AS A WARNING, THIS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS AND MATCH RESULTS FROM BRICKS CASCADE 2023.
Bricks Cascade 2023 was in Portland, Oregon and Battle Bricks was hosting a field of 20 robots that were more destructive than ever. There were many rookies which had many new exciting weapons, including a flywheel flipper, grappler, full body spinner and interchangeable weapons. There were also returning robots including the BrickCon 2021 Champion, Silent Blue, BrickCon 2022 Champion, Duck!, and many others. Some of the builders were not able to attend, which means the driver of some of the robots are not the builders of that robot. This was my first event and I brought two robots, Inconsistent Variable and Terabyte.
The format of the event was split into two days. Day 1 included a group stage, where every robot would fight three times in their group, which was predetermined by Will Fong, the tournament organizer. On Day 2, the field of 20 was shrunk to Top 16, based on the number of wins, then the number of knockouts and lastly by judges decision points. If there is a tie(and there was), there is a tiebreaker match. Then, with there seeding, a single elimination bracket would start, eventually crowning the winner of the tournament.
Field of Robots
This event had a diverse field of weapons, including flippers, grapplers, lifters, overhead horizontal spinner, horizontal bar, full body spinner, drum spinner, egg beater, vertical bar and vertical disc spinner. To simplify explanations, we will be breaking these weapons into three categories, control bots, horizontal spinners and vertical spinners. This season, the field quickly caught up to the latest and newest product in robot combat, Buwizz 3.0. The field at BrickCon 2022 had 5 robots with Buwizz 3.0, but this year there were 11 robots with it.
- Control Bots: There were a total of 6 control bots, which are robots that are designed to control the pace of the fight and usually do not have spinning weapons with exception to hammer saws. Notable robots include Wheeled Scorpion, a rubber band powered flipper from Italy, Biscuit Head, a flywheel flipper from Virginia and Papi, a grappler that can suplex other robots and is built by the same builder that built Biscuit Head.
- Horizontal Spinners: There were a total of 5 horizontal spinners, which were spread over four different weapon types. Notable robots include overhead spinners Silent Blue and Bruin, both destructive robots that could go on deep tournament runs. Super Sweepy was also there, a shuffling diagonal horizontal bar spinner with one of the heaviest weapons in the field. First Contact was also there, a Tombstone style robot who was made it as far as Loser Bracket Round 5 at BrickCon 2022. Lastly, there was the rookie Terabyte, a full body spinner boasting the heaviest weapon in the field.
- Vertical Spinners: There were a total of 9 vertical spinners, with different styles including disc, bar, drum and egg beater. Notable robots include Rupture, the runner-up at BrickCon 2021 with dominant wins over Huge and Tongue n Groove. Others included Phobos, one of the two robots at this competition with self righting arms.
Group Stage Recap
The group stage was a total of 30 fights, where most fights ended in KO. Showing off the high amount of KE this event brought, here is a photo of Inconsistent Variable vs Phobos.
After all the fights, here is how the group stage ended. Here is one of the fights, Biscuit Head vs Duck. This was the first fight of the day. You may think driving robots is easy but its actually very difficult when it comes to Biscuit Head. We all use game controllers to drive these robots and you can setup custom profiles on Brick Controller 2. I had the task of driving this robot and the controls were extremely complex. The robot uses one joystick to drive, while you have to use the other joystick to spin up the flywheel and then a trigger to release it. This was tough as I hadn’t had anytime to practice, so you will see some missed opportunities in the fight. This shows that not only is having a good robot needed, but familiarity with the robot you are driving.
Another match that was back and forth was between Terabyte, a full body spinner and Super Sweepy, a diagonal horizontal spinner.
All robots that went undefeated, 2-1 and 1-2 were in the bracket. The 16th spot was given to The Socratic Method who had the most judges decision points out of all the other robots. This meant that the other four robots were eliminated leaving the bracket with 5 vertical spinners from the original 9. There was also a tie between Bruin and Destro for the 6th and 7th seed in the bracket as they both had 2 KO wins and a loss by KO. Here is the fight.
At the beginning of the bracket, this were the following types of robots left.
Due to the field not being huge, rematches from this event or past events did happen. The most exciting one was Rupture vs Wheeled Scorpion. At Bricks LA 2022, which was Wheeled Scorpion first event, it KOed Rupture when it got stuck against a wall. At BrickCon 2022, they fought again, and Wheeled Scorpion again came on top. Now, with Buwizz 3.0, Rupture didn’t overcurrent and led to better reliability and Rupture winning the match. However, the match we are highlighting is showing a vertical spinner with a bar called MaDCatTer and a vertical drum spinner called Destro.
The Top 8 came with even more rematches, in fact half the matches were a rematch.
For this match, I had been previously driving Biscuit Head but since I built and drove Terabyte, I gave it up to the driver of Duck who I had eliminated the round before. Here is the aftermath photo of Biscuit Head.
The Top 4 saw the elimination of the last two control bots and surprisingly all three horizontal spinners were able to make it through. Vertical spinners are the current meta or robot design that does the best due to multiple factors. The match we are highlighting here is Phobos vs SilentBlue, as Super Sweepy vs Terabyte is a rematch from the group stage.
