Why is "defense" allowed in FRC?


“I can’t change that.”

I mean, you can try? There are tons of sports where defense is an integral part of the game. This year happens to be one of those years. You don’t have to like it, but it’s not going away. I just don’t understand this attitude of “we’ll never be successful”, how is that inspiring to your students?


I am in the air in all of this. I do agree that defense should be part of the game, but in 2013 when alliance partner wanted to cheescake a noodle blocker on my robot to shutdown a robot that people put effort into and made into a powerhouse robot. I said No. That is not the kind of defense. You can get in the way, try to fend for limited gamepieces on the field that is fine, but if you want to go out there and completely shutdown a robot in a qualification round that is a different story.

In a playoff round it should be a free for all. That is when the real competition starts. Qualification is when you show off your robot. Playoff is when you go for the gold.


Apologies to 3676. That’s not our team. Although they appear to be similarly skilled.
I also want to apologize if I have offended anyone. I accept your viewpoints and am not trying to convince you to change. Just trying to figure out the reason behind this philosophy.


Already do on a weekly basis… I live a very sad life


I will admit playing a safe defensive game once your ahead by a decent margin is always a plan I can get behind. That involves getting ahead though.


What? Why did you have their team number in your profile if that’s not you? I’m with Tom now, I think this is a troll post, and a damaging one at that, if you’re going to falsely implicate another team in your expressed views. Cut it out, “Fred”.


FRC is the varsity sport for the mind. In this sport there is defense. Part of the engineering challenge is to designing a robot that can perform well even when defense is played against you. If there was no defense it’s basically a science fair/exhibition. There are plenty of science fairs out there, but I don’t know many that are exciting enough to pack a stadium for 3 days and have thousands of students cheering.


I understand wanting to try to figure out why other teams make different decisions than yours. I’ve mentored three different teams in my with with FRC. Each was very different. None were wrong.

Please send me a private message if you’re interested in talking to some generally successful and well-rounded teams. I have a lot of mentor friends around the country who I know would be willing to talk to you.


A thought experiment…

Why is “defense” allowed in the NFL? “defense” seems antithetical and quite repugnant and I’m trying to figure out why its allowed in the NFL. Purposely trying to bring down the performance of an offense is not something our team would ever feel comfortable doing. We may not be the super bowl favorites but we are never going to try to decrease the performance of the Patriots or any other great team. Can someone explain the logic of allowing this?

*I removed intentional damaging because I think we all can agree that that is a clear infraction of both FRC and NFL rules.


I am more perturbed that defense is neutered in FRC. They need to leave more space for robots designed to decimate alliance points will a killer configuration.


that kind of thinking is why we got stuck with recycle rush, the worst FRC game to date…


The fact it didint have defense wasnt the killer for 2015.


Why is defense still allowed here? Just for us to suffer? Every night, I can feel my drivetrain… and my chassis… even my intake. The robot I’ve lost… the alliance partners I’ve lost… won’t stop hurting… It’s like they’re all still there. You feel it, too, don’t you?


I’ve talked about this a few times on here in the past but here we go again…

Defense is a hard thing to balance in games. On one hand, you don’t want it to devolve into a series of defensive moves preventing anyone from winning. I’ll cal this Munchkinning. Anytime someone gets close they get ganged up on and stopped. [1] 2003 was a great example of munchkinning, very few people ended up stacking bins because it was way harder than knocking them down.

On the other hand you can have games that completely remove the ability for one player to influence the others at all. This can lead lead to blowouts because as one player pulls ahead there’s nothing other players can do to pull them back. It removes the fun from the players not in the lead because they have no control, they are playing for second place. I struggle to find a good example of this simply because it’s not an enticing game mechanic. Monopoly would be the best example I can come up with and it’s still not GREAT…

So now, let’s take this back into FRC - on one hand, 2003 sucked. On the other hand, knowing a match is over before it begins sucks as well. So, role playing GDC for a bit, we find ourselves walking a very fine line between allowing teams to influence the other alliance but making sure that teams are incentivized to play the game instead of ONLY playing defense. There’s absolutely a line where defense shouldn’t be allowed, in FRC this typically involves rules about game pieces staying scored or safe zones. Defense does NEED to be limited but not to the point that matches are a foregone conclusion. Otherwise why would we play 3v3 when we could just play a skills challenge 3v0?

