[“BattleBots Challenge” at the Amazon re:MARS convention is available online here.]

The ultimate alliance.

You guys know how I am, I gotta get into anything BattleBots-related and on the evening of June 6th we were treated to one of the most unique BattleBots shows I’ve ever seen. Normally the only robot combat we see from BattleBots is a full proper season with a dozen or so episodes, however very rarely the BattleBots company will perform special events at trade shows. The last time I can remember this happening was back in 2001 at a toy fair when Hasbro wanted to show off some of the sport’s stars when the original line of toys was coming out. That was 18 years ago and to give you an idea how rare these special events are it took Hasbro-levels of money for BattleBots to be able to justify transporting their giant goddamned arena, setting it up, testing everything, breaking it down, and then shipping it back to California when everything was over. All so that a half-dozen or so robots could battle for 20 minutes and impress some dumb investors who only see things in terms of whether or not it can make them money.

18 years have passed since the last time BattleBots attended a trade show and to go along with the premiere of the 2019 season the company was invited to the re:MARS convention to hold a special exhibition event. Who’s running this convention, you might ask? Fucking Amazon. So yeah, it still takes “fuck you” levels of money to convince BattleBots to set their crap up and honestly I don’t blame them because once you realize just how many pieces there are in the Battlebox you’d probably agree with me when I say it’s something that I would personally set up with the hopes and intentions of never having to touch the goddamned thing again.

Smart readers know what the phrase “improving efficiency” is a codeword for.

Now I don’t know what “re:MARS” is. I’ve never heard of it before. I googled it and apparently re:MARS is the sister convention to MARS which is also an Amazon-sponsored event, something put on by Jeff Bezos himself. Because let’s face it, of course he can afford to do that. “MARS” is an acronym that stands for “Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space”. No, I don’t know where the “L” went in that acronym either; my guess is Bezos was smart enough to know that “MLARS” isn’t as cool-sounding. Anyways the standard MARS event appears to be by invitation only, but re:MARS is open to anyone. Well, anyone who has $1,999 laying around to buy a ticket with. Yeah, two thousand dollars to see the BattleBots. Granted, I’m sure there’s plenty more to do at re:MARS if you’re really interested to know how why and when your job will eventually cease to exist but if I were there I’d only be interested in seeing the bots. So you can either buy one ticket to re:MARS, seven Nintendo Switches, or like five screws from the bottom of that new Apple computer stand thing. They might as well be selling actual tickets to fucking Mars at this rate. The good news is chances are there’s at least $3,000 in your home so even if you’re flat broke you can still attend re:MARS with cash left to spare.

Because I don’t have $2,000???

10 robots arrived to compete in demo fights at re:MARS. They were Bronco, Free Shipping, Bite Force, Icewave, Chomp, Skorpios, Tombstone, Witch Doctor, Whiplash, and Lock-Jaw. The prize up for grabs is one of BattleBots’ “Giant Bolt” awards, the kind they give out for things like winning the Desperado event or being voted as the “Best Engineered Robot” and the like. This exhibition is kind of complicated in that there’s ten bots so that means there will be five winners. The crowd will vote on the winners and the “best loser” (I think) and there will be additional fights between the robots in 5th & 6th and 3rd & 4th, but really it’s going to come down to whoever is voted as 1st & 2nd because the winner there takes home the prize. Also I should point out that the audience responsible for voting on these robots is Twitch chat… because the event was livestreamed on Twitch. Which is owned by Amazon.

You never give any power whatsoever to the chat, you guys. Come the fuck on.


FREE SHIPPING vs. BRONCO

FREE SHIPPING

Team Late Night Racing

Weapon: Lifting arm w/ flamethrowers

BRONCO

Inertia Labs

Weapon: Pneumatic flipping arm

The only good leverage Free Shipping gets, spraying butane everywhere in the process.

The first robot introduced to us is Free Shipping, because of-fucking-course it is. The robot’s name is basically an Amazon joke and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the entire reason Gary Gin and his team were invited out to re:MARS. I’m not trying to imply that Free Shipping is a shitty robot who’s only claim to fame is its naming pun, but let’s be honest here Free Shipping being at an Amazon event is proof that Jeff Bezos has a sense or humor. Or someone on his behalf has a sense of humor, at least. Seeing this special event is weird to me because I guess this is going to be how I introduce Free Shipping to you even though the new season of the show it competed in is just now starting to air and we’re going to see it again eventually. Last season’s Free Shipping was intended to look like a massive forklift tall lifting apparatus and all. It was a fun disguise for Gary’s robot Original Sin but overall I get the impression the roll cage and massive lifter wound up being a hindrance instead of a help. This year Free Shipping looks nothing like a forklift at all, it’s literally just Original Sin with some lifting forks between its wedges and some flamethrowers strapped onto it. Still not invertible, but it can flip itself back over using its lifting arm as opposed to landing on half of its wheels and slamming into the wall until it fixes itself. So… an improvement I guess.

Bronco is definitely one of the robots people came out here to see. Zander Rose and Reason Bradley have been taunting their ability to drop kick someone into the ceiling scaffolding of the Battlebox for longer than some of the people reading this dumb website have been alive. Last year Bronco was an absolute beast with two KO’s by throwing opponents into parts of the arena they couldn’t get out from but as the tournament wore on we started to see the cracks form in this legendary flipper. Bronco’s problem is that it’s fucking giant and as such it swings wide when it turns and overall just looks like it doesn’t steer very well. Once it gets you with its flipper it’s all over, but getting from that initial “Point A to Point B” seems like it’s gotten harder for the charging bull. Whiplash proved that great driving is certainly Bronco’s downfall. Well, that and all the stupid armor that the team added to Bronco. Seriously, inward-curving “twangers” to snag spinners with? Speaking of those ridiculous things, why are they equipped for this fight? Does Free Shipping have a secret spinning weapon I didn’t know about? Did Free Shipping also become “another goddamned vertical spinner”???

