FIRST STRONGHOLD is played by two competing alliances on a 27 X 54 flat field. Each Alliance consists of three robots, and they compete to move through opposite alliance's defenses, throw as many 10" balls, AKA BOULDERS as they can into a Castle goal, surround the castle, and scale it, during the 2 minutes and 30 seconds match.

The match begins with one 15-second   Autonomous Period in which robots operate independently of driver. Each robot may begin with a ball, and attempt to reach a defense, cross it and score boulders into the goals. In the rest of the match the robot is remotely controlled by the drive team. Points are given for crossing an opponent's undamaged defense (a defense is considered damaged once it had been crossed twice), and by scoring boulders into the castle goals.

Winning a game gives the alliance two ranking points, tie gives one ranking point. The more ranking points a team have, the better chances they have reaching the playoff matches. Alliances can earn bonus ranking points during qualification matches and match points during playoff matches by capture the opponent's castle – by weakening the castle and surround it – and by breaching the opponent's outer works – by damaging 4 of the 5 opponent's defenses.