Jack of Hearts: The House Robots, ranked.

Well, people seemed to like the one about my top 13 favourite robots, so I feel like it makes sense for me to churn out some more Robot Wars themed content for you all. Luckily it’s one of the few things I can currently focus on in this world without getting depressed, so I’m totally down for this too (Future Mattilda note: I’m actually doing a lot better now, because this piece took a long time to write!).

One of the big aspects that set Robot Wars apart from other similar shows is the House Robots, a collective of heavily armoured and armed robots that lurk at the edge of the arena, and essentially act as moving obstacles that the roboteers must either dodge or drive their opponents into. During the earlier seasons, they would also be allowed out of their patrol zones (either the perimeter patrol zones in series 1 and 2 that stretched around the entire arena, or the corner patrol zones in series 3 and onwards, usually referred to as PPZ and CPZ respectively). They are usually much heavier than the competitors (although near the end of the original run Shunt in particular was only 5kg over the competitor weight limit), and are allowed to break the rules, such as Sgt. Bash having a flamethrower despite it being banned for contestants. This was actually why number two on my previous list, Diotoir and its predecessor Nemesis where covered in fur; they saw that you weren’t allowed to bring flamethrowers in and decided the flammable substance would be funny to have, not realising that the house plays by different rules.

The House Robots acted as mascots for the series as well. Competitors came and went, but only one House Robot was fully retired between series before the 2016 reboot with series 8. They returned in the reboot greatly reduced in number, in fact, they were back to the group’s original size all the way back in series 1, although the line up wasn’t quite the same. This was due to budgetary reasons, and the rebooted House Robots were a lot larger than their previous counterparts; the BBC released a trailer of them ripping a car apart in the run up to series 9, which really gives you an idea of the scale of the robots.

Another quirk of the House Robots is the way they are treated by the show. While they are, of course, actually remote controlled in the same way the contesters are, the show rarely refers to the House Roboteers who control them. Instead, the show, and particularly the announcer Jonathan Pierce, treats them as living individuals who are in the arena not just as a way to liven up the show but driven by a hatred of the puny robots that invade their territory and a lust for battle. All but one of them are generally referred to using pronouns other than it; she for Mattilda and sometimes Dead Metal, and he for the rest of the House Robots. In classic style, the show really hypes up the House Robots, giving them titles like “The Tin Tyrant” and “The Matriarch of Mayhem”

On a more practical side, the House Robots are often called in to help sort out the arena, particularly Refbot, introduced in series 4. Broken robots can be dangerous, with exposed electronics and the potential for fire, so the house robots will often push damaged robots into the arena pit as a safe containing area. Before Refbot, a weaponless housebot called Shove that wasn’t shown in the TV edit was used to clear the arena after battles, with Refbot taking over, and then the job being taken over by the remaining House Robots in the reboot. If competitors get stuck together or on the arena, sometimes the House Robots will come in and break them apart so the fight will continue. Sometimes.

This is one of the big problems with the House Robots. While they are a unique addition to the show, they can also be inconsistent about how they intervene and how much damage they do. Particularly in later series when they become more and more heavily armed, a House Robot intervening when they shouldn’t do so can disrupt an entire battle unfairly. This was made even worse in Series 9 and 10, where instead of just releasing the pit, the so called “Doom Dial” may swing over to the “Rogue House Robot” option, allowing the House Roboteer currently driving the robot in the arena to leave their CPZ and attack whoever they please. This inconsistency was particularly bad in the very first two series; in series 1, the House Roboteers were as confused as the competitors were, resulting in slow and lethargic house robots that occasionally got a good blow in. In series 2, they swung all the way over to the opposite end of the control spectrum and became hyper aggressive. Multiple fights ended when a robot just barely crossed the line into the PPZ before all the House Robots jumped them at once.

Another issue with these two series is that the House Robots were far more directly involved in the contests, since, unlike later series, it wasn’t just battles they had to go through. The initial round of both series was the Gauntlet, an obstacle course with multiple potential routes. Robots were marked on how far they got across the course and, if they completed it, how fast, with one robot going out at this stage each episode. The gauntlet was also patrolled by the House Robots, and how far someone got was often as dependent on how aggressive the House Robots were as their own skill. The Gauntlet stage was followed by one of the Trials, another contest where the lowest scoring robot goes out. These trials often consisted of the competitors challenging, if not battling, the House Robots directly; tug of war against Dead Metal, robot sized bowling where the robots needed to knock down barrels without being caught by Killalot, the Sumo Basho where the objective was to try and survive being pushed off a platform by Shunt (or indeed, push Shunt off the platform), ect. That last one was actually what Shunt was designed to do. In series 3 and 4, the trials were dispatched to side tournaments, and they were abandoned completely as the show went on. I personally like the idea of the gauntlet and the trials, making the roboteers think about more than just the battles, but if they were reinstalled they would need to be a lot better handled than they were when first included.

