I have a lot of thoughts on the topic of defense in FRC that I will likely post in one of these threads, but I haven’t organized them well enough yet and I’m not sure which of the half-dozen related threads are the most appropriate yet.
But I do wanna address the list in the OP quickly first:
This list confuses me a lot. Some of these takes are wildly different than what I would say.
2018- This is the best game for triple-offense and low-goal value in qualifications in FRC history, bar none. It’s not even close. There were effectively three different low goals (near switch, far switch, vault) that teams could score in, one of which didn’t even require lifting cubes off the ground (something that many recent low goals have required). Every alliance wanted to control at least one of those low goals (their near switch), and typically also wanted at least three cubes in the vault. With the primary scorer’s often engaged in the battle for the scale, it left plenty of space and value on having an alliance member work the near switch and/or the vault. There were also large protected zones around the scale and the cube pyramid, both of which discouraged bumper-to-bumper defense in two key scoring areas. And given the scoring method, the best form of denying points (aka playing defense) was scoring cubes on the scale or far switch. In the 48 official qualification matches that 1712 played that season, I think our alliances decided on having a robot play physical defense exclusively in only 1 or 2 of them.
2016 - This game was a mixed bag, and whether or not it made sense to play defense in qualification really depended on where your alliance stood compared to the ranking point break points. If it was going to require all three of your robots to complete the breach and/or weaken the tower, you got to have three offense-oriented robots. If two (or even one) robot on your alliance could complete those tasks alone - then it often made sense to send a defender. The thing this game did really well is allowed points to be scored by just a drivetrain. That is something that FRC used to have fairly commonly, but basically doesn’t exist anymore outside of autonomous taxi points. It’s something that should be in more FRC games, even if its just the ability to push objects into a scoring position.
2014 - Ehhh, I understand where you’re coming from in that the inclusion of all three robots was involved in achieving maximum assist points, but that has plenty of downsides as well. There were tons of qualification matches in which a team was basically asked to sit nearly still and allow a ball to be inbounded thru their robot (or perhaps with a few foot roaming radius - in which they could play selective defense). Those cases are marginally better than 2015 third robots, but not drastically. And there were even more matches in which alliances simply opted for 2-assist cycles. People tend to block these out when they think about late-season competitions and elimination matches, but 2-assist cycles were very common for most of the season. And this isn’t even touching on the bounce-back pass that developed late in the season or the fact that to score multi-ball autonomous routines you had to take a ball away from your partners.
2019 - This was a pretty good game for triple offense. There were tons of scoring opportunities, and ranking points that alliances would often have to score collaboratively to achieve. Not to mention the simple act of needing hatches to score cargo incentivized collaborative scoring. Additionally, because you never had to cross mid-field to acquire game pieces and the extension limits put in place if you did cross mid-field, the game could essentially be played “in parallel” with 3 robots trying to outscore the other 3 robots if both alliances desired to. There were also plenty of game pieces to be shared readily. The only downsides were the lack of protected zones and the crowded field did enable defenders to be very effective, which then could make defense worthwhile. But typically if a team wasn’t comfortable playing defense, they could still contribute meaningfully while playing offense. Because defense was effective, I wouldn’t rate this as an ideal triple offense game, but I also wouldn’t put it as “poor.” Very far from it.
2017 - Like 2016, this depended on various break points. Did having a 3rd robot scoring increase your odds of achieving the next completed rotor? Then have them play offense. But given the increasingly large gaps between each rotor completion (and particularly between the 3rd and 4th rotor), there were often periods where having an additional robot scoring gears would literally result in zero additional points. And at those break points, defense was the sensible play. Additionally, the cross-field layout encouraged collisions, and each alliance having loading zones in only one corner of the field (with visibility to one exit path obscured by the far airship) made driving paths predictable and relatively easy for defenders to disrupt.