Why Stronghold was the best FRC game

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Essay written by Jacob Wolf. 

Throughout the regionals I’ve attended during and before my time with Ironclad 5847, I’ve been able to watch three different FRC games in person. Even though Stronghold was my first game, and overall taste of robotics, it still sticks out in my memory, and this leads it to be my favorite FRC game. I believe that everything about that year was great: the gameplay, theme, and championship experience were unmatched by the other two years that I have experienced.

   First and most importantly are the game mechanics of Stronghold. Having only two main objectives and two (extremely similar) endgame objectives, the game is quite simple. Going over defenses was easily comprehensible to new spectators as was shooting boulders into high/low goals. Many of the scoring indicators were also located on the field, including but not limited to the flags at the top of the towers, the LEDs on each defense, etc. Getting past how it was easily understandable by outsiders, which is a big part of game design, it was also a great game for rookie and seasoned teams alike. The defenses were a staple for scoring for all teams, with only one or two being used only by veteran teams. Any team who could put together a rhino-track chassis could pass over a majority of defenses. For the other tele-op objective, boulders, it was relatively balanced as well. Having low boulder and high boulder point values not far off from each other (5 for auto, 3 for teleop) was the biggest factor in making it balanced. As well as not being far off in the number of points one gains from each task, the “high goal” task in Stronghold was somewhat easier than Steamworks’ high boiler or Power Up’s scale. Many teams were able to create not only a robot capable of shooting a boulder into the high goal, albeit not being very consistent. Combining these two factors together, spectator friendliness and balancing, it makes for a very exciting game. It seemed that every match I was on the edge of my seat wondering which alliance was going to win, unlike other games where most matches resulted in blowouts.

   The theme in 2016 was, as you may already know, medieval. This opened the door for so many costume ideas, robot names, chants, and team-to-team awards. Ironclad designed a shield which looked very awesome as well as making countless other spirit items related to the medieval theme. As well as designing some themed items ourselves, we also received plenty of awards from teams for various reasons (Ex. Gear It Forward awarding us “inspirational rookie”) which were decked out in things you would find in the Middle Ages. The last reason why the theme was so great this year was a small and minor detail that many missed. At the beginning of the match, the ‘cavalry charge’ sound effect lined up with the theme and for once did not seem out of place.

   The final reason why I just can’t forget about 2016 and Stronghold is the championship in St. Louis. This was my second-ever robotics competition, my first being Midwest, so I didn’t exactly know what I was in for. I was astonished by the sheer amount of people and robots in one building, all competing for roughly the same reason. I’ve only been to worlds one other time, in 2017, however I feel 2016 was better because of one main reason. The fact it was before the split of champs into two separate events. The one championship experience made everything more real, and made everything ‘count’. Every single team who deserved to be there was there, so no one could say, “Well team(s) ___ attended the other championship so…” There were no excuses for a team winning, and you had to be better than everyone else to be gifted the banner reading “WINNER – World Championship”. This was different in years going forward, as you were champion of only your championship.

   Overall, Stronghold was my first and favorite game because of the time I had at each competition watching the matches. Although this time was great, I hope the next games I participate in on Ironclad are able to blow Stronghold out of the water.