Fortress Tactics defense

From Armagetron

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.


The skills a defender needs will vary according to his role, but generally speaking a defender should be able to:

  • Maze indefinitely in a confined area
  • Fight and win in a confined area
  • Follow his tail indefinitely
  • Play a zone defense (as in soccer or any other sport)
  • Play a man-to-man defense
  • Switch smoothly between zone and man-to-man tactics

Defensive Roles

Typically, on a 7 person team, the inner three players are the offense and the remaining 4 players are the defense. But what does each defensive player do, exactly? Well, simply put, each defender should do what he does best. A defender who is a good fighter should take up a position well away from the fortress and wait for opponents to arrive, at which point he should kill any opponents that come near him. All defenders need to be alert of one another's positions and what's going on in each position so that they can lend assistance. For example, if the right-hand guard is being attacked by three opponents, and the left-hand guard has no opponents, then the left-hand guard should shift to the right and help contain the opponents.

It's not necessary for defenders to kill opponents. While it is the defense's primary method of scoring points for their team, strictly speaking it is only necessary to deny access to the fortress. Because of this nuance in the role of the defense, a defender does not have to be a better fighter in order to fend off the offense. If a defender can just put up a wall and maintain it so that the offense can't get by him, then he has done his job.

Depending on how the defense has decided to organize, each individual will have a different role. Each method of defense is assumed to have at least 2 defenders, and scales up to 4 defenders with very little modification. The important thing to remember is that extra defenders should deploy to the flanks to cover the avenues of defense.

Zone Defender

A zone defender will stake some part of the grid as his own and prevent any player from passing. His purpose isn't necessarily to attack and kill every opponent that comes his way, rather it's to prevent the attackers from passing. Sometimes, more often than not, it's easiest and best to kill the attacker. Occasionally, however, it's best to just deny access. The defender may choose this tactic instead if, for example, the attacker is a much stronger fighter than the defender. In that case, the defender could do a better job by repelling the attacker instead of killing.

Zone defense is like most sports and is a common tactic found in soccer, basketball, American football, rugby, and numerous other sports. By default, baseball is all zone defense.


While most people refer to the goalie as simply "defense" or "defender", we use goalie here to differentiate between the larger defensive team. The goalie is a zone defender with the team's fortress as his zone. As such, his tactics and methods vary dramatically from the typical zone defender and center around mazing and chasing his tail.


Guards are the players that don't directly defend the fortress. Instead they take up positions away from the fortress that are chosen as good places to stand and wait for attackers which they can then engage when they arrive. A defense may have many guards, or none, depending on the size of the team. When the back of the grid starts to get fairly congested with defenders, some defenders may choose to take positions in the middle part of the grid instead. In any case, the guards will deploy early in the round after grinding to the center and make sure they leave room for the goalie to setup his maze. They will also try to keep attackers from penetrating while the goalie is still setting up.

Organizing the Defense

The defense organizes separately from the offense. Obviously this is because the offense has no idea what the defense is doing, and there's no reason it needs to know and vice versa. On a large team that has 3-4 defenders, one of them needs to take charge of the defense. On a smaller team, the team captain can probably give some direction to the defense.

Zone Defense

In the zone defense, there is no goalie. While it is generally accepted that a goalie is needed, it is difficult to field an offense against a team that outnumbers yours. In this case, if the players are all strong players, they may elect to field a zone defense of 2 players and send the other player or players off to storm the other team's fortress. The team may also elect to have a goalie and play all players as zone defenders until they have whittled away the opponent's forces, clearing an opening to storm the opponent's fortress.

However, the zone defense is a very risky strategy. It requires that all defenders be capable of holding their zones, and usually only one defender will be close enough to the fortress that he can drop back and defend it directly. It also requires that no players can make any mistakes that results in death. This is a big deal, because if the right-hand defender should screw up and crash, there aren't any defenders able to take over his zone to compensate and the opponent's offense will storm right through. Obviously, this is a defensive strategy to be used sparingly and with great care and consideration of your team's capabilities. If your team composition lends itself to it, this defense is very difficult to break. But the risk is high, so consider yourself warned.

Inner/Outer Defense

The Inner/Outer Defense strategy has two goalies. One goalie mazes inside the other, and both cover the zone. There are numerous advantages to recommend this defense over most others available. If you have a player who is fairly weak and needs practice, you can place him as one of the two goalies to gain experience as a defender. When the opposing offense arrives at the fortress, they will have to penetrate two defensive walls to take the fortress. Moreover, if an opponent manages to get into a zone, there is backup readily available. The outer defender can easily switch to inner defense if the inner defender should fall, and vice versa, although it doesn't usually make sense to take outer defense and leave no inner defender.

Guard Defense

Guard Defense Diagram

The guard defense only has one goalie. Instead of an outer defender, the second defender will take up a guard position in front of the fortress. From there he can lend aid to either side, switch to play an outer defense and run an inner/outer defense, and/or take over for the goalie should the goalie crash. This is a good defensive strategy to adopt when you have one really good goalie and a player who is normally an offensive player because it allows the offensive player to play offensively while defending the fortress. It requires stronger players than the inner/outer defense strategy and carries some of the risk of the zone defense strategy.

Defensive Avenues

Defense revolves around making sure there is a defender in a place where an opponent is going to be to prevent that opponent from reaching the defender's fortress. While the offense has avenues of attack, the defense has avenues of defense. There are three main areas through which an opponent is likely to arrive, and each of those areas will usually develop paths through which an opponent will come. The paths themselves are very dynamic, so it is very important for a defender to watch the action in the middle and far side of the grid and constantly assess what paths an attacker will follow to reach the fortress. By doing so, the defender can move to close the defensive avenues and deny access to an area that is much larger than the fortress itself. For more information, defenders should read the offense page.