Figured reviewing the blockading rule could be an interesting topic given the recent discussion relating to Chezy Champs.
I think it’s important to look at a few different things when looking at this rule.
- What is the intent of the rule?
- Should that kind of play be prevented? Should that be adjusted?
- How should teams be sufficiently deterred from doing the illegal action?
- How clear and precise can the language be to determine if a team is breaking the rules?
Here is the most recent version of the rule from the 2018 manual.
G12. Don’t collude with your partners to shut down major parts of game play. Two or more ROBOTS may not isolate or close off any major component of MATCH play, e.g. blocking the EXCHANGE, blocking both PORTALS simultaneously, shutting down all access to POWER CUBES, quarantining all opponents to a small area of the FIELD, etc. **Violation: YELLOW CARD for the ALLIANCE.**
Don’t collude with your partners to shut down major parts of game play. Two or more ROBOTS may not isolate or close off any major facet of MATCH play, e.g. block all three opponent LIFTS, shut down all access to GAME PIECES, quarantine all opponents to a small area of the FIELD, etc. **Violation: YELLOW CARD for the ALLIANCE.**
2016 version of the rule:
G25 A ROBOT may not attempt to stop or impede the flow of the MATCH in any of the following ways: A. intentionally tipping over B. coordinating a blockade of the FIELD with ALLIANCE members C. blocking GOAL(S) while in contact with its own BATTER using anything outside its FRAME PERIMETER except its BUMPERS D. blocking more than one of the opponent’s HUMAN PLAYER STATION openings while not contacting the carpet in the opponent’s SECRET PASSAGE E. isolating BOULDERS in the opponent’s SECRET PASSAGE from opponents while not contacting the carpet in the opponent’s SECRET PASSAGE **Violation: YELLOW CARD for the ALLIANCE**
2014-2012 version of the rule:
G25 ROBOTS on the same ALLIANCE may not blockade the FIELD in an attempt to stop the flow of the MATCH. This rule has no effect on individual ROBOT-ROBOT interaction. **Violation: TECHNICAL FOUL**
2011 (first time this rule appeared):
ALLIANCE ROBOTS may not work together to blockade the FIELD in an attempt to stop the flow of the MATCH. This rule has no effect on individual ROBOT-to-ROBOT defense. **Violation: PENALTY plus RED CARD**
Intent of the rule
If we look at the early rules we see the classic “stop the flow of the MATCH” wording. The wording is super vague, so looking at each extremes, at worst we could interpret it as* two robots playing defense at the same time* breaks this rule. I think when reflecting on what the intent of this rule and what it should be, two robots playing defense at the same time doesn’t make sense to penalize teams for. The other end of the spectrum is kind of hard to define since we don’t know what “flow of the match” really is, so we will leave that for now.
2014-2012 has the exact same wording, so we won’t worry about that for now.
2015 due to the split field has no blockading rule.
2016, we see the most complex rule definition, where it tries to describe what “flow of the match” actually means. Most of it is game specific, but what it generally seems to boil down to me, is playing defense in a way that can completely prevent the opponent team from scoring boulders. All of the methods aside from A and B to me could be extrapolated to fully prevent an alliance from scoring boulders, be it cutting off the opponents supply, or cutting off the places they could score. B is super vague, and hard to determine what is, and is basically the remnant of the 2011-2014 rules. I’m not sure of a situation where A is helpful to strategy, as a robot is still a robot if it’s tipped over, and is still susceptible to penalties.
2017 & 2018 are the most clear to me, as they explicitly give intent in the rules, of which, all examples are ones of completely shutting down a facet of game play to an alliance. (block all three opponent LIFTS, shut down all access to GAME PIECES, quarantine all opponents to a small area of the FIELD, blocking the EXCHANGE, blocking both PORTALS simultaneously).
To me after reviewing the intent of these rules, it’s pretty clear that the intent of these rules is to prevent an entire alliance from scoring points from one or more aspects of the game. Not a single robot from being able to score in the game.
Is the Intent Valid?
I don’t think anyone can argue that making it impossible to score for an alliance shouldn’t be penalized, so yes this type of play should be regulated.
Should the intent be adjusted?
Here is where more of an argument can be made, and where there seems to be a lot of confusion. Some will argue that preventing one robot from scoring at all is also the intent of the rules/should be the intent of the rules.
There are a several problems that I find with this interpretation. Consider these two scenarios in the 2018 season. Presume that you can be called for blockading one robot and preventing them from scoring on an aspect of the game. The blue robot pictured in the picture is trying to score on the scale, and the two red robots are doing nothing but defending that blue robot in the choke point.
Defended driver skill level: 1/10 Defenders driver skill level: 5/10 Defenders easily block the defended driver and prevent them from scoring. **Blockading is called against the defenders.**
Defended driver skill level: 10/10 Defenders driver skill level: 5/10 Defenders struggle to block the defended robot, there is a 5 second slowdown on the defended robot but they are able to make it through. **Blockade is not called here, as the robot could make it through.**
In both cases, the actions of the red robots were identical, the only difference is that the blue robot was able to make it through due to driver skill alone. I don’t think it’s a good idea to make rules that encourage weak driving from the defender, and discourage good defense from defenders.
Another issue that I have with this interpretation is that in some cases, a one on one defense player can drastically or in some cases completely prevent a robot from scoring, which is essentially the exact same issue here, except instead of a 1v1, it’s a 2v1, so it’s “unfair”, but i’m not so sure that this is true. Much like in sports it’s a strategic decision. By putting two robots on defense, (even if both aren’t defending the entire time) you are betting that your one robot left scoring (plus some extra help from whoever isn’t scoring at that one time) can outscore the two robots that you left undefended, essentially making it a 1v2 in the scoring department. In sports there are rules that prevent game breaking things from happening, but if you wanted all of your players to just defend one person in a game, that’s a real gamble. blocking one robot in a zone has counter play, you can do things to still fight in the game.
This diversity in potential play style should be respected, and even encouraged to add depth to FRC games, not penalized no matter how frustrating it may be to be blocked out by two defenders. It is however important to distinguish between plays that have counter play when defending, and ones that do not. (blocking all the peg lifts in 2017, blocking the exchange to prevent powerups, etc) These have no counter-play, and are not fun to play against.
How should teams be sufficiently deterred from doing the illegal action?
I think it’s easy to move this to a red card + some point value with some increased clarity in the rules. Red card to prevent usage for one time matches in elims as a long shot, and some point value to discourage in quals to some degree. (exactly like the 2011 rules, just with a better description of the illegal behavior)
How clear and precise can the language be to determine if a team is breaking the rules?
What do you think? How should the rule be worded? What should the intent of the rule be and how should the rule be written to reflect that intent?
Here is a draft of what I would like to see for 2019.
Don’t collude with your partners to shut down major parts of game play. Two or more ROBOTS may not isolate or close off any major component of MATCH play from an ALLIANCE. **Violation: RED CARD for the offending ROBOT(S). TECHNICAL FOUL**
Let me know what you think!