[1] Related fun story - look into how Coopertition came to be a thing inside FRC, it’s very related to this.


If anyone thinks defensive play is harsh now, you should have seen the games prior to bumpers being mandated. Things were, to put it mildly, kinetic. FIRST made bumpers mandatory because of a growing concern about balancing offensive/defensive play with robot longevity. So it’s not like the OPs concerns are totally new or off base.

Defense is and, I think, should be a part of the game, for a lot of reasons. With that in mind, I think it’s fair for FIRST and teams to talk about the subject and there’s room for differing opinions. The truth is that, bumpers or not, robots in the age of 6 CIM, 18fps drive trains and 150lb loaded weights hit hard. Over the years FIRST has included various levels of language aimed at toning down the volume of open field ramming, or used protected areas and penalties to discourage rough play. This years game has me a little worried; the requirement to be inside the frame while playing defense is a reasonable one, but I’m not sure it goes far enough.

I don’t think there is any inherent problem with defense, but it’s a healthy topic for teams to be discussing.


Just leaving this here as some food for thought. From the VEX Robotics Competition turning point manual:

<G12>Don’t destroy other Robots. But, be prepared to encounter defense. Strategies aimed solely at the destruction, damage, tipping over, or Entanglement of opposing Robots are not part of the ethos of the VEX Robotics Competition and are not allowed. If the tipping, Entanglement, or damage is ruled to be intentional or egregious, the offending Team may be Disqualified from that Match. Repeated offenses could result in Disqualification from the entirety of the competition.

a.VEX Robotics Competition Turning Point is intended to be an offensive game. Teams that partake in solely defensive or destructive strategies will not have the protections implied by <G12> (see <G13>). However, defensive play which does not involve destructive or illegal strategies is still within the spirit of this rule.

b.VEX Robotics Competition Turning Point is an interactive game. Some incidental tipping, Entanglement, and damage may occur as a part of normal gameplay without violation. It will be up to the head referee’s discretion whether the interaction was incidental or intentional.

c.A Teamis responsible for the actions of its Robot at all times, including the Autonomous Period. This applies both to Teams that are driving recklessly or potentially causing damage, and to Teams that drive around with a small wheel base. A Team should design its Robot such that it is not easily tipped over or damaged by minor contact.


<G13> Offensive Robots get the “benefit of the doubt”. In the case where referees are forced to make a judgment call regarding a destructive interaction between a defensive and offensive Robot, or an interaction which results in a questionable rules violation, the referees will err on the side of the offensive Robot.

And also this previous VRC game design:


I would suggest having both you and your students dive deeper into what FRC is. It is a competition! The goal is to win and by doing so, you are pushing yourself and your designs further and further. Having a complete understanding of the best way to win leads to having the best idea of how to score/design your robot. This is what turns students into engineers and good ones at that. You are doing your students a disservice by not helping them understand that there is a place for defense and that part of every year’s challenge is to design around that.


Heck, before bumpers there was a lot of controversy surrounding wedged sides and the likelihood they presented in frequently tipping over other robots. In 2006/2007, the maximum angle of a robots sides was defined before bumpers became mandatory in 2008.


Yes it was. The game would have been much better if the had to score on the other side of the field and teams could have blocked them or done something. It was not a fun challenge but it still would have been a lot better.


In 2014, team 4464 had our intake arm severely damaged in one of our early matches when we were shoved against a wall by a defending robot.

You know what? It was a great experience. Many different teams pitched in parts to help us retrofit a more robust mechanism by the end of the competition, and we realized we had not done a sufficient analysis of how rough the game that year was likely to be. There was no ill intent (or very little of it) that year, and we learned a valuable lesson.

We ended up going to Worlds that year, on the strength of the defense we played while our arm was out of commission.

Rough games are a design constraint. Like any other design constraint, a good team needs to design accordingly. Defense also makes the games much more strategically interesting, and much more fun to both play and watch. There is nothing contrary to the FIRST ethos in that.