Thursday, March 1, 2012


Time to take a break from the informative, On war style- actually, it may be a whole change of pace completely. Instead of working on a personal theory that isn't 100% fully developed, I thought instead I should work on adapting existing knowledge on combat and war to paintball.

I'd like to start with a quote from the book of five rings. for those of you unfamiliar with it, the Book of five rings was written in 1643 by Miyamoto Musashi, who was an undefeated dueler in Feudal Japan. His first duel took place when he was 13, his last, at 29. In the realm of personal combat, in Japan at that time, he had no apparent equal.

The book he penned is, of course, directed towards, predominantly, personal combat. that said, it's also an extremely good text on leadership and theory, and should be considered a 'must read' for just about anyone out there, in my own opinion.

"The true science cannot be attained by just mastery of swordsmanship alone"
-Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Five rings

On the surface, this statement is simple- true mastery of the science (in his case, martial arts, in ours, paintball) cannot be achieved by just mastery of Swordsmanship (gunfighting) alone. It's a warning against the assumption that consummate skill in even the 'most important' area of study hardly constitutes a complete understanding of  the whole of an area of study or endeavor. This, of course, leads to the conclusion that there are multiple skills in which a player must seek an understanding if they are to attempt to achieve an overall mastery.

It is an extremely important concept to really grasp- no one facet, or skill, of the overall whole can be said to give mastery of the whole thing. to put it in simpler terms, a puzzle is hardly solved when the first two pieces fit together- in complex puzzles, as paintball surely is- the whole of the image isn't even recognizable until many dozens of pieces have been connected.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


To paraphrase “Invincibility lies in the defense. The possibility of victory lies in the offense.” This holds as true for paintball as not. While defense is undeniably a major part of the game, Attacks are the only real option for winning- most of the time, no team has the possibility of victory without attack. This is, of course not always true- many scenarios, Oklahoma Dday, for example, exist where one side has the possibility of victory without ever exhibiting an attacking posture. However, for the purposes of this particular article, we'll assume that an attack is necessary.

Attacks require, to be effective, either overwhelming numbers or firepower, superior teamwork, communication, and aggressiveness. The first of these, numbers, is fairly self explanatory. However, even a large weight of numbers, say, 2 or 3 to 1, against a well-planned defense may not be sufficient to secure victory, or even achieve the goals of the attack. Similarly, while firepower (in this case, the aggregate ability of a group of players to put paint downrange effectively) is also a marked advantage, it will not necessarily grant an attacking force victory alone.

Teamwork and communication are, as always, key in achieving victory. teamwork's importance cannot ever be understated- even limited teamwork such as cover fire, buddy pairs, and limited communications can spell the difference between achieving an attack's goal, and simply losing many players and bogging down into a shooting match- or worse, leaving the way clear for a counterattack that cannot be resisted by the remaining body of players. Communication, of course, is the cornerstone of teamwork. Few, if any teams, can claim to be 100% effective without some form of communication, be it verbal or physical (hand signals and similar). Even the simple act of calling out where opponents are can be a big advantage to any force, letting players know who's shooting at them from where (applying the theory two sets of eyes are better than one)

However, the ultimate resource for an attacking force is the aggressiveness of the players involved. Players must be willing to advance aggressively, take up new positions seconds after achieving their current positions, and always be closing with their objective. The importance of aggressiveness, both in the whole, and on the individual level, is, as with teamwork, impossible to understate. Note however, that this must be tempered aggressiveness- achieving an objective is meaningless if it's been done at the cost of being able to hold it (As Lee found out to his sorrow at Gettysburg). Note, however, that this last doesn’t apply in walk-on games- few of those, if any, require an objective to be held at all by an attacking force.

Types of attack

Attacks can be broken down into two broad categories- that is, attacks made to eliminate players, and attacks made to achieve specific terrain. Attacks made to achieve specific terrain generally covers attacks made to achieve specific missions, take flag stations, or gain a specific terrain feature, such as a hill or woodline, for a different tactical goal. Note that the first kind of attack, that to eliminate players, is usually also included in the second kind of attack, just because players will rarely, if ever, withdraw from an area except as a result of attacking pressure, and even then, most will fight on until eliminated.

