FIRST 4 year game theme cycle theory

I don’t know if this has been pointed out before, but it seems as if FIRST recycles a general theme for games every 4 year.

This theory begins in 2003 as FIRST introduced STACK ATTACK and the autonomous mode. I believe at this time the GDC made a decision to streamline the cycle at which games came out. This cycle follows the traditional High School career of 4 years in the US, to ensure that each FRC student got a well-rounded experience. Those themes were: lifting game (somewhat different object is scored through a lift type mechanism), game with ball 1(not necessarily shooting, and other important game objectives and objects), unusual object game, game with ball 2 (goals on opposite sides with very few other game objects, most commonly shooting). Here is an analysis based on each game: (L=lifting, GB1=Game with ball 1,U= unusual object game, GB2=Game with ball 2)

2016: FIRST Stronghold GB1

  • Shooting balls into towers
  • Defenses are the other game objective/objects, as well as scaling.

2015: Recycle Rush L

  • Lifting totes into stacks
  • Don’t want to say anything else about this game

2014: Aerial Assist GB2

  • Goals on opposite sides of field
  • Shooting trackballs into those goals.
  • Not many other game objects and objectives (truss isn’t huge as you didn’t really need to make a new mechanism for it)

2013: Ultimate Ascent U
-Score frisbees (unusual object) into goals.
-Could say the pyramids were also somewhat unusual.

2012: Rebound Rumble GB1
-One may argue it is a GB2, as it has goals on opposite sides and is a pretty traditional type of game.
-Not really as another game objects in bridges.
-Larger emphasis on bridges than hanging in 2010.

2011: Logomotion** L**
-Teams organized pool tubes into the FIRST logo on a rack.
-Teams designed lift mechanism which would place the tubes onto said rack.

2010: Breakaway** GB2**
-More traditional (pretty much robot soccer) with goals on opposite sides.
-Shooting/punching balls into goals
-Hanging was included, but not a huge emphasis.

2009: Lunacy U
-Moon rocks and cells are unusual game pieces
-Could say that the crater (the field) was also an unusual object.

2008: FIRST Overdrive GB1
-Teams circled through the field
-Not traditional shooting game
-Trackballs scored over overpass (extra game objective).

2007: Rack 'n Roll** L**
-Pool tubes scored onto rack.
-Lifting mechanism for scoring tubes onto multiple heights on rack.

2006: Aim High** GB2**
-Goals on opposite sides of field.
-No extra game objects besides goal and ramp in front of it.
-Emphasis on shooting in goals (and defense).

2005: Triple Play U
-Unique game piece in tetras (place on goals)

2004: FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar** GB 1**
-Mobile goals and hanging bar (extra game objects)
-less shooting more placing
-Goals are not on opposite sides of field (less traditional)

2003: Stack Attack L
-Start of the cycle
-Teams stack and attack stacks of totes.
-Teams used lifting mechanisms to stack

If this pattern continues 2017 will be an unusual object game. Perhaps, teams trying to score tetras on to the 2013 pyramids, as human players throw moon rocks to knock them off, at the end teams must put their alliance flags on top of the pyramid.

Thanks for reading! All feedback is greatly appreciated! (I know many of the GB1s and 2s are very similar)

I saw a similar theory during proposed during the preseason to Recycle Rush, which I believe has held true so far. This one seems more thoroughly thought out, taking into account the manipulation of each game piece rather than just the game piece itself. Really nice job. Can’t wait to see something unusual next year :smiley:

This is an old (and interesting) topic.

If you do some CD searching, you will be rewarded with an opportunity to add any new insights you might have, to CD’s existing speculations, theories, statistics, observations, and conclusions in this subject. Adding something useful (like an update that includes recent history) to those discussions will be better than starting from scratch again.

I think the broad consensus is that there is something of a chicken-and-egg tug-of-war between game designers and the (locally, at least) euclidean geometry of our universe.


The only other two non-ball years were also odd (1997 and 1999); 2001 is actually the only exception to odd years having non-balls since 1997. That was also the only 4v0 year (or xv0 year, for that matter).

2009 game pieces were nearly spherical, but it was the only time since 1993 where carpet did not make up a majority of the game surface.

Most non-spherical game pieces were placed rather than thrown or dumped, but 2009 and 2013 were exceptions. It’s four years later…

So yes, I expect non-ball game pieces, and would not be at all surprised if they are to be launched (or creatively dispatched, e.g. deflated, crushed, eaten, inverted, made dizzy) rather than placed.

Edit: In describing the recent apparent four year cycle to someone last year, I recapped the pattern as “ball, placement, ball, bizarro”. If the pattern holds, it’s a bizarro year.


I too can find a method with correlation bias by applying a pattern to most datasets!

I predicted that next year we will probably have trailers/mobile goals again but I agree the pattern of odd shaped game pieces is also very likely. Trailers somewhat fall into that pattern since we have not had a trailer/mobile goal game since 2009. In modern FRC if there is no ball game piece next year then 2018 will have a ball… Says a 25 year trend that we have never once gone 2 years in a row without a ball shaped game piece!

