Some questions about mock kickoffs.

I’m definitely going to have 159 do a mock kickoff this year but I had some questions about how to run one as I’ve never actually been to one. (I seem to have this problem a lot…)

What type of game should I use? I see two potential options, an old FRC game, or a community created game. At the moment I’m leaning towards an old FRC game because I can end by showing people which types of robots did well and which were less successful.

How would I manage having multiple teams at the kickoff? 159 does a lot of stuff with two other teams in our area and would love to invite them to this as well but I’m not entirely sure how to manage it. Should I have each team work individually? All work together? Scramble them up? Something else? Please let me know what has worked best for you in the past.

So far we’ve done Ultimate Assent, Overdrive and Raising the Bar. We generally work as follows:

  • showed the animation
  • broke up into groups to (speed) read the manual,
  • Went through a list of standard analysis questions with the whole team
  • In small groups again, did brainstorming sessions (with sticky notes) for strategies. Tried to cover the whole “solution space”
  • Briefly talked about decision matrices and trade offs (without doing the whole bit), then had each group weigh their options and choose their favourite concept and sketch it. (This part usually happens days after kick off)
  • Quickly have each team present their concept
  • Finally, show a slide / video with some Einstein Calibre strategies and robots (especially surprising ones like 2013 full court shooters, 2004 ball hogs, 2008 tumbleweed). Discuss why brainstorming did or didn’t identify winning concepts.

This year, we’re going to try something different. We’re going to do a mock kick-off for SteamWorks, and let the veterans guide the rookies. The extra benefit is that the rookies will get to know this year’s game before our off season competition.

To directly answer the question you’re asking, as someone who does at least one in any given strategy workshop:

Scramble them up. My usual tactic is to split the room into small groups, usually about 5-6, to work through the game from the animation and a few key rules, with questions being answered regarding legality of certain things. With you doing a straight mock kickoff, you’d be able to use the manual from that year and have more time.

I use old FRC games, at LEAST 4 years since they were played, and preferably more. (The current set that’s ready to use is '06 and '01, but I have a bunch more than that…)

I ran a few mock kickoffs with 1836 this past summer, because for reasons I don’t understand our team decided not to do day 1 strategic analysis for the past few years and I had been one of few students who had been around before that was a thing.

I’d highly recommend doing multiple, incorporating prototypes with it, playing the game with actual people (assuming you can get a similar enough game piece), and doing real games that predate any current students.

By doing multiple, you will see how the team gets better and faster at identifying the key elements of the game. By incorporating prototypes, your team will get more practice with prototyping quickly and effectively, all while making strategic decisions based on what’s feasible in quick prototypes. By playing the game with actual people, your team will get a better sense of things like cycle times and robot-robot interactions which are very hard to predict. By doing real games, you can take lessons from the teams that were successful in those years and identify why they were successful. Especially if you do multiple mock kickoffs, learning from the teams that were successful in a given season is a key element of getting better and better at them. Just drawing a ‘robot on a whiteboard’ as some of my kids call it is not valuable if you don’t compare that theorized robot to (beyond just your team’s capabilities) the teams that were successful in playing the games you analyze.

Hope this helps, and if you need help picking games, developing resources/planning for the thing, or anything related, let me know cause I spent far too much time this summer doing all of that.

This is pretty close to what I’ve done in the past. It’s also important to talk about what alliances will look like and how versatile / in demand each concept is. Basically, whatever your actual kickoff process is going to be (you can also try out new kickoff ideas). Mock kickoffs are great for getting practise reading the manual and building intuition for how games will play out. I liked picking games that are 4-5 years old (e.g. used 2010 in fall 2014).

For our first two seasons 5826 has done a sort of Mock Kick Off with Build. You need to have a big pile of lumber, some old Barby Jeep parts and a few vintage Victor speed controllers you are not so fond of. There is a presentation of a made up “game”, then two groups each get four hours to build. One year it was a grocery shelf stocking machine, the other it was a machine tasked with delivering assorted items (barbells, eggs, ceramic lawn gnomes) to a designated square.

Not the most cerebral, directly applicable way to do things but lots of fun especially for new members.

T. Wolter

All of our mock kickoffs were for old games (so far, all before our team’s rookie year of 2012). The one wrinkle was that we had to ask participants NOT to google robots from that year. As we usually use internet searches sparingly the first day or two anyway, this wasn’t a big problem; most participants did not use the internet much for those first few hours, and it helped explain and make real the difference between defining WHAT the robot should do as opposed to HOW it should do it.

In late 2016, we invited two rookie teams we were mentoring to our mock kickoff of Overdrive. We completely integrated them into our team for this purpose, spreading them among our veterans just as we did with our own rookies. Our day 1 process has been an alternation of small groups reading and breainstorming, and large groups high-grading ideas, and this is what we did that day as well. As we were breaking up for the day, I did about a 3 to 5 minute description of some of the Einstein robots that year. I think all of the major themes, from a lap runner (though not a nonagonal crab drive lap runner) to several flavors of hurdlers to endgame disruption strategy, were covered by at least one of our groups.

If we did a mock kickoff with veteran teams, things might be different, but if the other teams were amenable, I’d prefer to scramble the teams so that as many of our team members can trade ideas with our neighbors as possible. We’d probably follow up (as we did in late 2016) with a more detailed discussion meeting within our team about what we learned.

We had a pattern of using 3 year old FRC games so seniors already knew the game and could help lead small groups and answer questions. 2014 and 2015 being so nontraditional threw a wrench in that, though, so we just used different FRC games from the modern era instead. Being able to show actual match footage and an old robot is great, and can drive home how the game and robots actually played out, compared to how groups thought they might.

We usually start with a large group session to explain the game and go through most rules and scoring, then split into small groups to do strategy and design discussion. When we’ve hosted other teams in the past, we left it up to them if they want to stay together or get scrambled for the small group discussion. They’ve been young/rookie teams and haven’t wanted to get scrambled. We still embedded a student or mentor to help guide them through brainstorming and answer questions, though.

The one wrinkle was that we had to ask participants NOT to google robots from that year

I think using previous years FRC games is ideal but if you have an application where you want to make sure no one can google the winning strategies you are welcome to use the previous eight years of BunnyBots games. You’ll find those at The current game for fall is at

BunnyBots are FRC-class robots but for a simpler game than typical for FRC. Those games are designed for new members to get up to speed.