Despite not being on TV anymore, Robot Wars still lives on in the form of live events. Most of these events are in the south and therefore difficult for me to get to, but this weekend there was one at the Barnsley Metrodome, so I went along to that!
Before the event began, I took the opportunity to try some robot driving for myself, with some specially made robots called the Battle Ratz. The controls had one stick for forwards-backwards and another for left-right; I managed to get a grasp of this, but when I tried to get my robot to go straight, it would only go so far and then veer off left or right. I expect the slippery gymnasium floor contributed to this.
After building up to the start with some clips from the TV series, the event launched straight into action with four robots – three flippers and a large trundling two-wheeled robot – clashing in the arena with no introduction. The fight saw one robot being thrown out of the arena in about ten seconds, a clear taste of what was to come. The announcers then came out and did their best to work the crowd’s enthusiasm, encouraging us to cheer and chant, which we were all too willing to do.
The next fight was the ‘grand final’ for the weekend, helping to determine seeding for the upcoming World Championship, between the flipper Dystopia and the invertible wedge Maelstrom. That fight was over fairly quickly, as Maelstrom was having trouble driving and Dystopia soon tossed it over the barrier. Then came a melee of smaller featherweight robots, joined in the arena by the original House Robot Matilda! One thing that strikes you at these events is how much bigger the robots are in real life than they look on television; Matilda of course was even more impressively huge than the standard 100kg competitors.
Now came a retro battle, where four old robots who had previously appeared on the TV series were brought in: flipper Bulldog Breed, two-wheeled Stinger, axe-robot The Steel Avenger, and spiked box Mr Nasty. The fight saw Bulldog Breed become immobilised after getting a few flips in; then Stinger’s spike-arm fell off, and it wheeled around harmlessly for a while before falling into the pit. It came down to a judges’ decision between The Steel Avenger and Mr Nasty, which The Steel Avenger won by virtue of having an active weapon.
A final melee before the interval gave us a look at another House Robot, the gigantic 1000kg Major Damage, who took delight in picking up smaller robots in his massive claw before dumping them out of the arena. We then had the interval, where I was lucky enough to be allowed to take a look behind the scenes at the robots in the pits. More frantic fighting followed; Dystopia and pincer-robot Kan-Opener had a vicious struggle, with Kan-Opener surviving being flipped a few times and eventually shoving Dystopia into the pit. The event rounded off with a particularly chaotic melee between Manta, Ripper, Eruption and Thor. This fight saw a lot of flipping; it’s quite something to see a 100kg robot getting tossed into the air and coming back down at close range. Ripper and Thor were both turned on their backs and herded helplessly into a corner by Major Damage; with Eruption apparently getting pinned under the House Robot, Manta was declared the winner.
I enjoyed Robot Wars Live very much, and am now wondering if one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2016 should be to try and build a robot myself.