BattleBots Beat: Eight Bots Enter, One Bot Leaves

Senor Weaselo

Welcome back to the Beat! We’re at the pointy end now obviously, as we’re at the season finale, with the quarterfinals, semis, and of course, the championship. The storylines are there for us, such as:

Will Paul Ventimiglia win a fourth heavyweight Giant Nut (Brutality in ’09, Bite Force in ’15 and ’18), cementing him as one of the greatest builders in robot combat history? And will Bite Force be the first bot to repeat since BioHazard?
Will Donald Hutson win his own fourth BattleBots title (the two with Diesector, plus Karcas 2 at the 2004 NPC Charity Open)?
Will Andrea Gellatly become the first woman builder to win a Giant Nut? (The re:MARS event happened after and is nice but isn’t on the same level as the Giant Nut.)
Will Steven Martin and Death Roll, or Marco Meggiolaro and Minotaur, become the first team outside of North America to win at BattleBots and the second international team? (Derek Young was living in Vancouver when Son of Smashy won.)
Will Tombstone get back on top of the heap, giving Ray Billings another championship to add to his own legacy along with the NPC Charity Open, 2016, and the Combots Cup titles?
Will Jamison Go and SawBlaze become the first saw bot to win one of the major televised championships?
Will Team Fast Electric Robots finally get that major title they’ve been going after for so long, since Matt and Jason were kids?

Only one way to find out. To the fights! Starting with the quarterfinals.

(6) Death Roll vs. (14) Minotaur

At this point it’s more noting the road to get here, because if you get here, you’re fine. It’s crazy enough that Minotaur’s the lowest seed here, but this is Minotaur’s ninth fight of the season already. That’s a lot of spares RioBotz has probably needed. Actually, fun fact, in the three seasons Minotaur has fought nobody has fought more than it (Season 2 it had 5 fights, making it to the semis, Season 3 it had 8 fights getting to the championship, and this is the 9th). Meanwhile, Death Roll’s come a long way from the bot that got ripped up by Captain Shrederator in Season 2, as it is a whole lot sturdier. I had it higher than 6th seeded in my pre-bracket projections, but considering that fight against End Game and against RotatoR it’s no fluke that the killer croc is in the quarters.

The winner of this fight gets to be The World’s representative in the semis, for a chance to be Not-California’s rep in the final! (No but actually, Aptyx Designs is based in Mountain View, Mutant Robots is San Diego, Hardcore Robotics is based in Placerville, Team Fast Electric Robots are based in Thousand Oaks, and on the other side, you’ve got these two, plus Busted Nuts Robotics are from Miami and Team SawBlaze is from Cambridge, MA. Shit, considering Gage Couchois was in Oakland and Carlo Bertocchini was from Belmont, has every winner of the BattleBots heavyweight championship been from California? Son of Smashy was a middleweight, remember. I guess depends on when Paul moved to California from WPI, regarding whether Brutality counts?)

The opening head-on weapon to weapon shot actually did spin Minotaur around, which surprised me a little, with how quickly I think Death Roll can get up to speed, and Death Roll took advantage, hitting Minotaur’s open backside to flip it over. Then Death Roll missed and hit the screw casings which somehow broke nothing.

Minotaur had to self-right via gyro dance but Death Roll wouldn’t let it, instead flipping it over via disk strike. Minotaur regrouped and charged but spat out weapon belts as the familiar drum death hum started to slow. But whether it was the last of the drum’s momentum or what, it was still giving Death Roll big enough hits to nearly flip it over until it ceased. It meant that like the Cobalt fight Minotaur had to once again push and control after the initial wave, but unlike that fight Death Roll had had the lion’s share of the attacks, not Minotaur, and you could see the damage done to the armor, and to one of the chisel wedgelets since there was only one left. Which was made even less useful after Death Roll got a shot to flip it.

As Death Roll persisted it hit something a weird way and bounced around, nearly taking a shot from the pulverizer and other things and walls. And still the disk went. That thing is seriously tough from hitting walls, floors, bots. We saw that End Game fight and it was amazing from the sheer amount of stuff it hit weapon first that should have killed it. But Minotaur tried to push and keep going. Until it stopped. It looked like the damaged top plate had curled enough, and that, combined with being on the wall, high-centered Minotaur. The drum was actually spinning at this point, as were the wheels, so it was a high-center, but that still counts. Death Roll wins by KO in just over 2 minutes and moves to the semis.

