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Games About Robots

Robots have a long history in literature, film, and television. They’re also popular in board games.

“Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”
  -Robot Model B-9, from Lost in Space

The concept of the automata, or a moving mechanical device meant to act in a way imitating humans, has been around since the ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Ptolemaic Egyptians. They  attempted to make machines in the shape of humans to perform useful tasks.

The word robot as a way to describe a fictional human being was coined by Josef Čapek in 1920 and was popularized by his brother Karel Čapek in his play RUR, or  Rossum’s Universal Robots. Initially happy to work for humans, the robots in RUR eventually revolt and kill their creators.

Since then, robots have featured heavily in science fiction, from the Maria robot in Fritz Lang’s highly influential 1927 film Metropolis to Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Robbie, from Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, and Marvin the Paranoid Robot in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

While we all await our robot servants, who will undoubtedly make our lives easier and never be tempted to organize in a RUR-like uprising, here are some board games that feature our robotic friends.

Robots

2020

A 2020 Kinderspiel des Jahres nominee, where players need a feeling for time and speed together without talking to determine how far they think the robot will move in four short seconds.


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Transmissions

2022

Players share Matt Dixon’s mechanical creatures and move them around a rondel, collecting resources. Build up your robots, build pipes, and collect birds and butterflies for points.


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Dunaïa

2021

Draft a die and activate an ancient robot to work on the surrounding buildings. Complete your buildings to gain powerful artifacts.


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Maglev Metro

2021

Build the best magnetic levitation underground system to transport humans and robots to their destinations more efficiently—and on time—than your opponents.


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Comanauts

2019

Adventure through the mind of a famous scientist, trying to bring him back to consciousness. Play as a robot if you choose, but you’ll definitely be needing to avoid the deadly robots in one of the Comazones.


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GKR: Heavy Hitters

2018

GKR, or Giant Killer Robots, is a game where you control a team of, well, Giant Killer Robots to do battle for mega corporations to gain the favor of fans and consumers.


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RoboRally

1994

A programming game where you play cards face-down that dictate the order of your movements. Each turn sees players moving their robots to the consternation of their opponents. (Also, one of the few games Tom refuses to play because he’s so bad at it.)


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Ricochet Robots

1999

An abstract strategy game in which you try to move your robot to a specific target in the fewest moves.


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Are You a Robot?

2019

A social deduction mini-game from Looney Labs where players ask each other questions to determine who amongst them is human and who is the robot.


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Jetsons: Rosey the Robot Game

1962

The 1962 game features Astro (Rast-Ro!) and the Jetson’s own Rosey the Robot. (Yes, this is an absurd entry, but I grew up watching The Jetsons and this is my list.)


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About the author

Tom Franklin

By day, I'm a mild-mannered IT Manager with a slight attitude. By night I play guitar & celtic bouzouki, board games, and watch British TV. I love abstracts, co-ops, worker placement and tile-laying games. Basically, any deep game with lots of interesting choices. 

You can find my middle grade book, The Pterrible Pteranodon, at your favorite online bookstore.

And despite being a DM, I have an inherent dislike of six-sided dice.

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