Opinions on blocking, ramming, wallbots...

Recently in some competitions I’ve watched there has been a lot of blocking and ramming by robots.

For instance a robot in the interaction zone scores maybe 1 or 2 pieces and then for the rest of the match focuses on pushing the other robot around, not letting it score or move. Its pretty easy for any moving robot to get in the way of another team, not let them have access to their doubler, not letting them pick up pieces, or not letting them get between zones on the field.

Personally, I think that this kind of strategy wasn’t really what this game was designed for. Matches can become more about who can get in the way of the other team rather than who has built the most efficient machine. I realize that there are quite a few teams who have designed robots directly for this purpose - wallbots.

I know that there is a rule that applies to this topic:
<G11> Strategies aimed solely at the destruction, damage, tipping over, or Entanglement of Robots are
not part of the ethos of the VEX Robotics Competition and are not allowed. However, VEX Gateway is an
interactive game. Some incidental tipping, Entanglement, and damage may occur as a part of normal
game play. 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 a team being Disqualified
from the remainder of the competition.
VEX Gateway is intended to be an offensive game. Teams who partake in solely defensive strategies will
undergo extra scrutiny in regards to <G11>. In the case where referees are forced to make a judgment
call on interaction between a defensive and offensive Robot, the referees will err on the side of the
offensive Robot.

I think the last part of <G11> is hard to apply to the game. It says “Teams who partake in solely defensive strategies will
undergo extra scrutiny”. What exactly does “extra scrutiny” mean? Wallbots partake in solely defensive strategies but there is nothing “illegal” about blocking off a whole section of the field as long as there is no pinning.

A lot of the NZ matches I’ve seen really have not much blocking at all. All of the robots are able to perform well without too much interference from other teams. I think this is when the game is at its best.

I’d like to know what other people think.

I completely agree with you mcops. i think that many matches recently, nationals in particular have been played in such a way that the game was not meant to be played. some teams think that ramming around other bots and blocking off the field is a viable strategy, but i think that this has been taken too far. due to the nature of the small passageways in a gateway field this is understandable to an extent, but i believe that some teams have been getting away with strategies that harm competition for the rest of the people involved.

I agree that teams’ strategies and robots should not be solely defensive. This can cause two major problems:
1st, as you guys mentioned, it is not the way the game is meant to be played.
2nd, it can hurt the team who made the defensive robot because of its limited ability to score. A wallbot depends completely on its ally. Paired with a robot like the super stacker, the wallbot will probably enjoy a win. But let’s say the wallbot is paired with another wallbot. You can only score so many objects in the corners, and while the wallbot duo could cause heck for their interaction opponent, their iso opponent would outscore them very quickly.

However, there are cases in which pushing or ramming is necessary. Our robot is built with a powerful drive base so it can defend from negators and push away defensive robots. And let’s say your lift stops working? Once you’ve scored in the corners a bit, your robot would probably be more useful defensively.

Last year, there were several teams in our state that had simple square wheel base robots at the first tournament. We nicknamed them “scuddlers,” which is now our team’s term for a purely defensive robot.

Arguably, the aim of the game is to be scoring points. However, defensive maneuvers are to be expected - which team wouldn’t want to stop someone else from putting their doubler on? The thing is, the real goal is to score more points than your opponents. If this includes shoving and blocking, then it’s fair game as long as nobody gets hurt.

Some teams aren’t going to be happy because they aren’t being allowed to play in a “proper” manner (scoring points). But Vex has 2 robots per alliance, which allows for some interesting strategic possibilities involving hampering the ability of one or more of your opponents to score. If you want to have the most efficient robot, then that’s where the skills challenges come in. Otherwise, be prepared for teams to play defense the entire match simply because it is an effective strategy.

It’s true that a robot that only defends is not playing the way the game meant to be played.

However, the only way to win a game (not counting DQing) is to outscore the other alliance.

So no matter what, your alliance still has to score in order to win.

