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.
Ryan: I thought this was one of the best episodes of Battlebots this season, if not the best.
Joey: You definitely got wild about it, yeah. And this had some good stuff.
Ryan: It had a lot of robots we like in it doing very well.
Fight One: Tombstone (W) vs. DUCK!
Tombstone: Entered by Hardcore Robotics of Placerville, California and built by Ray Billings. The reigning champion is 3-0 in the year going into this fight. Its weapon is, as always, its terrifying spinning bar.
DUCK!: Entered by Team Black & Blue of Hillsborough, California and built by Hal Rucker. DUCK! is 2-1 going into this fight. Its primary weapon is a lifting plow with a spike designed like a duck’s beak on the front. However, that weapon is not the selling point of this robot: Its is also one of the toughest competitors in the field this year, milled from a single piece of aluminium. Rucker said that DUCK! was built specifically with fighting Tombstone in mind.
Joey: Uhhhhhhhhh what to even say.
Ryan: I told you this right after this aired and I stand by it: This was my favorite Battlebots fight in the nearly 20 years I’ve been watching robot combat.
Joey: I thought the first while of it was very good, but at some point DUCK! got a hitch in its giddyup.
Ryan: I thought it was incredible all the way through.
Joey: At which point I started to like this fight less than you did.
Ryan: If this went the full three minutes DUCK! would have won the judges decision. This is the fight I’ve been anticipating out of DUCK! all season long. I knew a Duck/Tombstone match would be one for the ages and I was right.
Joey: This fight was never going to go the full three minutes, though.
Ryan: Oh no. Have we ever seen a robot take that many head-on impacts from Tombstone before? And keep on ticking?
Joey: Definitely not. Although the head on impacts weren’t what was concerning. It was the wheels.
Ryan: Tombstone had to pull a Minotaur to win this one.
Joey: At some point not quite forty seconds into the fight DUCK! stops driving perfectly straight.
Ryan: If Hal Rucker had hidden the wheels under DUCK!, it would have probably won easily.
Joey: Yeah, I’m surprised there was nothing like that.
Ryan: We also got to talk about Tombstone nearly being counted out! Talk about a nailbiter there. From what I’m told, the editing made it seem like Tombstone was immobile for longer than it actually was.
Joey: It seemed very long. But it was long enough for DUCK! to take a shot right at it, doing nothing except losing it another wheel.
Ryan: Did you think Duck lived up to the hype this season? Specifically my hype to you? Because I would not shut up about this robot all summer long.
Joey: Somewhat! Probably enough, yeah. And it’s still in it, right?
Ryan: It’s 2-2. But! I think, given this fight, if there’s any room for 2-2 robots, it’s probably in.
Joey: End Game is also 2-2, right? That would be a horrible exclusion.
Ryan: Yes, that’s probably the other 2-2 robot that might take a spot.
Joey: I’m excited to see what it can still do.
Ryan: This fight had everything I wanted it in it. Tombstone actually having a tough opponent that it couldn’t knock out in seconds. Duck showing what its strengths are. A nailbiter matched. I loved it.
Joey: It was quite good. Was sad to see DUCK!’s vulnerability manifest so completely, though.
Fight Two: Petunia vs. Yeti (W)
Petunia: Entered by Team PCP of Anna Paulowna, Netherlands and built by Mischa de Graaf. Petunia has a 2-1 record going into this fight. Its weapon is a crushing beak.
Yeti: Entered by Team Yeti of Wasila, Alaska and built by Greg Gibson. Yeti is 2-1 going into this match. Its primary weapon is a spinning drum.
Ryan: Petunia never had this one.
Joey: This was pretty open and shut.
Ryan: Yeti wore the tip of Petunia’s crusher down to a nub.
Joey: Good window into how good our announcers are, though. “This is the Yeti-est fight, evaaaa!” Great stuff, boys.
Ryan: I think Yeti has been underrated this season because it’s the drum spinner that isn’t Minotaur. But it’s had a great track record. It finishes 3-1 for the season and is in the tournament for sure.
Joey: It’s a very solid bot. Who did it lose to? Icewave?
Ryan: That’s correct. No shame in that.