GO AWAY BRONCO

Before the fight starts Kelly Link (a commentator from Twitch) chimes in and reads a random message from Twitch chat, the user in question stating they don’t think Bronco can flip Free Shipping. See, here’s why you don’t pay attention to chat; chat is fucking retarded even on a good day. Right before this fight aired the stream editors played a highlight reel of some of Bronco’s best shots. There was about 45 solid seconds of Bronco trying to beat Amazon to fucking Mars and here’s some chucklefuck who thinks Free Shipping is unflippable. Either he’s fucking with you, Kelly, or he’s just dumb. Two seconds into the match Bronco shits all over this one specific Twitch user by gently tossing Free Shipping over. To quote a dead meme, Bronco used only 2% of its power here. In its follow-up attack, Bronco used 3% and missed which resulted in the robot flipping itself over. Get used to seeing this because it happens another handful of times while Free Shipping struggles to light its flamers and get things going.

Average package delivery style, courtesy of Bronco.

I don’t know how Bronco does it but it’s exceptionally good at throwing opponents in such a way so that they land in extremely inopportune positions. Take for example its next proper shot on Free Shipping; Free Shipping lands on its lid but it can flip over no problem, however if it did this Free Shipping would basically be rubbing its nuts all over the screws. Chances are that wouldn’t end well for Free Shipping, so the robot just sits there and lets Bronco have another shot (because you know Bronco can’t do just one flip). The end result is Free Shipping twisting and spiraling through the air and very nearly getting thrown behind the fucking hammer. Free Shipping’s front forks are starting to bend slightly and its rear chassis is dented up, no doubt from landing on its ass hard enough to rival your average Super Mario ground pound attack. Free Shipping is easily down on points now so it goes all in and collides with Bronco head-on. Free Shipping’s wedge gets underneath Bronco, but it’s lifting forks don’t. This sandwiches Bronco’s flipping arm between two pieces of Free Shipping, so Reason fires the flipper and the ensuing punch to Free Shipping’s lifting arm basically breaks the damn thing. The arm gets kicked backward and as Free Shipping rights itself by bumping into Bronco you can see stuff hanging down off of it. No idea what any of that is, though; doesn’t look like a chain and I can’t tell if Free Shipping is on fire in a good way or in a bad way. In any case you know that shit’s broken now.

Eventually Bronco gets the flip it’s been waiting for and with one final heave Free Shipping is thrown on top of the screws where part of its ass gets sucked into the hazard. The screw immediately seizes and I think it’s supposed to be able to rotate the other direction to prevent exactly this from happening — Chris Rose even mentions this point — but I’m guessing the combination of Free Shipping’s fat ass landing on the screw and its wheel getting sucked into the blades probably broke the hazard. It wouldn’t be the first time. Free Shipping’s lifter twitches a couple of times so I guess maybe it wasn’t fully dead, but seconds later the bot starts to smoke and I think that’s probably going to be the end of this one. Hopefully no one cancelled their Prime subscriptions over this.

WINNER: Bronco, KO


BITE FORCE vs. ICEWAVE

BITE FORCE

Aptyx Designs

Weapon: Vertical spinning blade

ICEWAVE

Team Icewave

Weapon: Horizontal spinning blade

Moments before the end.

Checking in and punching its ticket at the event is two-time BattleBots champion Bite Force. It wouldn’t be a BattleBots event without it. In it’s career so far Bite Force has lost only one fight, hilariously that was to Chomp of all robots. Bite Force debuted as a lifting robot with tank tracks back in 2015 but was redesigned into a completely different beast afterward and it’s a little unheard of for a reigning champion to make such a deviation. It didn’t pay off initially because Chomp kicked Bite Force in the teeth but Paul Ventimiglia doubled down and brought that same machine back in 2018 and you’re looking at the reigning champ because of it. Bite Force’s weapon was formerly powered by an electric motor similar to the original “E-Tek” popular in the early days of the sport, a weapon motor you’d see powering the weapons on bots like Nightmare and still do to this day. But that wasn’t good enough for Paul, he wanted to make his own nightmare. In the middle of the 2018 season Bite Force had its standard motor replaced with a special quad-motor gearbox sporting four Magmotors. In layman’s terms this essentially transformed Bite Force’s weapon into something out of this fucking world. Bite Force is still running that configuration today in case you wanted to know if anyone was going to die tonight.

And Icewave, wow! It’s no secret that Icewave did not compete in the 2019 season of BattleBots and that was a letdown to me because Icewave is one of my favorite competitors. Despite this, I understand Marc DeVidts’ decision not to participate. He and his wife actually had a baby, and aside from that you might recall that Icewave’s run for the Giant Nut in 2018 came to a horrifying end when Rotator blew this thing to fucking pieces. Icewave’s entire upper engine assembly was ripped apart and I shit you not it took the arena cleanup guys at least a solid 10 minutes to sweep all those gibs up afterward. Just seeing this thing back in one piece again is enough for me. Icewave is one of the few robots out there who still uses a gas-powered engine to spin its weapon. The reason for this is that traditionally you’d get a slightly better power-to-weight ratio out of an engine as opposed to an electric motor. Advances in things such as brushless motor technology have closed that gap in recent years but there’s still some utility to having a configuration like Icewave’s, plus it’s just badass in general. Its design is almost a relic of another era but Marc has kept it modernized so to me Icewave is like an old car with a sweet ass paint job… and a helicopter blade.

Aaaand there it goes.

Going into this fight I said Icewave stood to win it. Avid readers of BattleBots Update might recall that when I made bracket predictions in 2018 I had Icewave and Bite Force meeting each other in the quarterfinals. That wound up not happening, but my predictions still apply here; Bite Force’s chassis is too low for Icewave to hit so the only thing Icewave’s blade will connect with are the white brackets holding up Bite Force’s spinner. I’m expecting Icewave’s bar to bash the hell out of these braces and potentially even stop Bite Force’s weapon from working. With Bite Force reduced to a pushing robot Icewave stands to win the match assuming a repeat of its Skorpios fight doesn’t happen again. Those were my predictions in 2018, and those are my predictions in 2019 too.