The House Robots’ inconsistency got better overtime partially as the show went on just because the show stopped needing to rely on them to put on a show as entrants brought better and better robots. In series 3 the House Robots’ area of control dropped from the huge Perimeter Patrol Zones to the much smaller Corner Patrol Zones, and in later series the number of house robots in the arena at one time was dropped from four to one or two plus the neutral Refbot. Still, a lot of the time the House Robots were called in at the end of a fight just so it wouldn’t end without some proper damage, descending on an immobile competitor robot which had been knocked out of the match and ripping it apart for the audience to see.

This use of the House Robots to do damage for the sake of damage drew the ire of several Roboteers, in particular Roger Plant who created the Mule, The Big Cheese and Wheely Big Cheese, who noted that the contestants put a lot of money and time into their robots for the show, and the show, which was already taking advantage of these passion projects by making battles with them but not really paying even the big names who’s robots had merchandising deals, was pointlessly damaging them.
Indeed, beyond issues like this, the House Robots often became targets for the big names on the show, particularly the flippers. Flipping a house robot is almost a rite of passage if you want to show you are a really good flipper bot, and the Wheely Big Cheese itself was made to try and flip the biggest one of them all (at the time) Sir Killalot. A willingness to pick a fight with the House Robots is commonly seen as one of the signs of a team’s greatness, partially because it means they can survive the competitors, beat them, then have a go at the mean machines in the corner. Attacking and damaging the House Robots doesn’t get you any points if the battle goes to a judge’s decision, so it is entirely done for flair and for the love of it.

And with that, I think the basics of the House Robots are pretty much covered. I am going to go through and rank the ten House Robots that have appeared in basically my order of preference, although some of them may swap places depending on how I’m feeling that day. Like a lot of the competitors, the House Robots went through multiple iterations, with most being rebuilt or upgraded as the show progressed. Rather than ranking each appearance of the House Robots, I’ll try to base this on the entire lifespan of the robot, and explain any major changes they have gone through. As there are only ten house robots that have appeared (outside of Shove and other offscreen bots), the list will not be particularly surprising, outside of maybe a few bits of the order being shuffled around from what you might expect. In fact, the biggest surprise might be right at the very start…

(All images are taken from the Robot Wars fanwiki)

10.) The Sentinel

Oh, what’s that? You don’t know or remember the Sentinel? I don’t blame you!

The Sentinel was an immobile House Robot that was installed in the Gauntlet during the second half of series 2, as the producers thought the challenge was too easy and wanted to up the difficulty. The Sentinel itself was a modified JCB Digger, painted black and with the scoop replaced with a spike covered cylinder.

Image of the Sentinel from Series 2
Apologies for the low quality: it’s hard to find high quality pictures of the Sentinel

Initially, the Sentinel guarded one of the three routes, pushing back on robots that attempted to make their way past it, and it was very effective at its job. Possibly too effective; it was extremely hard to get past, and the problem became even worse in the series semi-final, where the range of motion of the Sentinel was expanded so it was covering half the middle route as well. As the middle route involved two ramps on either side with a pit between them, and the Sentinel covered one of the ramps, essentially rending it impassable.

This dramatically influenced the course of series 2 during the semi finals; Panic Attack and Mace were declared to have covered equal ground, finishing in joint last place, resulting in the first and only race off through the Gauntlet. Mace won the coin toss to choose which side of the middle route they would take, and they choose to take the side with the Sentinel, which promptly blocked them and pushed them into the pit, letting Panic Attack go through and eventually win the series 2 championship outright. Perhaps this is the Sentinel’s true legacy; had it not been around, series 2 would have been very different. Still, that was it’s greatest moment; series 3 did away with the Gauntlet, switching to the modern battles only style, and so the Sentinel was banished from the wars.

And not a lot was lost to be honest.

9.) Cassius Chrome

With Series 7 in 2004, Robot Wars for the first and only time left the BBC, it’s original home, and moved to UK Channel 5. This brought a number of changes to the show, many not particularly well received, making it one of the less popular series and not very high on my personal list despite the high standards of the actual robots in it. While the competitors were pretty great, the overall package was a lot less entertaining than previous series, and this is perhaps best summed up with the new House Robot brought in solely for this series: Cassius Chrome.

