Robot Wars Wiki

"It's a basic wedge design. It's got an aluminium and steel body shell for overturning and ramming other robots."
— Oliver Steeples on Cunning Plan

Cunning Plan was a featherweight robot that exclusively fought in Series 1 of Robot Wars. Weighing at just under 12kg, it was the lightest robot ever to reach the Grand Final of any series of Robot Wars, which cost it in the title fight. Cunning Plan was sponsored by the University of Reading and displayed the university shield on the top of the robot.


"Unlike many robots, cunning plan was fully designed on paper/computer before manufacture. However as building commenced these plans became changed as problems arose. Firstly the old wheels (from B&Q), slipped as soon as any torque was put on them. Secondly the drill gearboxes needed a UNF tap set?? "
— Oliver Steeples' website[1]

Oliver Steeples with Cunning Plan

Cunning Plan was a simple double wedge-shaped robot with an aluminium and steel shell; 1mm aluminium sheet for the sides and top, and 1mm steel for the front and back. The wedge served as the robot's weapon, with its key tactic being to charge into other robots and allow them to run up the wedge and be flipped over. This tactic helped Cunning Plan win its heat. The robot was quite fast, able to get to speeds of approximately 15mph according to the website, though the speed was listed on television as 10mph.

"The chassis is made of ¼" plywood which makes it strong and light. The front and back of the frame is made of 1mm steel, while the top and sides are made of 1mm aluminum to cut down in weight and help with radio transmission."
— Oliver Steeples' website[2]

Cunning Plan in the arena

The robot itself was painted silver, with the University of Reading shield on its top panel. It had two wheel drive, with two castors on the front to give a zero turning circle. The chassis was made from plywood. The shell was attached to the chassis by 4 bolts, two on each side, however whilst competing, the shell kept coming loose.

"the main problem arose during Robot wars when any impact ripped the shell of the chassis. The problem was that the nuts on the chassis were held on by epoxy resin (due to time), and these were easily ripped off. You won't be able to see the corrective double sided tape on tele."
— Oliver Steeples' website

The insides of Cunning Plan

Cunning Plan also suffered from interference issues during filming, but these did not prevent it from reaching the Grand Final.

"It's my robot so I can't criticise it too much can I. Yes I can, firstly the nuts holding the bodyshell on kept falling off and secondly for the whole of RW the speedos were going in reverse. This was because a lot of people were using the same frequency so I was lent a crystal by the organisers and it didn't work, but I didn't know this so I took all the connectors apart checking for a bad connection and I guess I wired it up wrong. "
— Oliver Steeples' website


The name Cunning Plan may have been derived from the BBC sitcom Blackadder, in which the character Baldrick would often declare that he had a "cunning plan" to resolve a problem in which he and the other characters faced.

Robot History[]

Series 1[]

Cunning Plan debuted in Heat D of the First Wars, a heat for only featherweight competitors, where it was first required to run the Gauntlet.

"Out comes Cunning Plan - small, quick... with that zero turning circle that could prove so vital here."
Jonathan Pearce at the start of Cunning Plan's Gauntlet run

Cunning Plan on the spikes

Cunning Plan started by reversing out of the turntable, towards the maze route. After spinning around, it reversed, but drove straight into a fence. It quickly turned away from the fence, and after pausing a moment to line up, it drove forwards and turned past the second fence. Despite hitting the fence as it turned, Cunning Plan kept going, driving along the fence, then turning past the third fence. However, as it tried to leave the maze, it drove along the final fence and became caught on the corner as it tried to turn round it. After a little reversing and adjusting of its position, Cunning Plan was able to drive forwards, but drove into an obstacle which blocked it.

"Basically, these smaller robots have to dodge anything. The House Robots could take them out, certainly the drills could. Matilda, out to splatter a small fry."
— Jonathan Pearce

Cunning Plan nearly falls through the railings

Cunning Plan reversed, and tried to drive past the drills, but Matilda closed in. Cunning Plan waited behind the springs, and when it tentatively tried to move forwards, the drills came out, blocking it. Matilda rammed into Cunning Plan, and even when Matilda reversed, the drills were still out, blocking Cunning Plan's path. Matilda span, knocking Cunning Plan, but also knocking away the springs. Cunning Plan reversed into Matilda, and she span around, which actually knocked Cunning Plan down the course. Cunning Plan tried to charge to the end, but drove over the spikes, which raised, holding Cunning Plan up. Whilst Cunning Plan was stuck, Matilda chased after it, but drove one wheel over the grille, leaving her stuck. The spikes soon lowered, allowing Cunning Plan to speed to the end, nearly driving through the arena railings as it did so.

Cunning Plan, having been dented by Matilda

Jeremy Clarkson: "Appropriate name, Cunning Plan."
Oliver Steeples: "Maybe."
Jeremy Clarkson: "You were looking pretty pleased there."
Oliver Steeples: "The spikes were a bit tricky, but the robot didn't give me any problems."
Jeremy Clarkson: "What, the spikes are tricky, but Matilda isn't? Well I'm looking forward to you going head to head with that, should be a good laugh!"
Oliver Steeples: "Any time!"
— The post Gauntlet interview with Jeremy Clarkson

Cunning Plan was through, but had received a large dent from Matilda, which Oliver Steeples had to flatten out with a hammer.

