Doug G is right. Our alliance thought we could win by having 2 fast cappers and a defensive robot. It seemed to work well for a while until we got to finals and came up against 3 high cappers. We had the weakness that even though we capped really fast and reliably, we couldn’t cap the small goals more than 2 high. Even with that weakness, we went undefeated in the qualifying rounds (11-0-0, 9 avg pts) mainly because of strategy.
Coaches are big this year. The driver and myself (the operator) were too busy avoiding our teammates and bashers (which there are quite a few of this year) to think about where to go next. Our coach scoped the field and we did the work.
Communication between coaches is key also. Have a predetermined plan and try to stick somewhat to it, but also be open to adaptation at any point. We sometimes would cap 5 goals and then go and play defense for the last 30 seconds.
Getting back to home zone for the 10 points in not worth it unless the entire team in unable to cap (i.e. not designed to do it or flipped). Say you own your entire side, the entire middle, and a corner on your opponents side. You shoot back with 20 seconds remaining. In those 20 seconds, an opponent could cap the center goal or a middle side goal, thereby taking away 2 rows and 20 of your points. It seems to me that it is more important to keep capping till the end, it will net you more points and will keep your opponents from stealing from you.
The big thing to do in autonomous this year is to cap a corner goal with the starting tetra which also knocks down a hanger, thereby scoring you 4 points. When we were paired with 254 once, we owned the entire back line at the end of autonomous. We knocked down our hanger, they knocked down theirs and they capped the center home goal.
Another key point for strategy is to only cap where it helps you. It is pointless to cap your home corner goal if you already have a tetra in the base unless that makes it so your opponent cannot take it from you. Once you own the entire field, then you can start capping over your own goals, not before.
Penalties are huge this year. There were three big ones. Hitting your opponent while loading (30 pts), having the human player not stand in the triangle while loading your robot (10 pts), and not having your robot in the triangle while loading (10 pts). Many teams tied zip ties across the front of their robot so they would touch the triangle rather than trying to maneuver a wheel on. It ended up being iffy. For the most part, they got penalized. Either the judges couldn’t see the zip ties well enough or (more likely) the judges were looking for a wheel/tread to be on the triangle. So, if you were planning on doing something like this, talk to a judge beforehand to see how they interpret the rules so you don’t get penalized.
In my opinion, the game is much easier to score on the fly. Well, aside from penalties that is. A quick glace at the field will normally tell you who the winner is, or who is winning at the time. It is also much more fun than last year’s game since defense is much bigger. Before, you really couldn’t take away your opponents points. This year, you must be constantly aware of who owns which goal, how you can easily break an opponents line, and where everyone is. There were many times when we would cap a goal and then go on defense, pushing other bots around.
There’s another point. Robots that capped well and had a strong drive train dominated since they could play both offense and defense. Multiple-speed transmissions didn’t really make a difference this year, but maneuverability did. The 6-wheel design was quite popular. We found it to work very well for our team. It allowed us to have plenty of grip for pushing with an incredibly small turning radius due to a center wheel lowered 1/32". It seemed that about 60% of the teams used the kitbot gearbox, and I don’t blame them. The stock gearbox has a great gear ratio to give you both speed and torque. We, unfortunately, couldn’t use it due to the way we had to have the shaft go straight through our gearbox and have the motors be opposed to each other for our direct-drive transmission. I don’t know about the other alliance, but in our alliance for the finals, no one had a stock box.
As for robot damage, anything requiring repair was self-inflicted for us. Mainly, we forgot that steel rivets will stretch aluminum holes. And we just wore our treads down due to overuse (and due to burning a 8 square inch hole in the carpet). I saw many broken arms. There’s a lot of torque required to accelerate an 8.5 pound object held 8 feet our from your robot. 701 broke their arm a couple of times, but fortunately they could repair it. Others were not so lucky.
Well, thats about all I have to say. I hope some of this information helps those of you competing in the weeks to come. Good luck everyone and, for those of you going to SVR, I’ll see you shortly.