If YOU were the GDC...

TL;DR: Now that all but the World Championships are behind us what would you change about the game if you had been on the GDC could have known what you know now before Stronghold was unveiled?

There are a bunch of Monday Morning Quarter Backs in the FIRST community generally, but on CD especially.

After every kickoff, there is a lot of chatter about how the GDC screwed up this or screwed up that or messed up this other thing. In fact, I can’t deny that I’ve been one of the voices singing in that chorus some years (and I wasn’t always been as gracious as I might have been – I need to work on that).

That said, as I watched the NEF-DCMP Elims, I was pretty happy. I didn’t really have a dog in the fight as the team I advise, Overclocked, didn’t get drafted*. But I really enjoyed watching the matches. It was exciting. It was unpredictable. It was… fun.

I have to say that from my point of view, the GDC deserves a lot of credit.

To my eyes, the Auto Period is important but not TOO important so that the match is over before Teleop even begins (I’m looking at you Recycle Rush). The same can be said for the so called end game: Scaling is important but not the whole ball of wax. And in between, Teleop is a frenzy of activity with robots zip-zapping all around the field but even my mom could kinda tell what’s going on and which alliance was getting the better of the other.

Having designed robot games myself in the past, I have to say that there is a lot that the FIRST GDC got right.

Can I complain? You bet I can! …but I probably shouldn’t.

So… …here is my question for the Monday Morning QBs out there: Knowing what you know now, what would you change about Stronghold to make it better as a sport (better for the participants to play and/or better for the fans to watch)?

I look forward to hearing what others have to say.

Dr. Joe J.

P.S. It is up to you to frame your answer but if you basically define a new game from scratch, nobody is going to listen to you. Try to keep it to a few simple tweaks to the game that you think would make STRONGHOLD better not wholesale changes to turn Stronghold into, say, Soccerhold or something.

P.P.S. I’m asking you to keep this a light thread. I know, haters gonna hate, but there will be plenty of opportunities to dump on this or that aspect of FIRST after St. Louis. I just thought this would be a fun group thought experiment for us all while we make our plans for either going to St. Louis or for getting to the Championships next year if you aren’t lucky enough to be able to attend this year.

*like the other 39 teams that didn’t get drafted at NEF-DCMP, we felt the drafters we crazy not to notice the diamond in the rough that our team represented :wink:

I think that I would remove the limitation on robot height while in your own courtyard. As it stands right now, defense as intended in the courtyard is effectively useless due to the multitude of teams with protected shots, and defense has all but entirely moved to the neutral zone.

Thematically, there’s no reason why a castle’s defenders would need leave the defended walls to sally out to meet the attacking force short of being sieged.

This gives teams the ability to play meaningful defense in their own courtyard, while providing another design challenge in being forced to be able to shoot at all 3 goals.

tl;dr: high goaling op, remove height restriction in own courtyard

Remove the zone that is the Secret Passage and just have a single line even with the center of the defenses that the defending team is allowed to cross. I don’t think it added enough to the game to warrant the extra work it adds to the refs already high workload.

Stronghold is so great that there is not much that I can say about what would need to be changed. After a bit of reflection, there are only two “flaws” in the game:

  1. Due to the amount of low robots and the high limits for bumpers, it is easy for robots to end up on top of each other, or other sorts of bad situations like that.

  2. Some of the defenses can get balls trapped on them effectively blocking off the defense. Namely, boulders can get stuck in the moat, under the cheval-de-frise, and in the cloth of the low goal (and if two boulders or more get stuck on the low goal, which is easy with the HP lane right there, it is nearly impossible to go through the low bar without getting penalized)

The game has very few flaws, and those it does have are from sources that are hard to find compromise from. If I were the GDC, I would try to design games that are different in challenge, but similar in nature, of Stronghold.

