The Stages of VRC Metagame

A lot of teams on this forum are aware of the concept of metagame: the strategies that teams use to win the game. Because the goal of the game is to have a higher score than the opponent, metagame often evolves throughout the season, in stages from blind scoring to more intelligent ways to defeat the opponent. This is an analysis of those stages.

Stage 1 of Metagame:

At the beginning of the season, teams often focus on the “obvious” solution, and build robots to pick up objects and score them faster than the opponent. Many matches at early-season tournaments are Stage-1 matches where teams just focus on blindly scoring objects in goals. This is the lowest form of strategy: there are usually never any Stage-1 Matches at Worlds.

Stage 2 of Metagame:

When teams start to analyze patterns in the game and its scoring, and take advantage of these patterns to help them defeat Stage 1 teams more reliably, then these teams have entered Stage 2. Many of the differences between Stage 1 and Stage 2 lie in the team’s autonomous programs and their strategy. Robots built to score blindly are used, or sometimes modified slightly, to gain some extra points, or bonuses, to defeat the other team. Examples of this are:
-Descoring or scoring selectively to own goals, in Round Up.
-Dumping objects under the ladder so the opponent can’t score them, in Round Up
-Scoring key bonus points before the other team, and using doublers/negators to maximum effectiveness, in Gateway.
-Descoring onto the floor, and sometimes rescoring a bonus sack or several sacks, in Sack Attack.
The Autonomous bonus (when present) is also something sought after in Stage 2 matches.

Stage 3 of Metagame:

Stage 3 occurs when teams redesign their robots to carry out their stage 2 strategies more effectively than their old Stage 1 robots can. When many teams use the same strategies, their designs start to converge, until one superior design emerges (this is known as design convergence, discussed in other threads by that name). Many features in these robots differ, however, giving different robots different competitive advantages. Stage 3 robots are the most common sight at Worlds, like:
-Robots able to score triangular goals efficiently in Clean Sweep
-Clawbots and Needlebots in Round Up
-“NZ-bots” (characterized by 6-bar lifts and side-roller intakes), and some advanced Dual-tread robots, in Gateway

Stage 4 of Metagame:

More commonly known as “Nuclear-Option” or “Green-Egg” strategies, Stage 4 strategies feature robots designed to change the entire game, and force Stage 3 robots to adapt or die. Many Stage 4 robots are capable of stopping Stage 3 ones from executing their old offensive strategies, using an extreme, out-of-the-box kind of defense. This stage of metagame is usually what decides the World Champions.
Some examples of Stage 4 robots are:
-GER’s Fred IV, and other “goal dumping” robots that scored the mobile base goals for owning-bonus points, and dumped them under the ladder, in Round Up.
-Wallbots, which expanded to prevent their opponents from getting key bonus points, and sometimes prevented their opponents from using a doubler, in Gateway
-Super Stackers, which stacked 15 objects on one goal so that the doubler could be used to max effectiveness, making of its objects worth 2 points, in Gateway.

Stage 5 of Metagame:

This is the final stage of metagame. It is also the least known stage, as there usually is not enough time for teams to formulate, and effectively execute, Stage-5 strategies. A Stage-5 strategy is one last-ditch effort to defeat a Stage-4 robot. Sometimes Stage-3 robots are used to attempt Stage-5 strategies, but the most promising way to beat a Stage-4 robot is by building an entirely new robot designed solely to do so, which is a Stage-5 robot.
Here are examples of Stage-5 strategies attempted by Stage-3 robots:
-Attempting to block goal-dumpers in Round Up (not successful due to Fred IV’s 8-motor drive)
-Blocking a super-stacker from scoring (successful due to the fact that super-stackers depend entirely on their 1 score)
-Parking in front of wallbots to halt their advances (not successful against 50-lb, high-torque wallbots like 2W) in Gateway
-Trying to rush past wallbots in autonomous (not successful against fast-expanding wallbots) in Gateway
-Scoring bonus points in the center 30" goal and the 20" goals to gain an edge over the wallbot’s alliance (successful, except in cases where the wallbot could score or cap the 30" goal, and had a partner that could score the 20" goals first)
Since Stage 4 robots are so rare, most teams don’t bother with Stage-5 robots, but there are two examples of Stage-5 robots:
-This robot, in Round Up, which could go under the ladder and descore the goal-dumpers’ “safe” points. (successful in cases except those in which alliance partner falls over, or those where goal-dumper’s partner can still own the 4 wall goals).
-The “Gatehopper,” in Gateway, which could go across the black fence to get past any wallbot (unsuccessful due to time it took to get over the fence).

