Whenever a Robot Wars battle ended with no clear winner, a panel of three Judges would decide on the outcome by scoring each competitor on a set of criteria - style (Series 1-7 and international series only), control, damage and aggression. In total, eight different Judges appeared on the show, all with backgrounds in robotics, engineering, electronics or computer science.
The Judges were required to watch all battles as they were being filmed. They also had the option of reviewing battle footage and/or personally inspecting competitor robots for damage in order to support their decision-making process.
The Judges from the UK Series also appeared on various international versions of the show, as these were usually filmed concurrently in the same arena. In the Dutch and German Robot Wars, they were referred to as the Jury.
List of Judges
|Noel Sharkey||Series 1-10, Extreme 1-2||Head of Robotics at the University of Sheffield|
|Eric Dickinson||Series 1-2||The only British veteran of the original US competition|
|Adam Harper||Series 1-3||Then holder of the land speed record for electric vehicles|
|Martin Smith||Series 3-7, Extreme 1-2||Head of the UK Cybernautics Society|
|Myra Wilson||Series 4-5, Extreme 1||Head of Computer Science at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth|
|Mat Irvine||Series 5-7, Extreme 1-2||BBC Technical Consultant and Visual Effects Designer|
|Sethu Vijayakumar||Series 8-10||Professor of Robotics at Edinburgh University|
|Lucy Rogers||Series 8-10||Doctor of Mechanical Engineering and Author|
For Series 5 and Extreme 1, Martin Smith, Myra Wilson and Mat Irvine cycled throughout, with two of the three acting as Judges alongside Noel Sharkey. After this, Wilson left the show, and Irvine, Sharkey and Smith remained in the role until the end of the original show's run. Noel Sharkey, Martin Smith and Mat Irvine also appeared as Judges for all but one series of the US, Dutch and German versions as they all took place during or after the filming for Extreme Series 1, when those three Judges were first put together. The only exception was Dutch Series 1, in which Myra Wilson was a Judge instead of Mat Irvine.
A Judges' decision would be made at the end of a battle if:
- There are a sufficient number of mobile machines when time runs out such that there is no clear winner(s).
- The machines fighting become immobilised at roughly the same time (the judges may call for a rematch in this case).
- There is a rule infraction, for example a health and safety hazard.
- The match must be halted early for any reason (the Judges may call for a rematch or restart in this case).
- It is decided that the House Robots improperly influenced the outcome of the battle.
The four criteria for Judges' decisions during the original run of the series were style, control, damage and aggression. In those series, damage carried the most weight, with aggression being deemed the next most important factor. This was reversed for the reboot, with aggression being the key scoring criteria over damage and control respectively.
- Style refers to how well the robot entertained the audience and demonstrated its capabilities during the battle. Best examples of this include Razer's or Mute's elaborate ways of self-righting. One would lose points for style if it did nothing entertaining during the battle. Style is judged to be the least important of the criteria.
- Control refers to how well the robot was operated during the battle. As well as highlighting good driving skills, it also gives weight to how much control the robot had over the flow of the battle or, as highlighted in the rebooted series, how accurate it is with weapon attacks. Ways to lose points for control include getting pushed around, and poor avoidance of arena hazards. Control is the third most important factor in a Judges' decision.
- Aggression refers to how aggressive the robot was deemed to have fought during the battle, not necessarily by causing damage. The best example of this in the original series is Storm 2 vs The Grim Reaper from Series 7, where although Storm 2 did not damage The Grim Reaper sufficiently enough to immobilise it, it was continuously on the offensive throughout the entire battle. From Series 8 to 10, this was considered the most influential criteria and officially defined as a robot consistently or 'relentlessly taking the battle to its opponents'. Thor's Series 8 Head to Head against Shockwave best exemplifies the latter definition, as its sustained axe attacks significantly outweighed the latter's attempts to ram and push it into Matilda's flywheel.
- Damage refers to the amount of external and/or internal damage inflicted on the other robot as a result of one robot's actions. Notable examples of this include Wild Thing vs Hypno-Disc from Series 4, Firestorm 3 vs Razer from Series 5 and Dominator 2 vs 101, again from Series 4. Throughout the original series, damage was considered to be the most important factor in a Judges' decision, and could outweigh aggression in the event of a closely-fought battle.
If there are no clear winners at the end of a battle, the winner of a Judges' decision is the robot which has scored the highest number of points across all categories. This scoring system gives a fair and unbiased chance for every robot - irrespective of size, weight or power - to win.
Weighting of Judges' Decision Criteria
- DAMAGE. (Weight of 4) 1-5 points x 4 = Score for Damage.
- AGGRESSION. (Weight of 3) 1-5 points x 3 = Score for Aggression.
- CONTROL. (Weight of 2) 1-5 points x 2 = Score for Control.
- STYLE. (Weight of 1) 1-5 points x 1 = Score for Style.
NOTE: The scoring criteria and its weighting was revealed publicly in Robot Wars: The Official Handbook
- AGGRESSION. (Weight of 3) 1-5 points x 3 = Score for Aggression.
- DAMAGE. (Weight of 2) 1-5 points x 2 = Score for Damage.
- CONTROL. (Weight of 1) 1-5 points x 1 = Score for Control.
The primary differences in the reboot scoring criteria, compared to the criteria of the classic series, were the shift in Aggression being valued over Damage and the removal of the Style category.
List of Judges' Decisions
In Series 8 and 9, the Judges gained more prominent speaking roles. After certain battles, one Judge would describe the battle they saw, talking about noticeable tactics, and their opinion of certain competitors' performances. If necessary, they would also justify the outcome of a Judges' decision. Selecting which robot received the Wildcard entry into the Grand Final also fell to the Judges, who chose Thor and Apollo in Series 8 and 9 respectively. In Series 10, the Judges' reactions started to be included during fights.
In Series 8-10, Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon (Series 9-10) would also interview one Judge in each heat, discussing developments in robotics, robot combat and technology. Topics of discussion included the NASA Valkyrie project, roboteering communities and communication devices, 'shared autonomy', animatronics, the introduction of lithium polymer batteries and HARDOX steel, and domestic applications of drones and exoskeletons. In Series 10, other industry professionals and roboteers could be in these segments alongside or after the Robot Wars judge, these being Richard Browning and Alex Shakespeare.