How To Play

Last updated August 7, 2023

ROBOTS! is a take on Rummy meaning it's a "draw and discard" card game, but with a Take That mechanic.

Getting Started

Remove the two-sided robot cards from the deck. Distribute the quick tip cards to help players remember how to use the power cards.The most technically inclined player is selected to deal first (this is ROBOTS! after all). The dealer shuffles the deck and deals each player seven cards, clockwise starting to the dealer's left. The remaining cards are placed face-down in the center of play. This is the draw stack known as the Robot Factory. Turn the top card from the Robot Factory face-up next to the stack. This will be the discard pile, known as the Scrap Heap. The first player is the person to the dealer's left.

The Player's Turn

On a player's turn, they will first draw from either the "Robot Factory" (stack of face-down cards) or pick up one or more cards from the "Scrap Heap" (the face-up/discarded cards). If the player picks up more than one card from the Scrap Heap, the bottom-most picked up card must be played that hand in a spread (we'll get to that in a minute). Otherwise, picking the top card from the Factory or Scrap Heap does not require the player to lay down any cards at all; the player may save the card for later play.The player now makes a spread if they have the ability, although sometimes waiting can be a useful strategy. A spread must consist of at least three cards and can be:

  • A sequence of numbered cards (run) of the same suit (color) such as all gray 2,3,4 or all purple 11,12,13
  • A set of the same numbered cards such as red 9, green 9 and blue 9
  • A star card can be used as either a 1 or a 15, but runs cannot wrap around. Red star, 2, 3 is allowed, but 14, star, 2 is not
  • The wild robot can be used in place of any number, but it will prevent the player from constructing a robot (stay tuned).

These spreads will go in front of the player face-up for all to see. They will remain there until the end of the hand (or until an opponent blows them to bits with an attack card). The player can lay down as many spreads as desired on their turn, but they may never pick a card back up from a laid down spread. Once the player has completed their laying down of spreads (or of course done nothing), the player must discard a card from their hand to the top of the Scrap Heap. Be sure that all of the card numbers are visible since players may elect to pick these cards up on their turn.

Ending the Hand and Scoring

Play will continue clockwise until one person plays all of their cards leaving one final card to discard, thus ending the hand. Points are tallied and the dealer duties rotate to the left. Points are awarded for cards played in a spread such that:

  • Cards numbered 2-9 are worth five points
  • Cards numbered 10-14 are worth ten points
  • The star cards are worth fifteen points
  • Wild cards are worth zero

The spread points are positive, but any cards still in a player's hand when another player discards their last card become negative. Yup, it's entirely possible to end the hand with less than zero points. Write the scores down and the dealer passes to the left.At this point, you might say, hey, this is EXACTLY Rummy. But no! We have robots, and these robots have special powers.

Building a Robot

If a player makes a spread of all five of the same robot, the player has "constructed the robot" and gets 50 bonus points in addition to the normal point values of the cards. However, if a player uses a wild card in the set, the player does not build a robot and thus earns zero bonus points. Remember those "Constructed Robot" cards we removed at the beginning? When a player builds a robot, remove those five cards from the hand and replace them with the corresponding "Constructed Robot" card. These robots are impervious to attacks. At the end of the hand, the robot is disassembled and the original five cards are shuffled back into the deck.

Robot Powers

There are also six attacks that take effect when the corresponding card is discarded to the Scrap Heap. These are powerful moves that can shift the game dynamic, but the actions are only playable on the high-point cards. Choosing to discard and play a powerful card means an opponent may either score them or use the power against you. The six powers are:

