Run Amok Combat Robotics
Writing Rulesets for Combat Robot Tournaments -- Do's and Don'ts

I've read thru several sets of Robot Combat Tourament Rules from India recently, and I'm genuinely puzzled by some of what I see. I don't want to pick on any specific tournament, but I will use the ruleset from the Acumen Mechanical 2015 Robo Wars simply because it will serve as an example.

1. Rules should not be contradictory.

"Maximum weight: 25kg."

That rule seems clear, but farther down the page we learn thet 25kg is not the maximum weight at all -- that there are allowed overages based on the power supply and controller used by the 'bot. The actual 'maximum' ranges from 26.25 kg to 30 kg. Dimensional maxima also have allowed overages. Why write something in the rules and then change it later on?

2. Specify how a requirement will be measured.

"Voltage: 24v DC (max)."

A freshly charged '12 volt' automotive battery has a resting voltage close to 13 volts. If I'm using two such batteries in series, am I in compliance with the '24 volt' rule or not? I suspect that the rule is intended to be "Voltage: 24v DC (nominal)", but that's not what it says.

3. Clarify what is a rule versus what is advice.

"Make sure the [control] wire of the [wire controlled] bot is at least 10m long."

That seems like reasonable advice given that the arena is about 3 meters square, but will I be disqualified if I only have 9 meters of wire? This is a rule set - move suggestions and advice elsewhere.

4. Specify how a rule is to be met.

"Special care should be taken to protect the on-board batteries."

How will a builder know when this rule has been satisfied? Does it mean that the batteries must be well secured to avoid breaking loose? How is that evaluated? Is there a requirement for protective armor around the batteries? Is this another 'advisory' or is it a true rule? Subjectively evaluated 'rules' are unfair to competitors and lead to arguements.

5. Fully explain the judging criteria.

"Points will be given mainly based on agression, control and damage. However these points are not let out to participants. A bot will get points for immobilizing the opponent for 30 sec. (only once in a match)"

What counts as agression? Does 'control' mean control of your own 'bot, control of the match, or something else? Is all 'damage' scored equally? Are these three categories weighted the same? How many points are given for immobilizing your opponent? How does that compare to the points awarded for other factors? How is a competitor supposed to plan their actions if they don't know what the judges are looking for?

If you claim to be awarding judged points you really need to release an actual point count for the match. If you don't, it will appear that you're just judging subjectively.

6. Robot combat must be judged only on how well the robot fights in the match.

"Design of the bot and fair play will also earn some points."

Separate awards for 'Best Design' and 'Sportsmanship' have been given in many combat events (Robot Wars, BattleBots...), but a boxing match is not scored on the physique of the fighter or the tailoring of his trunks.

If a team is not playing by the rules or ignores the instructions of the officials, don't subtract points -- disqualify them.

It would simplify things for both organizers and competitors if a standard rule set could be established for Indian robot combat. In the US the Robot Fighting League was founded largely to create just such a set of uniform rules. In the UK the ruleset of the Fighting Robot Association serves a similar function.

Copyright 2015 -- Mark Joerger, Team Run Amok

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