I would change 2 things: audience selection and the spy box.
Make them pick between 2 classes and then the alliances pick one of the 2 defenses to go in slot 3
The spy box is fine but the human player I feel should have some interaction with gameplay other than signalling the drive team

Adjust the ranking point system to either:

3 RP Win, 1 RP Tie, 0 RP Loss + 1 RP Breach, 1 RP Capture


2 RP Win, 1 RP Tie, 0 RP Loss + 1 RP Capture

Elim bonus remains for captures and disappears for breaches in option 2 as well

I feel like breaches de-emphasized trying to compete in matches at all events, created really weird issues when alliance partners would disable themselves on or in front of multiple defenses in shallow events, and are automatic enough at high level and elim play that there are few instances where a team would not breach but still win a match.

I would make the drawbridge way easier to push down and maybe more durable so it doesn’t flex as much. I understand the need to have the drawbridge in regards to design trade-offs, I just think even for tall robots, it’s vastly more difficult than any of the other tasks. I probably would have made it and the sally port transparent too. At least enough to worsen vision but not completely block the area behind it.

  1. Change the 20 second penalty for being in the courtyard to 10 seconds. I think it would lead to a lot more on the fly strategic decision making at the end of the match to see if it was worth it to stick around or risk getting back to the batter.

  2. Lessen up on the tipping. If you build a tall robot you get the benefit of blocking but you risk getting tipped or falling over defenses. It’s a tradeoff that teams should be aware of.

  3. Autonomous seems like it’s designed to encourage a lack of risk taking and multi ball autos. I would like to see no penalties for contact in between the auto lines. I think that would encourage a lot more innovative autonomous modes.

Overall I think the GDC did a fantastic job on this game and it’s been one of my favorite to design for and play.

For a better game:
First I would put a 2 inch line of (red or blue)tape down in the courtyard side in front of the outworks and if an opposing robot is touching that line they are protected from being hit. This is an addition to the bumpers in between the defense plastic dividers. If your on this line your bumpers are between the dividers. Also I would put black tape around the edge of the dividers and make the the far divider colored to aid the refs.

Stiffen the rough terrain defense with a piece a metal that went down the length of defense between the 2x2 metal tubing pieces.

Change the bumper rules to only have a 7 inch window, instead of the current 8 inch window.

To make it more fun to watch:
Instead of 6 balls in the middle of the neutral zone I would start with 3 in each of the courtyards, to encourage double/triple ball auto.

Remove the rule that robots must go under the low bar.
Allow multiple defenses to be damaged in auto per robot.

Allow boulders to cross defenses without robots

Overall I think the GDC basically nailed it this year, and I disagree with a lot of the suggestions already posted for a variety of reasons that I probably shouldn’t get too into lest I derail the thread. The height restriction is important, the secret passage as is was good, etc etc.

  1. Make the drawbridge and sally port out of clear polycarbonate instead of opaque polycarbonate. The “extra challenge” of limited visibility isn’t worth it. These make the game worse, not better. It will still be hard to see through a transparent obstacle with glare and reflections anyway.

  2. Allow defensive robots to shoot balls out of their own courtyard. Right now you can hoard balls in your opponent’s courtyard, and your opponent has relatively few options for dealing with those balls. If the defender is allowed to shoot those balls in the general forward direction, even all the way to their own courtyard, it allows for another kind of defense that is a lot more exciting than being a wall or pushing. The restriction on shooting from the neutral zone forward would still be there.

  3. Dead robots shouldn’t be able to be pushed from one zone into a protected zone and then incur penalties for being there. Not sure how to fix this in the rules but as they are written now a dead offensive robot can be pushed into the secret passage and hit repeatedly for free foul points with impunity. 228 learned this at NE Champs.

If I think of more I’ll post them, but I think that’s a good starting point.


It is only an 8 inch window with 1 inch overlap at the very worst.

MCs should have been required to wear medieval apparel and complete a course in either juggling or fire-breathing.

Everything else was pretty great.

