Defense comprimise ideas

In 2014, heavy defense resulted in lots of fouls, subjective ref calls, and overworked refs as well as robot damage.

In 2015, we have almost no defense, other than litter or maybe some can burgling at high levels of play.

I’d like to discuss ways that FIRST can add a strategic defense component to future games, but without the negatives of fouls, robot damage, overworked refs and so forth.

In past years, most defense involved one of three means: 1) robot to robot pushing/blocking, 2) Blocking shots, and 3) game piece starvation (2010, 2011, 2012, 2015–at high levels of play)

Are there OTHER creative ways that a defensive strategy component can be incorporated? By defensive strategy, I mean an allowable action by one alliance which will have a substantive effect on the other alliance’s ability to score points.

I have a couple thoughts, but I’ll hold off until I hear some other ideas.

I know some years including last year there has been defense during autonomous and maybe they could do something along the lines of that?

This is one of the reasons why 2005’s game, Triple Play, remains my favorite game to date.

While de-scoring tetras wasn’t allowed, disrupting a row of goals owned by the opposing alliance would lower their score. Superior driving and strategy were the keys to Triple Play, not top-notch engineering.

Being able to negate the efforts of your opponents is probably the cleanest way for FIRST to incorporate defense into their games. However, now that I think about it, this is the first year since 2008 in that a team could de-score previously scored game pieces. Before then, being able to take away opponents’ points had more or less been a staple of FIRST games.

2007 - Spoiler tubes
2006 - N/A
2005 - Eliminating goal rows
2004 - Removing doubling balls
2003 - Knocking down stacks or plowing boxes out of scoring zones
2002 - Moving goals out of your opponent’s goal scoring zone
2001 - N/A
2000 - Removing balls from your opponent’s goal

It just comes down to the GDC being willing to incorporate such defensive strategies into their games and to make them worth pursuing.

Since last year was my first year with FRC, I’ll just compare what I noticed from then with this year’s game. From what I remember, these were the main complains in 2014:

  • Only one game piece
  • Too much defense (main as a result of the single game piece)
  • Too much dependence on alliance partners to score (for assists)
  • Bumpers

This is what I’ve heard this year:

  • Too many types of game pieces but too few containers (leading to a chokehold strategy)
  • No defense
  • Not enough ways for alliance partners to contribute
  • Numbering rules

I personally think going back to a single field game, even with the issues from 2014, will be an improvement. But since 2015 seems to be an almost direct response to the main issues of 2014, maybe 2016 can be a compromise between the two?

  • Fewer types of game pieces with more of each
  • Bring back defense, but have enough game pieces that outscoring can be more worth it than pure defense
  • An offensive role that each alliance partner can play (otherwise they’ll just be doing defense)
  • Bumpers, just so we can go back to a single field

Basically, I feel like any game that allows for defense, but also has enough scoring options for each partner to be a strong offensive player, will be a middle ground between last year and this year.



In 2013, there was a lot that defense could do. It could block robots from firehosing at the feeder station. Defensive robots could also slow down bots moving across the field.

But they couldn’t touch the robots in the safe zones! If they did, it was foul.

This was my favorite year for defense, because a good drive team playing defense could limit the scoring cycles of even the very best teams. But fouls were not that common, and the safe zones meant that a good offense could still win.

Bring back something like 2013, and I’d be psyched.

I’m really looking for novel new ways to introduce defense into a game other then the three I mentioned (bot2bot interaction, blocking shots, piece starvation), not a rehash of year 20xx was great because…

Yes, that was a very unique defensive opportunity. I was a parent and score keeper, but not a mentor that year. From that vantage point, I sort of liked the game-- but I’ll respect those that disliked it as they had the team’s perspective which I did not have.