And also, isn’t interaction / defense part of the challenge? That really separates teams that practice driving, have excellent drivetrain (because of their designing process and put interaction into consideration), over teams that don’t think about that kind of stuff.

If a robot can’t score under pressure / extreme defense (which means the refs are on its side), how good is it really?

Plus, there’s always the skills challenges.

The Game Design Committee members are not inconsistent. If defense was not “the way the game (was) meant to be played” they would have outlawed defense. Local rules variations (like some tournaments last year that banned pushing on robots trying to hang) will NOT be enforced at the World Championships, and tough but legal defensive strategies will be present in abundance. If you haven’t played against tough defense this year, I suggest that you start scrimmaging now against an aggressive defensive alliance.

You have some good points and I definitely agree that defense could be an effective strategy.

What it might take to do well at worlds is tell your alliance partner, “Go block the other team the whole match. Make sure they are unable to pick up pieces, make sure you block them from scoring the doubler. In the meantime, we will score everything else and double our large stack and we should win.”

It just seems like not the best sportsmanship, not the point of the game at all.

I was both with and against your 1200F team at nationals. In the match with we were both 2 very offensive robots and ended with a 25 25 tie I believe. In the quarterfinals we went against you and had very similar strategies for yours and ours but our partners differed greatly. Our alliance partner didn’t have the greatest bot but i’d take him offer others any day. He had a very strong drivetrain and could also score rather well making him a perfect interaction zone bot which did give us the win over your 2 offensive bots. So i’d say the right combination of offense and defense will win out and if you watched the finals thats how they played out in the defense of the doubler and negation barrels.

The only thing I would have to say against the defensive strategies is a team the purposely knocked themselves over in almost every match. It was a great strategy but if i’m not mistaken i did think there was a rule against intentionally knocking themselves over. Also, in the semifinals match when they fell over they did knock into and damage a robot from the other alliance, I highly doubt it was intentional to hit them but it’s reasoning to go against that strategy.

Finally I couldn’t help but notice the first two posts agreeing very strongly with each other while may have different names were both 1200A haha

Slight correction, we were an alliance with your 1200F team for the tie and for the quarterfinals we had a defensive partner while yours were both offensive. Our strategy was to score the isolation fast, which our autonomous took care of most of it, then to get the middle 30 in and to trap you on your half or isolation so we could easily double our isolation 30. Also, I can’t help but add that after our first match where we trapped you both in the isolation that the next one it probably wasn’t the best idea for both of you to go there again haha.

Finally I do believe 1200F had a very impressive robot and I hope to see you at worlds. Also, a thanks to 404E for being a great alliance partner.

think of it this way
for example, you have an elite robot vs a mediocre robot
now if both of them just “scored everything” by the end of the match, the elite robot would have a 10 point lead (for example) because its just that much more efficient than the mediocre robot

now if the mediocre robot played defense after scoring some points and getting the bottom bonus, the elite robot’s efficiency would drop drastically because there is a robot in their face every time they try to score

after the second match, the score would be closer, maybe a 5 point lead instead
(all these numbers are just for example)

now if you are the mediocre robot, wouldnt you rather play the second game and have a closer point game? (and hope some last second doubler/negater will tip the scales in your favor)

Ok, so a lot of people know how I feel about defensive strategies… If you don’t, let’s just say I don’t like them :wink:

I played defense at the Robot World Cup during autonomous. I felt really bad running that autonomous against other robots, but it did certainly help sometimes. I used it as a learning experience and discovered that instead of using a defensive strategy, my offensive (scoring) autonomi outperformed most defensive ones, giving me both a great head start for the match but also left me feeling good and proud of my robot.

At the Robot World Cup people also started to dislike my robot and its defensive autonomous in particular, especially those who I had used it upon. This gave me a bit of a bad reputation to say the least, which could possibly end up disadvantaging my robot and team at future competitions.

As for robots that are designed to be purely defensive, I think they are a huge risk to themselves. You win the game by scoring more than your opposition. How can you score more than your opposition with a purely defensive robot in circumstances like your alliance not working or not being able to score? If you are playing defense, you need to be sure you can still score well (not just in corner goals) to not be at too much of a risk.

