"Rigging" the game vs playing the game strategically - what's the difference?

I found a question on the FIRST forum asking that if the 4 teams in a match discussed beforehand to maximize their points to by coming to a tie (or attempting to) would it not be in the spirit of FIRST or not be graciously professional, to which FIRST answered a blatent “Yes.”

Why in a competition where points (not wins) matters is it not in the spirit of the game to maximize your points? It can be argued that in other team sports (football for example) if you rigged the game by not scoring a touchdown or allowing the other team to score intentionally it would be a major offense, but they are playing to win, not to score the most points. And if they win 50-0 rather than 25-24 it’s just as well for them.

If FIRST is going to say it is not in the spirit, then there’s no reason to make it such that you get DOUBLE your opponents score. In every other year it was a major benefit and (I thought) somewhat encouraged to score for your opponents. Few did it out of gracious professionalism solely but rather because every point you gave them benefited you 3 times more than it benefited them. But regardless, it put everyone in the ‘don’t slaughter your opponent’ mentality, eventually leading to gracious professionalism as the behavior whether you were trying or not.

There are plenty of experiences of the past, even ones I’ve had personally, where it has been 2 v 1 due to a broken robot and the two alliances discussed prior to the match to ensure the “1” didn’t lose out completely if they weren’t quite as capable. It doesn’t always work right (but neither do many strategies), but when it does, all those teams gain. There have been points scored for the other team, there have been points intentionally NOT taken from the other teams in defensive moves, etc, etc, etc, etc… why is this in the spirit of FIRST but all 4 teams cooperating not (hello 2001)?

I have a feeling there are people with views on both sides of this coin, and I think it’s worth a civil discussion about. If it’s against the spirit of FIRST to work on a plan with your ‘opponents’ beforehand… I think its equally valid to say it is illegal to intentionally leave bins for your opponents to get, intentionally allow them to score points, or to chose to not remove points from them if you have the opportunity. These are all deliberate acts which allow your opponent to increase their points (and your number of points by double that if you’re winning) as does telling them beforehand “we’re going to let you get those x # of bins.”

Back in the day of 1 v 1 v 1 competition, it was harsh when 2 of the 3 teams talked beforehand about ganging up on another team. However, it was the nature of the beast of competitions designed in such a way. It was part of the game and you rolled with the punches.

Since ‘99 however, FIRST has moved the importance off that type of competition and onto “coopertition”, where points matter and your points depend in large part on your opponents’. It no longer benefits you to just win, it benefits you to cooperate, control, and gain as many QPs as possible (which means your opponents get close to as many points as you do as possible)

If you want to say it’s not in the spirit of FIRST to ‘rig’ the game by scoring zero (like 2000) then ok, but to say it’s not in the spirit to do your best… just doesn’t seem right to me.

I think it’s strategic. It’s playing the game to do what you set out to do. And if you set out to get the most points, you’ll want your opponent to get some so you can get double. It’s the nature of the beast…

I think it’s an interesting point to discuss. Give it some serious thought and let’s hear what you think…

(and this thread is not about trying to change rules or whatnot, just perspective on the game and how it is played strategically within the ‘bigger picture’ of FIRST’s goals)

I Think I remember seeing a thread like this before.

Its discussed here:


and here:


Search before you post.

I’m surprised FIRST would even give a ruling on this.
Pre-match strategy (of any type) has always been a part of this competiton (especially since '99). Why would they limit such a strategy? Especially one that promotes collaboration and cooperation between alliances.

Personally, I don’t feel many such strategies will occur. While I hesitate to speak without having played the game, as a coach, I would be reluctant to engage in such a strategy. I feel that either I would be robbing points from a superior alliance that could have beat me fair and square, or taking points away from myself where I could have won.

This competition is a… competition. The only gentleman’s agreements I can see coming about, are if two alliances are so evenly matched they know they are going to “Stalemate”. If this occurs it might be beneficial to say something like “you stack in your zone, we’ll stack in ours, no knocking them over until 15 seconds left.”

I dont think even this will happen that often.

We might see some of:
“We can beat you to the ramp. We can outpush you. If you spend your time attacking us, you will just be wasting your time. We’ve done our HW, and we know what all robots involved are capable of. This is what we’re going to do… you can’t stop us, but you can try to out score us. Anything else really is wasting time, and points. Good luck.”

Would FIRST consider this form of “collaboration” against the spirit of Gracious Profesionalism? I certainly don’t believe it is.

Coaching is like playing chess in real-time. It is a test of robots, but also of minds. When I coach our robot, and our alliance, it is my mind vs. the mind of those across the field. This is where I feel the true thrill of the competition comes from. Defeating a superior robot by out thinking it. I’ve done it before, and I hope to do it again. I’ll take the fair loss, over the “rigged” (I use this for lack of a better word) tie any day.

Plus, I’d feel pretty stupid if I agreed to a tie, didn’t play the match the way I normally would have, then got double crossed and lost anyways.

My feelings: Beware of ties, play to win.

