The game designers did a nice job with this year’s game. Here’s what I like:
Teams don’t have to build a “do everything” bot to win, like they did in some other games (2011, 2015). This is more like 2013 where it’s hard to be the absolute best at every objective, but you can leave one of them out and still win. For example, a team with hatch ability and L3 climb can do well. A team with no climb and really good level 1 scoring ability can do well.
Low height point scoring is viable. Some people argue that high rocket scoring isn’t valuable enough, and I see where they’re coming from. That aside, I think it’s great that a team can be competitive without building an elevator. Elevators are tricky to do really effectively. So are big arms. Being tall with high CoG has its own difficulties. Teams have an actual choice this year about going high, compared to other games (especially 2011) where you basically had to go to the top level to have any shot at winning.
Sandstorm is pretty cool - more teams participate! Teams with good auto or semi-auto can use their resources to go for a more reliable 2 hatch auto, which is very helpful.
The point value and strategic value of sandstorm play is quite appropriate - it starts you ahead in the game, but a sandstorm lead isn’t insurmountable. (Compare that to autonomous in 2013, 2018, or especially 2015).
Game strategy is interesting. Decisions of where to place your first game piece and where to send your defense has significant implications for how the teleop period is going to play out. Depending on the alliances, you might choose a different sandstorm task, and since it’s camera driving, you don’t have to be a team that did a month of testing to have the ability to prepare for different sandstorm tasks. That adds variety and fun.
End game is appropriately valuable. It’s important, but it doesn’t decide every match. You can fail your climb and still win sometimes. Sometimes a L3 climber with slower scoring beats a faster team with no climb, but sometimes it goes the other way. You could build a buddy climbing specialist that wins with climbs, but a regular climber with scoring ability would be competitive against it.
Also with the end game, I really like the tiered climbing objective options. You have 4 or 5 tiers of difficulty, including the Hab3 buddy climbs as the hardest ones. This plays out a lot better than something like 2017 where every team could do a relatively easy 50 point climb, but that meant it was basically required in every match. Every team had to have that type of climber to win: less variety, less strategic specialization options for robot design, and less fun since it was more a negative if one of your alliance’s climbs failed than an exciting thing when it succeeds.
The buddy climb’s value is appropriate - fitting two robots (or lifting one) on Hab3 is hard and adds 6 points beyond the Hab3+Hab2 option. That’s enough to matter, but not enough to make up for a lack of game piece ability. The triple climb is super valuable, but it’s also really difficult. I can picture a match where 1678 triple climbs against an alliance that fits two robots on Hab3 plus a partner on Hab2, and the latter alliance would still have a shot to make up the 6 point deficit by being a little faster at scoring game pieces and better at defense. And by the way, Hab 2 climb is a lower difficulty, accessible task that’s nice to have as a niche option.
If the goal is to provide a good experience for a lot of different types of teams, I think this is quite a good FRC game.