pleased to see that sort of thought manifest in the decision here.
Ryan: Yes, it means that the rule changes that clouded last season, where the fights were pretty much dictated by damage with a ‘primary weapon”, are well and truly dead. Yeti won its fight without a primary weapon too.
Joey: He sure did. Skorpios did, too!
Ryan: Skorpios won a judges decision entirely because of control. Icewave had all the damage. Messed up Skorpios real good. But it did not control this fight
Joey: It honestly looked kind of pathetic. Credit to Icewave for disabling Skorpios.
Ryan: Icewave disabled Skorpios’ weapon, but it could not outrun him. It was really fascinating seeing a robot like Icewave being /chased/ around the arena.
Joey: But I really only give that credit because it seems clear to me that Icewave would have been toast if that hadn’t happened. Icewave didn’t malfunction. It was just outmaneuvered completely and entirely.
Ryan: Oh yeah, if Skorpios’ weapon was working we would have found out what happens when a saw slices through an internal combustion engine. Probably an explosion of some stripe.
Joey: A half dead Skorpios outclassed Icewave easily. The only reason there was doubt is that people obviously wondered if it mattered that Icewave half killed it. And I’d argue that it obviously didn’t.
Ryan: Icewave looks relatively unfazed by whatever damage Skorpios put on it through pushing it against the wall or at the screws, but that didn’t really matter. I can tell you one thing, this wouldn’t have happened to Tombstone.
Joey: It eventually became clear that Icewave’s startup time kind of killed it.
Ryan: Correct, and Tombstone’s weapon starts up pretty much instantly. Icewave needs time to spin up. It’s not long, a couple seconds tops, but that was enough for Skorpios to pretty much slam into it and never let it get up to speed.
Joey: The meta of being able to beat spinners is getting pretty interesting.
Ryan: Yes. and who knows what we’ll see in Tombstone’s remaining matches, now that we’re alluding to that robot
Joey: Probably victory.
Joey: How many more episodes do we have of this?
Ryan: We’ve got 11 more. Battlebots ’til October.
Joey: How many have we already had?
Ryan: That was episode 9
Joey: Almost halfway.
Ryan: And there’s a break in the middle of this month for Shark Week
Joey: They got paid off to not finish off in summer so they wouldn’t cut into World Cup ratings.
Ryan: Shark Week is huge for Discovery and I keep forgetting that.
Joey: How can you? THEY REMIND YOU EVERY WEEK.
Ryan: Dude, this season of Battlebots is the first time I’ve watched the Discovery Channel since Mythbusters went off the air.
Joey: Haha. But every week they trot out that SHAQ WEEK commercial.
Ryan: Yeah i know it exists, I just keep forgetting it’s Discovery’s thing, like their biggest week of the year and the one time they show nature stuff anymore.