Image of Cassius Chrome

Cassius Chrome is a joke of a robot. While he looks admittedly pretty funny with his grimacing, cartoonish face and black eye, the two spikes on either side of him just…didn’t do anything most of the time, despite each weighing around 15kg. He was fast, the fastest of the House Robots, but honestly this isn’t usually a benefit for him as the House Robots are stuck in their CPZ most of the time, making them fairly immobile except when the competitors end up in an empty CPZ they can cross over into.

Cassius Chrome was made primarily so that Channel Five could have their own House Robot, but was built on a low budget and with only three weeks. He did have some noticeable moments where his slams on competitors had some effect, such as against Pussycat when the latter decided to attack him in the All Stars final. Perhaps if the show hadn’t been cancelled for a decade after his only appearance the team could have improved him over time, similar to the original House Robots, but as it stands, Cassius Chrome is just not a very good robot who brings shame the name of both Cassius from the early series of Robot Wars (who could at least self right) and Cassius Clay who he is obviously named for.

8.) Growler

Growler, one of the two new House Robots introduced in Series 6 who carried through into Extreme 2 and Series 7, is in a weird placement on this list. See, Growler the robot I actually like a lot! One of the heaviest (and certainly one of the most compact) House Robots, Growler functions in a similar way to Cassius Chrome, using speed to ram opponents across the arena. While Cassius was faster, with a top speed of 20 mph compared to Growler’s 17, at 375 kg Growler was 125 kg heavier than the boxer’s 250 kg build, allowing him to actually damage opponent’s chassis and internals by slamming into them.

Designed to look like a dog (indeed, he was referred to as Mr Psycho’s pet pooch), and designed really well I might add, Growler was also armed with a set of hydraulic jaws which made a roaring sound effect when opening. While not the most damaging of weapons themselves, these worked really well with his speed and pushing power, allowing him to latch onto robots and drag them across the floor to the various obstacles once they were defeated, which was the House Robot’s main role at this point in the series. In Extreme 2 he was upgraded with a rear mounted flame thrower as a tail, although due to reliability issues and the long recharge time that meant he could manage at maximum four shots per battle, it was later removed. Which is a shame because again, flame thrower tail. Growler is a really charming robot and I really like it as a robot, probably more than quite a few others on this list. So why is it so low?

Basically, it is because this list isn’t just ranking them by how much I like them as robot as much as it is ranking them as House Robots, and in that regard I don’t think Growler does very well. The main issue with him is similar to that of Cassius Chrome’s; he’s a robot that relies on speed and ramming power who is not usually allowed to actually ram things because he is confined to a CPZ. The jaws, while definitely cool looking and sounding, just don’t do enough damage by themselves for Growler to be a stationary threat. When Growler is let off the leash and allowed to run amuck, he can be great fun, but he just spent too long in his kennel for me.

7.) Sgt. Bash
The first of the original House Robots has arrived on the list!

Sgt. Bash is a very military themed robot, if the name doesn’t give it away. The camo paint job and the bullet shaped body with the turret mounted flamethrower really sell the idea of a futuristic patrol robot. Unfortunately, Bash himself is rather hit or miss, emphasis on the miss. While certainly one of the most complex house robots, with multiple types of weapons and the flamethrower to handle, Sgt. Bash was ultimately just not that much of a force in the arena.

Sgt. Bash in series 1: Note the saw and battering ram

In series 1 and 2, Bash was armed with two secondary weapons; an odd spikey battering ram at the front and a circular saw at the back. I did not actually realise the former was there until I was looking at the Robot Wars wiki, as it just so rarely comes into play; I assumed that he just always armed with the frontal pincers he had from series 3 onwards. It’s not a good sign when you can appear for two series without me even noticing what weapons you have, for either me or you! I did however notice the circular saw. Not because it actually did damage mind, but because it kept flying off when it tried to cut into competitors. Which is…kind of pathetic.

Like his fellow house robots Shunt and Dead Metal, Bash underwent several big design changes in series 3; as noted, the ram was switched out for pincers, the flamethrower internals were moved around, which didn’t leave enough space for the circular saw motor, so that was removed and a purely cosmetic non-functional one was added in its place. He also underwent a big cosmetic armour change, moving from steel plates to a much sleeker fibre glass shell, which I honestly think is a pity since I prefer the original’s spikey look. The pincers were pretty good weapons all told, allowing Bash to slice into robots that came into his CPZ, and were well placed to get into the chassis of most of the competitor robots, including big names like Firestorm.