(4) Tombstone vs. (5) Whiplash

Ooh, a rematch of last year’s fight. Tombstone won that one but it seemed plausible that Whiplash could win it, having the then-defending champ on the run for parts of the fight until wheels and plows and things gave up their respective ghosts. It’s definitely plausible that the Vasquez family can take this one, but how often are you going to bet against Tombstone?

First hit and there goes pieces of the plow. Considering this happened against Son of Whyachi and Witch Doctor, plus against Bite Force in the re:MARS fight (granted everything else got damaged from that too), I’m going to go ahead and use my zero robotics expertise to say for Season 5 that might want to get sorted out, because I don’t think that’s supposed to be ablative armor. And Tombstone immediately took advantage of it, thanks to being a two-wheeled bot and also I’m pretty sure that when right-side up it spins clockwise, as it hit that same spot with the next two hits and took off the front plate too. From there it looked like Whiplash was slowed as Tombstone could stay somewhat towards the center and get hit after hit, eventually slicing off the front right tire, which has come off a fair few times at this point. So it’s not a massive loss as Whiplash looked more mobile, if anything. Until the back right also got damaged and Whiplash was crabwalking, that gray area of mobility. But the count wasn’t going and Whiplash was deemed mobile, so fight on, I guess. Where the other part of that yellow plow got taken off and then finally the rest of that back right. And after that there was a count-out, because two wheels isn’t going to do much in terms of movement. Not this time, I guess. Tombstone wins by KO in 1:40.

(2) Witch Doctor vs. (7) SawBlaze

Well, Jamison Go’s now going to have to deal with everyone calling his bot “The Spicy Slicey.” If SawBlaze is in a main event next year and that isn’t its lower line flavor thing, I call shenanigans.

It’s right there now, so thanks Faruq/writing staff!

Outside of that, these are two bots that make for an interesting matchup. The surprising thing in my eyes is that with all the power that Witch Doctor has shown, doing things like flipping Gigabyte 13 feet (by their calculations) into the air, SawBlaze did not go with its AR500 plow, or the rubberized one I still think it has, but instead turned to its signature forks. That middle fork especially is the dangerous one because if it gets dinged and bent it not only becomes useless but undermines the others.

SawBlaze’s box rush didn’t do much, as Witch Doctor went wide enough to avoid it and not get scooped, but it did at least lead to the two bots having to reorient themselves to point their fronts at the opponent. It worked for long enough, but like I expected, that first real frontal collection it looked like SawBlaze popped up just enough for that middle tine to be in the line of Witch Doctor’s disks, and got bent. But SawBlaze was undeterred, getting the side under Witch Doctor, running into the wall, and flipping it over. The recoil was too much to get the saw going on the other side, and by the time SawBlaze could get there Witch Doctor had already flipped back over and started to reverse any momentum from that flip, shaving sparks from all angles.

The pair circled, and Witch Doctor’s weapon power showed, as they went front to front, Witch Doctor spun SawBlaze around, popped it up a little bit from the back, and then sent SawBlaze up in the air, twisting and landing upside-down. Since SawBlaze’s saw was in the back position it took a little longer to self-right, and in that time Witch Doctor could pounce and land a hit on the saw arm, bending it. SawBlaze could scoop but the bend was affecting the saw obviously, so Witch Doctor fell off the forks and returned fire by keeping SawBlaze spinning in the air, though taking a pulverizer shot.

Credit to Jamison Go, as SawBlaze wouldn’t back down, even as the bot got flipped again, still able to use the arm to self-right. But Witch Doctor now having a lot less to fear could get hits and pop SawBlaze up, or flip it over, or pin it around the pulverizer, or have the saw arm in the forward position and somehow using the prongs of the forks and the saw to keep SawBlaze balanced on the BattleBox floor like a piece of modern art. There are ways of “doing the thing,” but that’s a new one. SawBlaze was able to move the arm to get out of the precarious position, but slumped down with all the grace of a drunk guy crashing into bed, and started to smoke. Witch Doctor wins by KO in 2:26 and sets up a showdown of unbeatens with Death Roll in the semis.