All attacks should be made using surprise, speed, and violence of action. An attacking force must constantly be pushing forward- again, defenders will usually withdraw under pressure such as attackers closing to very short ranges. This is the nature of most players- few, if any, are trained to stand in place and shoot it out with closing forces. Remembering that the goal of the defense is to gain time, the goal of the attacker is, then, to be quick at achieving their objectives.

Attacks made to eliminate players should be tailored specifically to do that- terrain should be considered important only in reference as to how it allows the attacking force to eliminate the defending one. Overall, the best kind of attack to use in this instance is an enveloping attack, whereby the attacking force attempts to flank and encircle the defending force. Achieving even a limited flank, creating an L-shape, works as well as achieving both flanks, as it “pinches” the defenders, and greatly limits both the positions they can use and where they can apply their firepower. Note that, in this kind of attack, one of the biggest factors is the initial surprise- While this is hard to achieve in any significant scale, especially in paintball, if it can be achieved, it is a major force multiplier, allowing a disproportionate small number of players the capability of eliminating a large number of opponents.
Attacks made to eliminate players should attempt to allow the fewest opposing players to withdraw. This may mean aggressive pursuit, which necessitates the attackers be wary of an ambush situation. Even so, in an ambush, the attack should be carried- counterattacking an ambushing force can have a major demoralizing effect, especially if it can break the ambushing force! These kinds of attacks will benefit greatly from teamwork and communication- especially the last. The attacking force is out to eliminate as many opponents as possible, and to do so, need to know where they all are.

Attacks made to achieve specific terrain will usually lack the element of surprise. Odds are, the defending force knows the attacking one is coming, and will likely be prepared. Here, the attacker's biggest advantage is mobility. The defenders are tied to a specific piece of terrain, be it a flag station, hill, wood line, or creek, and lack the ability to maneuver to meet the attackers on more even terms. In walk on play, the defenders may have the added disadvantage of being the last players on their team left in the game, and, as such, are fighting from a 'hopeless' situation. This kind of attack benefits most, again, from aggressiveness and willingness to continue closing.

Once an attack to achieve a terrain objective has succeeded, it is important to Immediately adopt a defensive posture within that terrain feature. Remember, the purpose of the attack, in this instance, was to achieve that terrain- it would not do for the attacking force to sweep after whatever defenders were left, and, in the attempt, be eliminated by a counterattack, and lose the terrain! This defensive posture only needs to last the time it takes the terrain goal to become outdated- for example, in an attack to take a specific flag station, once that flag station is taken, and can be used, the attack can sweep on.


It should be noted here that attacks should only be made when necessary. Defensive postures, especially those within prepared positions, can be very hard to break, almost impossible without significant numbers and firepower advantages. Even with those advantages, attacks can be costly affairs, leaving only a small force to defend a captured objective.

However, this is not to say that attacks should only be made in a reactionary manner. While an attack launched after the opposing team has 'shot it's bolt' so to speak, and lost it's attacking force, can have a marked advantage in numbers and morale, it also runs the risk of leaving a team too depleted to reliably achieve any aggressive goals of their own.

In most cases, this article deals with attacks made in large-scale scenario games, and assumes the presence of both large numbers of players, a large maneuvering area, and the ability of eliminated players to re-insert. In many cases, the same general theories apply to smaller walk on games, however, those kinds of games tend to degenerate into mutual attack-attack scenarios, unless specifically prohibited by the rules of that specific game. Similarly, this article dose not deal with the nuances of players in the attack, and what you should expect of players, other than in the most broad of senses. This will be discussed later.

Lastly, control over an attacking force must be maintained. Attacking forces have a tendency to want to continue a successful attack, and to continue to push an opposing team. In attacks made to achieve terrain goals, this cannot be allowed- again, a defensive posture is extremely important to ward off counterattacks.

Overall, the goal of this article is not to provide for a definitive 'how to', but more of a general base of theory. It is this author's belief that, with a solid base of theory on as to why something is done, specific knowledge on topics allows for much greater flexibility and understanding on the field. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Integrating new players

Paintball is a widely disparate sport, with many people not being able to agree whether or not it is a sport. From the top, sponsored, tournament teams to children and their parents playing in the back yard as a family with equipment costs well below what even one tournament player spends on one piece of equipment, it's attractive to many people on many levels, with many different opinions on what it is and isn't.