Sgt Bash in series 3, now with pincers. I do miss the spikey side armour.

Throughout his life time however the true draw of Sgt. Bash was the flamethrower, to the point that in the series where the House Robots had their strengths and weaknesses written out, his strength was listed as “Long ranged weaponry” and his weakness as “Limited fuel”. He (and technically Growler in Extreme 2) was the only robot equipped with a flamethrower in the series, competitor robots being banned from using them. Unfortunately, unless he was up against a flammable robot, the flamethrower really didn’t do anything. Most robots are covered in metal armour, and while flames can definitely damage robots by getting inside and burning out electronics, the direction of Bash’s flamethrower at the top of the robot meant that he could never really do more than send a lick of flame over the top of most robots. The flame pit in Robot Wars works because the flames are coming up from underneath the robot, allowing them to properly damage the internals through the baseplate; heat travels up, not down as Bash tries! To see some good uses of flamethrowers on robots, have a look at Complete Control or Free Shipping from Battlebots the American show, which lift their opponents into the air and then use concentrated jets of flames while the opponent is helplessly dangling in the air. Ironically, one of the only robots the flamethrower severely damaged was fellow House Robot Sir Killalot when the flames set his petrol engine on fire during a gauntlet run in series 2!

Frankly, Sgt Bash should be below Growler on this list on the robots’ own merits, but being a House Robot is more than just the design of the robot and the damage it can do; they also have vital roles as entertainers, and Sgt. Bash formed a fantastic comedy duo with the classic competitor, and my second favourite robot, Diotoir, a robot that came into battle clad in red and black polka dot fur that is, of course, extremely flammable. Bash may not be able to set many robots on fire, but the ones it did were always great fun to watch, such as in the exhibition match in series 1 which saw it up against Nemesis (Diotoir’s predecessor, also clad in the fur!) and Ramrombit, a sacrificial robot that was dosed in paraffin before the match, called the Inferno Insurrection. Both went up in a set of glorious pyrotechnics. Bash also gave us another fantastic comedy moment during a rather dull match in Extreme 2’s New Blood tournament, where he came out and began chasing Refbot around with his flamethrower, only to have the referee respond by putting the flamethrower out with his arm mounted extinguisher.

When the reboot came around, Bash was the only one of the original four house robots and Sir Killalot not to be rebuilt, the original models having been kept in storage and passed around various owners since the cancellation. This was mainly due to time constraints in getting the House Robots ready for series 8, but he didn’t return for series 9 or 10 either. He was however payed homage to in series 10’s World Series special, with Dutch robot The Bash being based on the old solider and the return of Diotoir as the captain of the international team against the British team. (Robot Wars has long had a bit of a nationalistic thing going on, tending to stack the deck in the UK’s favour in these kind of international tournaments by entering the top robots from the UK, which has never really sat well with me, but a full discussion of British nationalism can wait for another time). Noel Sharkey, one of the judges, commented on twitter that “Military robots retire early”.

While his comedy routines made him a fan favourite, as a House Robot, Sgt. Bash has always been a bit disappointing for me with his rather undangerous flamethrower, hence why he’s the lowest of the original gang on this list. Frankly, I’m not sure he’s earned his rank. Bump him down to Corporal.

6.) Mr Psycho
The other robot introduced in series 6 alongside his “pet” Growler, Mr Psycho was the largest of the House Robots in the original series at a huge 750 kg, vastly outweighing the 100 kg competitors and even the other House Robots. His name actually comes from Bill Sykes, the violent criminal from Oliver Twist, who served as an inspiration for the robot, and Mr Psycho was certainly violent. He was armed with a large claw arm, which was slow and basically served to allow him to lift defeated competitors into the air to play with them for the audiences amusement, and on the other side was his main weapon; a brutally fast swinging 30kg hammer that could cause major damage to any poor robot such as Major Tom that got stuck in with him. This hammer actually caused its own issues; if it missed, which it did reasonably often given the robot’s size and slow speed, it could damage the floor of the arena, and it was so large that sometimes it couldn’t be retracted.

Mr Psycho was designed to be a figure people took notice of, a real towering force in the arena. It is somewhat ironic then that despite his proven ability to do damage to competitors with his hammer, he’s this low on the list because he didn’t make too much of an impact on me. I never thought he was bad, its just something about him lacks the charisma of the rest of the House Robots. Even Cassius Chrome makes more of an emotional impact on me! Mr Psycho may possibly be just too good and straightforward at his job; he embodies the House Robot as arena obstacle extremely well but doesn’t meet the other role they played as characters on the show. This may actually be partially due to him looking the most humanish out of the house robots with his fairly detailed face; the rest kind of lean into the idea of them being mechanical monsters, even Sir Killalot. Also, unlike Killalot, Mr Psycho is made to look like he has hands…well, a claw on one side, but the hammer looks like it is being held, unlike Sir Killalot’s claw and lance which are part of the robot and help with the inhuman robotic look.