All throughout the introductions Icewave’s engine was ripping the fattest belches imaginable, though when the match starts the robot is suspiciously quiet and when its bar starts to turn it doesn’t do so with any muscle behind it. Bite Force catches the blade at an awkward angle and no damage is done whatsoever. In engineering terms, Icewave is what we would call “completely fucked”. You get one shot at an opponent like Bite Force, and Icewave blew it. Icewave goes cold and I assume the robot starts trying to turn this into a shoving match and Bite Force lets Icewave know in no uncertain terms that’s what it’s gonna have to be because with a single shot Bite Force clips one of the ends of Icewave’s bar and blows it the fuck off. As Kelly does her best impression of Twitch’s Kreygasm emote Bite Force cruises in and rips the leftmost corner of Icewave’s plow away. The next hit devours the rest of whatever was left of the plow that Icewave could potentially use to stay offensive in this fight. So far if we were to make a geographical analogy of my fight predictions we’d have dug a hole to China by now.

Above: Not spinning, not winning.

Bite Force gets behind Icewave and unleashes so much energy with its drivetrain that it leaves a goddamned strip of tire marks on the floor. Somebody needs to investigate this bullshit because I don’t know if robots can be on the juice but this motherfucker definitely is. Icewave’s got nothing. Another shot from Bite Force rips the other end of its weapon off and what we’re left with is what I’d say is the saddest looking machine I think I’ve ever seen had it not been for the time Rotator blew this robot’s fucking brains out. Out of nowhere Icewave’s engine decides to start “working” again but all that’s left of its weapon is basically a polio leg so there’s no damage being done. Bite Force knows this and continues to just charge right in and chew up Icewave’s aluminum chassis. An observant Kenny Florian notices a small chain come out of Bite Force, which I think might be from inside its left drive section, but really at this point it doesn’t matter. Bite Force is configured in such a way that losing this piece of chain probably isn’t going to hinder it much and even if it did just look at the condition of its opponent right now; I’m sure Icewave is begging for Rotator to show up and just end its suffering.

After a trip to the Pulverizers, Icewave stops working. See you in… 2020? I guess?

WINNER: Bite Force, KO


SKORPIOS vs. CHOMP

SKORPIOS

Offbeat Robotics

Weapon: Saw on articulated arm

CHOMP

The Machine Corps

Weapon: Pneumatic hammer & flamethrower

OH BOY THIS AGAIN

Participating in this fight is another robot who was absent from the season this year who I’m excited to see, but first let’s take a look at Skorpios. Skorpios was one of the breakout stars last season after a debut two seasons ago that left a lot to be desired. You might recall Skorpios winning the “Best Driver” award on this website for its participation in 2016 that consisted of driving into the screws, dying, and being eliminated from the tournament. You might also recall Skorpios winning that award for last season too, except this time I was being serious about it. Skorpios might not have the fanciest or most destructive weapon but I guess Orion Beach went to driving school because he mopped the floor with his opponents in Skorpios’ qualifying rounds and very nearly went undefeated. Sadly, Skorpios suffered far too much cumulative damage and wasn’t able to make it through to the main event, but this year the robot is back… and also Orion has handed the controller over to Zach Lytle. I guess the editors didn’t have any B-roll of Zach at such short notice because the entirety of Skorpios’ hype reel is just Orion Beach trying not to do an impression of Erik from Internet Comment Etiquette.

Gotta get a shot of Chomp doing good too. Equal representation, and all that.

I’m glad to see Chomp at this event just because I’m waiting for the day when Zoe Stephenson swings that hammer and gets another “god shot” like she did with Bite Force. Also Chomp kind of can’t NOT be here considering the robot is packed full of all sorts of complex and expensive-sounding shit like “LIDAR” and whatever. This whole re:MARS conference thing is supposed to be about hyper-advanced robots and I feel like a BattleBot armed with an automatic weapon and the ability to “see” where it is sounds exactly like the kind of stuff Amazon wants to promote (so long as Chomp doesn’t ask to be paid $15 per hour). As Chris said while Chomp was entering the arena the robot isn’t competing this year, so like Icewave don’t expect to see it on TV anytime soon. If you’re new to robot combat and aren’t familiar with Chomp it’s the world’s deadliest suitcase and its hammer can swing a full 360 degrees around. Said weapon was engineered by Jascha Little who built The Judge, an old BattleBot from the turn of the millennium that was capable of punching holes in the fucking floor because its hammer was so powerful. Chomp’s builders are a dream team of engineers. Unfortunately their robot likes to spent a lot of time on its side dreaming.

Kelly gives us the inside scoop on what’s up in Twitch chat who appear to be telling her that they want to see Chomp and Bronco in the finals. If that’s not proof that they’re fucking with her and she’s taking the bait then I don’t know what will convince you. Chris starts talking about Chomp’s LIDAR system but it almost sounds sarcastic like he’s expecting it not to work or something. Even if it doesn’t work it’s still a great psychological weapon because your opponent never knows when the hammer is coming. Skorpios knows this, but also knows that if the hammer misses Chomp will end up on its side. And Chomp misses… and ends up on its side. Skorpios gets free reign to cruise on in and start slicing up Chomp with its saw blade. I guess Skorpios’ blade can slice through time and space because someone cuts the feed to Chris’ mic while this is going on.

Okay, back to Skorpios winning.

The first few seconds of this match really set the tone for what’s going to happen because they just keep repeating themselves over and over again. Chomp swings, misses, flips over, and then Skorpios shows up to score some free points. Since Chomp is spending a lot of time on its side I guess I can point out the robot’s unique self-righting mechanism; mounted inside of the pivot points of Chomp’s hammer are a couple of pistons that extend outward to push the robot over. I’m pretty certain these specific pistons were not present on the robot in 2018 so the version of Chomp we’re seeing tonight looks to be about what it’d have been had it competed in BattleBots this year. Which is to say, “more of the same”. A stouter, shorter Chomp seems like a good direction to go, but I’m not sure what’s under the hood and if it can all be feng-shui’d into a less dumb configuration. We’d probably be able to find that out though if Skorpios came into this battle equipped with its ripping disc and not this shitty saw blade but I guess the idea here is that they can grind a lot of sparks off of Chomp which looks good to the judges.