Alright, I have to go with FIRST on this one. Think of playing RISK with 4 friends. 2 of those friends decide to make an ‘alliance’. Now, alliances aren’t specifically against the rules, but now each person is allied with everyone on their borders and is trading countries to get cards. This goes on for about an hour, and each person now has upwards of about 500-1000 armies. Eventually, everyone stops playing because the game is ruined, just because it would take another 2 hours of dice rolling to win. Yes, this HAS happened to me, and it sucked. In fact, all of those people are now on my Robotics team, and we have special rules against alliances with everyone on our borders. What "rigging a match does here is involve politics. Backstabbing will eventually occur, and that is against ‘gracious professionalism’. Sure, we could all say we won’t break promises and whatnot, but if I have the opportunity to win, I’d take it. If I didn’t I’d be a moron. And so would anyone else who didn’t take the chance to win.

I totally agree with John on this one. I don’t think there is a particular reason to do it because it will usually just come back to bite you. And I’m not talking about choosing a tie over a win… but maybe a tie over rather guaranteed loss…

As was mentioned, what about telling an opposing alliance exactly what you are going to do so they will do what maximizes their points in that situation (or just doing some good scouting HW so you know that info). You might not tell them exactly what to do, but you are definitely ‘leading the horse to water…’

Basically, I think the choice should be there for any team to make… the choice of ultimate cooperation on the entire field to achieve higher points all around. You can choose to heed the advice of your ‘opponents’ or not… you can choose to scout or not… you can choose to give them bins, let them on the ramp, or not knock over their stack. To me, these are all just strategy choices… all within the realm of gracious professionalism that should be left to the teams to decide.

As a coach, I likely wouldn’t advise my team to ‘take the deal’ because they tend not to work… because everyone wants to win. However, I would advise my drivers to take good notice of what is occuring on the field and if they are winning by say 40 points… then ‘hey, let one of their robots get on the ramp’ or ‘someone push a bunch of bins into their zone’ without a second thought. I wouldn’t risk the win, but when you’re counting points in this competition, it’s a shame to win by too much rather than maxmizing your points.

But, no matter what, I think it should be the choice of the teams involved and they shouldn’t feel they are acting outside the maxim of FIRST by doing what they think is in their best interest.

Great points John and EvilInside, both well taken. Although EvilInside, I think your analogy might parallel more what happens if a “super-power” alliance is created for finals… but that’s why enough of the game depends on sheer luck…

[And my apologies for starting a new thread… I tried to find posts that were hitting this from the same angle and I thought it was worthwhile posting this. As well, sometimes threads get very overrun with short off-the-subject posts that make them hard to read or follow. I’ve been posting on this forum since, well, pretty much the beginning and I thought this angle would be of some interest to people and worth a new thread. If Brandon would like to move or close it, that’s fine.]

Imagine a Super Bowl where each team let the other run down and score touchdowns on each other for four quarters to set a new high score.

[Sarcasm on] Woo Hoo [Sarcasm off]

If the point of football were scoring points, I bet you’d see it eventually… but it’s not… it’s to win.

The seeding structure of FIRST through 1998 was based on wins, and you wouldn’t see such behavior in one of the those games. But now it’s based on points. You could be #1 without ever winning a match (not likely i know, but theoretically possible), unlike football (or any other sports I know of)… And no one said it would be exciting, but simply a strategy for winning by virtue of maximizing your points.

Well I seem to be in the minority here (Except with FIRST) but in my mind fixing the outcome of the game, (Which is what we are talking about here) causes this to no longer stay a ‘competition’.

I liken this to price fixing of a product or service. Two competitors (or more) get together to artificially set their price higher than it would be if they were competing against each other. For obvious reasons there are rules and laws against this. Local Phone Service, Cable TV, Electricity,…

It’s bad for the consumer just as fixing the outcome of the game may be great for the teams but it will be bad for the spectators. If this is what FIRST intended maybe we should just call it 4vs0 not 2vs.2?

I am happy to see that FIRST is releasing the pairing early to help with the strategy, however I hope that very few teams use it in the ways described in this thread to keep this a ‘competition’

I am amazed that FIRST would say that. I asked Woodie himself about this at UTC last year just after my team used this strategy and he just smiled and said ‘It worked, didn’t it?’

If I’m teamed with a damaged robot against an allience I know I can’t beat, you bet I’m going to try to cut a deal. Its absured not to. If all I can do is pick up balls and I’m against two goal handlers with no help, whats the point? They can win. They know they can win. They know I know they can win. They can’t really manipulate the scores accuratly so they will jsut grab all three goals and that will be it. Weee. Thats fun, one robot out of 4 acutally running around, and even then not doing anything meaningful.

Instead, we get 40+ points and stay up in the rankings, and we never broke a single rule.

So whats wrong with cutting your loss? I’ve been in matches were our team lost and still recived more q points then the average for the comp because we planned it. It benifets me and will probably keep my partner in the game. If I were on the other side of the deal, I’d agree. Why shouldn’t I? Its an easy, high scoring win. If you can win or even loose well, by diplomacy, why not? It’s a win win situation, one side just wins more. Save your battery and motors for the next match.