Since we have already had toroids, sacks, plastic boxes, tetras, whatever 2009 counts as since it was sort of a ball, frisbees, and noodles I wonder who can guess what the next weird game piece will be?

Lawn Gnome

So while everyone is busy trying to answer silly questions like “What will next year’s game be?”, I have been hard at work (I actually spent way too much time on this) diving in to the history of FRC to find an answer to the real question on everyone’s minds: “What color will the carpet be next year?”. To answer this question I studied the past 15 games because what can you possibly learn from a mere 14 games? I even braved looking back through the what is known as the “Dark Years” of FRC (2004-2008), when FIRST did not provide carpet names. What I have come up with I am calling the “FIRST 7 year carpet color cycle theory”. Every 7 years starting back in 2003, the field has featured three colors of carpet: a red, a blue, and a third color.

2016-FIRST Stronghold: “Scotch Pine”

2015-Recycle Rush: “Polar Express” and “Capital Red”

2014-Aerial Assist: “Ground Pepper”

2013-Ultimate Ascent: “Ground Pepper”

2012-Rebound Rumble: “Park Bench”

2011-Logomotion: “Ground Pepper”

**2010-Breakaway: “Scotch Pine” with small amounts of “Polar Express” and “Capitol Red” **

2009-Lunacy: “Glasliner FRP™”

2008-FIRST Overdrive: “gray”

2007-Rack 'n Roll: “gray”

2006-Aim High: “gray”

2005-Triple Play: “gray”

2004-FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar: “gray”

2003-Stack Attack: “Saphire Night”, “Pewter”, and "Festival Red"

2002-Zone Zeal: “Black Coal”

2017 will be 7 years from 2010, so we will see this pattern occur again. Look at the facts, they’re indisputable. Now that I have cracked this mystery that has puzzled FRC for decades, all of CD can sleep easy until kickoff knowing what the carpet will be and can stop worrying about silly things like the what the game will be.

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Egg shaped objects would be cool. I can only imagine the crazy, out of the box mechanisms that teams will build.

With the water game joke that’s always floating around, I was thinking blue carpet and plastic shark game pieces.

Footballs or Rugby balls?

Another thing I noticed was the cycling of scaling or something similar every 3 years:

2016-FIRST Stronghold: Scale the Tower

2015-Recycle Rush: none

2014-Aerial Assist: none

2013-Ultimate Ascent: Climbing pyramid

2012-Rebound Rumble: none


2010-Breakaway: scaling the center two things

2009-Lunacy: none

2008-FIRST Overdrive: none

2007-Rack 'n Roll: climbing or lifting other robots

2006-Aim High: none

2005-Triple Play: none

2004-FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar: scaling the center bar

2003-Stack Attack: none

Scaling is the only thing that I found that cycles every 3 years so far, but I think there are more. The purpose of the 3 year cycle would be so that students in their 4th year could apply knowledge from their first year to a similar task, and also nostalgia. I call this theory “FIRST 3 year Nostalgia/Application Game Cycle”

First has pretty much told us they want to keep using themes. Assuming this and the pattern is true I believe that next years game will be footballs. They would probably add a challenging endgame with this as footballs seem easy to score.

More interesting though than the game piece itself are the rules surrounding it. If we are allowed to hold 1 game piece 3 game pieces or unlimited game pieces. The GDC could recycle tubes, tetras, or giant balls and just allow us to hold 3 game pieces at a time and the robots used would change drastically.

What a game and robots could look like for a football themed game:

Although it doesn’t quite follow your 3 year climbing cycle, 2000 had a hanging bar in the center of the field similar to 2004. (albeit, shorter)

I would also be interested in seeing games that are less focused on scoring as many points as possible, and more strategic. 2005 is probably the best example of this with its tic-tac-toe gameplay.

Giant Connect Four, anyone?
It would certainly fit the expected unusual object game piece.

While 2015 definitely falls into the “Lifting” category the OP laid out, but I think it more naturally fits into the “Unusual object” category. Mostly because the manipulation of the object was so unique related to the other usual objects.

How about Roomba Roundup?
Teams capture and place modified roombas into their corrals. The opposing alliance can steal the captured roombas and place them in their own corrals. The team with the most roombas win.

That’s it! But instead of just collecting them, the Roombas will have to be placed to clean up corn in the corrals. The team or alliance that cleaned the most corn would win. Or maybe it would be Corn Cleanup, same as above, but without the Roombas, so the big robots do all of the cleaning(we’re on our way to a paper airplane solution??). Possibly Roombas in a hard to reach area that could be used to assist if a team could deploy and activate it?

Didn’t we already play that in 2012 for a match or so? :stuck_out_tongue:

By the way, best way to play this one is with an unknown number of Roombas roaming the field, AND all different types of Roombas (and probably their cousins the Scubas–hey, gotta clean the pool somehow!) Significant bonus for getting them all to drive themselves into the corrals.

Oh, and the field gets cleaned every match, which makes field reset’s “we’re on break” jobs easier.