Off the top of my head one of the most unique ways of a type of defense was Lunacy from 2009. Although many people hated that game if you recall, essentially your alliance controls the goals. For those of you who don’t know what Lunacy was, the scoring objects were strapped to each robot and you had to get balls into the other alliances goals that were being dragged around by them. Although many people hated it, it was a very unique game because you had to worry about staying behind a robot to score but that also leaves you kind of open for people to score on you. In my opinion it introduced a whole new level of defense and strategy. I’m not saying this was a great game as you said above how your not looking for “game 20xx was great because” I’m just bringing up how unique that version of defense was and that was the only time that’s how you could play defense. Your, alliance controls the scoring zone… interesting game in my mind

Haha sorry i deleted it and reposted it now the order kind of looks messed up… oh well

My team brainstormed a bit about how to make this game more team-on-team interactive without requiring robots to actually interact:
-Take the lip off the step, double the width of the step, and put just about every tote on it instead of in the human load area. This would simplify getting totes off the step, and would require the two alliances to compete for resources like they do already for the RCs.
-Add a special type of RC (5x multiplier or something) that is on your opponent’s side of the step, so that it’s harder for you to get and easier for them to defend.
-Switch the pool noodles out with something easier to throw and aim so that “defense by litter” is more predictable. Foam cubes maybe?
-Switch the pool noodles out with something even harder for robots to drive on, making “defense by litter” more effective.
-The litter modifications could probably be combined to say that “only robots may cause a LITTER to change sides of the field” instead of the current situation where only humans can cause it to switch sides. Defensebots could load up with litter and launch it over.
-Permit robots to launch noodles (or their replacement shape) onto the other side of the field. Again, this would help with aiming and defense-by-litter.

I don’t have time to prove this, but I feel like as long as rankings are by QA, defense is kinda pointless. You’re very slightly reducing the QA of the robots you play against while scoring no points directly for yourself. If you score a point for yourself, that increases your QA relative to everyone else by (1/<number of matches you play>). If you prevent a point being scored by the opposition, that increases your QA relative to only those 3 robots you’re playing against instead of the whole field.

Those three cover a lot while not actually talking about anything specifically.

Direct PvP interactions: This defense is everything from shoving matches, area control, and plan disruption. The basic straightforward stuff. I would even argue that blocking shots would fall under this category
Strategic interactions: This is where strategic resource management to deny points would be in play, this is pulling bins off the step and such.

Things I would like to see:
Trade offs: In chess a fork is when you threaten two things of value with the hope that you can disrupt a plan and change the flow of a game
Jails: In capture the flag when you tag someone and they go to jail you defend it. I would be interested in seeing areas that teams defend to prevent the other team from scoring
Really what I want to see is games where teams are forced to make tough decisions.
For all you gamers out there please remember defense can be insanely exciting or the most boring thing known to mankind depending upon how its utilized.

What removing defense also allows teams is the ability to expand to (mostly) whatever they want. If you want two robots (148’s Batman and Robin), you’ll have to carefully design within the weight limits. If you add any opposing robot interaction, then you eleminate those unique designs.

My favorite FIRST game has to be FTC Block Party! for many reasons. One of those reasons was that at higher levels, playing defense cost you the game. They layed out the feild in a such a way that you have no reason to go to the other side. If you want to play some defense, you could try to block them from picking up blocks. But a better “defense” was just to go full offense. There were a limited amount of blocks, so the more you score the more you take away from your opponents.

Taking away your opponents’ scoring pieces has been a staple for a while (Moon Rocks, Soccer balls, tubes, basket balls, and ground frisbees). However the game that this worked as a strategy was 2011. At Michigan States, the number 1 alliance lost to the number 8 because of strategy alone. Part of that strategy was to not throw out tubes and only deliver them in protected areas.

I would like to see a game where both alliances have to use the same scoring pieces like Block Party!. Defense might work at first, but if you’re playing defense you’re not scoring points. The game winning strategy has always been to score more points than the other alliance.