As for why New Zealand robots don’t play too aggressively of defensively, we pride ourselves on gracious professionalism.

Please note, these are just my opinions and I definitely do not mean to offend or harm another person or team. :slight_smile:


I really like diversity of strategy. I would like to see as many viable competitors to the six-bar side-sucker design as possible. As an outsider looking in, It’s interesting to see how the metagame develops once you add an new strategy to the mix, and that all applies to wallbots. On the other hand, I don’t think thier existence helps to advance the goals of the competition.

We have to remember that the point of the VEX competition is to “trick students into learning”. This means two things:

    • The competition needs to be exciting so that students see it as worth doing for its own sake.
    • Meeting the requirements of the competition needs to be an educational experience.

What differentiates the tournament from the skills challenges is the interaction between robots, which serves to make matches exciting and get more people interested in competing. When it is taken to extremes, though - i.e. robots that do not score - I think it hinders both of the above points.

You can disagree with their concerns all you like, but I think a lot of teams find competing against solely defensive strategies to be a negative experience. The less they enjoy their matches, the less likely they are to stay in the program. That’s point one.

While there is definitely something to be learned from creating a single-subsystem machine that is optimised for one goal and one goal only (pushing other robots), I think there is more to be learned from creating a multi-subsystem robot. There are more tradeoffs and more possibilities. I do think wallbots have a design ceiling that hasn’t yet been reached, but I think in building them teams can reach their individual ceilings much more easily and when that happens learning stops. It’s easier to say something like “we already have a 10-motor drive; with the skills we have we can’t really improve on that” in the case of a wallbot than it is in the case of a scoring robot. That’s point two.

You can say that anything legal should be fair game - and it should. Teams all have a competition to win and inventing rules that don’t exist only serves to reward those teams that then break those rules.

But the official rules aren’t infallible. They exist to allow only those strategies which make the game the best it can be - and because they aren’t perfect, it’s reasonable to say that the game would be better if teams refrained from certain strategies.

I think that since there are no official rules, wallbots are perfectly legal. On the other hand, coming from my team, 4886c, who has a wallbot, they are not always the best robots to have. Just as George said, my robot tends to make love/hate relationships. But the thing I really DO NOT like doing is blocking robots in their isolation zone, even though its the goal, I still think they should be able to get their doubler. At the last meet for Wallie, he stayed mostly in front of the game wall, moving only to block other teams in their isolation zone once or twice at max. I agree with everyone who says people need equal play, but with a wallbot, as said before, you are pretty much useless until you play a match with a good team, or until the elimination rounds. While it ruins the game for the other you play against. I guess this leads up to me saying, I think that all these are fair game, while not “fair fair,” people should expect to see a small amount of wallbots at worlds. And you know what, who’s waiting to see that match with 4 wallbots in it??? I sure am!

after you’ve been trapped into your own zone by a wall bot (a few times maybe) then you will begin so learn
soon you will be comming up with ways to work around that, or even beating that strategy

this is where the biggest part of vex comes into play strategy, strategy, and more strategy

if in the finals, you have all elite NZ style efficiency bots with ZERO strategy, whats to determine whos going to win?
the answer is LUCK (fallen, doubler, objects stacked more compactly, a lucky roll to the floor goals)

strategy is the reason two mediocre robots can stand a fair chance against two elite robots

yes i know that these types of robots exist and are perfectly legal. what bothers me is when they get to the point of becoming simply a giant chassis bot thats sole purpose is to ram into opponents and pin and unpin the entire match.

there is a difference between playing “proper” and legally. rules say you can ram around and thats fine, but when all you do in a match is ram against a bot repetitively… thats just a waste of a robot.

yes playing through defense is part of the challenge and yes we can do so VERY well, but i noticed at nationals especially that some teams were taking the ramming and pinning too far as to the point were they would ram other robots until their drives burnt out and then move onto the other opposing robot and do the same. that just doesnt seem right considering all of the pinning that goes into that process.