Or perhaps the fact that he was only in three series as opposed to the others biases me against him, I dunno. Either way, Mr Psycho gets in ahead of the House Robots behind him on this list due to his effectiveness in battle, but can’t catch up to the ones who combine effectiveness with affectiveness than make up the second half of this list.

Also it was really funny when Firestorm toppled him over after he pitted Panic Attack. Good times.

5.) Refbot
Refbot is an unusual case among the House Robots in that, as the name suggests, he is an entirely neutral force. Introduced in series four, Refbot was made to cover a couple of issues. Firstly, it’s not much fun if the competitor robots get stuck together, and it’s difficult to mark for the judges. Before Refbot, the other House Robots were used to break them up, but that clashed with their role as the big bullies of the arena. Secondly, health and safety concerns meant that the new arena in the fourth series was entirely self enclosed, which also made it difficult for fire fighters to reach the arena if a robot went up in flames. Refbot was therefore equipped with a triangular plough at the front to break apart stuck robots, and a fire extinguisher to keep fires under control at least till the proper human teams arrived. The plough and two rear scoops were also used to clear the arena at the end of a fight and to push immobilised robots back to where they could be collected by their team.

Series 4 Refbot, showing off his cool ref stripes

In Series 5, he was also given a countdown board on his chest, which was used to give a count of ten to disqualify immobilised robots; if they moved under their own power during the count it stopped, but this was rare. His right arm was also equipped with a copy of the Robot Wars logo, which lit up green (showing the start of the battle), yellow (a warning to the House Robots if they stepped out of line, or rather the House Roboteers), or red (which either indicated a red card to the House Robots indicating they couldn’t leave their CPZ for the rest of the fight or indicated that a competitor had been eliminated). This scoreboard and counter really helped solidify the rules about when a robot was considered immobilised, which previously could be a rather dodgy affair, with some robots being instantly eliminated and set on by the House Robots when they were flipped and others clearly immobile but the fight dragging on around them. Ironically, in his very last appearance in the finale of the World Championship series held in Series 7 Refbot’s counter stopped working, not allowing him to count Supernova out, causing some confusion about the end of the battle.

The far more useful but less stylish series 5 Refbot

Being able to keep the House Robots under control helped as well; some of the early series, 2 in particular, where plagued with the House Robots being incredibly over-aggressive, and having a neutral force in the arena that would keep them leashed was a nice touch, even if it wasn’t used that much. Refbot’s reputation as a neutral party also general kept the competitors from attacking him, with some exceptions such as the hilarious series 7 All Stars match when all the competitors agreed to gang up on the House Robots instead. As noted above in Sgt. Bash’s section, Bash did once chase the Refbot around the arena during a New Blood battle in Extreme 2, with a duel between flame thrower and fire extinguisher.

Refbot appeared in every battle since his introduction till the end of the original run and as such there were actually two models made, with a small stripe and a number on the back being only clue which was which. The twin Refbots were never mentioned on screen but helped speed the filming of the show along as one could undergo maintenance and recharging while the other oversaw the next battle. I think this constant presence helped him gain my affection: it’s easy to grow to love a robot that has that many appearances and chances to stick in your memory.

Refbot is also just a really charming design, almost reminding me of Johnny 5 from the film Short Circuit in a weird way with his head design. Unlike Mr Psycho, I think the more human looking design works for the neutral overlooker that is Refbot. He is even painted in black and white stripes like a football (soccer) ref! Overall, a low key but constant and charming member of the team; a good boy.

4.) Shunt

And now we hit the big four. Frankly, the next three robots are really close in my rankings, and can be shuffled around depending on my mood, but at time of writing, I think Shunt can be placed in fourth quite comfortably.
Shunt is probably the most simple and workbotlike of the House Robots, and was the first one ever introduced on screen; in the first series, Shunt was presented as the most powerful of the House Robots, despite being the lightest! Based on a bulldozer, Shunt was initially designed primarily for the Sumo Basho trial and similar events where the competitors would put up against him in a contest of pushing power. Unfortunately for Shunt the first two series weren’t really great showings for him; as the House Roboteers were still getting used to driving the machines, early Shunt has been compared a drunkard, with slow reactions and weird movements.