Joey: Very solid record. Will be fun in the tourney.
Ryan: Definitely, especially with its great driving and acceleration.
Fight three: Monsoon (W) vs. Axe Backwards
Monsoon: Entered by Team Monsoon of Turvey, England and built by Tom Brewster. Monsoon is 2-1 going into this fight. Its weapon is a vertical spinning blade.
Axe Backwards: Entered by KurTrox Robotics of Palm City, Florida and built by Kurt Durjan. Axe Backwards is 1-2 going into this fight. Its weapon is a drum spinner.
Ryan: A fight between a bot I really like and a bot I really don’t.
Joey: Didn’t know you were a fan of Axe Backwards.
Ryan: But seriously, Axe Backwards is the most “RC Toy from 1998”-lookin’ robot in the tournament this year. With it’s big ol’ Tonka wheels.
Joey: Those wheels are dogshit. It should borrow Duck’s wheels.
Ryan: They did it no favors in this fight. It’s also good to see Monsoon again after it was obliterated by SOW. I really like Monsoon and its team, and it put on a good show here.
Joey: Monsoon is a very solid vertical spinner. Looks kinda different too.
Ryan: It probably has the biggest vertical spinning weapon in the tourney this year. It’s absolutely not one of those little vertical spinner plus a wedge robots that are all over the metagame.
Joey: Yeah. Hope to see it do well in the tourney.
Ryan: It’s another 3-1 bot after all.
Fight four: Warrior Dragon vs. Warhead (W)
Warhead: Entered by Team Razer of Poole, England and built by Simon Scott. The longtime Battlebots competitor is 2-0 going into this fight. Its weapon is a gyroscopic spinning dome.
Ryan: The funniest fight of the night. Warhead took a massive hit early that split its famous spinning dome in twain…but Warrior Dragon didn’t do it. It was a side hazard that did it. Warrior Dragon didn’t really seem to do anything at all in this match. Certainly didn’t seem to deal much damage to Warhead.
Joey: This was very embarrassing. It made me remember why I’m not fond of the dome. (Although Warrior Dragon, please leave forever, bye)
Ryan: I don’t like Warrior Dragon. I revere Team Whyachi for SOW, but this thing, it’s just really bad.
Ryan: This was an embarrassing loss for Warrior Dragon. And it deserved to lose what could have been a free win for them. Talk about grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.
Joey: Yeah. It lost to Warhead losing its brains.
Main event: Bronco (W) vs. Sawblaze
Bronco: Entered by Inertia Labs of Sausalito, California, built by Reason Bradley and Alexander Rose and driven by Reason Bradley. A mainstay of Battlebots and a tournament favorite, Bronco is currently 3-0. Its weapon is Inertia Labs’ trademark flipper.
Sawblaze: Entered by Team Sawblaze of Cambridge, Massachusetts and built by Jamison Go. Sawblaze is also 3-0 going into this match. Its weapons are a saw on a pivoting arm and a spiked scoop.
Ryan: So how about this for a main event? I have a lot of respect for teams who can last the whole three minutes against an Inertia Labs flipper. Sawblaze did it even though it was never once in a position to actually win.
Joey: Sawblaze is a hell of a bot. But you’d better have some ridiculous power if you really want to touch Bronco at all.
Ryan: There were a couple times they got stuck together and Sawblaze got a hit early that didn’t do much in the way of damage to Bronco. That was about all it did.
Joey: Bronco is very very very good against bots that don’t have much destructive power. Perhaps the best!
Ryan: It’s all about offense all the time.
Joey: Sort of! Its defense is also so good. It’s just built like a tank.
Ryan: This was Sawblaze’s first loss of the season, so it finishes 3-1 too. This is why I’m a little unsure that there’s going to be room for any 2-2 bots if we keep having all these 3-1 robots.
Joey: I hope we see one or two. Specifically DUCK and End Game.
Joey: Those two being out would suckkkkk
Ryan: But they both did well enough that they’d have to come back next time. Still, after how impressive both have been, it would be really unfortunate for either to be left out.
Next week: Some “USA vs. the World” exhibition card that doesn’t count for the tournament!