Metagame, by the 3rd, 4th, and 5th stages, becomes very complex, and I hope this illustration will help teams better understand and take part in metagame in the future.
Please post any comments or opinions!

Actually, I think 1 robot was able to stop 2w and won a match against it. If I remember correctly it was 169a on an alliance with 677 and 2941a.

I believe you’re referring to this:
169A did manage to negate 2W’s advantage, and turn it into a 1v1 between 2941A and 2900. So despite the presence of a Stage 4 robot and the use of a Stage 5 strategy against it, this match was really decided by Stage 3 tactics (fortunately for 2W, 2900 managed to snag the 20" goals and get more objects doubled).

1 Like

Continuing off-topic:
In divisional matches, several teams beat 2W. Most notably in division eliminations, a team with a pneumatic lift both raised the “lid” AND pushed 2W back quite a bit so their partner could score.

I think the point that he’s trying to convey was that the concept of a wall bot is powerful, and that it halts the strategy of most robots. True, there’s a bit of driver/preperation/deterioration error, but its only noticeable because you look at one specific robot vs the world.

… then i have some strange feeling someones going to mention 1103 and how awesome that robot was…

This covers the design metagame pretty well, although it might be missing a sort of branch coming off stage 3. All of the top tier robots using a stage 3 design (i.e. most of the teams at Worlds) are loosely equal in efficiency. Then, the biggest thing separating the great from the greatest (excluding stage 4 bots) is strategies that can counter other stage 3 teams effectively. Stage 4 bots are “changing the game”, effectively (Stop my robot or else you have no chance of winning), but there are also ways that stage 3 teams can do the same.

Another example for stage 4: the tube hoarders from Round Up

A lot of those offensive strategies start to take form in Stage 2 (analyzing the game and taking advantage of scoring patterns to gain an edge). Stage 3 takes this to a higher level when the robots themselves are designed to exploit these patterns to the max. For example, Gateway metagame revolved around having as many of your objects count 2 points as possible, so in Stage 2 teams would score bonus points, or fight over them with other teams. Then they built faster, more efficient robots and created autonomous programs to take the contested bonus points before the other side could.

I can see where you’re coming from, though. The strategies some teams use (like goal-covering or blocking doublers) that their Stage 3 robots weren’t originally made for, creates a “Stage 3-and-a-half” if you will, where Stage 3 robots are using Stage-4-style strategies.

While many Stage-3 robots were able to make good attempts at Stage 5 strategies, jumping up two stages, on the fly, is difficult. What I’ve been pondering about Stage 5, though, is where it will go this year, as I’ve observed how the stages proceed faster each year. In Clean Sweep, the game-breakers were pure Stage 3 robots, that didn’t lock down the field at all. Then, in Round Up, a Stage 4 robot took Worlds almost completely unopposed (and that season even went to Stage 5; the robot that went under the ladder was the only one that had a chance at beating 44, and probably would have won had 1103 not tipped). Then, in Gateway, Stage 4 robots were everywhere, and although no one was bold enough to build a pure Stage-5 robot, many of the Stage 3 robots adapted to Stage 5 nearly beat the Stage 4 wallbots.

This year, in Sack Attack, Stage-4 robots, like this one, have been seen competing already, long before Worlds, and even before the Stage-3 robots are fully evolved. Many have predicted that these Stage-4 trough-cappers will win worlds, but since the meta is evolving so much faster this year, I have a different prediction. I think that many teams will jump over Stage 3, and as a result, there will be so many Stage-4 robots at Worlds that someone will make a pure, well refined Stage 5 robot (a robot designed solely to defeat the trough-cappers), and that will be victorious this year.

