Answered: Defense and the Full Court Free Throw

Having just watched a tournament event, I write to follow up on two prior questions involving defensive strategy, and the intent of the game play.

There are two previous posts on this exact point. One was posted Saturday, by Noah 1138 “Defending a Full Court Shooter”]:

Noah’s question seemed to be answered by a prior post, which stated that bumping a robot that is half in and half out of the loading zone would be considered “indirectly” entering the loading zone, and thus a violation. [Karthik post dated 8-25: “contacting a Robot which is contacting a Zone, is considered indirect contact, and thus could trigger a violation of either rule.”]

This rules interpretation has two significant impacts on game play, and so I write to ask whether this is understood and intentional.

First, it means the protected zones are essentially extended by 12-16 inches outside of the marked boundaries because a robot can intentionally position itself so that only a fraction is inside a protected zone, and an opponent which makes contact outside of the protected zone is in violation of the “indirect” contact rule. [There are other strategies for disrupting a full court free throw, but the breadth of the “indirect” ruling suggests that they are all likely to be whistled as foul.]

Second, because a robot can essentially sit in the protected zone for the entirety of the game play and not move at all, it creates a disproportionate incentive to focus entirely on a non-moving free throw into the high goal. Indeed, given the way the balls and scoring are set up, a robot that can use the 28 available Driver Loaded balls to achieve a high proportion of high goal scores effectively reduces the tactics of the game to two actions: the full court free throw, and an elevation move. Achieving 25/28 high goal shots, plus a low elevation move (an unfolding ramp will do) scores 150 points.

An examination of recent tournament results suggests that this strategy would be sufficient to win virtually every single game, even if the alliance team robot scored zero.

There appear to be only a few teams capable of achieving a score greater than 150, and I suspect that they are all employing a variant of this strategy. [Team 1138B, at the top of the Windward event, employs a full court free throw that achieved close to 25/28 accuracy.]

While there are a (slightly) larger number of balls in the field, including the bonus balls, the mechanics and time limits, combined with the scoring rules, make it highly unlikely that a field-chasing robot can compete effectively with a free throw strategy. The tournament results support this conclusion. Hence, tournament strategy will quickly require that a winning alliance have at least one team member that can employ the non-moving, full court free throw, plus lift.

From the standpoint of design diversity and creativity, this seems unfortunate. Although it is a long-standing issue in game design, it seems that this funnel effect on strategy could have been predicted or avoided through the rules (why the rules allow for 28 Driver Loaded balls is beyond me).

So the question is: did you understand that protecting the Loading Zone from “indirect” contact in this manner, combined with the huge number of Driver Loaded balls, would create this single-strategy effect? Or am I missing something ?

Yes this was understood that protect the Loading Zones would create “safe zones”. However, any team who thinks this is a single strategy game should probably reconsider their analysis. As the season progresses, so will strategic development.