I really do believe safe zones are the best way to incorporate defense into the game while also not making it crazy aggressive. I understand that this means more work on refs to watch for contact in the safe zones but as long as the penalty isn’t crazy high, it’s not that big of a deal.

How about throwing game pieces at opponents and hoping that those game pieces will interfere with the opposing alliance’s driving/manipulating?

Let’s make it really, really simple.

Both alliances have the same set of game objects to pull from. No assigned alliance to any given gamepiece(s). Returning scored gamepieces to the field optional. You get X protected zone to Y in, other than that you’re on your own.

I think that for most teams, intaking the gamepieces will also provide some defense, as the other alliance has to wait to do anything with said gamepieces, either until scored or until their next match…

Essentially, defense is the activity of neutralizing or reversing the effectiveness of a tactic or resource. The various types of defense I can think of are (includes those already listed):

  • scoring denial (blocking or de-scoring)
  • game piece denial
  • goal denial (whether movable goals or blocking)
  • area denial (through obstructions or credible threat of some consequence)
  • sabotage (damaging/jamming/entangling the robot; FRC traditionally limits this to extensions beyond the frame perimeter)
  • counter-defense (defending against the above actions)

Techniques and tactics of defense include (again, includes those already listed):

  • robot-to-robot interaction (blocking, striking, pinning, damaging)
  • human player actions (litter, human scoring as a threat to deny area)
  • use of game pieces and field elements (moving, throwing, dropping, exploiting)
  • Avoidance (being more maneuverable/faster/stronger than will allow the other alliance to execute an offensive/defensive action)
  • Hoarding (usually not allowed)
  • Sensor disruption/jamming (includes blocking driver/human player vision)
  • creating situations in which the other alliance is likely to incur a foul penalty.

Exactly which techniques can be applied to which type is highly dependent on the game design. Also, many of the combinations are explicitly denied by rules most years.

After coming back from my own regional this past weekend I had some thoughts on this too. These are ways this game could have incorporated more teamwork and defense against the other alliance.

  1. Either lose the step or make an open middle gap to allow other teams to block robots from gaining access to the totes and bins.
  2. Make all the resources open access so that people have to compete. (OP: I know you already said this, but it works.)
  3. probably the craziest idea Maybe robots could have been allowed to steal stacks from their opponents. If you made it back to your side and put the stack on your platform you got the points. However, if you knocked it down while stealing it or they fell off your robot, the original alliance retains the points and/or you get fouled thus providing a possible high risk/high reward scenario for teams willing to steal a maximum stack.

I think any of these ways would have made the game more exciting. Several of my teammates were bored with the game and felt that the structure seemed to make it so either one robot could do everything or nobody could do anything about a high alliance scoring. With defense, everyone could have a part to play.

I was merely using previous games to illustrate that it’s up to the GDC to design the defense into the game. That’s the best way to get defensive strategies that don’t fall within those three. As soon as you come up with a “novel new” way to play defense that translates to all games, it will just be added to your list of common defensive strategies or it will be disallowed per the rules (intentionally tipping robots, blocking the view of opposing drivers, etc.)

The most interesting defensive strategies will be unique from year-to-year and almost every game has the potential for such strategies. The only question is whether these strategies are worth the effort.

Check out Einstein Finals match 3 from 2007. 987 makes one of the greatest defensive plays in FIRST history, at least in my opinion, by placing a tube on 71’s ramp to block 179 from getting up.

I am beginning to think that no defense rule probably nudged some teams to build a working, even if scoring one game piece at a time. Unlike in previous years, some robots (not talking about dedicated defense bots) just come with drive and keep bugging the other robots. At least now the newer teams will not be coerced into playing defense all the time. Hats off to many rookie teams who have built some amazing machines.

I’ve been saying something like this recently. One good thing about no defense is it is forcing some teams that would have given up on their manipulators to actually use them. You are seeing teams attempting to score totes and RC’s instead of just giving up and playing defense as they would have in previous years.