I personally think a trough-capper could be defeated with good alliance made up of two stage 3 robots. Hypothetically, if a trough capper and robot A are against robot B and C (A, B and C are all Stage 3), then robot B can concentrate on making sure Robot A does not score while robot C can descore anything that Robot A scored in autonomous, then concentrate on scoring the floor and high-goals. While it would not be a high scoring match, Robot B and C could win just from the high and floor goals since the trough capper and Robot A would have no points.

If you read though that robot was illegal…

Because of the cord connecting the 2 sides…

But it does give me a better idea… :slight_smile:

But the main reason it was deemed illegal is because the wire posed an obvious entanglement risk. However, that risk would be gone if it was somehow supported by metal. Therefore, it could be legal if a team included a scissor expansion like this bot:
Or used linear slide extensions like this one: which would give the added benefit of making lit like a wall bot too.

Or used linear slide extensions like this one: [ which would give the added benefit of making lit like a wall bot too.]( which would give the added benefit of making lit like a wall bot too.)

That would take away a lot of the benefit of the cord though… having a solid connection between the 2 bots would not allow the other to move freely around… ( if it needed to score)

I think another way you could go about a level 4 at least is a 10 motor drive geared fast enough so it can push almost all the other sides sacks out of range in autonomous and hold them… so the other alliance can only grab the sacks against their wall… while your alliance partner scores at the last minute so then other team doesn’t de score

That would be interesting

Though the robot would basically have to run over the cord in order to get to the other side, which I wouldn’t want if I were the trough capper. Also, after seeing all the robots getting stuck on sacks, I was thinking of possibly making a troll bot that would try to get opposing robots stuck on sacks. how that would be done, idk lol

i see what you did there
however, i think this year, due to the high percentage of stage 4 robots, i think it will be a “rock paper, scissors” match between the 4th and 5th stage bots by worlds
and then out of the blue withh be a stage “6” robot :wink:
(in other words, the “normal” bots are now the 4th and 5th lvl bots, and the ‘3rd’ stage will ofc be super efficient, but will become obsolete)

yes, but remember, that robot was done months ago
a proper trough capper that “does it right” will most likely think of a way to cover the high goals as well as ‘legally obstruct’ the field as much as possible making it near impossible for the opponents to do any scoring

Hm, I can’t remember which game had the strongest rock-paper-scissors dynamic from stage 3 robots (Clean Sweep?), but yeah, you’d have teams countering stage 4 strategies, but which could be beaten by another type of robot capitalizing on their weaknesses due to countering the other guys…

And don’t forget the “normal” robots that just score as fast as possible; someone’s gotta score the points and be alliance captain to pick the other guys. Stage 4 bots function on the idea that most people are trying to play the game as is (not 2+ wallbots).

Hm, I’m not sure that I agree with the “completely unopposed” bit. If you have looked at their match scores it’s not like it was 80-0 blowouts every match they played. 44 played some very tough matches with a few points deciding. Also, some claws and needles could descore goals that were close tothe edge of the ladder. So while undoubtedly 44 was one of the best it’s not like the won with no real opposition.

Yes, and I think everyone needs to remember that any sort of “trough-capper” is going to need to withstand very vigorous interaction from the opposing alliance’s robots. This includes pinning and tipping. It has been made legal for an opposing robot to tip a “trough-capper” if the action is made while the opposing robot is trying to get past them/score in the goal.

Just something to remember if you are planning on going through with a strategy such as this.


However a trough capper could have an 8 motor drive… and be extremely heavy and hard to push or tip…

But yes it would be very easy for example with your robot for you to add a pneumatic or flip out tipper of some sort… kinda like a fork lift on the front but to flip the bot over when you raise your lift…

And to counter this they could just add a simple wheelie bar…

But also a trough capper more specifically the one in the video has a more central center of gravity… making it harder to tip to begin with…

8 Motor drive, Pshhh Please if I were to do a trough capper it would have a 12 motor drive. Center of Gravity is not a hard thing to deal with in VEX either Not sure why people worry so much.

  • Andrew

Uhmm max motors are 10… unless we are talking about the college level…

Or you are joking of course…

If your robot is fast enough, all it would take to do this is to wait for your opponent to get near a wall and spit out some sacks in front of them before they could get away. Their partner could probably rescue them so it wouldn’t be permanent but it would definitely be annoying.