Woodsball, also known as woods paintball, Bushball, and sometimes incorrectly as scenarioball, is a popular form of paintball. Woodsball is the name of paintball that is played in any natural setting.
Woodsball is the classic form of paintball. Technically, woodsball doesn't have to be played in "woods" as such, but also open fields, swamps, mountains, canyons, etc. Another characteristic of woodsball is its generally relatively large boundaries, or perhaps no boundaries at all. Woodsball has many popular variants, giving the game very flexible variety.
Woodsball tends to be more common among suburban or rural paintballers, as it can be easier to find suitable land to play upon. Players who live in an urban setting tend to have more access to smaller indoor arenas, which typically offer Speedball instead.
Where speedball can resemble a game that simply revolves around basic angles and fast-shooting markers, woodsball is intended to comprehensively simulate military combat tactics. Strategy is more important in woodsball than rate of fire (how fast the marker fires), and relies much more on maneuvering, group cohesion, and broader strategy.
There are generally two levels of play in woodsball: basic recreational play (sometimes known as recball), and advanced play. Basic recreational woodsball is the most common form of woodsball, and indeed, paintball in general. Most people who play woodsball on this skill level tend to be either new players (sometimes called 'newbs' by veterans), casual players, or moderately experienced players who do not belong to an organized team. Essentially, basic woodsball is the result of having practically no applied organization or little field training.
In basic recreational play, player positions are rarely employed. Equipment is very simple; often just the player's marker and mask. Because these players play on a casual basis, it is not economically feasible to own extensive or expensive equipment, so markers tend to be economy models, such as the Tippmann 98 custom or Tippmann A-5 with few or no aftermarket upgrades. Camouflage is not always used, and many players tend to wear casual clothing such as a sweatshirt and blue jeans.
Basic recreational games are generally very simple, with the two opposing teams both uncoordinated and without an efficient chain of command. Communication is minimal at best. Movement, especially over small distances between cover, is slow and ponderous. Recognized tactical maneuvers are almost nonexistent.
Advanced play relies on established fundamentals of woodsball strategy, and is distinguished from basic play by its level of organization. Advanced woodsballers are known for team coordination and fluidity on the field, rapid maneuvers, cooperation in movement, extensive training, proper usage of equipment, and application of defined team tactics.
Normal equipment can include anything that the military uses, such as BDU forms of camouflage, army boots, ghillie suits, and so on. Additionally, one's personal equipment can vary greatly depending upon one's style of play, or position.
Woodsball markers are generally known to be universal in play, as a player can fill many roles while using the same marker throughout. For example, a telescopic sight, stock, and more accurate barrel can be added to the marker, increasing the expected accuracy of the player to that of a marksman. The same equipment can be later replaced by full-auto grips and/or circuit boards, which enable the player to play as a heavy rifleman. Because of the wide range of possibilities, woodsball markers often come out of the box with relatively basic configurations, leaving most modifications to be purchased subsequently.
The popular and classic woodsball marker company is Tippmann, mainly because of their relatively low cost and high reliability. One of their most popular markers, the Model 98 Custom, has actually been run over by pickup trucks and survived, to demonstrate the durability of the marker. Their markers are also renowned for their ability to be 'modded', or modified, for many functions.
Most paintball markers use carbon dioxide as a propellant, although they can also accept compressed air and nitrogen. Most are built with the inline blow-back gas system. The blow-back system was initially developed by Tippmann Pneumatics, and allows a portion of the same gas used to shoot the marker to also re-cock it, mimicking semi-automatic fire. Although most stock barrels are only 20 centimeters (8 inches) in length, after-market barrels can be much longer, sometimes exceeding twenty inches or more. Another type of marker that is rarely heard of, is the simulation marker.Companies such as Ariakon and Real Action Paintball (RAP) have made specialty items that use magazines instead of the hopper, and conceal most parts of a typical paintball gun. the C02 is concealed within the stock of the marker and the paintball is actually loaded into a shell (also known as a brass) before being loaded manually into a magazine. RAP even made the bulk of its markers into easy field strips. Most of the RAP markers are made in simulation of the M16A2 and disassemble in almost the exact same way. For being much more reliable, powerful, and accurate, these markers are prized and therefore cost more than a normal marker.
