Clusterbots, first introduced in the fourth series of Robot Wars, are a special type of competitor robot which consist of two or more greatly identical robots rather than one. They would enter the arena together as one machine, before separating and fighting as separate robots when the battle began.
Clusterbots were rather uncommon in Robot Wars, with only five having competed in the UK Series to date. These were joint-pioneer and Series 4 Heat-Finalist Gemini, (heavyweight), Black and Blue (heavyweight), Crackers 'n' Smash (heavyweight), Typhoon Twins (middleweight) and Legion (antweight). Another clusterbot, Share + Destroy, was also planned to enter Series 4, but failed to qualify.
The rules governed for clusterbots state that while there are no limits for the number of robots they can be made out of, the combined weight of each robot must be within the given weight limit for each category (for example, 79.4kg, 100kg or 110kg for heavyweights).
An additional rule for clusterbots states that if 50% of the robot - in terms of weight - is rendered immobile, then the whole robot is deemed immobilised, and therefore eliminated. Since most clusterbots consisted of two parts of equal weight, robots that fought them would often concentrate on defeating one half of the robot as a result of this rule. A key example is Tornado during its Series 4 Heat Final against Gemini, who focused on impaling one half on an arena spike in order to eliminate it. Although consistently applied in the main heavyweight category, this rule was not strictly enforced in the lower weight classes, with both Legion and Typhoon Twins continuing to fight even after one half had become immobilised or pitted.
In Series 9, the rule was changed so that 60% of a robot must be defeated for the whole robot to be considered immobile. Competitor robot Crackers 'n' Smash maximised this by having each half of the robot weigh 50kg and 60kg respectively - as neither part of the robot weighs more than 66kg, both halves of the robot need to be immobilised before Crackers 'n' Smash would be deemed immobile.
A variation of the 50% rule occurred in the second series of Dutch Robot Wars, where roboteers from the Netherlands created and entered a three-part clusterbot called √3. The rule here was that all three parts of the clusterbot had to add up to the weight limit, and the opponent had to immobilise two parts of the clusterbot to win (half of 3 was 1½, which rounded up). Therefore, even though Matilda threw one part of √3 out of the arena during its battle against Pika 3, the other two parts still managed to win the battle on a judges' decision. Had this occurred in Series 4 or earlier, √3 would have been eliminated, as the original rule stated that the entire clusterbot was out if one piece was immobilised regardless of how many robots comprised the clusterbot. Nothing more than a three-part clusterbot was ever seen in any domestic or international series of Robot Wars.
Interestingly, clusterbots were not allowed to fight in melees prior to Series 4 due to radio interference issues.
A similar concept to the clusterbot exists in the form of minibots. These involve small robots that competed alongside the main competitor, which were significantly lighter, and were neither required to be attached to the main competitor at the start of the battle nor to feature an active weapon.
Minibots were typically used to distract and disrupt an opponent's movements, interfering with their attacks, but were considerably more fragile than standard clusterbots due to their smaller size. As a result, minibots were largely considered to be sacrificial, and would not usually fight again if they were severely damaged in battle.
The first robot to use a minibot, although the concept was not named as such at the time, was Psycho Chicken in Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors, with its egg-shaped minibot, 'Scramble'. However, the concept would not be explored again until Series 8 of the UK Robot Wars. In Series 8, two minibots appeared as part of Nuts, while Terror Turtle also featured one, 'The Hatchling', that weighed 21.5kg.
List of Clusterbots/MinibotsEdit
Robots are listed alphabetically. Robots that are not heavyweight are listed with a green background. Minibots are listed with a blue background.
|Black and Blue||Series 7||A clusterbot built by Team Mousetrap. Both halves were equipped with 20kg, 6,000rpm spinning drums.|
|Crackers 'n' Smash||Series 9||Two similarly-sized box-shaped robots with completely different weapons. Crackers is equipped with a lifter, while Smash features a drum-like vertical spinner.|
|Gemini||Series 4-5, Extreme 1||The first UK series clusterbot, and the most successful heavyweight clusterbot. Only clusterbot to throw an opponent out of the arena. Won Best Design and Most Original Entry awards in Series 4, as well as the Series 4 Pinball Warrior Tournament. Each half equipped with a pneumatic flipping arm.|
|Legion||Extreme 1||Only Antweight clusterbot. Each half equipped with a flipping arm.|
|Meggamouse||Series 9||Included the main Meggamouse robot with a minibot Charles, shaped like a wedge of cheese.|
|Nuts||Series 8-9||Only clusterbot in the UK series so far to be made up of more than two robots. Comprised of one heavyweight robot (Nuts) plus two small wedge-shaped minibots. Returned for Series 9 with three redesigned minibots.|
|Psycho Chicken||US Season 2||The first competitor in any series to use a minibot, competing alongside an egg-shaped robot called Scramble.|
|Terror Turtle||Series 8||Comprised of a lighter version of Terror Turtle, plus a 21.5kg minibot called The Hatchling.|
|Typhoon Twins||Extreme 2||Comprising Lightweight champion Typhoon Thunder and identical robot Typhoon Lightning, both with full-body spinners.|
|√3||Dutch Series 2||First three-part clusterbot to appear in any series and first clusterbot to feature non-identical designs for each robot. The wedge-shaped S.O.Xbot and box-shaped Elevation both featured flipping arms, while ODT-0.33 featured a simple wedge.|