Chomp eventually gets kicked over into the corner of the arena where it starts to swing its hammer a bunch of times in order to flip back onto its wheels. Somewhere in this chaos Skorpios catches a backhand and a chunk gets bitten out of its saw. The bend doesn’t seem to be significant enough to stop the weapon but I’m going to be a dick here and say that if the team went with their fucking disc this wouldn’t have happened. Kenny starts lamenting all of the malfunctioning expensive things on Chomp while the fight goes to the judges who award a victory to the robot armed with just some random cheap shit off the shelf from the hardware store.

WINNER: Skorpios, Judges’ Decision (3-0)


LOCK-JAW vs. WHIPLASH

LOCK-JAW

Team Mutant Robots

Weapon: Vertical spinning discs & lifting arms

WHIPLASH

Team Fast Electric Robots

Weapon: Vertical spinning disc w/ lifting arm

In the battle of ground clearance, Whiplash sucks. Bigly.

Before this match started Kelly chimed in and said that she was seeing a near even split in the votes coming in from viewers on Twitch and there’s probably a good reason for that; each of the two robots in this battle are extremely similar to one another. In the red square is Donald Hutson’s Lock-Jaw, a robot from a team with two titles under their belt. Lock-Jaw is a direct design evolution from Donald’s championship robot Diesector and features the Mutant Robots style that we’ve come to know and love in the over two decades this guy’s been running his machines. Lock-Jaw was formerly a grappler and flipper-style robot however this design was phased out in favor of adopting a set of dual vertical discs mounted between a pair of lifting arms. You might also notice Lock-Jaw features cambered tires and those are to help the robot both maintain a lower overall profile and also ride much sturdier along the floor. What I’m trying to say is a fuckton of work has gone into the design of this robot in the near 20 years that it’s design has been experimented with. There’s a champion in this robot somewhere, and we might see it tonight. Or we might just see “another goddamned vertical spinner”.

Whiplash rides into this match-up looking an awful lot like its opponent. It also boasts four-wheel drive and has a lifting arm of its own, however in Whiplash’s case its weapon and lifting arm are one in the same. It may not seem like it, but this robot is not to be underestimated. As the robots made their way into the Battlebox Chris mentioned how both of them were semifinalists in 2018. Lock-Jaw’s performance seems plausible given the team it came from, but Whiplash? What you gotta realize about this beast is that its team, led by Jeff Vasquez, has been in the sport for almost as long as Donald Hutson and while Donald mostly competes in BattleBots only the Vasquez family are active all over the place. In a previous life Whiplash was a robot named Splatter who cameo’d in the 2015 and 2016 seasons of BattleBots but remained mostly unknown; outside of TV however this robot dominated the independent circuit and took home a second place finish at the RoboGames event in 2017. All this extra experience pays off and the result is a seemingly over-designed robot expertly driven by one of the best guys in the sport, Matt Vasquez. Whiplash can come at an opponent in a lot of ways and all of them involve getting smacked with its Pac-Man spinner.

The video compression killed this video still but I wanted to include it anyways because it’s cool.

Right away it’s apparent Lock-Jaw has the upper hand when it comes to ground clearance and this comes with a curious benefit against Whiplash specifically. Whiplash’s weapon is tipped with a lifting fork which fits nicely between Lock-Jaw’s own lifting arms. When Lock-Jaw slides underneath Whiplash’s front end those forks get fed straight into Lock-Jaw’s spinner. The result? Whiplash’s forks get bent upward and the robot turns into an unusable piece of shit within seconds. It’s hard to notice because of how fast each of the robots are moving, but Lock-Jaw catches Whiplash’s rear left tire and takes a small bite out of it. The hit seems trivial until Whiplash spins around to attack and the aforementioned wheel just pops off like it belonged to Witch Doctor. Chris starts cracking bad jokes about tire delivery and Kelly wrongly hypothesizes that Lock-Jaw is “wobbly” and to shut both of them up the audio engineers crank up the arena microphones to drown them out.

THE BACKHAND PogChamp

While this is going on the bent fork on Whiplash gets torn away which briefly corrects the issue the robot was having regarding not being able to hit Lock-Jaw with its weapon. Whiplash gets in a quick lift and a nibble but Lock-Jaw gets away and both robots spend a few moments trying to fight one another while getting stuck in the Killsaw seams instead. For a bot with only half a lifter and three tires Whiplash starts holding its own quite nicely even if it’s just throwing haymakers and seeing what sticks, but the name of the game is staying alive and in the end it works because Lock-Jaw just straight up quits working. Lock-Jaw’s master power switch was somehow damaged in the flurry of trading blows and if you’re familiar with how competitors sometimes lose their power link in Robot Wars this is enough to kill the whole machine, nothing Donald does on his end is going to turn this one back around. Whiplash maneuvers around behind Lock-Jaw and starts going to town with the “backhand” move we saw it deploy against Tombstone last year and if you have any doubts as to the power in Whiplash’s disc look at what it does to Lock-Jaw’s top armor. I’m not sure how tough that metal is or what it’s protecting but Whiplash just strips that shit clean off and makes sure that replacing decals and batteries are the least of Donald’s worries now.

Also shoutouts to the incorrect battle graphic that flashes briefly after this fight. I wonder what happened with these? I get the impression they were supposed to be used before the fights in conjunction with Chris announcing who was up next but instead they’ve been showing them after the battles? Are they letting the Amazon AI run this show autonomously or something?

WINNER: Whiplash, KO


WITCH DOCTOR vs. TOMBSTONE

WITCH DOCTOR

Team Witch Doctor

Weapon: Vertical spinning discs

TOMBSTONE

Hardcore Robotics

Weapon: Horizontal spinning blade

“Unleash the fury.”

This is the fucking fight I’ve been waiting for, holy shit. I don’t even care who wins the Giant Bolt, this is what I came to see. These two robots met once in 2015 and the results were fucking insane. There are few teams out there who can say they’ve defeated Tombstone. Witch Doctor’s is not one of them, but in 2015 they came as close as you could possibly get before falling short. In a season where Tombstone dominated its opponents and destroyed them in three hits or less, Witch Doctor rose to the occasion and tanked SEVEN fucking shots from Tombstone’s legendary weapon. On the seventh hit Tombstone’s weapon gave out and the bar literally shattered in two, but sadly Witch Doctor was flipped upside down from the force of that blow and wasn’t able to right itself. At that moment Tombstone was fucked and if Witch Doctor landed on its wheels that season would’ve gone very differently. If there’s anyone who can stop Tombstone, you’re looking at it right now. Witch Doctor has improved its design year after year and here’s where we find out if that’s going to pay off.

