LEGO Games 3835 Robo Champ

It was my nephew's fifth birthday recently, and I was struggling to find a suitable present for a young boy that loves robots, and also playing with LEGO. Then, I remembered I was supposed to be finding a present for Ben! Fortunately, I discovered Robo Champ while browsing the new Hamleys store, in Glasgow!

This is an excellent game, both conceptually and in actual execution. It consists of LEGO pieces, and instructions to build three brightly coloured, cartoon style robots and one die. All the robot LEGO pieces provided are standard shapes and sizes, as found in any conventional LEGO set, and there are 118 separate pieces in total. The only custom part is the die, which accepts 2x2 tiles on each face (or combinations of two 2x1 or four 1x1 tiles) so you can re-use parts or build extra robots if desired. The robots themselves are fairly simple to build and great to look at and play with once built - in fact the set would be worth it just as a three-robot kit, I feel! Once built, the robot arms, legs and heads are detatchable by design, and this is an essential feature of the game...

There is a contest at the robot factory. The first to build a robot with all the correct colour parts will win this year’s trophy and be named the Robo Champ. If someone takes a part you need you may have to steal it back to achieve victory. A fast and fun game to play again and again for 2 to 3 players. Game play approximately 10-15 minutes.

Gameplay is quite straightforward, with the amusing back-story above presented in the instructions. Players take turns rolling the die and each get to pick, swap or steal an appropriately coloured robot part depending on the colour shown. In line with the spirit of LEGO, the rules are malleable, and it is suggested that players and families develop their own sets. I felt that the initial set of rules was complex enough to provide a fun game, but still easy to learn. The first game I played took around ten to fifteen minutes, just as suggested on the box, which included the learning time. Of course it also took some time beforehand to build the robot pieces involved, which will depend on your individual LEGO skills.

One caveat for this set is based on my experience with the recipient of the set I purchased, my young nephew. He is slightly younger than the suggested minimum of six years old, but has very readily grasped the idea behind building LEGO models from their instruction sheets, and loves robots of all kinds! He found it hard to grasp that his beloved new robots had to be taken to pieces after he built them so carefully, and also had difficulty accepting that he might not be able to re-build the robot with the correct parts. I think that older children would be able to understand this aspect of co-operative gameplay automatically, but it is a point to note if buying this for younger children. Also, the next time he plays, he will not have just built the new robots, so will be less apprehensive about their impending destruction.

Title / Robo Champ

Manufaturer / LEGO

Price / GBP 6.45 / EUR 8.98 / USD 19.45

Pieces / 118

Code / 3835-1

Released / 2009

An excellent, fun game for children and adults alike, with the added bonus of a collection of amusing robot models.

Five out of five cats preferred Robo Champ

There are several other LEGO game sets which intrigue me, such as Creationary and Lunar Command. i think this is a great idea from LEGO, and hope they continue the theme. Sadly, some sets, like Knight's Kingdom Chess Set are no longer available, but i think a quick look on eBay would probably net a copy.

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.


Brain Overflow

I'm a great fan of Stack Overflow, which is a collaborative expert-sexchange style site that actually has useful answers to your questions. The site allows anyone to ask software development questions, and registered users can answer them, and also vote on other people's answers, giving a consensus opinion that is surprisingly accurate. The site itself has some nice features, with heavy use of AJAX for dynamic forms and open interfaces for avatars and authentication. The site also functions as a wiki and hosts meta-discussion about itself. And, if you want to do something clever with a host of questions, answers, ratings and wiki articles, the data is available as a torrent to download.

Anyway, the creators have spun off the software behind it as a stand-alone product for community question-and-answer sites as StackExchange. They sell consultancy and services as well as hosted versions of the software as white-label sites, and give away free access for non-commercial usage. It's a nice business model which I'd love to copy with my own software...

While looking at some of these associated sites, I discovered Math Overflow, which makes Andrew feel stupid.. This is chock full of people asking about non-trivial isomorphisms, homologous cauchy integral groups over non-integral fields, and getting intelligent answers! Of course, there's also lots of homework questions, and potentially unanswerable stuff in there too. I really like some of the philosophical discussions that pop up, as well as the more basic questions which are good at reminding me how much of my education I've forgotten due to alcohol and time...

The whole point of this post is that I found this amazing video, which is a sphere being turned inside-out in the most awesome way possible, with a little help from Pixar and the University of Minnesota. The frame shown is above is just part of the transformation, which is very clearly explained. The whole video is just over 20 minutes long, and I suggest you watch it all the way through, as it's pretty cool (and probably expensive, counting the number of grants that funded it...) animation for 1994.