Well, this fight is crazy. A rookie bot that is far from the meta but with the heaviest weapon, against a meta bot from a college student. Well, the fight ended with Terabyte’s shell on one side then its chassis on the other flipped over. This lead Phobos to win the match and become the Bricks Cascade 2023 Winner!
If any robot was eliminated before they entered the top 4, they were entered into a rumble unless they were destroyed beyond repair, at least in the time frame that was between the match and rumble. All of the rumbles are decided by a crowd vote.
For the robots that didn’t make it into the Top 16, they are in Rumble 1. For Rumble 2 and Rumble 3, these were the robots that were eliminated in the round of 16. Rumble 4 includes the robots eliminated from the round of 8 and the winners of those rumbles fought in a Grand Rumble for the Rumble Champion.
Control Bots: These robots do well enough to make it into the bracket, but against higher amounts of KE, they just cannot withstand it as the judging rubric also is not fully in favor of them.
Take the top 16 and top 8 matches, Wheeled Scorpion vs Rupture and Terabyte vs Biscuit Head respectively. These two control bots are considered to be the successful and effective ones, with both robots in this competition going undefeated so far and Wheeled Scorpion having won against Rupture in their last two encounters. However, with Buwizz 3, Terabyte and Rupture would not overcurrent (Which Rupture would previously on Buwizz 2) which would have given the flippers a small amount of time to use their weapon and take control of the fight. Then, the power of the weapons on Rupture and Terabyte were able to deal enough damage or a lot of damage which shifted the fight.
*Please take into account that for Terabyte vs Biscuit Head match, the driver of Biscuit Head was just assigned the robot right before the match as before the driver of Terabyte had driven Biscuit Head.
Horizontal Spinners: This weapon types has been making a comeback from the last two events where weapon bars couldn’t stay on. In this competition, Bruin and Silent Blue both lost their weapon bars twice. If you look at the chart below, they had the most wins out of any category. However, these robots are also still going extinct, new technology needs to be developed so that these robots can be more durable and allow them to make deeper runs consistently.
Super Sweepy is just overpowered and made its way to the Top 4 after a 0-2 record in the bracket even though it had gone 3-0 and earned the 1st seed at BrickCon 2022. Terabyte surprisingly made its way to the Finals match as a rookie but with the heaviest weapon and boosting a high amount of KE, this allowed it to win the matches it needed. Its front attachments proved to be very useful against its specific opponents. These robots can still beat control bots, like Darkstar vs Silentblue where Silentblue just took pieces off Darkstar or Terabyte vs Biscuit Head, which you can see above. However, they all still have problems with vertical spinners. Take for example Terabyte, having a 1-2 record against vertical spinners, only beating Copperhead while losing in a Double KO Split Judges Decision to MadCatTer and then by KO to eventual winner Phobos.
Vertical Spinners are still the meta, though larger vertical discs have not been doing as well if you look at Emulator and Buzzy Bee. Rupture is an exception, though it took substantial damage in all three of the group stage fights and is looking less and less dominant compared to BrickCon 2021 where it made its debut and got second place after dominant wins over Tongue n Groove and Huge. Vertical Bars, Drums and small diameter discs are slowly making their way to the top. These include Phobos, MaDCatTer, Destro where Phobos won the whole competition, MadCatTer had a 2-1 record and so did Destro.
- The community’s #1 issue we’d like to see addressed by Buwizz is to attain Buwizz App gamepad support. We would really like to use the app with its power telemetry and customizable current output, but we can’t because use of a gamepad is of utmost priority, under threat of having your build destroyed should you look down at your phone to realign your thumbs on the screen.
- Replacing B2s with 3s looks like it’s going to be the trend. 3s have more stable current flow and are less likely to overcurrent. This trend will likely increase when the manufacturer does a full firmware update that doesn’t force the B3 into auto-shutdown(as opposed to a disconnect). This firmware update has been released just recently, however without gamepad support can not do much. B2s are on the way out. The power output of B3s simply cannot be matched by B2s. This is amplified by the Powered Up motors’ high current limits over the old Power Functions motors. For people just starting out, the supply of genuine Power Functions motor at good prices are difficult to find. The only option left is the third party route, with most Chinese motors being low quality and other suppliers having them listed as alternative motors but quality and durability tests still need to be done. With using third party motors, they come with the weight penalty which is 15g per motor and just having two drive motors could cost you 30g, which is a lot in today’s robots, where grams if not tenths of grams are being saved with unique solutions that is unacceptable. The only way B2s are going to stick around is if there is a passive, low-demand weapon that allows the robot to be run at max power draw, or, by running two B2s under the hood–one for drive, one for weapon. Running 2 B2s is what Papi did with its grappler and was able to successfully with less overcurrenting issues at Bricks Cascade. An example of not being about to run a high kinetic energy weapon with two Buwizz 2.0s, is at BrickCon 2022, Typhon had 2 buggy motors but kept overcurrenting, leading it to lose fights.
For anyone wanting to learn more about future events or building a robot, check out this website. The design rules are on the top, and future events, how to start in this sport and many other articles will be posted about in this same section in the future. Are next event will be at BrickCon in September.