Everyone knows about Tombstone. It may only have one BattleBots title (plus another from a special untelevised event) but few competitors strike fear into the hearts of their opponents like Ray Billings and his heavyweight murderer. Tombstone’s biggest advantage is how simple it’s design is which Ray is more than happy to show off and brag about if you catch him in the pits. Tombstone is a no-frills ordeal with a couple of drive motors plugged into some batteries and a big-ass motor connected to a switch on one end and 70 pounds of “fuck you” on the other. Sure there are some finer details of Tombstone’s design that do play a major role in the robot’s success but by and large this thing gets by on muscle alone. Remember that “E-Tek” motor I was talking about in Bite Force’s fight? Tombstone’s running one of those under the hood. So simplicity is Tombstone’s biggest advantage, but its biggest disadvantage? Itself. If you hit the robot just right Tombstone will shit its pants and explode. It’s the BattleBots equivalent of the Vulcan nerve pinch or something, but if you can trick Tombstone into transmitting all of its pent up kinetic energy into itself you stand a pretty good chance of doing something like making its weapon explode, which I might remind you Witch Doctor has done before.

big oof for tombstone

Witch Doctor takes the first hit of the fight and catches Tombstone’s blade with the right corner of its plow. It might not seem like that big of a hit but if you knew how thick Witch Doctor’s plow is seeing a dent with a chunk taken out of it as big as the one it’s sporting right now is impressive to say the least. But don’t worry if the facts and figures are lost on you because Witch Doctor delivers the second blow of the fight and smashes straight into Tombstone’s weapon, the hit blowing the former champ out of the fucking water and also disintegrating one of Witch Doctor’s discs in the process. This is the hit that counts. Because of this Witch Doctor has to spin its weapon down; for a few seconds it tries to spin up and the whole robot starts to shake and hop around and you’re just asking for shit to start coming unplugged if you do that, just ask Tombstone whose left wheel has appeared to stop working after it seizure-danced across the floor (it’s the left wheel because Tombstone has also managed to flip itself over by moshing too hard).

This is now Witch Doctor’s fight to win, but Tombstone is still just as deadly with only one wheel as it is with two. Perhaps even deadlier since all it can really do is pivot around and making surprise turns like that is one of Ray’s dirty tricks. Tombstone’s blade is still going full blast and Witch Doctor has no choice but to keep going at it and winds up getting the rest of its weapon discs chewed apart in the process. Really though, that one initial hit was all Witch Doctor needed and if that came at the cost of losing its weapon then so be it because now Tombstone is double fucked with the motor to its only working wheel being ripped off of its mount. And that’s it, Tombstone is completely immobilized. Coming into this fight I was making some tall talk about Witch Doctor but those predictions weren’t grounded in bullshit. Sure Tombstone has gotten its ass kicked by Bite Force and even Bombshell (somehow) but taking down this former champ is still a major accomplishment. The score is now settled.

WINNER: Witch Doctor, KO


INTERMISSION

“Why is the robot bad?”

That wraps up the first half of the exhibition battles and now it’s apparently in the hands of Twitch chat to vote on the five winners to determine who advances onto the championship finals. That’s a bit of a weird plan considering the organizers could’ve gone with two less robots and had a miniature tournament that started straight from its quarterfinals, but whatever. I’m sure Twitch chat won’t fuck anyone over. The Twitch voting extension that Kelly Link was talking about did not seem to work on my end, it popped up twice over the course of the entire show and one of those times was asking me if I thought Chomp was going to lose. Maybe I just wasn’t using it correctly, but my vote didn’t count and I blame Russian meddling.

Anyways we are now at the part of the event where if this was a monster truck show they’d bring out the guys to come race their dune buggies around to waste some time because the big boys are back in the pits getting refueled and recharged. This is an impressive turnaround for these teams because normally you don’t see crunch times like this even when there’s a championship title on the line; from my experience the semifinals are done right out of the gate at the start of a shooting day and the teams are given as much time as possible until the very end of the final session when the title bout is the last battle performed. So yeah, getting a robot like Whiplash turned around in 30 minutes is pretty damn impressive considering how much shit Lock-Jaw pulled off of it.

I’m only including this picture purely because of how exploitable it is.

In the meantime Kelly has made a friend with Colin Angle, CEO and founder of iRobot. They’re the company who developed the Roomba and Colin says BattleBots could’ve used a Roomba or two in between battles to clean up the mess. Sure, if we wanted to wait 40 minutes between fights. Kelly hits up the Inertia Labs team and is such a great interviewer that she doesn’t know if she’s talking to Zander or Reason. Kelly’s job right now is to buy as much time as possible but she’s barreling through these questions and talking like she needed to take a fat dump 10 minutes ago and hasn’t been able to break away to find the ladies’ room yet. Colin is apparently still around too and inquires about the system behind Bronco’s weapon except his microphone is off so rather than turn it on Kelly just puts her mic forward instead. If you really wanted a microcosm into the mind of this person stick around for another 15 or seconds because she gets to the table for Chomp’s team, sees that neither Zoe nor her robot are apparently there, and sort of awkwardly summons Jascha up from the floor mid-snack to deliver some self-deprecating humor. Kelly asks about “the AI” running Chomp’s weapon because that’s one of the keystones of the re:MARS convention and Jascha tells her there is no AI on Chomp, it just uses LIDAR software. Kelly is crushed. Zoe arrives holding Skorpios’ busted weapon. Colin has vanished.

