So you've started playing in a fortress grid and you want to know why your teammates keep killing you? Maybe you've got some idea how the team should play, but nobody wants to do it. Here's the answer to those questions and more.
As with any team server, a fortress server lines you up in the 'wingman configuration'. This is a scary configuration! You're dangerously close to the other player's walls and if you so much as sneeze in the wrong direction, you're roadkill. You can't get out of the center without killing people, and if you do that they'll vote-kick your ass into oblivion. So what do you do?
The first thing you do is don't panic. That'll get you all killed. The second thing you need to do is figure out how you will all fire up gracefully. There are a couple of concerns you need to be thinking about, and they're very important. The first is that if you leave a space between your wall and any of your teammates' walls you leave a big hole that your opponents can and usually will use against you. A fast-moving opponent can sail through those holes before you get your defense setup. The second is how you will personally withdraw from the wingman configuration without hurting any teammates.
Without a doubt, the two most important positions on the grid are the point (also referred to as center), and the goalie. Here we differentiate between "goalie" and "defense" although it's common in-game to refer to the goalie as defense. The reason we make the difference here is because while the goalie is a defensive player, he may not be the only defensive player on the team.
We won't get into naming all the positions. Frankly, the rest don't really have names. You can find good parallels in soccer and basketball, but not in American football. There are other sports with interesting parallels you might consider for position names, but why bother? We do go ahead and name the center position "point", although that is usually referred to in-game as "center". We make this difference so we can use the word "center" with impunity to mean "center of the grid".
The team splits up into an offensive team and a defensive team, generally. With smaller teams, your defensive team will probably only be one or two players. Of course, that's 3-4 players on a team, which leaves only 2-3 players for offense. Keep in mind that number of 3 for offense, it will serve you. These numbers work for up to 5 players.
On a larger team, you will generally will split up into three areas of influence. The defensive team will still consist of up to 3 players, and they'll all stay in the back, near the fortress, with one of them being the goalie. The offensive team will still consist of 2-3 players and will attack as soon as possible. Now your team has 6-8 players, what do the extras do? They'll do two things. First, they'll play a mid-field defense for a minute or so and be prepared to fallback to defensive positions if the defense needs them to. If not, they'll advance as the second-wave of attackers.
Who's in charge?
Generally, on a team with 3 or more players, someone needs to be in charge, and that someone needs to be reasonably close to point to be able to make the calls to separate the line. How that will happen depends largely on how the point wants to deploy his team and on how the team wants to deploy. At the time of writing, point calls aren't in common usage but they have been demonstrated to be very effective.
As the team gets larger, it becomes necessary to differentiate between who's in charge of offense and who's in charge of defense. Usually the goalie will take charge of defense. As to whose in charge of the whole team, the goalie and point need to determine that for themselves.
It's vitally important that the members of the team recognize a leader and do what he says, just like it is on any team. And as with any group situation, it's important that the leader be a good leader. You may not want to pick the best player on the team, he may not be a good leader! You want a good leader, someone who can think fast on his feet and make good calls. You also want him to be able to adapt quickly to changes.
In the early days of fortress play, having something resembling a team captain was necessary because most players were still getting a grip on the new style of play. These days, it's not so important anymore, most players have an idea what they should be doing at any point in time. So don't be surprised if nobody's taken tactical command of the team and the team still plays well. Periodically it becomes necessary for someone to take charge, and it still happens, and it's still generally a good thing, but the emphasis has shifted.
Important Calls to Start the Round
There are two important calls needed to start the round. Any given point man may have more, but these are probably a bare minimum. You need one call to deploy your defense and one to deploy your offense. Generally you'll want all players to grind on the point's wall and pull off on his signal, although there is certainly room for alternate scenarios. The wording can be anything you want, but it needs to be general enough to handle changes in the team's makeup. So logically you don't want players' names in the calls. You also need to have them in a language everyone understands. This can be a real problem if you have German players on your team but you don't speak a lick of German! You may find it useful to include translations of your calls, provided your calls are short enough that you can do so.
Another consideration in your calls is lag, and this is serious! Lag will sometimes eat your call completely, and when it doesn't, there is a noticeable delay between when you make the call and when players respond to it--even if they respond as soon as they receive it.
More recently, players have gotten generally pretty good at splitting from the grind in the center without killing each other. The line divides into several smaller groups of 2-3 players who work out for themselves what they'll do. This is covered in more detail in sections devoted to the two respective teams that develop within your own team. In any case, break calls aren't made very often anymore. But don't forget about them! Some point players prefer to make break calls still, and sometimes it's just necessary to make them. Just don't be surprised if you don't see the calls, they're not made very often any more. Most players have a pretty good feel for when they should break.
Offense is relatively simple. The two players who will usually rush the opposing fortress are the point and the person to the right of point. The person to the left of point can rush, but usually doesn't get to do so right away. So the two rushers need to account for at least one opponent between them, two is preferred, on their way to the zone. If they don't even get one, they need to double back and go pick one off. The reason is simple, there's probably one goalie at the zone, and if they don't kill anyone on their way, they leave their defense outnumbered.
The left of point is usually an offensive position as well, but his is a little unique from the rest. He has to take out one opponent before he can rush the zone, and it's this fact that usually causes him to show up after the other two. It's not a big deal because three players at the enemy's fortress wind up killing each other in their rush for the zone. So left of point is usually better off playing a forward defensive position until it's time to go to the zone. When he goes to the zone, his best bet is usually to prevent opponents from returning to protect the zone and buying time for the two rushers (who should already be there) to take the zone. In either capacity, he's playing a defensive role, but he's playing it in offensive positions.
All other players are defensive players until the opposing team has been reduced to a point where it's safe to leave the goalie by himself.
Defense is also relatively simple. There are currently two defensive models in use. The dominant one is the inner/outer defense model. Put simply, one person follows his tail immediately inside his team's fortress, creating a barrier to entering the zone. The other person will create a similar barrier farther out, usually touching the rim wall in his circuit. The inside player, the goalie, is the inner defense. The outside player's position has no name, other than outer defense.
The second model is a goalie/guard model like that used in soccer. It has some advantages over the inner/outer defense model, but some disadvantages as well. In this model, you have a goalie that plays just like the inner defense already mentioned. The second player takes up a guard position in front of the goalie and works his area like a zone defense. In this model he will hunt anyone who comes to his side of the grid.
The tradeoffs are huge. In the inner/outer defense model, the inner player doesn't have to be particularly strong if the outer player is strong. The converse is also true. So if you have new players, or just players who are new to fortress play, the inner/outer defense model is very effective. The goalie/guard model requires both players to be strong players, and the guard has to be a strong dueling player. The advantage to the goalie/guard model is that the guard can switch easily to offense if his offensive players should crumble. He can also easily switch to take a winzone, should one appear. He can also switch to outer defense on the fly if need be. Obviously this requires a lot more skill and experience on the part of the guard. In the end, let the goalie make the call on which he prefers. The best defense he can set up is the one he can play best, regardless of what the tradeoffs are.
The other defensive players will deploy early in the round and take up what are essentially zone defenses. If the offense deploys well, the defensive line will only receive 2 or 3 players, but it needs to be ready to take 5, and there's only 4 defensive players at the most. The mission of the defense, combined, is to deny the rear part of the grid to the other team. This is a larger area than the fortress itself, and it makes sense. If an opposing player can get into the area of denial, he can prevent defensive players from coming to peel him out. But if the defense can deny the whole area to him, they keep him off the goalie's back.
Depending on the strength of the defense and the skills and experience of each player, as a defensive player you may be able to let 1 or 2 opposing players get by in order to get 1 or 2 others.