(1) Bite Force vs. (9) Lock-Jaw

As Chris Rose said, these two have met in a championship before. (Puts quarter into jar) That was the aforementioned 2009 Pro Championship. Brutality beat Root Canal via unanimous decision to win the title (and Tombstone placed third, losing to Root Canal in the loser’s bracket final). I won’t link to it, but it is easily found on YouTube.

After a quick fix of the lifting forks on Lock-Jaw the two bots met and one of Bite Force’s outside wedgelets immediately pinged off. Those things are seemingly its Samson hair, because seriously, Bite Force gets under everything with those. Even more impressively, it was one of the inner ones, which are a bit longer. Bite Force responded by continuing to push, sending Lock-Jaw flipping and still landing shots. Whatever speed/torque/gearing Paul Ventimiglia uses works, as though Lock-Jaw was unfazed drive-wise Bite Force could keep the pressure up and still send Lock-Jaw airborne and remain so stable in the process.

Lock-Jaw, now inverted, was doing its best to hang in there, but was also starting to smoke. Yeah, it’s been doing that a fair bit this season, and unlike prior fights where it was able to hold on, I don’t think that it’ll go too well against the champ. One of the forks was also maimed, since it was visibly shorter than the other. And the smoke was turning to fire as Bite Force continued to hit away at it, whether the front by the forks or at the back. Plus they were in the corner where the pulverizer could pin while Bite Force could pop. Surprisingly Lock-Jaw hadn’t been deemed immobile from the fact it couldn’t move out of its circumference, though being cornered didn’t help. But one of the tires was off the rim and the others weren’t in the greatest shape either. Paul Ventimiglia held back rather than take shots, knowing that at worst, the fight was unanimously in his favor and letting a sleeping dog lie. Eventually there was a count-out. Bite Force wins by KO, officially in 2:56, and we get a rematch we’ve been waiting four years for.

And with that, the robotic final four (lower case for copyright reasons) is finalized. And we forge onto the semis!

(2) Witch Doctor vs. (6) Death Roll

A battle of unbeatens, and the big question seems to be how to stop Death Roll’s weapon. Because nobody’s done it yet, even though it has taken some licks. Witch Doctor’s weapon has stopped in this season, like the opening Shatter! fight, but it seems to get more locked in as the season has gone.

The two bots went wide and nudged each other before some action actually went on, as Witch Doctor showed she could get under Death Roll. Which makes sense. But both bots could get big hits, and due to geometry Witch Doctor actually used the srimech, while Death Roll could use the disk to self-right. In addition to the beefy Aussie arm.

But Witch Doctor kept coming, spinning Death Roll, rolling Death Roll, off the floor or the rails, and it actually needed to use the Bowie knife to self-right, the first time all year. Well, kinda. Witch Doctor shunted it to the screws. Witch Doctor was also stuck from this, as both bots had to wait for the screws to reverse.

But as we could see from the belt on the floor, the killer croc’s bite had actually stopped, the first time all year. Witch Doctor then punted it a few feet, as Death Roll had to self-right. Hey there’s all those shots, but we know how sturdy it is. So of course it could still run, and still take Witch Doctor’s hits, even if it was getting somersaulted around.

Witch Doctor, meanwhile, was starting to show wear from the assault. And it was the one having drivetrain issues, as seen by the spinning, and the stopping. The countdown started, but all of a sudden it sprung back up and was moving again. Not particularly well, it was mostly going back and forth, but it was just barely getting translational movement, especially when going from forward to reverse. And that saved them.

It went to a judges’ decision, and it was a split decision… for Witch Doctor. Before scoring it, I agree, because Death Roll didn’t exactly do anything while Witch Doctor was struggling.

Damage: Drive issues do beat weapon belts, so this becomes 2-1 Death Roll.
Control: I’d be all set to go 2-0 Witch Doctor, but because of that lack of control in the last minute-plus I say split it 1-1.
Aggression: However, because Death Roll didn’t do anything with it, I’d just say Witch Doctor 2-0.

