Scouting as an Aliiance Captain

How does your team go about scouting when it seems likely that you will be an alliance captain?

My team has never been an alliance captain so our scouting usually consists of mostly pit scouting with printed Excel sheets.

You don’t do anything differently: the opportunity to be an alliance captain doesn’t change how you collect data, just how you use it.

Along with our lead scout, I will be presenting this weekend at the last of the RoboJackets Technology Enrichment Sessions. The topic is Competition Strategy and Scouting. Although you’re a little far away, there will be a webcast, and I invite you to tune it and check it out. It should cover alliance selection well.

Our scouting is the same regardless of our rank - after all, you won’t really know until near the end of Quals if you have a shot at being an alliance captain. And honestly, you want to be taking hard data about every match. Going around asking teams how many shots they make each match isn’t nearly as accurate or useful as being able to look at actual shot totals from every match they were in. You want to know how consistent they’ve been over the course of the competition, and keep an eye out for teams that made significant improvements near the end that clearly affected their on-field performance.

Pit scouting has it’s place, but that should be as an addition to your on-field performance data. You don’t pit scout to find out how good a team is, you do it to find out what happened to make their performance radically change from one match to the next. Did they tank their 5th match because something broke? If so, what was it, and how likely is it to break during the finals? Did they go from scoring nothing the first 3 matches to being one of the top scorers? If so, why did that happen? What prevented them from scoring in the first 3 matches? Those are the types of questions that can be valuable to ask during pit scouting. Instead, you mostly hear the same questions over and over again from teams - Can you shoot high? How many shots per match? Can you climb? Which defenses can you go over? How many wheels does your robot have? (Seriously, I’ve heard this last one every single year. Why does it matter?!?!?!?)

It’s also important to keep in mind that some teams end up alliance captains without preparing for it. If you’re their first pick, you want your data available to help them make a good second pick!

When scouting as an alliance captain, most pit scouting/excel sheet data (at least for us) is pretty useless except for a few columns: you have to consider your entire alliance strategy and the types of teams you would want moving forward. Our scouting app does the math for us, but basically what we do is create several lists of teams based on their skills at tasks we need for a successful alliance.

For example, this past year we were alliance captains at our qualifying events. As a low goal/breacher/ferry robot, it was important for us to have at least one high goal shooter on the alliance-so we had a list of all of the teams with high goals shooters, ranked. We also had a similar list of teams that played defense, though defensive skill was much harder to quantify. Of course, it’s important to check that the robot has not been completely destroyed prior to picking it.

Well whether or not you are going to be an alliance captain really won’t be known until you get to Friday night. Even for some powerhouse teams you just don’t know because anything could happen, your drive train could break, you could have horrible alliance pairings you just don’t know.

So what all teams should do is Scout as if you are going to be on the field during alliance selections that way your are never caught unprepared. That way even if you are not a captain and you are picked you have good information in order to help your new captain make a good second pick.

Have at least good qualitative and quantitative data about the individual methods of the game.

Definitely scout as if you were going to be an alliance captain and make a pick list no matter what. Even if you don’t end up being one, a pick list can be critical if you were picked by a team that doesn’t have a pick list themselves. This has happened to us a few times so always be prepared as the right pick can be the difference between winning or losing an event.

Even without a pick list being a factor, having data on all the teams in the event can lead you to win matches you otherwise wouldn’t have won. In 2016 for example, if you were against a good team that could score a lot of points with close up shots on the batter, you would know that somebody on your alliance should play defense to slow down their scoring. Something as simple as this can totally change the outcome of the match.

It starts week one of build season during our strategy sessions when we create a full elimination alliance game outline. It’s our best guess at that time and it may change some as we learn more about the game.

Going into a regional we use this alliance plan to choose scouting data we need to make the pick list. Be prepared to be flexible if the event doesn’t have enough robots to fill out your imagined bracket.

Bottom line, you don’t scout to be a captain. You plan your robot strategy from the first week to be the captain. If you don’t make the top 8, the strategy process should help you determine what the other captains would need.

The best solution is to set up a team of at least 6 to 8 scouts to follow the scoring and actions on the field. This is MUCH more important than pit scouting–if you have to choose, do field scouting.

If you don’t have the resources to field scout, start with the OPR listed in the Blue Alliance (the Android app lists all of them under Stats). While it isn’t always a good metric, it will give you at least a sense of relative position–a team at the top of the list will always be performing better than a team at the bottom. Then have 1 or 2 scouts watch the matches and take notes as to which robots are performing best and what tendencies they have. Then the night before the eliminations, rank your selections and focus on the team highest on your list.

