A Look at Strategy for 2015
This year more than any other, a comprehensive strategy discussion is essential to a team’s success. In Mock/Post-Kickoff, GOFIRST encourages teams to brainstorm all the things they can do on the field (not just scoring but also assist and specialty roles). After brainstorming all the possibilities, teams should decide what subset of those things they want to focus on. An important aspect to keep in mind as you create your strategy is what level of competition your team wants to reach (i.e. eliminations at regionals, winning Einstein, etc.). The subset your team chooses should be turned into a list, ordered by priority, which reflects the team’s gameplay strategy.
Often when brainstorming the possibilities a game can have, it is easiest to think first about how to score in the game. This year, LITTER in the RECYCLING CONTAINER and stacks of grey totes on the SCORING PLATFORM are examples of ways to score, though there are many other methods to gain points. The more challenging facet to brainstorm is support operation roles. These roles could range from denying the opponent points (defense) to facilitating scoring for alliance partners (assisting). This year, some assist methods are to move TOTES out of the LANDFILL ZONE or to start a stack on the SCORING PLATFORM by placing a single grey tote on it. Sometimes, there is also opportunity for specialty roles, which usually result in a score multiplier for your alliance. Examples of specialty roles include placing the RECYCLING CONTAINER with LITTER on top of a scored stack of grey totes on the SCORING PLATFORM or moving LITTER from the floor to the LANDFILL ZONE. The overall goal in this portion is to find all possible options in order to prevent “tunnel vision” when developing your strategy.
The next step is to determine what level of competition your team hopes to reach this season. This level needs to be attainable, not overly pessimistic or optimistic. Know what your team can achieve, and state it loudly so everyone is aware of the overall goal for the season! Doing so will not only help solidify your detailed strategy, but it will give every team member an attainable goal to keep in mind as they work through the build season.
Once you know what level of competition your team plans to focus on (what level your robot is designed for), determine the subset of all brainstormed ideas your team will achieve this season, and prioritize these into a list. This list should answer the question “what role does your team want to fill on the field?” clearly. Do you want to be the main scoring robot in the alliance (giving you the potential to be an alliance captain), or would you rather be in a support role (aiming to be a desirable pick for a captain rather than being the captain yourself)? Every team’s first three priorities, no matter what their strategy, should be to build their design, to pass inspection, and to move. Following this list should be 2-3 “wants,” which consist of those things you chose to focus on from the overall brainstorming portion. Your team could add 1-2 more of those things from the overall brainstorming to an “only if we have time” section at the bottom of the list, but that means you DON’T focus on those items until EVERYTHING above them is achieved. Remember, this is a priority list, so things lower on the list should not cause problems for accomplishing those items higher on the list. Don’t pick conflicting goals.
Strategy doesn’t end when you have a design for your robot; strategy is a KEY component of every competition. Once competition season begins, try to watch streams of other competitions and
determine how your robot would do at them were you competing. This doesn’t mean you need to be glued to a computer screen all weekend. Just take some time to understand how the game is actually played. Decide if you need to make any changes to your strategy when you get to your own competition or if you need to create a backup plan in case your main strategy doesn’t seem like it will work. Also plan what your team’s scouters need to be on the lookout for. Even if your overall goal isn’t to be an alliance captain in eliminations, EVERY TEAM SHOULD SCOUT AND MAKE A PICK LIST! Look at robots that complement your strategy and robots that have the same (or a similar) strategy as yourself to determine both how to market your team and how to prioritize your pick list. And just remember, no one wants to be that team at a regional with no pick list.
A thorough strategy discussion gives your team a focused goal for the build season as well as smaller, short term goals per week. Beyond just the build season, strategic thinking always has applications at competitions and even into the real world. Learn it. Use it. Live it.