However, what most, if not all players, will agree on is that, by far, teamwork is the cornerstone of victory in games. It is, perhaps, this fact which allows teams to be worth three or four times their number of walk-ons- they practice as a team, understand each others strengths and weaknesses, and are able, overall, to function better as a group. Another advantage many teams will have is experience- most teams will be composed of players with at least some length of time in the sport, and a better idea of what is and isn't possible.

That being said, Most of the time, and especially in walk-on or recreational play, a side can't count on having anything. Many walk-ons will be made of players ranging from the hard core to the first timer, the totally dedicated to the perpetual renter, and everything in between. Integrating these players to act with some semblance of teamwork is, perhaps, one of the bigger challenges in the sport, and one which may be the most rewarding, in this author's opinion. Of these players, there are two, very separate challenges in getting them to behave as a team, or even a close semblance of one, instead of a group of individuals.

Off field
For less experienced players, especially first timers, more experienced players, especially those who “look” the part, either with bright, flashy tournament-style clothing and markers or more subdued military-styled clothing and gear can be intimidating, even (possibly especially) off-field, in the staging area. As a leader, this is something you must work to avoid, at all costs. Remember, everyone has to start somewhere- no one jumped in right away and immediately knew everything there was to know about paintball ever- no one can claim to know that now, regardless of how many years they've played. Similarly, it can honestly be said no paintball player ever stops learning- either small, technical tricks, like using rain-x on the inside of a barrel to help deal with barrel breaks, or larger things like how to organize and run a tournament-ready team.
Newer players, as is said, may be hesitant to approach you- so, often, you'll need to make the first effort to talk to them. One of the worst mistakes a leader can make, in my opinion, is to only talk with his friends- making an effort to talk to everyone playing for your side, even briefly, goes a long way. Being able to congratulate them on a particularly good move, or, with newer players, talk to them about how they contributed to the last game, or simple things they can do to improve their game. Do not be condescending! The single worst thing you can do, in dealing with new players, is to attempt to 'lord over' them with superior experience or gear. Making a little small talk can do wonders for newer player's confidence, which will directly help them perform better on the field.
For more experienced players, this is less of an issue. Most players will have friends on the field- in many cases they'll arrive and leave together, and stage together. Similarly, in many cases, more experienced players are more willing to talk to new people on the field- and, odds are, if you're leading a game, you're not new to the field, giving you a bit of familiarity with field regulars.
More experienced players will usually be your best-equipped, most skilled, and most motivated players. These are the people who'll usually also make up the majority of any attacking force, especially in the opening moves. Similarly, individually, they'll usually have greater weight of firepower (firepower, in this case, being defined as ability to put rounds downrange quickly, with enough rounds to do so frequently). The equipment difference here may be no more than a small pod pack and some 100 round tubes- but don't discount that. Most experienced players play with gear they're very familiar, and comfortable, with which is an immense advantage over players who aren't familiar, or comfortable, with the equipment they're using.

Overall, expect to see more experienced players than new players during most days. Barring large party groups, Odds are, first time players will be significantly outnumbered by regular players. Typically, when this is the case, players will already have a good idea of what the field plays like, how each other act, and so on, leaving you free to focus on integrating the new players. Keep in mind that new players are the future of the sport- it's important that they have a good experience, and want to return. Making them feel like part of the 'team' as opposed to an unwelcome, or unwanted 'dead weight' is a good way to help do this.

On field
During games, newer players are more difficult to utilize. Most of them lack the experience and capability to be used individually, yet, in groups, they're not all that useful for certain actions, especially against more experienced players. Remember, or try to, what it was like to be new- and in this area, players from the 80s or early 90s may have a disadvantage. To new players, 15, 13, or even 10BPS is intimidating, especially if they can't respond in kind. Try to remember your first game, and level of confusion the noise and action led to. Even players with 2-3 days under their belt aren't immune from this. Their lack of experience leads to them not communicating, rarely, if ever, seeing (and, by extension, making) moves, longballing, and a host of other terrible habits.
Newer players, tend to be best used as a base of fire- stiffened with two or three more experienced players who are willing to 'hang back' and use better equipment to give some confidence (and probably firepower) to the group, and, with any luck, keep it motivated enough to hold a position, or, at the least, trade it for enough time to win a game. In this sense, newer players are perhaps the most reliable- there will almost always be players who want to “guard the base” and are more than happy to hang back and longball. More often than not, these are newer, or younger, players.
The trick to using them is to get some more experienced players to hang back with them- in a worst case situation, newer players are going to suffer huge attrition in their numbers fairly quickly in any kind of firefight- older, more experienced players are more likely to last longer. Remember that this is speaking in the defensive- we'll cover offense a bit later. The longer a defense lasts, the more options you'll have to go about the business of winning. Overall, it's important to remember, defense gets eliminations, offense, that wins games. It's similarly important to remember that 'kill counts' count for nothing if your team loses.