The opening pile-up

Cunning Plan was through to the Trial stage, which in this heat was Stock Car. Having completed the Gauntlet in a longer time than SAT'arn, Cunning Plan started in second position on the grid. At the start, Cunning Plan charged forwards, but crashed into SAT'arn when SAT'arn drove into the bottom arena railing. The Demolisher also drove into the back of Cunning Plan, and as Cunning Plan reversed, it flipped Demolisher over, then rolled it back onto its wheels. Cunning Plan straightened up and drove on, but at the first corner slowed down, struggling to line itself up to drive in a straight line up the course, which left it in last place. It corrected its position and drove up the course, overtaking Bugs, but had a problem at the top turning. As it tried to correct its positioning, Demolisher bumped into it as it drove past, lapping Cunning Plan as it did so. Cunning Plan got lined up correctly and charged down the course to complete the first lap. The second lap went smoothly for Cunning Plan, apart from a brief moment where it bumped into a wall whist driving through the centre of the course.

"Cunning Plan, until then, was being quite cunning I thought! But is making up ground, very very slowly!"
— Jonathan Pearce as Cunning Plan bumps into the wall

Cunning Plan tries to right The Demolisher

As Cunning Plan easily steered through its third lap, it stopped to try and right The Demolisher, which had flipped itself over having taken a corner too tightly and clipped the wall whilst in the lead. Cunning Plan pushed it forward, into a wall, but The Demolisher was stuck on the side.

"Cunning Plan looks like it could take advantage of Demolisher's problems. … Cunning Plan seems to want to push him over the line!"
— Jonathan Pearce as Cunning Plan helps The Demolisher

Cunning Plan left The Demolisher and finished the lap, and having completed three laps, the race was over and Cunning Plan finished in first place.

Jeremy Clarkson: "You won it, and tried to get that other one back on its wheels."
Oliver Steeples: "Yeah, after the first two laps I lost count, so I thought I'd go around again. I saw it, so I thought "Why not?", give it a go."
Jeremy Clarkson: "You actually helped someone, even though they might be able to beat you?"
Oliver Steeples: "It's the way you go, isn't it?"
Jeremy Clarkson: "Oh, it's just such a nice sport this, caring and sharing!"
— Jeremy Clarkson questions Cunning Plan's attempt to right The Demolisher after the trial

Not shown on television was a moment after Cunning Plan had completed the final lap where it attacked Krayzee Tokyo, which had broken down during the opening lap.

"After I won I went for Krayzee Tokyo but got told to stop, luckily as the curved front of my opposition had got itself stuck under my front ramp."
— Oliver Steeples' website[3]

Through to the Arena stage, Cunning Plan faced Bugs for a place in the Heat Final.

"For the semi I was drawn against Bugs which started well but bugs moved out of the way and onto a grill. Dead Metal tried to retrieve it as I tried to incite the other house robots to attack me but it was game over."
— Oliver Steeples' website[4]

Cunning Plan gets underneath Bugs

Bugs drives onto the Grille

Cunning Plan started by charging down the arena at its opponent, but Bugs dodged it. As Bugs turned around on the spot, Cunning Plan quickly turned around and drove after Bugs. Bugs appeared to be having control difficulties, and as it tried to keep away from Cunning Plan, it span around on the spot. Cunning Plan caught up and got under Bugs with its wedge, then tried to push Bugs towards the grille, only for Bugs to slip off the side. Cunning Plan crashed into the side railings, but quickly reversed away. As it did so, Bugs span around on the spot and accidentally turned itself onto the grille, where it became immobilised. Whilst Dead Metal attacked Bugs, Cunning Plan drove up the arena and pushed the front of Sergeant Bash before quickly getting away. Dead Metal was unable to pull Bugs off the grille, so Cease was called and Cunning Plan went through.

Jeremy Clarkson: "Well it looks like you're through the first semi-final, how does that feel?"
Oliver Steeples: "Good."
Jeremy Clarkson: "Didn't put up much of a fight, did it?"
Oliver Steeples: "It was good, I like it."
Jeremy Clarkson: "Like what?"
Oliver Steeples: "Bugs! Look at the paint job, you've got to like it!"
— Post-battle interview

Cunning Plan then fought The Demolisher in the Heat Final.

"In the Stock Car, Cunning Plan actually tried to rescue Demolisher. That’s not going to be happening in the final!"
— Jeremy Clarkson

Cunning Plan gets underneath Demolisher

The battle was over very quickly; Cunning Plan started by slowly approaching The Demolisher, and The Demolisher reversed, then drove forwards. Suddenly, Cunning Plan charged forwards, and The Demolisher was instantly flipped onto its back and immobilised.

