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We propose two contrasting approaches to the scalable distributed control of a swarm of self-assembling miniaturized robots, specifically the formation of chains of a desired length: (1) a deterministic controller in which robots communicate with each other in order to directly limit the size of each chain, and (2) a probabilistic controller where the average chain size is controlled by the probability a robot will choose to leave its chain. We demonstrate the feasibility of both approaches by implementing them on a real swarm of Alice robots. Using Webots, a realistic simulator for mobile robotics, and macroscopic models based on the Chemical Reaction Network (CRN) framework, we investigate the limitations of the deterministic controller and demonstrate the existence of optimal parameters for the probabilistic controller where exploration and exploitation are well balanced, thus favoring the formation of larger chains.