I’m guessing Jason Bardis, who was the dissenting judge, had both control and aggression split 1-1. But Witch Doctor moves on to the championship. Even if everyone now starts to yell “But they were immobile!” I had them as mobile, even just barely. Personally I think it’s the crabwalking that is not deemed mobile that needs to be called mobile, and a little bit more concrete of a ruling.

(1) Bite Force vs. (4) Tombstone

So, you know how I’ve mentioned Brutality a dozen or two times? Tyler, aka Doom Kid, a 7-year old who competes in lower weight classes, such as Captain Doom in Bugglebots, bought Brutality, and asked Ray Billings to help him refurbish it. Paul’s actually really excited to see his former champ back in action. For those of you who haven’t seen Brutality before, remember Hazard? Okay, now scale it up. For those of you who don’t know Hazard, think Icewave, take off the engine to make it all electronic, and that’s Brutality. So there’s your small robot world bit of the day.

On a more immediate note, we finally get the rematch of the titans that we haven’t gotten since Bite Force became a vert. Remember, the one fight these two robots have had, the 2015 final, was Bite Force in its lifter/clamper form, and who knows if Tombstone was at full strength after the Bronco fight when it accidentally eviscerated itself because the count was pausing and resetting with every Bronco flip.

Anyway, strategy. Obviously Paul Ventimiglia’s going with the more defensive full wedge than the hinged wedgelets Bite Force normally uses. Meanwhile Ray Billings went with the thick S7 bar that we saw in the fight against Gruff.

Tombstone got a frontal hit, but Bite Force came enough to the side to have a weapon on weapon hit. And clearly that horizontal bar was damaged from the Gruff fight, because it broke in two (fun fact, on the other side of where Bite Force hit it due to shockwaves), and the shock of the hit took one of Tombstone’s wheels off, leading to a spinning, somersaulting, possibly violating Newtonian physics Tombstone. Maybe not as much as the Gruff fight with this bar actually, but when Tombstone goes flying I’m going to need a free-body diagram to figure out all the forces.

Meanwhile, Bite Force slammed Tombstone into the screws and the violent shaking is actually what freed it as it continued bouncing around, slightly assisted by Bite Force until it came to a stop. “That didn’t go well,” said Ray Billings. This is quite true, but hey, it was spectacular. Bite Force wins by KO in 52 seconds and is back in the championship to defend the Giant Nut.

And the damage can be seen and commented on here. I think Ray should consider multiple bars of the same type for next year—Tombstone’s two losses were because the weapon bars Ray used were damaged in previous fights, similar to fixing last year’s frame issues by having multiple frames (and going through them). Someone else also considered some sort of forging of a harder metal exterior with a softer interior, similar to a samurai sword. I don’t know my metallurgy to know how well it would work.

Championship: (1) Bite Force vs. (2) Witch Doctor

And then there were two. And to be honest I don’t think I have much flavor commentary to add here, maybe just a report of setups. Bite Force went back to the wedgelets to negate Witch Doctor’s reach with the double disks, Bite Force remained with its lighter srimech, having its armor up front.

Neither bot was afraid of weapon to weapon, but Witch Doctor had the early aggression, showing great strategy and driving by Mike Gellatly. And just like in the Lock-Jaw fight the plan seemed to be to go after Bite Force’s wedgelets as one of the outside ones, then the other, got ripped off. Bite Force’s biggest advantage is that it seems to get under everything, and taking out the wedgelets would negate that. And then they got the third, the right inner wedgelet. But they got a bad beat or something, hit the wrong way trying to go for the final one, and got flipped up in the air. And in Paul Ventimiglia fashion, once a weak spot presents itself he is certain to capitalize. For Witch Doctor, it was the srimech, as while the ribcage was flipping itself over Bite Force hit it square, keeping Witch Doctor on her back and having to go through the self-right process again. And because of how or the way it hit it disabled Witch Doctor’s disks, as the tide had definitely turned. Now it was Bite Force getting the big blows, flipping Witch Doctor onto that damaged srimech though it could still get back over as we had seen, but there’s no getting back over when the rear of the robot is right against the wall. So Witch Doctor was turned turtle, and without the space to self-right, turtle is where she would stay because Bite Force is not going for that coup de grâce shot, not when the fight’s already won.