Allow hard defense, make tipping legal. No more complaining about red cards

Sorry remember the rule wrong, it still should be a larger overlap then 1 inch.

Also thematically…it used to take more than just having the entire attacking force reach the base of a tower in order to capture it. You had to scale the tower walls, and overcome obstacles like boiling oil and catapulted cows.

So, what if the tower could only be captured if strength was zero or less and at least 2 attackers scaled? Scaling is one of the most exciting aspects of the game (in my opinion) and that would have made it a more attractive design goal from the start. Basing capture on the final position of two robots, rather than all three, also lessens the penalty/pain of having one of the alliance robots lose comm, or get tipped, or get stuck in a defense.

Also might have been nice if the bars had been a little longer, making it easier for three scaling robots to fit shoulder to shoulder. But I’m guessing that was due to tower design constraints more than anything. And this is just minor stuff…this is still a great game as it stands.

Yea, let’s just incentivize flipping robots over when you’re losing instead of on the fly strategy and smart defense. /s

Honestly, I LOVE THIS GAME!!!

As an FTAA at three tournaments this year, I repeatedly saw one flaw that could have easily been remedied.
The Ball Counters in the tower work fairly well. The only failures were caused by the Corral filling up.
The flaw was that penalties for more than 6 boulders in the Castle were hardly ever called because the Ref’s had to leave their station to see the problem.

The one thing I would like to have seen as a “fix” for this would have been accomplished by adding Ball Counters to the Embrasures.

This way, the FMS would only need to know how many balls were contained in the Castle at the beginning of the match. After that, FMS could keep track of how many balls were in the Castle at any time. If the number went over 6 for more than a specified amount of time, indicators could signal the failure to return balls so that the Ref’s would be notified, or penalties could automatically be assigned.

Another issue I saw was with the Radios, but that horse has been flogged enough already.

Jumping off StAxis, I would change Stronghold in the following ways:

1: Crossing the auto line on your side of the field (ie, if you are blue, crossing the auto line on the blue outer works side) becomes the point where a foul is assessed, and any significant (read not extension vs extension contact) beyond the midline is a foul.

Encourages multi-ball/using the center balls in auto, the consequences and end results of current center line penalties (usually a robot heading in the wrong direction nearly contacting an opposing robot [almost] in the outer works) are still covered.

2: Some change to the ranking point system such that wins recieve a static or static + 1 ranking points and losses receive bonuses for doing well, such as outlined earlier (my thoughts - Win: 2 points plus 1 point for Breach AND Capture. Tie score: 1 point for each alliance plus 1 for Breach AND Capture per alliance, Loss: 0 points, plus 1 for Breach, 1 for Capture. Something like that.)

This eliminates teams “Running away” with the standings that have a > 90% capture rate, and doesn’t completely disincentivize winning. Week 1 you’re going to see a lot of 2 to 0 or 1 RP matches, later at DCMP’s you’ll see 3 to 2’s left, right and center.

3: Get rid of the Audience Selection. Hindsight being 20/20, seeing how many events (my experience at a Week 2, 5 and queueing at NE DCMP) quickly devolved into the same 4 audience selections coming out every time until eliminations (where we saw drastically more Drawbridge, especially come the finals), it barely made sense to have it actually be a choice.

My personal solution would be either FMS random selection from the category per match (which becomes locked in for the match the same time as the alliance selected defenses), or have the teams pick what it is from the predetermined category, but it must be in slot 3. The former option is a lot cleaner from an event perspective, but the restriction on the team’s end still gives them choice from the latter.

More might come to mind, but as you can see, a lot of my thoughts on how to improve this game are complete hindsight things that even the most experienced mentors may not have been able to predict would happen given the sheer Monkey-Shakespeare quotient that FRC inherently has. I think this game has the least amount of game grinding failures certainly in my time in FIRST, and one of the fewest all time. It’s certainly a game FIRST can look back on and go “How do we recreate the success of Stronghold with this game”.


I like the warning, but please no automated penalties…