Initially the plough end of Shunt was his front, being intended to barge competitors out of the way, with the back scoop and axe combo being essentially an afterthought thrown on there, but over time the axe was steadily increased in power and had its design changed almost once a series (only missing series 4, although that did see a new body shell for Shunt after the old one was tattered and battered from the stress of the third wars) until by series 5 Shunt now had a diamond tipped pneumatic powered axe that could punch through many robots with ease, most notably slamming into and through the flywheel of Hypnodisc in the series 4 semifinals; the force of the huge spinning weapon being instantly stopped made both Shunt and Hypnodisc bounce into the air!

Shunt also developed a hatred of any kind of decoration on a competitor that looked like a face; Major Tom and Banshee both came in with decorative heads attached, and both had a Shunt axe pierce through them directly. Unfortunately, through series 6 and 7, the armour of the competitors got increasingly strong, and Shunt’s axe more and more often failed to penetrate into the competitors, relying more on simple pushing power, returning to his role in the older series.

Shunt in the Reboot

The reboot saw Shunt, along with Sir Killalot, Dead Metal and Matilda being rebuilt and upgraded drastically. Now clad in HARDOX, the material use for tank armour, Shunt was drastically improved all around, and, for the first time, was actually being driven forwards as his scoop had been made the front end! The new scoop proved extremely strong, tanking blows from spinners like PP3D, and the axe returned to potency , although some armour remained trickier to get through.

Like all House Robots however, Shunt wasn’t invulnerable by any means. In the original run, Shunt being flipped by competitors was practically a running gag; being the lightest of the House Robots made him an appealing target. His weakness in the introduction panels was listed as “Unable to Self Right”, although it should be noted that for some reason no House Robots could self right. He had a particular rivalry with Panic Attack after he slammed his axe through the spider design on top of it in series 2, although Firestorm was the one to flip Shunt most. In the reboot, while Shunt’s armoured scoop could withstand the spinners in the new series, his sides were notably less protected with only guard bars over his wheels, which Carbide and Arena Cleaner took advantage of to slice apart his drive.

Really, Shunt’s charm comes down to his practical and worklike nature, as his appearance and proposed back store of a Soviet remote drone brought to life by a nuclear explosion may suggest. I’m not kidding on that, the original House Robots were given extremely over the top sci fi backstories, and Shunt was even said to be driven by a cold fusion engine! It wasn’t, it was just a 12 volt, later 24 volt, motor, but anyway. Particularly in series 3 to 5, Shunt was possibly the most reliable House Robot, getting some really good juicy hits in with the axe and shoving competitors around the arena. While he lacked the showmanship of Sir Killalot, he made up for it with a quiet confidence and an irrational hatred of faces.

3.) Sir Killalot

And now we reach the Big Bad, the Tin Tyrant, the Undisputed Leader of the House Robots, the one who even Mr Psycho looks up to…Sir Killalot. Introduced in Series 2, Sir Killalot was dramatically larger than even the other House Robots, and was armed with a spinning lance (which honestly rarely did anything; it’s a difficult weapon to use properly and it was only really effective if it was able to get into a wheel hole or something) and the far more dangerous hydraulic claws, mounted on either side of his body as arms. Sir Killalot, as his name suggests, was modelled on the image of a twisted medieval knight that has merged with his armour to create a cold and heartless killing machine. That being said, if I had to give Killalot a personality based on what is actually seen in the arena, it would be more….flamboyant than that.

In series 2, Killalot was often treated as kind of like the giant rolling boulder from Indiana Jones; during the gauntlet stages of the first half of the series he was usually stationed near the start of the route on the left (which was later home to the Sentinel). This meant he could easily come around and behind robots taking the other two routes as well, most notably in Panic Attacks gauntlet run where he rolled onto the seesaw ramp behind PA and prevented the other end from dropping, forcing Panic Attack driver Kim Davis to gun the motors and try to jump over Shunt, who was waiting below. He also chased the competitors around the pinball and skittles stages; somewhat slowly given he only had a top speed of 5mph, but that was enough to catch up to some competitors. During this series his main way of causing damage was to lift a competitor up in the air and just flip them over; in a time before self righters and invertible robots this was essentially an instant kill. He even did this to Cassius, which prompted the robot to show off the first self righting mechanism (or scrimech) ever seen on the show.

