Herding and possessing

<G34> ROBOTS or HOSTBOTS may only POSSESS or HERD one GAME PIECE at a time. Violation: PENALTY

It is important to design your ROBOT so that it is impossible to inadvertently or intentionally control more than one GAME PIECE at a time. Inadvertent contact will be not be considered HERDING and will not be penalized.

This rule worries me this year. The way I see it, if you are possessing a game piece (in your manipulator) and are driving towards your goal, and you encounter a game piece on the floor, you must drive around it, or somehow avoid it. If you push it along the floor (unavoidable if you hit it due to the bumper rules), you will receive a penalty. I can see a strategy where teams use the game pieces as defense. One could throw or drop tubes in front of offensive bots, or in the extreme, an alliance could line up piece across the floor, creating a “minefield” where no offensive bot can cross without dropping it’s tube. If said bot has no floor pick-up capability, they can not score.

Am I seeing this wrong?

I don’t see this ever happening, nobody would put their game pieces up for grabs like that.
If a team did set up a “minefield”, the opposing alliance would simply avoid it, score, and come back to midfield to pick up the tubes.
I also expect the refs to be relatively lenient with the herding rules. If you intentionally push it closer to your rack to put it in a better scoring position while holding a tube, yes, that should be a penalty. If you push it slightly as an attempt to get past it, I don’t think there should be a problem.
Who knows, though, they could really be strick as to say absolutely no contact with another tube, however unlikely I believe.

One way to avoid a penalty in that situation is when your drivers sees they are pushing a game piece, they turn one way or the other to have the game piece go to the side and they stop pushing it. That is, if you push it for a foot or three but then actively maneuever to avoid pushing it more, the referees won’t generally see that as herding.

Look at the definition of herding:

HERDING – controlling the movement of a GAME PIECE. A GAME PIECE shall be considered HERDED if it is in contact with the floor and, as the ROBOT moves in the direction of the GAME PIECE, the GAME PIECE is pushed in the same direction in a controlled manner, but does not remain in the position relative to the ROBOT if the ROBOT changes direction or orientation.

(The parts about changing direction are to differentiate HERDING from POSSESSION.)

How “in a controlled manner” is interpreted will determine if this is a problem or not. The blue box under <G34> notes that inadvertent contact will not be considered HERDING. Clearly this would apply to a simple side-swipe as you go past a GAME PIECE. The question is whether driving directly at a GAME PIECE would be considered inadvertent or not.

Interesting to see how this will play out.

As for intentional herding, it should be pretty easy to make a deploy-able mechanism that sticks out the front of the robot, in front of the bumper, and can actually herd a game piece in a controlled manner.

But controlling a game piece with just the bumper, with the bumper rules the way they are, seems a bit far fetched. When you turn the robot, the game piece will not stay in front of the robot.

I wonder if this is why the rules are worded as they are?