Kelly invites herself into Icewave’s pit area and grabs the first person she sees who unfortunately isn’t too well versed on the history of the robot because she’s new to the team. But she does talk a little bit about an older robot Paul Ventimiglia built that directly inspired Icewave, Greenwave. (Bet the name makes sense now, doesn’t it?) Marc eventually shows up and Kelly asks him about BattleBots IQ, a high school curriculum for robotics, but I guess Marc’s answer was laced with profanities because every other word is muted. Free Shipping is next in line and we discover this is where Colin has disappeared to. Since Colin’s microphone turned out to actually be a dildo that someone put a microphone tent on as a joke Kelly gives him her mic so he can talk to Gary about his robot. Watch closely and you’ll see Stephen Felk materialize behind Gary for a split second. Andrea Gellaty and the Witch Doctor team have managed to return to the pits and Andrea talks about how she wants to get kids involved in robotics and engineering. I believe her, mostly because she brought along the BattleBots arena playset and set it up in front of her team’s pit area. Kids love shit like that.

>tfw u ask a guy what his bot design is and he says “a jumping pyramid”

While Kelly was chatting with other builders and handing her mic off to Colin, Zach Lytle managed to do a magic trick and get his saw blade back from Chomp’s team. Kelly asks Zach about his business and I assume it’s successful because he says he’s getting inundated with text messages from friends and customers voting for him on Twitch. I guess their voting apps worked. So far I’ve been clowning on Kelly pretty hard but when she walks up to the Whiplash table and says “Team Fast Electric Robots” I almost did a double take. The actual hosts of BattleBots fucking never get team names correct and when they do it’s because teams like the one behind Icewave literally named themselves “Team Icewave”. Chris and Kenny have been saying “Team Whiplash” ever since this robot showed up so props to Kelly for being the first person in BattleBots reboot history to get a fucking team name correct. Whoever wrote that cue card should also get at least $15/hr. I guess we’re running out of time or something because Kelly books it over to Lock-Jaw’s table and her interviews have deteriorated to the point where she just asks Donald how he’s doing. I’m looking forward to her cruising over to the Bite Force table next with a “what’s up” and just waving at Tombstone without even stopping to talk. I wrote the previous sentence as a joke but it turns out I was almost correct.

(In case you’re wondering how Peter broke his chair.)

Kelly tosses to a panel moderated by Chris and a microphone with no batteries in it. Sitting next to him is Vince McMahon Peter Abrahamson who built and competed with Ronin in the early days of the sport alongside Mark Setrakian and Mechadon as “Team Sinister”. On the left side of the screen is Colin the Roomba Guy and his girlfriend. Jokes aside apparently the open seat is meant for Kelly and she awkwardly walks into the shot and takes a seat meaning that she was in charge of doing pit reports but also was expected to be on this panel… which she did a toss-over to. It would have been physically impossible for her to be in both places at the same time unless Kelly is actually an Amazon robot and there was more than one of her. While everyone finds their seats and the house lights get cranked up Chris Rose introduces Peter and explains why he’s listed in the BattleBots show credits as the “Bot Whisperer”. (It’s because he can talk to robots, duh.) Chris invites Colin to build his own BattleBot which is a nice gesture but I guess no one informed Chris that Robot Wars founder Marc Thorpe beat everyone to the “radio-controlled vacuum cleaner” punch by about 25 goddamned years.

Chris, unable to see the writing on the walls, makes the mistake of asking Colin what kind of robot he would build. Colin’s answer can best be described as a jumping pyramid with a flipping arm on all sides and spikes that come out of the bottom. At this point I am 99% certain this man invented the Roomba purely on accident. Colin chats about iRobot some more and Peter accidentally breaks his chair. Peter gets very passionate talking about his old robot Ronin and at one point someone in chat asks “what did Ronin do to Nightmare”. Those two robots never fought each other, which Peter confirms, so either whoever asked that question in chat was misinformed or they were intentionally trying to disrupt the show. If it was the latter, bravo. The rest of the panel consists of the crew reminiscing about the sport and Peter demonstrating why the sound crew probably should’ve given him a lapel mic instead of a handheld one. Colin eventually suggests using a drone to drop a net onto an opponent. Somewhere, Derek Young laughs.


GRUDGE MATCH
SKORPIOS vs. LOCK-JAW

SKORPIOS

Offbeat Robotics

Weapon: Saw on articulated arm

LOCK-JAW

Team Mutant Robots

Weapon: Vertical spinning discs & lifting arms

boink

From this point onward we’ve already seen these robots during this broadcast so these intros are going to get a lot shorter. Now that the winning teams have been determined and the votes are in I’m assuming the winners were ranked by how many votes they got and the two with the most are going on to the final bout of this exhibition. If that’s the case then it means Skorpios came in dead last in terms of votes and was ranked so shittily out of the winners that it was forced to fight someone who’s already lost. It’s not the team’s fault they were drawn to fight Chomp. I challenge you to try and make that shit interesting. But this whole show is all just for fun anyways, so what does it really matter? For some reason Skorpios still isn’t using its ripping disc even though we now know Lock-Jaw’s lid is most certainly weak to that kind of damage. I assume Lock-Jaw made it into this “grudge match” because overall it probably had the shortest turnaround time for repairs. Donald Hutson literally said his robot died because one power connector came apart so that can’t exactly be an all day sort of repair job.

This fight begins and it immediately starts playing out like Skorpios’ battle against HyperShock in 2018. By that I mean Skorpios flies out of its square and keeps in its opponent’s face but the vertical spinner on its opponent keeps kicking Skorpios backwards and flipping it over. This is not an issue for Skorpios, who can right itself, but it’s not winning any favors with the judges spending all this time on its ass. Worse for Skorpios is how after two hits Lock-Jaw managed to catch its saw blade and kink it inward effectively turning it into a diamond-tipped taco. Yeah that thing ain’t spinning anymore, good job. Again, why no ripping disc? Snark aside, losing a weapon isn’t exactly something that will keep Skorpios from pummeling someone to death and winning the fight anyways, just ask Icewave. But the fight still certainly isn’t in Skorpios’ favor right now and every time the robot does a half twist through the air after catching a ride from Lock-Jaw it strays further and further away from the favor of the Amazon AI robots acting as the judges for these battles.

No, it’s not driving really fast and burning rubber. Lock-Jaw is doing what we call “losing”.