As for rigging matches you have a chance at winning, I’m on the fence. I can see arguments going both ways. I guess seeing a competive match is more fun, but I understand that a teams prioity is going to be doing well over all, not please the people in the stands.

If it shows up as a rule that it’s illegal, then I won’t do it.

-Andy A.

*Originally posted by Andy A. *
**If I’m teamed with a damaged robot against an allience I know I can’t beat, you bet I’m going to try to cut a deal. Its absured not to. If all I can do is pick up balls and I’m against two goal handlers with no help, whats the point? They can win. They know they can win. They know I know they can win. They can’t really manipulate the scores accuratly so they will jsut grab all three goals and that will be it. **

I would NOT cut a deal. I would try for the unexpected, ambitious move. It will get you known, and respected (not that you guys need it) as a team that knows strategy, and knows how to play the game. Also, sometimes if you are crazy enough… you’ll have everyone talking.

In the case you mentioned, knowing the strengths of your robot: I would have picked up the balls on one side of the field. Gone toward my goal zone, and pretended to die (hit the kill button). Then when the other team attempts to balance the score for QP’s they will inevitably put a goal in my score zone. When there are approx 10 seconds left. I restart the robot, gun it over to the goal. Dump my balls, and pin the goal against the wall, or if I’m ambitious run for the home zone.

The score is:
ME- 20 balls, 1 goal, 1 robot = 40
THEM - 2 goals, 2 robots, no balls = 40

If I get more HP points than them. Or if I lure one of their robots out of the home zone at the last second. I win.

This would allow for a 120+ win in a match that “couldn’t be won.” I assure you, with cunning, especially with a robot of the caliber of 95(2002) the most unlikely of matches can be won. Especially this year where there are SOOOO MANY defensive moves that can be made. The score can be adjusted in huge ways in the last 15 seconds. Someone said (Meaubry I think): “This game will be won and lost in the first and last 15 seconds.” I completely agree with this statement. Why limit yourself when you can pull off the win.

So… why cut the deal?

It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.
Play to win.

There are arguments for either case. But I feel strongly that this is the way to be. When I’m coaching, 229 will only deal in the most DIRE of circumstances.

In FIRST’s interpretation of the cooperation strategy, it is not “gracious professionalism” to work with both your partner and your opponents to raise all four teams.

I suspect this interpretation was made to improve the viewability of this year’s game, rather than a well thought out application of the GP philosophy.

In my opinion, agreeing to cooperate is within the spirit of FIRST and gracious professionalism. It is also the only way that some of the weaker teams are going to be able to compete with the stronger teams.

I see GP as being something that applies primarily outside the playing field.

On the playing field, you should play within the rules. Even if the referees do not enforce the rules, you should still abide by them. Teams which push the referees to provide the limit for their behavior are acting more outside the spirit of GP than teams which are exploiting a feature of the game to increase their overall chances in competition.

GP within the game would be reflected in avoiding “unnecessary roughness.” For instance, ramming into a robot that has broken down away from any possible “action” would not be graciously professional.

On the other hand, I can see why teams will be upset when other teams engage in the cooperative strategy. Teams which expect to be at the top of the rankings will have to make fewer mistakes and play a lot harder to earn their place at the top.

When eliminations come around, the cooperative strategy will not work. Teams which made it to the top by cooperating may not be effective in eliminations. This may make eliminations less interesting than they should be.

It might be useful to start a poll and see what the FIRST community (ie us) thinks about cooperating versus competing.

Andrew, Team 356

While I see the light on both sides of this argument, and I don’t doubt for a second it is a smart move to make the best you can for your team but …

I really dread the thought of getting to the finals not having ‘earned’ it. The idea of getting consistent super high scores even though your robot can’t perform to that level just doesn’t seem right. We all know from past years that sometimes you have a great match and get huge points, at the same time a wonderful robot may compete and get the short end of the stick. These are individual matches. That’s the breaks, it keeps everything exciting, you don’t know the outcome.

But by the time the finals roll around I want to see the teams that created the best solution to the game for the year. PERIOD. Teams that figured out the best way to manipulate or drive or face whatever problems FIRST threw at them. As an overall average they shake out, or if they don’t their performance is usually noted and they are picked for partners. It doesn’t take a veteran team to win, it takes a clever team. What I don’t want to see is 2 teams that don’t have any business being there BUT they were excellent at rigging the score for the entire competition. Or one serious team that is fully capable that totally controls the finals vs another team.

By rigging the score (As a strategy for the entire tournament), your team is only delaying the outcome that would happen in the Elimination rounds where ‘All Deals are off’, and it may have hurt the scores or other teams that had a better machine that belonged in the finals.

Don’t look at the game as a single match, it isn’t. Look at the game as a series of matches where the outcome of one impacts all the rest that follow and the only thing that really matters is the average score.

If you institute a policy of cooperating with the opposing the alliance than if you win you’ll get an excellent score (say 75-74), if you tie you’ll get a good score and if you lose you’ll get an above-average losing score. You may lose occasionally and you may score less with a tie than if you had won outright, but teams will learn to respect you and play coopertively with you and your overall average score will go up.