Evolution of the Bots

I have recently moved house and been forced to go through boxes and boxes of my old tat, in order to try and downsize a bit. As tedious as this process is, there has been one odd little bonus; I’ve found lots of the original Stak Bots cards from the game’s 2 year development process leading up to the first print, so I thought I’d share a little of the background the game and the Bots themselves.

For those of you who snigger at the simplistic artwork, prepare to guffaw, for what you are about to see is what came before that which you mock…

Let’s kick things off with that most core of Bots… Bladed Surveyor?!?

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Long before Stak Bots had anything to do with stacks of Bots it was a completely different game. Then another completely different game, then another, etc etc. There was a whole faction of robots that sat within a larger framework of other cards and Bladed Surveyor was the one that most closely resembled the Bots of today.

Core Bot (or Basic Bot as it used to be known) is about as simple as it gets visually, but even this design has changed a lot, just in lots of tiny little ways!

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Leg Bot… I really don’t know what to say about this one! Out of necessity in the next incarnation of the game it changed into Stomp Bot and gained a smashing pair of boots in the process.

As you can see from the second picture, the sidebar used to be at the bottom (from when the game played like Stak UP, the impending variation in the upcoming Red Set), then it was on the right hand side (from when I neglected to consider that unlike myself, most people are right-handed), then finally it found its way to the left.

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Bash Bot hasn’t really changed all that much, apart from looking slightly more menacing rather than just… confused. And it actually has what the card does written on it, rather than just some scribbles!! (Writing out lots of cards for prototyping can be tedious!) For the keen eyed, the text of Bash Bot has been re-written many, many times to make it as concise and clear as possible (which is still a garbled mess), so the final card above isn’t actually the final card.

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Shot Bot, along with Core and Bash made up the mighty trio that served the game through much of its transition as it settled into the final printed form of Stak Bots.

The Shot character evolved slightly, from being a one-eyed fire hydrant, to a wide-eyed tiny thing with eye studs, before reaching its final form. Even the bullet kept changing, so it’s more like a pea-shooter now than whatever else it was originally.


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Smite Bot…. oh how I wanted to call a card Smite Bot. But as the cards solidified into their functions, it just wasn’t appropriate. Reaper Bot’s original look had it holding a levitating dismembered Fatal Bot, which it swapped for a scythe, then got the Fatal Bot back and stuck it on its face. Who knows why these dark creatures do what they do?!?

One day the Smite Bot name will return to the game… one day.


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Although it’s not from as far back as the previous cards, Nano Bot’s transition is worth a mention. The main challenge with this card was to make it as ominous looking as possible, so cold dead red eyes seemed to work better than… a dead pacman?!

It also used to take no damage rather than outright defeating big Bots, but this led to tedious repeat attacks to kill cards, so it got made more deadly. It also had to have its power reduced as it just kept winning. Horrible little thing!


We now come to the gallery of awful, where you will see Bots in their roughest of forms. Often I get over-excited about creating and using a card, so refined imagery falls to last priority and you end up with things like the following…

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As well as being grotesque, the original Anchor Bot stood zero chance of being able to stand upright. Maybe that was the point?

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A lot of time was later spent on Shark Bot as there was absolutely nothing intimidating or sharky about its first appearance.

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My lowest point as an artist, I present for your amusement the original Elephant Bot. It was so bad I couldn’t even bring myself to print this one!!

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Nice Bot didn’t actually change much, but it was a fairly early creation that has only just managed to get into printed form in the Red Set. There are many other Bots lurking in the prototype pile that will hopefully slowly find their way out! It also shows yet another card layout. They were incredibly happy yet sad days, whenever I had a brainwave about improving the card layout, then subsequently realising I would have to re-print and re-make every single card in the game again.

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Spike Shot Bot, the next expansion’s poster child, used to be a bit naff. I cannot see either of the originals finding its way onto the front of a game box! It also nicely demonstrates the indecision about how much text needs to be included for concepts that players have already encountered on other cards. If they’re familiar with the game, then saying ‘spike it’ should be sufficient, but if they’ve never seen a Spike Bot then who knows what they’d do?! It could either involve scissors or drink and neither of these are appropriate.

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OK, I’ve saved the worst for last. The trip mechanic whereby a card falls down one place, used to be called soak. The idea was that a Bot would get so water-logged that it would sink down a bit through the Stak. Unfortunately this led to some rather unhygienic cards. I didn’t like the concept of a Bot that would spit on you repeatedly until you were so weighed down that you fell over, so it got changed to the cheeky little Trip Bot.

It did however allow a very dubious card to come into existence. The game used to have Hack cards you could play, which would have one-off effects but couldn’t do any attacking. The Puddle Defence let you play a card when you got attacked, which caused your defending card to make a puddle, which would soak the attacker in its noxious substance until it fell over…. awful awful awful.


So as you’ve seen, many of the Bots and the game itself has changed a lot over the years.

The game is about to go through another change, where the Bots have shrunk down into little tiles so that more can fit on the screen at once for Stak Bots ‘Breakout’.

This incredibly difficult puzzle game is currently on Steam Greenlight, so if you’d like to see the Bots change once more (as well as meet a number of completely new ones), then please visit the page and vote / comment.

What did you think to the evolution of the Bots?

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