i have played against tough defense actually. and i have done well against it. i just dont see it right to pin someone on and off for an entire match…

offense and defense combined usually is a good thing i agree. and yes we have more than one team member that feels this way about things.

a mediocre robot will not score all of its pieces in a match and obviously this is a place to play SOME defense, but are you really saying that ramming the entire match is the way it should be played?

i definately can see that in the difference of how the game is played in NZ vs US…

i think that the field layout this year creates plenty of problems that lead to pinning and ramming situations which is normal, but i think that the pinning/penning rules need to be closely examined before worlds…

I personaly think that it is okay to defend and block but there comes a time when it goes overboard like constant ramming and pinning when it is done over and over that shouldn’t be nessisary or if there is a team who just builds a bot to specificaly block and pin only that i see as unfair and not playing the game the way it should be played:)

While it is definitely aggravating to have a defensive robot against me, they are part of the game. Anything within the rules is part of the game, so I will just have to deal with by bot getting rammed and breaking all the motors on my drive. What does bug me though is when the referees don’t enforce the rules that are put in place. I remember in one match a while back my bot was being pinned against a wall so it couldn’t move an inch, and the other bot didn’t back off until at least 10 seconds after the pin. They refs didn’t call anything, but we still won because we scored a lot before then, and our alliance partners were working. The rules set the parameters for the game, and the game develops within those parameters. Time to develop anti-defense strategies.:cool:

Let’s assume wallbots and ramming strategies are all lumped together as griefing behavior. Build a gear shifter like 10D or try a narrower chassis like 720p (I don’t know the original intent, but I noticed that it could get around other bots pretty effectively), and deal with whatever you don’t like, adapt and become more excellent and deserving of victory.

In competition you win some and you lose some. As a team coach, I’ve had to deal with opponent wallbots and ramming, sometimes losing matches because the aim or scoring ability of my team’s bot was hindered. Accidental entanglement with 2M’s wing-pusher-bot’s rubber bands at BCIT was frustrating. However, at the same tournament, we also had matches where, with arm motors on the fritz and base motors intermittently cutting out, our bot was still able to aggressively prevent the transit of doublers and negators into or out of the opponents’ isolation.

I definitely agree with murdomeek in that robot-robot interaction is a force multiplier for mediocre bots and generally it holds good bots and good drivers at a higher standard for being able to deal with pushing. An alliance of two NZ bots may well want a wallbot as a third pick in order to give them the tactical flexibility.

Concerning wallbots and odd-bots (cue 1107), it would definitely be more interesting to the casual spectator to have some special bots in matches than to have a 2v2 of what looks like the exact same bot. Finals at worlds being pure luck, timing and balance of special barrels without tactical strategy would be a shame. If you just want to build the most efficient bot in the world that can win everything if there was no robot interaction, there are the drivers and programming skills competitions with which to demonstrate your prowess.

If you’re worried about the “spirit of the competition” concerning single-purposed designs, there are already well maintained and often-called rules against pinning. From what I’ve seen of wallbots, they actually seem to be DQ’ed more than they win matches. “Build a wallbot at your own risk.”

Anyways, I think JVN covers ramming-related topics best, from a game design and rules perspective, in a thread a couple months back: https://vexforum.com/showpost.php?p=252019&postcount=13

And also, yes, I lol’ed when realizing that 1200 agrees with 1200 (OP and first reply).

Just my little rant for today.

im just fine with other teams playing defense AS LONG AS it is done within the rules and if it is not that the refs deal with it accordingly… i agree that sometime the refs blow calls, but that is unavoidable. they make mistakes just like everyone else, it does bother me when it keeps happening. remember… the best defense is a dominant offense, even in vex.

i agree that there are ways to avoid being defended (the legal types of defense) but there are some teams that use illegal types of defense and that is the part that bothers me as i plan that when i go to a competition the rules will be enforced… that is why i build a robot for gateway and not battle bots…

I completely agree.