  • Extra Parts: When discarded, the player draws two cards from the Robot Factory. Next, the player discards two cards from their hand to the top of the Scrap Heap, performing actions if applicable. The player can’t play cards into spreads after the initial discard.
  • Tractor Beam: When discarded, place the bottom half of the Scrap Heap under the Robot Factory. Don’t count this card and round up if there is an odd number of cards.
  • Recycle: When discarded, take any other single card from the Scrap Heap into your hand.
  • Force Field: When discarded, the next player cannot take any cards from the Scrap Heap. The player must draw from the Robot Factory. It also prevents the next player from using a Freakin' Laser Beam against the player who discarded the Force Field (for one round).
  • Freakin' Laser Beam: When discarded, place both this card and one card from an opponent’s played spreads under the Scrap Heap, the Freakin' Laser Beam card on the bottom. If a spread is broken, the other cards return to the owner’s hand.
  • Singularity Variant (not recommended to remain friendbots): When discarding a star, place both the star and a card from an opponent’s played spreads under the Robot Factory. If a spread is broken, the remaining cards go onto the bottom of the Scrap Heap. Also, Force Fields do not protect against star attacks.

Ending the Game

The first player to score 250 points at the end of a hand wins the game. Feel free to change the victory points required to win to a lower or higher number to shorten or lengthen the game, respectively.

Rule Clarifications

In what order do cards go into the Scrap Heap after a freakin’ laser beam (or Star Card when playing with the singularity variant)?

When cards are discarded to the bottom of the Scrap Heap, the player who’s spread was broken chooses the sequence of the discarded cards, but the power card must always be placed at the very bottom of the Scrap Heap.

What if a player can’t discard?

It’s possible to finish a turn by playing an entire hand into spreads thus leaving the player unable to discard. They are now Powered Down and play continues to the next player. For the hand to end, a player must discard. At the start of the turn for any Powered Down player, they must draw a card from the Robot Factory and play their turn as normal. They may Power Down again if the drawn card plays.

What if the final discard is an action card?

Nothing happens. The hand is over on discard.

Can a player pick up a single power card from the top of the Scrap Heap and then use it as their discard in the same turn, playing the action?

Nope. That card cannot be used immediately as their discard.

Can a player swap out a wild card?

No. A player cannot replace a wild card played in a spread with the natural card. The only way to replace the wild card is if the spread is broken by an attack and then the spread is re-built using the natural card.

What if someone discards a playable card?

The first player to yell ROBOTS! picks up the card and lays it down in their spreads (even if the winning player has not yet played a spread of their own).

Can a player extend another player’s spread?

Yes, but the player must first have their own three-card (or more) spread in play before extending another player’s spread. Extending a spread is a great way of preventing an opponent from building a robot.

A spread was broken. How exactly does this work with extended spreads?

Some attacks may cause a spread to no longer be a valid three-card set or run. If a spread is broken, all players that have played cards on the broken spread must pick up those cards and place them back in their hand.

Can the cards picked up using the recycle or extra parts powers be played in a spread?

No. If a player uses a power and the picked up cards complete a spread (or can extend another player’s spread), the player may not play the card(s) until their next turn. The player’s turn was completed on the initial discard.

We ran out of cards in the Robot Factory (draw stack).

Yikes! If the bottom of the Robot Factory is reached without a winner for the hand, shuffle both the Scrap Heap and Robot Factory together and create a new Robot Factory. Turn face-up a single card into the Scrap Heap from the top of the Robot Factory. Play then continues.

A Freakin' Laser Beam broke my run or set, and now I don't have any spreads. Can I still play on someone else's spread?

No, you must have an active spread. Robots have very poor memories. Playability is based exclusively on the cards currently on the table.

Can I have a set of three or more stars?

Yes, and you are scoring massive points for your control over so many celestial fusion reactors.

Does the Force Field prevent the next player from discarding a Freakin' Laser Beam?

No, the next player may still discard a Freakin' Laser Beam. However, they cannot target any spreads on the table possessed by the player who put the Force Field in place. The Freakin' Laser Beam must be used on one of the other players (or themselves, but that move seems highly illogical).

A Force Field was played by the previous player and it's now my turn. Can I discard an Extra Parts or Tractor Beam? What about the Recycle card?

Both Extra Parts and the Tractor Beam do not draw a card from the Scrap Heap, so they are both permitted plays. However, the Recycle is not allowed since it would draw from the Scrap Heap.