"Demolisher, at the top of your picture, is the quicker, but Cunning Plan is the heavier of these two featherweights. Demolisher will be trying to keep out of trouble, with young Sam at the wheels- Oh, but the wheels have come off! The Demolisher is beaten by the Cunning Plan of Oliver Steeples."
— Jonathan Pearce's commentary

The audience actually started booing after The Demolisher was flipped, prompting Oliver Steeples to shout "I'm sorry everyone!" in the post-battle interview.

"I'm not too sure if the crowd wanted young Sam Rudguard to win it, but he had no chance with power like that!"
— Jonathan Pearce as the audience boo

Having won the Featherweight heat, Cunning Plan entered the Grand Final, where it faced Recyclopse, Roadblock, Robot the Bruce, T.R.A.C.I.E. and Bodyhammer in a six-way melee for the championship.

"...and our featherweight pretender, Cunning Plan, speeding to victory in Heat 4!"
— Jonathan Pearce listing the Grand Finalists

Bodyhammer pushing Cunning Plan (right)

In the opening moments, Cunning Plan charged forwards, driving past Roadblock, and crashed into T.R.A.C.I.E. broadside on, bouncing away and doing a 360 spin. Whilst Roadblock, Recyclopse and T.R.A.C.I.E. fought each other, Bodyhammer went after Cunning Plan, and Cunning Plan's lightness was an immediate weakness as Bodyhammer easily shunted it down the arena, before turning away and leaving it. Cunning Plan turned around and drove up the arena, passing the other robots.

"...and running away, Cunning Plan. Needs to get back into the action, and be aggressive"
— Jonathan Pearce as Cunning Plan drives past its opponents

The demise of Cunning Plan

T.R.A.C.I.E. and Cunning Plan remain stuck as the other finalists fight on

Cunning Plan turned around and charged into the back of Robot the Bruce, which was pushing against T.R.A.C.I.E. and Bodyhammer. Cunning Plan reversed, but drove into Roadblock, and before it could get away, T.R.A.C.I.E. suddenly drove up Cunning Plan's wedge. Due to T.R.A.C.I.E.'s weight, Cunning Plan couldn't get out from under T.R.A.C.I.E., and T.R.A.C.I.E. was beached on top of the featherweight. Both robots were immobilised, and declared out of the running, and thus ended Cunning Plan's title hopes.


Series 1
The First Wars - UK Championship
Grand Finalist
Heat D, Gauntlet Completed (2nd) Qualified
Heat D, Trial (Stock Car) 3 laps (1st) Qualified
Heat D, Semi-Final vs. Bugs Won
Heat D, Final vs. The Demolisher Won
NOTE: This battle broke the Shortest Battle Record at 0:14 seconds
Grand Final vs. Bodyhammer, Recyclopse, Roadblock, Robot The Bruce, T.R.A.C.I.E. Lost


  • Wins: 2
  • Losses: 1

NOTE: Cunning Plan's Gauntlet and Trial runs are not included

Series Record[]

Series Cunning Plan Series Record
The First Wars Grand Final
The Second Wars Entered with Griffon
The Third Wars Entered with Griffon
The Fourth Wars Did not enter
The Fifth Wars Did not enter
The Sixth Wars Did not enter
The Seventh Wars Did not enter
Series 8 Did not enter
Series 9 Did not enter
Series 10 Did not enter


Outside Robot Wars[]

Cunning Plan in June 2022

Despite the robot being retired after Series 1, Cunning Plan still remained in the possession of Oliver Steeples. Oliver was able to get it running in 2017 after giving it two new ESCs and was able to drive it around a car park.[5]

Cunning Plan is currently stored in Oliver's shed, still in one piece but sporting rust on various metal parts.[6]


  • Cunning Plan's official photo in its introduction before the Gauntlet is different to the photo used for its Arena Semi-Final onwards (see Gallery). Differences include a relocation of the University of Reading logo, and the robot itself is shown with different dimensions.
  • All of the screws, bolts, sheet metal and aluminium blocks used in the making of Cunning Plan were obtained from the University of Reading's stores.
  • Just days before the filming of the First Wars, one of Cunning Plan's cooling fans overheated, but Oliver Steeples was able to get a replacement in time.[7].
  • Cunning Plan is one of 23 robots to have completed The Gauntlet, and one of only 3 featherweights to do so (alongside Demolisher and SAT'arn).
  • Cunning Plan is the one of the few robot without a moving weapon to reach a Grand Final, or indeed, win a battle. The other weaponless robots to make the Grand Final are Robot the Bruce and German competitor Tyke, which featured only static spikes. The former of the two fought in the same Grand Final as Cunning Plan.
  • When Cunning Plan first entered the arena, Jonathan Pearce referred to the robot's builder as a "Star Wars fan". In 2015, Oliver Steeples would later build the R2-D2 model used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[8]
  • Cunning Plan never had a judges' decision during its career.
  • Cunning Plan's burst of speed to finish the Gauntlet almost caused it to go Out of the Arena, which would have made it the first robot to do so.
  • Cunning Plan broke the record for the shortest battle in its Heat Final battle against The Demolisher at 14 seconds. This remained as the shortest battle until Cerberus defeated Cunning Plan's successor Griffon within 10 seconds in the Third Wars.