Even deployed into excellent defensive positions, new players are going to longball, whenever it's possible. Allow this! Remember that overall, the defensive game is all about time. Most, if not all games, have a strict time limit- in the worst case scenario, you can force even a losing position to a draw simply by “playing the clock”. Longballing helps do this- once taken under fire, even at extreme ranges, most players will begin to slow their advance and seek cover and concealment, thus taking more time to begin an effective attack. Ideally, this can be maintained for an entire game, if necessary. Ideally, however, it won't be necessary.
A good defense, which has stalled an attack, also opens the opportunity for an exterior force (probably, in this case, your more experienced and well-equipped players) to “attack the attack”, as it were, eliminating many opposing players, and allowing players to be removed from the defensive force. However, new players on the offensive aren't as useful as they are defensively.

Defensively, experienced players are, ideally, going to be able to act like a 'fire brigade', moving to reinforce areas where an attack is hitting the walls the hardest. Additionally, they should be acting at all times in a way so as to help build the overall morale of the newer players. Motivated new players are still a capable group- equipment and experience notwithstanding. Even as a worst case, pure numbers argument, three new players can about equal one experienced player in terms of rounds going downrange- and they do that from three different angles, which is an advantage.

In the attack, new players provide an entirely different set of challenges. In general, this is where their lack of experience will show. Do NOT expect newer players to show aggressiveness. In fact, it's far safer to expect the opposite. New players will tend to want to 'hang back', again, often preferring to longball, instead of closing with and eliminating the opposition. Similarly, even while moving, newer players lack the experience necessary to determine which positions are useful, and which positions are a waste of time and effort.
That said, typically, newer players will react well to “hands-on” leadership, with more experienced players constantly communicating with them, guiding them, and helping them along. While it requires more attention out of a player, leading three or four new players as a group is far from impossible, and. If done well, can act as an extreme force multiplier, allowing well-led new players to significantly contribute to the overall victory.

Leading new players in the attack requires a player to 'take a step back'. Remember, while leading from the front is admirable, and, in most cases, necessary, Once their leadership is eliminated, newer players rarely continue along the attack aggressively, which may allow them to bog down and go to a more defensive posture. This can be avoided if they've been led into close positions- where their general tenancy to not move means they'll fight from that spot. Similarly, leading new players is a multi-role job. Not only does a player have to lead three or four other players, he must also be able to cover those players, and advance on his own with limited (if any) covering fires of his own. While it can work- and can work well- it's more advisable to fold in three or four new players with an equal or greater number of experienced players. This allows the greater hands-on leadership with the added advantage of having the firepower and skill of the experienced players.

In general, it should be pointed out that the overall advice is to fold new players into the team as you would any other player. This, for the most part, is true. However, one must also take into account that new players, unlike experienced players, need guidance and support to achieve even the most limited of goals. Simply put, this means they should never be relied upon as a cornerstone for a victory. This is not to say they can't be involved in the victory- simply that, put in a critical position, it is unlikely that new players will be capable of performing to expectation. That said, however, new players can, in most cases, free other players for uses elsewhere, or, at the very least, reinforce players where it's needed.

Remember always, two very important things. Once, maybe not so long ago, you, too, were playing your first games, maybe with a rental, maybe not. Try and remember what it's like to be new, and what happened- did someone try to tell you what was going on, what the plan was, and what would be expected of you? Or did they all just go when the game started, leaving you alone, or with a few other new players and no idea of what was happening?
Secondly, always keep in mind new players are the future of the sport. Taking even a little time to help them turn into honest, good players is a step towards making the sport better overall. Help them with gear trouble, offer advice where it's possible, talk with them. New players, perhaps, have the most unrealized potential of any other group in paintball.