Bite Force repeats, winning by KO in 1:56.

Let’s talk. It’s not just that Bite Force has won the title both years, it’s that it’s won all its fights. The record for consecutive BattleBots tournament wins is Hazard, with 17. Bite Force has won 16 straight, and that’s because the rumble against Witch Doctor and Wrecks doesn’t count, and technically the re:MARS event doesn’t count for this one. Assuming the rumble doesn’t count either way since it was an exhibition, if we include the re:MARS fights that’s 18 straight wins. And Bite Force’s competition throughout definitely topped Hazard’s, considering due to the nature of robot combat in the early 2000s there were fewer professional-caliber bots like you’d see today. Bite Force has consistently gotten high-tier robots in the fight card format due to being a top-tier bot and Bite Force has beaten them all, without the respite that Hazard got with fights such as Pegleg (its first ever) or Misty the Wonderbot (made by Will Wright, yes, that one). And that’s with byes until the TV rounds which meant the bots were decent at that point. There is a strategy to beat it now, so I think Paul Ventimiglia will try and work on that, where that’s what he was referring to with “redesigning an all-new robot.” However, it could mean that this is the last we see from vertical spinner Bite Force. Considering the name, crusher next in that case? Either way we’ll have to wait until next season, and no matter what the man builds, he has to be considered the favorite. Three in four seasons, four with three different setups including 2009, five since 2005 including Greenwave. You could make the argument that either Hazard or BioHazard might be the greatest robot in BattleBots history, but Paul Ventimiglia is the greatest builder. Bite Force joins those two (Hazard, 3.0 and 4.0; BioHazard, 4.0 and 5.0) plus Vlad the Impaler (Las Vegas ’99 and 1.0) and Minion (Las Vegas ’99 and 1.0) as robots to successfully defend their title. Is it beatable? Yes. Lock-Jaw and Witch Doctor had good ideas, and I think a Tombstone that doesn’t break its weapon on the first hit has the capability as well. But Paul Ventimiglia has the best bot, coupled with being one of the best drivers, and that is a lethal combination, as we’ve seen.

There’s also a potential serious newcomer challenger. King of Bots ended this past week as well, and since it was a team competition and the team got the victory nobody’s truly sure which bot is actually king. But consensus gives it to Vulcan, essentially a renamed, redesigned version of Robot Wars Season 8 champion Apollo. And the Brit flipper team is hoping for an official appearance in BattleBots 2020 after only being an alternate (but being the test fight against Hardcore Robotics’s “other” heavyweight Swamp Thing) for the first season with Chronic. Chronic was a reskin of Kronic the Wedgehog that led to Apollo. Considering their notoriety at this point, a winner of Robot Wars and the best bot on the winning team of King of Bots, they’d have the possibility, like Team Carbide, of winning major titles on three continents.

As for the Beat, there will still be some bonus fights on Science Channel which’ll all get lumped in together, but the next post will be the second annual (thanks to the renaming) Beaties, where I take an even more shameless page out of BattleBots Update and come up with not as good, not as racy, not as sexually tinged, and once again not as good awards. Also no builder’s going to contact me about receiving an award in the mail.

Anyway, I have too many words, so I’m gonna wrap this up. See you next time!

Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. When he isn't doing that, he enjoys watching his teams (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers), trying to ingest enough capsaicin to make himself breathe fire (it hasn't happened yet), and scheming to acquire the Bryant Park zamboni.
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Senor WeaseloLow Commander of the Super SoldiersRikki-Tikki-DeadlyGame Time Decision Recent comment authors
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I was really thrilled to see Witch Doctor make it as far as they did. Incredible season for them.

Low Commander of the Super Soldiers

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The crowd signs remain being my favorite part of BattleBots.

Low Commander of the Super Soldiers

I think this has been the best year of BattleBots that I have watched. They finally have the format down to where the filler is very tolerable, the matchups have been better, not every bot has been a drum spinner and the judge’s scoring is finally weighted properly. Excellent work by you, Senor and thank you for doing this every week and getting me back into watching.

Finally, it was really nice to also see BOLTMAN make an appearance in the crowd.
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Game Time Decision

saddened by the lack of semi-demi-pre-lim-final-final-finals