Skorpios can’t stay on the floor and Lock-Jaw just doesn’t let up, after that embarrassing showing against Whiplash this robot has a lot of catching up to do in the eyes of its fans so it wastes no time taking whatever shots it can. During one of Skorpios’ fifteen flips through the air Lock-Jaw catches its left wheel and kinks it causing Skorpios to hobble around as it drives. Any utility this thing’s leading wedge may have had is as good as fucking dead now because you’re not winning any ground clearance battles when you’re bobbing up and down. Lock-Jaw digs enough of Skorpios’ wedge up that it becomes more of a hindrance than anything and sometimes prevents Lock-Jaw from getting in close. Not exactly a strong strategy but at this point I think Zach Lytle knows to take whatever he can get and seconds later, he gets it. Lock-Jaw starts randomly smoking over near the drivers’ booth because I guess it just really doesn’t want to win any fucking fights these days. Despite the brief smoke, Lock-Jaw seems okay and keeps taking swings to make up for the ground it’s now losing to Skorpios by doing nothing more than existing.

When it rains, it pours. Except with fire.

Then there’s more smoke. After the first bout of haze Lock-Jaw seemed to be fully functional but now it’s apparent something is afoul. Lock-Jaw’s maneuverability sinks into the shitter and although its weapon appears to still be spinning there’s noticeably less energy in it now. But still, Lock-Jaw persists. Then it starts smoking a third time and you know what they say about three strikes. You done fucked up, Lock-Jaw. Chris remains optimistic as he says Lock-Jaw will be saved by the buzzer but literally two seconds before the match ends Lock-Jaw does its best impression of Bombshell and fucking blows up right before the end. Skorpios does its best to get as far away from the smoldering Lock-Jaw as it can, likely to make exiting the arena easier, and manages to park underneath one of the Pulverizers so it lands on the robot when they depressurize. There’s an entire goddamned arena to park in and you pick the one (okay, one of four) places where you’ll get bopped on the head by a hammer and have to move it out of the way before you can leave. Fantastic work.

Anyways, if you’ve ever wanted to see a textbook example of how to lose a fight that you had in the bag, this is it. The fight goes to a split decision, which I assumed it would, and the officials rule in favor of Skorpios which, given how Lock-Jaw explosively died, I also started to expect would happen. Donald seems surprised that he lost the fight and I have to wonder if he’s aware that his robot is burning to death as we speak. That’s two fights Lock-Jaw has inadvertently thrown by killing itself. God help this robot in the 2019 season if these demo rounds are an indicator of what’s to come.

WINNER: Skorpios, Judges’ Decision (2-1)


GRUDGE MATCH
BITE FORCE vs. WHIPLASH

BITE FORCE

Aptyx Designs

Weapon: Vertical spinning blade

WHIPLASH

Team Fast Electric Robots

Weapon: Vertical spinning disc w/ lifting arm

None of this looks particularly good for Whiplash.

Bite Force being here is not necessarily a result of failure, it managed to beat Icewave. By KO, no less! Unfortunately that fight was about as interesting to watch as one of Bite Force’s 2015 fights where it was just a shitty wedge with a dinky lifting arm to meet the active weapon requirements. As such, and because it was up to Twitch chat to vote on things, Bite Force came in third place and because of this its final battle at this convention is going to be a grudge match with Whiplash who pulled in enough votes to make it to fourth place. Paul mentioned during his pit interview that he’d added a spike onto Bite Force’s wedge to hopefully negate Icewave’s own plow and apparently this one spike was enough to throw off Bite Force’s drive system (remember, it managed to lose a chain). Looks like this time Bite Force is outfitted with its hinged wedgelets. Whiplash probably shouldn’t be here. In a parallel universe where the Nevada heat didn’t cause Lock-Jaw’s guts to liquefy it’s Lock-Jaw staring down the champion here instead. But really I almost prefer this match-up better because what we have here is a proper grudge match; Bite Force eliminated Whiplash in the semifinals last year. The opportunity for revenge has presented itself just like it did for Witch Doctor. We’re about to see if Whiplash can do what only Chomp has done. Stay on its wheels for the whole fight.

One of the first blows dealt to Whiplash in its battle against Lock-Jaw resulted in one of its lifting forks getting bent up. The same almost applies here except rather than bend a fork Bite Force just straight up rips one of them off to make a nice souvenir for a VIP ticket holder or something. This hit also appears to jack up the left plow piece of Whiplash because it’s now bent at a pretty obvious angle. People talk about Matt Vasquez’s driving skill often but usually when it comes to Paul Ventimiglia they don’t talk about driving skill and instead mostly hype up how he’s always got a plan for someone. I’d like to take a minute and just mention how precise Paul can be with the hits he deals with his robots; Whiplash’s front left plow is significantly damaged and with almost surgical precision Paul just keeps hitting this exact same fucking piece over and over again until Whiplash starts coughing up the little rubber shock pads that the plow is mounted to. Clearly that’s not a good sign, nor is it a good sign that Whiplash gets another one of its wheels ripped off and stuffed up its ass.

Might as well rename this robot “Neck Brace” now.

Bad news for Whiplash is that the wheel it lost wasn’t one of the ones that Bite Force has also managed to damage and disable so even though the hub is spinning it’s worth fuck all if there’s no tire on it. Mechanically Whiplash is now well and truly unsound because the robot is simply refusing to move, you can see the team trying to work the controls and the robot twitches and flails but I think we’re probably seeing the end game here. Speaking of “end game”, Bite Force comes back and cleaves into Whiplash’s ass and takes a massive chunk out of it. That was a double joke both about butts and the robot End Game ripping parts off of its opponents. You’re welcome. While we’re on the subject of butts, and going back to what I said about Paul hitting the same part of his opponents over and over again, that gash in the backside of Whiplash gets turned into a proper hole in the chassis as a follow-up shot rips into the back and pulls out what I can only imagine were once important parts required by Whiplash to function better than it is right now. Whiplash’s lifting arm was one of the first things to get damaged in this fight and up until now it had one fork left, though Bite Force changes that by clipping it off and hurling it into the roof and judging by the glass that rains down a second later I’m guessing it hit a light.

