Offense vs. Defense in FTC

Throughout my FTC career I have increasingly fixed myself on a few universal truths. These include that fact that most Tetrix pieces are prone to wear (and in general they kind of suck), that four wheel drive is necessary to win, and that the best defensive strategy in FTC is an outstanding offense.
This year, I have wearily agreed to violate that second truth; however I continue to maintain the first and third truth. The third is something I have noticed maintain its trueness at competitions time and time again. The idea of having a solid defensive strategy is a fool’s dream. All it takes is one team that can out run, maneuver, or even outsmart you, and the defensive strategy is kaput! On the other hand, a game of offensive strategy makes for a more even game. Each team is pitted against the other in the battle of who can score the most points. And let’s face it; games are built to favor the offense. After all, the purpose of the game is to score points, not to block them.
Lastly, offense is just more fun to watch. Do the highlight reels show the footage of football players stopping the opposing team over and over again? Or do they show the star quarterback throwing a hail-marry pass to the receiver who then runs it in for a last minute TD? The same principle applies in robotics. Even if you’re from another team, it’s cool to watch high performing teams score big in their matches. Where, in contrast, watching a defensive game is really nothing more than seeing four robots squirm around each other awkwardly. So I feel that it may be a universal truth of sports in general that offense is plainly better than defense.


3 thoughts on “Offense vs. Defense in FTC

  1. We found that including a little defense in our offensive strategy was key to winning the final matches at our first qualifier. Our team had what was possibly the best cube-scoring robot in the building, but our alliance partners consistently struggled in grasping cubes (we had chosen them for their end game and autonomous capabilities). The opposing team often out-performed us during autonomous and equaled us in end game functions. The only way to beat them was by blocking them at the cube zone, using our powerful defensive drive system primarily to shove them out of the way while trying to grab cubes ourselves. Through this strategy we didn’t score as nearly as many points as we otherwise could have, but we hurt them even more. We won the final match by just a few points.

    Also, keep defense in mind even while building an offensive robot. I have seen many teams destroy their robotic arms during competition (burnt out motors, fractured parts, etc), making it impossible to score points. At that point they have no choice but to play defense. We were partnered with such a team at a qualifier during our rookie year and came out as the winning alliance.

    True, offence is important, but give the defense some credit.

  2. I agree! Defense is a crucial strategy to be played in-game, and should be something that allying teams plan together before the match starts. My point in this post was to say that defense is not something a team should try to anticipate and compensate for while building the robot. I can think of many situations similar to the ones you described above in which we used a defensive strategy to win a match too, and this strategy can in many cases be useful.

    I got the idea to write this post after having a discussion with a team member on our younger sister team. He was obsessed with the idea of trying to not only score their own autonomous block in the IR basket, but to also get around to the other side of the field to block the other team from scoring in their basket. It took me twenty minutes to convince him it was not worth the time to try and make that idea work. He and other members of our new team at times get stuck on trying to build their robot with features that are specifically designed to thwart other robots. I believe the argument I made above sufficiently explains why this is a bad strategy.
    I know other teams who have actually gone through with this idea and developed defensive attachments to their robots. Not only is this strategically bad, as the resources used in that function (motors) could have been used elsewhere, but I personally feel that it goes against GP.
    I should probably make an update to this post to clarify what I meant by defensive strategy.
    Thanks for pointing this out though.

  3. We agree completely. It’s more enjoyable for everyone if all of the hard work to design an effective robot is allowed to pay off instead of there just being a constant battle to keep each other from scoring.

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