Everyone’s first experience in paintball is different. Some people have said they never fired a shot their whole first day while others went berserk and practically repainted the forest. Some people hang back in defense while others charged forward with reckless abandon. Most people’s first paintball experience is somewhere in between although one common theme is that they tended to be shot or overran when they least expected it. The purpose of this article is to give you an idea of the tactical challenges you will encounter in paintball and ways to overcome them.
Paintball is a team game. Individuals can initiate a game changing move but they needed the rest of the team to set it up and exploit it. When the game begins and the paint starts flying there is too much going on to be able to keep track of it all. If you try to ‘lone wolf’ it you are destined to fail. After teams are decided upon and a general game plan is developed the next step is to ‘buddy up’ with at least one other person, whether they are friends who came with you that day or total strangers. This ‘battle buddy’ system can seriously make or break a game!
Once the game begins your buddy should never be so far away that he/ she cannot hear you speaking in your normal voice. Your buddy is literally the ‘eyes in the back of your head’, watching behind your back and over your shoulder. When you crouch to take cover you watch in one direction while your buddy watches the other. When moving forward cautiously, one person has their marker up at the ready, ready to fire while the other moves. When that person reaches cover then they keep their marker at the ready while the other moves up. This is known as ‘bounding overwatch’ and is crucial to moving up the paintball field. When the action begins your buddy provides covering fire to keep the opponent’s head down while you move up and vice versa. Try to do this alone and you will fail.
Communication is vital at every level of paintball. It is one of the basic building blocks that all players need to master and it’s also one of the easiest to perform. Everyone is going to be shooting and running, paying attention mainly to what’s directly across from their paintball gun. Not knowing what’s going on to the left, right or farther back can quickly lead to disaster for you and your team. The way to get information across to your teammates is to START YELLING!
You need to communicate numbers, location and direction. Get this information across in as few words as possible. If you’re moving up the right side of the field and you three opponents on that side coming at you then a quick ”WE GOT THREE ON THE RIGHT MOVING TOWARDS US” lets your teammates know you have a ‘visual’ on some opponents and are going into action. If one of those three breaks off to the left to try to flank you then “THREE ON THE RIGHT, ONE MOVING LEFT” alerts everyone to the new situation.
Keep this communication up! It is vital to winning in paintball. If you eliminate one of the three then yell “ONE DOWN, TWO STILL ON RIGHT”. This keeps your team updated as to what’s going on. If more opponents show up on your side then communicating this will bring more teammates to help. Just as well, you may be sitting there with no action but hear that the enemy is pushing hard down the other side of the field, in which case you run over to eliminate them.
Of course there are times when you want to be silent. If you’re hidden in brush and see opponents moving up but obviously unaware of you then silence is the better option. In this case try to signal to your buddy or other teammates by hand signals. Don’t get overcomplicated with this; simply point two fingers at your eyes (“I see”), hold up x number of fingers needed (“three enemy”) and point in the general direction (“over there”).
One excellent tactic is to assign one or two ‘spotters’. These are team members who hang 30-50 feet back from the front line and call out everything that they see. That way they distract the enemy while players up front quietly try to sneak up. Spotters call out specific locations (“BEHIND THE THIRD TREE ON THE LEFT! or “TWO IN THAT LOG FORT!”) and shoot not only to help give covering fire but let everyone know where opponents are by following their shots.
Don’t Get Tunnel Vision
Once contact with the opposing team is made a paintball field is a beehive of activity. There is activity going on 360 degrees around you so it’s important that you remember that. All too often a paintball player gets into a one-on-one shootout with an opponent and focuses so intently on eliminating this one troublesome foe that they don’t see the other sneak up on the flank and thwak them in the side. Remember to periodically glance around to take in your surroundings and constantly ask your battle buddy “What’s happening on your side?”. The more information you have the longer you will survive.
Work The Angles
Paintball is all about angles. Attacking from the front is generally futile and gets nowhere. If you need an example type “World War 1 trench warfare” into Google and you’ll see what I mean. The fastest way to eliminate an opponent is to “flank” them by working around to their left or right. At least one person provides covering fire to keep the opposition pinned down while others move from cover to cover to the right or left and them forward. The opponent, trying to take you on from multiple sides will be more and more exposed until one of you can get the elimination. When giving covering fire you don’t have to unload a hopper’s worth of expensive paintballs, just fire enough that the opponent knows sticking their head out is an unhealthy option.
Move Up And Spread Out!
All too often first time players take cover near the start area and settle in for the game duration. Caution and timidness is understandable but remember that the longer you sit in the back, the less markers are up front to engage the other team. If your team’s front line is weak then the opposition will roll over them and come bearing down on you in force. Get up and move forward! You need to be up where those paintballs in your hopper can do some good! If you suddenly feel a bit nervous, or in doubt and unsure what to do, get an opponent in your sights and start shooting. Your courage and confidence will skyrocket.
Beginners tend to bunch together when under fire. Most paintball markers can fire a string of shots very quickly and when you’re crowded together everyone will be hit in a matter of seconds. When everyone is piled behind one bunker then it’s a lot easier for your opponents to target one location. Don’t give the other team this opportunity! When moving forward or taking cover, try to keep at least 10-20 feet between teammates, so a quick burst of fire doesn’t wipe out the whole group. By keeping space between you an opponent can only target one at a time instead of several. Try not to have more than two people to a tree, bunker or other cover. If you end up with more than that then don’t all pop up at the same time! One or two stay down and take turns coming up to shoot so the enemy has to guess where to shoot.
When You Can Shoot, You Can Be Hit
Remember that when you come up to shoot, your opponent can shoot you back as well. If possible try to stay behind cover as much as possible, only letting the barrel of your marker out. If this is not possible then try to be as unexpected as possible. Don’t keep popping out of the same spot; your opponent will figure this out and ‘post up’ on that spot for when you come out again. Try to come out the other side of the cover or lean out a little bit higher or lower than before. Avoid looking and shooting from over the top of cover because everyone can see you when you do. Always try to look and shoot from the sides of cover instead where only a limited number of the opposition can spot you.
Of course, everyone’s playing style will be different. Some will be more cautious and defensive while others reckless and offensive. Every player develops their own little techniques and “sixth sense” for what goes on during a game, but the above tips are base skills that with a little mental preparation will make even the greenest beginner last longer and come out winning!