In almost every competition we have provided a draft list to a first-time alliance captain. We started doing that after being at an event where a captain was on the floor picking off the ranking list. (We gave 4814 our list in 2013 on Curie because they were rookies, and then they almost beat us in the finals!) We’d rather have those teams already prepared, but I’m guessing that will never be the case.

So, any California teams at our events who are just starting out, come by early in the competition and we’ll help set you up on scouting for the event.

Our scouting strategy doesn’t really change when it comes to being an alliance captain. Now the stuff we do with the data can change.

Typically, I create a sheet inside our database in excel. On this sheet, make our draft list with whatever criteria we think is important for each tier. Typically, we have 4 tiers. They are Upper tier (your higher level robots), Middle tier (not great but not bad robots), Lower tier (the robots you might draft as a third alliance partner), and DND (do not draft).

Then, I’ll think of what we need in each pick. Typically, upper and middle tiers have the same criteria. Then our Lower tier has different data. Here is an example of what I might do.

Upper Tier (1-10): Avg. high goals, Avg. low goals, Avg. total goals, Auto defense cross %, Challenge %, Scale %
Middle Tier (10-20): Avg. high goals, Avg. low goals, Avg. total goals, Auto defense cross %, Challenge %, Scale %
Lower Tier (20-27ish): Avg. total goals, Auto defense cross %, Challenge %, Scale %
DND: Typically, we put 5-7 robots on this list. These are the robots that we don’t see working well with our robot or alliance. It sometimes isn’t that they are bad. It’s just they don’t fit in our desired strategy. Sometimes, an event is so good, we can’t come up with 5 robots to put on this list

Another important thing is we also come up with a response for anyone ranked above us if we know we’ll finish top 12. So we decide if we’ll say yes to teams 1-11 or not. I usually put that on the draft list sheet as well.

We put all this information on 1 sheet and make it so that when a robot is drafted, we simply erase the team number and all their data goes away too. I typically find this sheet the best way for me to make decisions on the fly during alliance selection. If you want more detail, feel free to PM me.

Hey everyone, I am developing a Web Application for teams to do their scouting. Please go to and take a look.

As another alliance captain low-goal-only robot, we had a similar list for each event we went to. I think the key is to understand your priorities; therefore you can understand what you want in potential alliance partners, no matter if you are picked, or are doing the picking.

Couldn’t have said it any better. Honestly, as long as you have good data, as well as any supplementary info you may want (pit scouting, qual scouting, etc.) and are prepared for any scenario, that’s all you need.

Do you have a link to the webcast and a date and time? This seems pretty interesting to me. I would like to see if you do stuff differently then me and maybe I could learn something new.

Webcast Link: Competition Strategy and Scouting

Date: November 19th, 2016
Location: Georgia Tech Student Competition Center, Atlanta, GA
Time: 6:30-8 for presentation, 8-~8:30 for questions

thank you. will you take questions from people who cant be there in person?

Unfortunately not live. All questions answered during the 6:30 to 8:30 window will be from people actually in the room. However, you’re free to PM me here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

My team’s scouting usually does not change much depending on our rank. After collecting our data, we have a meeting with the scout team and team captains to discuss and organize our pick list. We make a pick list even if we are ranked very low, just in in case :slight_smile:

Scouting for us usually consists of a team member volunteering to be scouting captain but recently we got an addition to the team who is project manager/quartermaster/scouting captain which is very useful. He made scouting sheets. 6 of those fit onto one page and that page becomes the scouting sheet for one team since most qualification matches consists of a team playing 6 matches max. The scouting captain has the schedule and hands out the scouting sheets to the six scouters and they just sit in the stands and scout. it was very helpful in our past offseason event as we got a fantastic black horse team in our alliance as the scouters noticed that they were great at defense. I would not recommend pit scouting as it doesn’t give you the best idea of how their robot performs. And even if you aren’t alliance captain, scouting is still good because if you get picked you can help your alliance pick the best possible robot.

The only times we don’t run a full crew of 6-8 in the stands is at an offseason event where we are understaffed or at events where we are scouting without any other teams and it is questionable whether or not we would make the eliminations. We may relax a bit on making an ironclad pick list if we are sure that we are a 2nd/3rd round pick at a high-end event like Worlds or IRI.

In all season events where we are very sure we will be a captain or first pick, scouting and pick list development run at 100%.