Sir K. in series 3

In later seasons, as robots got wiser and installed scrimechs of their own, as well as the House Robots being confined to smaller areas and only really coming out to play when one robot was defeated and tearing it up for the crowd, Killalot added new tricks to his arsenal. While he still lifted and paraded around robots, he now did things like hold them over the flame pit, spin around and throw them across the arena, and in some cases dump them out of the arena entirely! It is these antics that make me say he always struck me as being more flamboyant than his design suggests. Sir Killalot is a natural (well, technically artificial) showman in the arena. This is backed up by him becoming the face of the entire show for promotional campaigns, appearing front and centre. The camera just loves this dude.

He was still pretty good at murdering robots though; Wowot for example got grabbed and instantly disabled by his pincers, and he was been known to cut axes off. His main issue was just speed and difficulty aiming, since an active bot could usually escape him. Luckily, his reputation as being the “seemingly invincible” (to quote his data card from some seasons) leader of the house robots means that often challengers will come to him. Flippers in particular like Bigger Brother, Cassius and the Wheely Big Cheese wanted to try and flip him, with Apollo coming closest, but despite him being somewhat prone to overbalancing while carrying a robot, Sir Killalot remains the only House Robot to never have been flipped. He’s not entirely invincible however. Pre-reboot, he was driven by a petrol engine, meaning he caught fire occasionally, while both his hydraulic weapons and his tracks have been broken by competitors, with Pitbull biting through the cables in series 3, Storm 2 ramming the spinner Supernova into his tracks in series 7, and Hobgoblin damaging his claw in series 10. Funnily, Hobgoblin also managed to break Shunt’s axe, meaning that it’s weird eggbeater weapon seems to be extremely good at taking on House Robot’s weapons…and given how Hobgoblin got no wins during its appearances, not good for much else!

The new American football playing Sir Killalot

The reboot wasn’t particularly kind to Killalot. For one thing, the dynamics of the House Robots shifted, with them acting more as roaming obstacles than their previous focus on disposing of dead robots, since the competitors were now powerful enough to cause extreme damage on their own and the new format, where one loss didn’t necessarily knock out a robot, meant that doing unneeded extra damage would have caused a death spiral. He had some moments, barbequing one of the tiny Swarm cluster bots and disposing of the remains of Apex after it dramatically self destructed, but his role was certainly more limited now. Also I think he got the worst new design. It looks fine from the back, with a sleeker body shaper and importantly using batteries not a petrol engine now, but the front just seems off to me, particularly the face; he looks more like he’s wearing an American football helmet now. Still, his rule over the arena continues, and his long history of being at the top of the heat earns him a high spot on this list.

2.) Dead Metal

At number two, we have Robot Wars resident killer scorpion. No, not the Scorpion series of competitor robots; Dead Metal, armed with a set of wide pincers and a circular saw mounted on a swinging arm allowing it to push forward and slice into any hapless robot in its grip. Dead Metal’s rear was made to look as if the debris of a scrap yard had merged together into a jagged, incomplete shell, come back for revenge. It’s a really striking robot.

Series 1 Dead Metal

Like many of the original House Robots, Dead Metal started out rather pathetic. The biggest issue was the circular saw, being mounted on a long arm that simply swung up and down. Circular saws were an extremely popular weapon in the earlier series, but even Dead Metal’s fellow house robot Sgt. Bash couldn’t really do a huge amount of damage with the weapon. Dead Metal was improved from season one to season two, with the saw being able to actually do some damage, but it was series three that really gave the lobster/scorpion the appearance we would recognise from then on. The saw was replaced with a design used to slice apart steel, mounted on a new custom mechanism with linear actuators, which would slowly push forward and down into any robots caught in it’s grip. A pyramidal structure was placed over the blade as a protection, making the whole thing look like a head or a barbed tail. And that was about it; the blade got less effective as the years went on and competitors got stronger armour, but no new additions were made till series eight and the reboot, where a whole new Dead Metal was remade along with the other returning House Robots (aka the top four in this list). Now with 1.4m pincers and a stronger saw, the reboot Dead Metal was over twice as heavy as the original, but the overall design remained unchanged.

Series 6 Dead Metal

In practical terms, Dead Metal was extremely well made for the roles the House Robots fill in the series. As a rolling obstacle, the pincers allowed it to trap a competitor and slice them apart, while once a competitor was immobilised, the circular saw gave clean, iconic slices down the hapless robot’s body, with a huge, glorious shower of sparks as the saw bit into metal.

