The Menlo Team league is a relatively recent development in the history of the Menlo Competitions Corporation, and as such the more involved rules are still being changed and refined with each passing tournament. The team games play out like capture the flag, where each team has a ‘flag’ called a Standard, and a team must be in possession of both Standards, or disable all members of the opposing team to win a match.
Menlo Teams must consist of five or less members arranged in a hierarchy. The highest member in the hierarchy is a team’s Bearer, who starts a match carrying the team’s Standard. In order to win a match, a Bearer must be in possession of both Standards. The hierarchy determines the inheritance of the title of Bearer. If the original Bearer is disabled, the second member in the hierarchy becomes the Bearer, then the third, and so on until all members of a team are disabled. The number of a particular player in the hierarchy needs to be clearly marked on the player’s suit. This allows the opposing team to identify the Bearer, and strategize a plan of action based on the opposing team’s hierarchy. Generally, teams do not know each other’s’ hierarchies until a match begins. However, each can infer their opponent’s hierarchy based on suit design and previous matches.
Most inconsistencies in team gameplay concern the number of players on a team. The general consensus is five, but many matches end up having as few as two players per team. Many teams have developed highly tuned strategies that rely on a specific number of team members, and find that having to change the number of players to participate in certain matches can give them distinct disadvantages. For this reason, there has been a rise in popularity for matches where the number of team members is uneven. In these matches, teams with less than 5 members are allowed to have add-ons to their cards that would cumulatively add up to five cards, allowing teams with fewer members to have stronger suits. The only requirement is that a team consists of more than one player. This is the only instance in MCC official matches where add-ons have been allowed, though the rising popularity of this type of play may foreshadow the birth of an add-on Menlo league as well.
One special aspect of team Menlo matches is that the information for the decoration of all suits on a team, as well as the information concerning the team’s Standard, is held in a separate Team Card. This card is usually manufactured by the MCC Team League based on designs and color information provided by the team when they register for a tournament. This process has multiple advantages. By centralizing the aesthetic information into one place, the colorization and decoration can more easily remain consistent from suit to suit. It also ensures that no two registering teams have aesthetics that are too similar to each other, and that any two teams are easily distinguishable from one another. It also allows the hierarchy of a team to be changed easily last minute without having to change suit code.
The actual Standards used in gameplay vary from team to team. The only requirements are that the Standard be relatively Frisbee sized and shaped, safely and easily carryable by any suit, and decorated with a team’s colors and insignia. The Standards must be easily identifiable, and any in-game augmented reality display should be capable of identifying a Standard.
Generally, each suit on a team serves a unique role in a team’s strategy. Each suit is highly specialized for its role, allowing the greatest efficiency at whatever task a player is assigned. As a whole, these teams are very diverse and will have no single disadvantage or advantage. The downside to these types of teams is that if any one suit is disabled, it can leave a huge, irreparable gap in the strength of a team as a whole. Also, it is generally very easy to identify which suit is meant to be the Bearer, allowing an opposing team to strategize accordingly. Some teams find it advantageous to have suits that are more similar to each other, thus limiting their strategic losses if and when any one suit is disabled. This strategy also makes it difficult to determine which player will end up as the Bearer when a match begins. Also, since the team will have similar advantages and disadvantages, they can as a whole seek to disable those suits on the opposing team pose the greatest threat, and then proceed with a strategic advantage. The obvious downside is that with each suit being the same, there is no way to make up for any unforeseen disadvantages, and any task that the suits were not designed to perform, cannot be performed by any suit in the team.
Many teams prefer to split up into two main groups, one that protects the home team Standard, and one that seeks out the opposing team Standard. This method allows the team to make sure they do not bring their Standard closer to their enemy. It also ensures that if a team’s Standard is taken, they are already poised to take the enemy’s Standard, or to intercept their own Standard before it reaches the enemy’s Bearer. The obvious disadvantage to this strategy is that it splits the team’s strength. Some teams prefer to act as packs and stick together, collectively protecting their Standard and seeking out the enemy Standard. This allows the team to employ their full strength for every action, but also puts all their eggs in one basket, forcing them to bring their own Standard closer to the enemy.
The Hierarchy aspect of the game has inspired the creation of some interesting strategies. Because the Bearer is essential to winning, they tend to be the player that is most often targeted and guarded against by the opposing team. For this reason, some teams have adapted a strategy called Standard Handoff. At the beginning of a match, the Bearer gives the Standard to another member of the team, thus separating them from the goal of the opposing team. This allows a team to force the focus of an opposing team’s attack on a team member of their choice. It also deters the opposing team from disabling the Bearer, because doing so would bring the player currently holding the Standard closer to being the Bearer themselves.