And yet Chris doesn’t make his carnival prize quip at this.

The last time these two robots met Whiplash was unfairly counted out because it was drifting around with one side of drive and the officials inconsistently applied the rules. Whiplash wasn’t going to win, but at least let the fight end like all the others. We get that this time because Bite Force kicks what’s left of Whiplash into the screws resulting in another wheel falling off and winding up stuck in the fucking rafters. As Whiplash tumbles down from the hazard it’s just a sad state of affairs. There’s parts hanging out of Whiplash’s ass and through the hole ripped in its side you can see the motor sprocket and chain turning but there’s clearly nothing holding any of that shit in place anymore. Against all odds there are parts of Whiplash that are still moving but none of them are allowing it avoid being counted out for real this time. Bite Force may not have won the main event at this expo but it still remains undefeated as the 2019 season gets underway.

WINNER: Bite Force, KO


TITLE BOUT
WITCH DOCTOR vs. BRONCO

WITCH DOCTOR

Team Witch Doctor

Weapon: Vertical spinning discs

BRONCO

Inertia Labs

Weapon: Pneumatic flipping arm

Not a single “huge hit there” from Kenny!

As we get into this fight Kenny makes an astute observation, back in 2015 Bronco also defeated Witch Doctor. I believe it was by Witch Doctor getting stuck on the arena wall. I’m not sure if a bullshit loss like that is something that a design change could fix (like how Witch Doctor can flip itself back over now) but the point Kenny started and the one I’m finishing is that this re:MARS conference has given Witch Doctor the curious opportunity to right its wrongs from its debut season as a heavyweight. Tombstone has already fallen and in a manner that I’m sure people feel they got their $2,000 worth no less. This is Witch Doctor’s chance to not only win the special Giant Bolt but also prove just how far the design has come. Bronco on the other hand has nothing to prove, this robot is in top form. Well, aside from never winning a championship. You may have noticed that Bronco is wearing all kinds of dumbass armor for this fight because I guess it didn’t learn anything from the entirety of its 2018 run for the championship. Twangers and whatever aside, all it really takes is for Bronco to get that first good flip on you and from there it doesn’t let up so if Bronco wants to show up to this fight like a toddler dressing himself for school then so be it.

Bronco lunges forward and makes the assumption that Witch Doctor is going to swing wide. This proves to be a fatal mistake because Witch Doctor didn’t go wide at all, it stayed close and now Bronco has one less wheel to show for it. Even though Paul Ventimiglia just said in the post-battle interview for the previous fight that a match starts to go downhill the moment a tire is lost Bronco has the strange ability to continue to remain nearly fully mobile even as it loses tires. Just take a look at the time Minotaur fucked it to death if you need proof of that claim. So with three wheels it’s possible that Bronco can still rebound from this initial boo boo but I don’t think Bronco is going to be able to do a whole lot of bouncing back from Witch Doctor’s second volley that sees another tire and some of Bronco’s completely fucking stupid armor getting ripped away. Yeah guys, the twangers really helped. Bronco’s down to just its rear wheels and for a robot that’s 14 goddamned feet long that’s a death sentence for its maneuverability.

And Bronco falls just short of another title. ANY title.

And that’s not even going to matter now anyways because Witch Doctor charges forward and socks Bronco in the face so hard that the robot whips around 180 degrees and collides with the screws. This hit was dealt directly to Bronco’s flipper and if you check out the front end of this thing you’ll notice it’s bent to hell and back. This is it, Bronco is totally fucked after just three hits. One of the audio guys gets so excited that they accidentally start playing the “robots activate” ambient sounds. Bronco can still drive and swings around to come at Witch Doctor backwards with the intent to try and uppercut its opponent with the backside of its flipping arm sorta like how it took out Razorback a couple seasons ago. This fails because Witch Doctor wins the ground clearance battle again and brands itself on Bronco’s ass before pulling off the last wheel on Bronco’s left side. Either Bronco is properly KO’d now or Reason Bradley just isn’t even going to bother trying to stay alive in this condition with only one tire. Whatever the case, Witch Doctor is officially fucking back and the first two names it can cross off of its hit list this year are the first two losses it ever faced in this division.

Andrea and Mike Gellaty get the Giant Bolt and in some strange way I think out of all possible outcomes for this event this is the one that’s the most meaningful. Witch Doctor has never won a Giant Nut and this is the kind of hype that a machine like Witch Doctor really needs.

WINNER: Witch Doctor, KO


Easy there, Kenny.

And that is a wrap on the BattleBots Challenge at Amazon re:MARS! Like I said these trade shows and special exhibitions are an extreme rarity when it comes to BattleBots so this was a real treat. The resources (both financial and human) needed to make something like this happen is goddamned crazy so even if the stream was a little rough around the edges with the live editing and sound mixing it was still a pretty damned good show. Hopefully the fact that companies like Amazon are interested in BattleBots enough to make something like this happen is a sign of even better things to come. Not just for BattleBots, but for the sport in general. Maybe 20 years ago the world wasn’t really ready for this, perhaps now is the time? I guess we will find out soon enough. It goes without saying that the events and happenings of this event are going to have no bearing whatsoever on the new season of the show (because it’s already taken place) but if anything maybe the re:MARS event can serve as a preview of bots who’ve yet to debut, and hey at least we got to see Chomp and Icewave again. I mean, they sucked. But we got to see them again and that’s worth something.

As of this article’s posting the first episode of BattleBots’ 2019 season has already aired on Discovery Channel and in case you were wondering, yes, I’ve already written the article for it. The release schedule for BattleBots Update this season is going to match last year’s: new articles for each episode are going to go up the day after episodes air on Science Channel. This is because also like last year Science Channel’s broadcasts include bonus content and this release arrangement allows me to include complete articles in the easiest and most efficient way possible. So with that said, I’ll see you guys on Thursday? Y’all are getting a lot of content out of me this week. I swear this hobby is going to put me in the dirt someday.

Make sure you follow BattleBots Update on Facebook for announcements and new posts. If you would like to support this project you can do so with either a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time tip through PayPal. See you in a few days for the start of the season!

– Dracophile