Reboot Dead Metal

There are plenty of reasons to like Dead Metal. The aesthetic and damage given out alone is impressive enough, but we also have the amazing theme song from the Robot Wars soundtrack with that wonderful opening line of “Dead…..METAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!”. There’s the wonderfully cheesy backstory given in the Robot Wars Technical Manual where Dead Metal came to us back in time from a super advanced cyborg empire that has conquered half the galaxy and was promptly subdued and made to fight in robot wars. There’s the fact that unlike all the other House Robots except Sir Killalot and to a degree Mr Psycho, Dead Metal wasn’t a constant victim of flippers, not being tossed over until the very impressive Gravity in series seven. There’s just the fact that originally the production staff wanted to paint Death Metal pink to look more like a lobster, which I am both extremely glad and extremely disappointed they didn’t do. But no. There is one very simple reason for Dead Metal being so high up on the list.

In the original series, like all but one of the other House Robots, Dead Metal was referred to using male pronouns. When the reboot returned however, Dead Metal’s pronouns became less consistent, being referred to as both he and her.


Dead Metal is a wonderful bigender killing machine.

And we have no choice but to stan.

1.) Matilda

This was probably predictable just from the title of this blog.

The only House Robot referred to with female pronouns until Dead Metal above, Matilda is designed to look like a monstrous triceratops from the ancient past (or, according to the Technical Manual again, from Atlantis because once again the Technical Manual is both absurdly amazing and amazingly absurd), with a pair of front mounted tusks and a rear mounted weapon.

Series 3 Matilda, armed with her chainsaw

In terms of combat history, Matilda had a mixed history. Her long, fairly narrow body made her a frequent target of flippers (again) in the early series, with only Shunt really competing with her record of ending up upside down. Her weapons were initially a problem as well; while her tusks could be surprisingly effective in the earlier series despite their low power, just because so few robots had self righting mechanisms, allowing her to flip them over, the chainsaw at the back was….it was useless, okay? Chainsaws are an impressive looking weapon, and I don’t blame the original designers for thinking it would be an excellent choice for a house robot. Lots of competitors tried to use them as well, but they all came up against the fundamental problem that chainsaws just don’t do anything against metal. There’s a reason they are used in logging and not in metal working, and why when they showed off the power of the chainsaw in introductions they had Matilda saw through a log and not a robot. By series 4 and the first series of Robot Wars Extreme, Matilda was looking the saddest of the House Robots. It was almost a blessing when, at the end of the Southern Annihilator, Razer ripped apart her shell to the point it looked like she would be utterly destroyed; although the ending reveal that she would be returning rather unmined that.

Matilda after being ripped apart and set on fire.

And then Matilda returned.

The chainsaw was gone. In its place stood a 27 kg vertical flywheel.

Series 5-7 Matilda, now with her flywhell. I have no idea what those ribbon things are.

In terms of robot combat weaponry, that’s like ditching your nerf gun and switching to a full artillery piece. Spinners are known for being Robot Wars’ strongest weapons, and as a House Robot Matilda had the weight to play with to make them even more devastating. It took her from the least effective House Robot to by far the most damaging, to the point that the House Roboteers actively avoided revving the wheel up to full power so it didn’t just end the battles right there and then. To make matters even better (or worse for competitors) her tusks were also upgraded, meaning that she was effectively now armed with the two most iconic weapons of Robot Wars, a spinner at the back and a flipper at the front. This continued into the reboot, where the spinning disc was upgraded to 35kg, and as Nuts 2 in series 9 can attest, it was fully capable of not just smashing robots apart but launching them out of the arena entirely.

The reboot Matilda

This status as one of the most dangerous House Robot held for years is a good reason to like Matilda, as well as her really cool design, which folds her weapons into it in a way that only really Dead Metal and Razor manage for me. But what really puts her at the very top for me is the personality the show gives her. Some of this is due to the design and some of the small touches they gave her; early Matilda had spark shooters to make it look like she was snorting with rage for instance, but really for me the big thing was how the rest of the show treated her. Other than Sir Killalot, Matilda was really treated as the icon of the show, with lots of references to her personality from Jonathan Pierce, and a huge array of titles like the Matriarch of Mayhem, the Sister of Slice and Dice, and the Grandmother of Grinding Metal. Even before her massive combat improvements, she just stood out from the rest of the House Robots just from design and the fact that she was the only female House Robot (and I’m not going to lie, there’s a good chance that young Mattilda [that is, me] struggling with my gender identity as a kid probably latched onto her more than the others for trans related reasons). It is for all those reasons that Matilda takes the number one spot as my favourite House Robot.

So that’s my list. If you have your own ideas about the order of these House Robots, let me know in the comments.

Also, here’s another reminder that the Sentinel existed. That’s not relevant to the discussion, but it’s been a while since that entry and I wanted to remind you it was a thing.

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