Camouflage can be very useful if employed properly. It is essential for most woodsball games as it provides the basis for the stealth which is often the backbone of woodsball. The most popular camouflage is the Woodland variety, developed by the American military in the latter half of the 20th century. MARPAT\Digital camouflage (the standard type of camouflage used by the US Marine Corps) remains relatively rare, as military surplus woodland camouflage is easier to find commercially. Many other kinds of camouflage are also used, such as Mossy Oak camouflage and German fleck camouflage.
Camouflage can be a controversial topic. Some inexperienced players and outsiders may confuse its purpose with rendering its user completely invisible while in a forest setting, regardless of movement, conditions, or other factors. In reality, camouflage does not provide complete concealment while moving — the human eye easily detects movement regardless of color. Rather, camouflage attempts to break the silhouette of a player while cladding him in colors similar to his surrounding. At best, these factors decrease the likelihood of being seen while stationary, but do not guarantee it. Experienced players consider variables like cover, the colors of the cover, lighting, quality of the air, backdrop, wind, the locations of other paintballers, and a myriad of other factors in order to use camouflage to its greatest potential.
Basic camouflage is inexpensive, and is an excellent alternative to most other colors often used in paintball, albeit inadvertently — for example, a pair of jeans and black T-shirt are more easily spotted in a forest environment rather than the greens and browns of a camouflage designed for that setting.
There are numerous other products available for purchase which are marketed as "woodsball" products. In reality, a large number of the items used in other paintball game types, such as Speedball, may be used in woodsball. The only unique features that a "woodsball" item typically possesses are durability and a lack of flashy logos or colors (to reduce individual visibility). Paintball masks are an obvious necessity, as any paintball game type requires masks designed and manufactured specifically for the sport of paintball. Pod packs, which carry additional ammunition, are popular among players who shoot more than their hopper's complement of paintballs in a single game. Pod packs can be integrated into a number of platforms, including vests, belts, and leg packs. Gloves, pads and armor may also be used, although armor is rare amongst experienced players, who discard it in favor of speed and maneuverability. Gloves and pads, such as knee- and elbow-pads, are used by players of all experience levels. They are especially useful in more rugged playing environments, such as canyons and rocky areas where one may easily come into sharp contact with rocks, tree roots or other hard surfaces.
There are many forms of strategy in woodsball. Examples include solid and staggered attacks, flanking maneuvers, attrition, ambushes, charging, cover fire, and base defense. A widely used tactic when playing against a "walk-on team" (a team of players who generally do not know each other) is called a strong-side attack, wherein a few defenders are left at the base, while the majority of the team pushes up one flank, and a few elite members push up the other side in an effort to pincer the enemy.
Tactics in woodsball largely revolve around team cohesion, in contrast to Speedball, which relies heavily on personal skill. In woodsball, it is important that the whole team be aware of the situation and decided strategy. Many woodsball games can be lost because of one weak player not knowing his role. Consequently, team communication is essential throughout the game.
A good strategy is one that is formed in response to the actions of the opposing team. One implementation of this reactive model involves assigning two scouts to spot the opponent's movements and report back to the team commander. The team commander is then equipped to give direction based on knowledge of the other team's position and apparent strategy.
Woodsball tactics strongly depend on flanking maneuvers. Some flanking maneuvers are very aggressive, while some are lax. A lazy flank might include a very quick break, but once at a position where there is ample cover, the team digs in and awaits for their opponents to pass them. A successful flanking maneuver of this type will evolve into an ambush, which is highly unexpected to walk-on teams. The ambush squad allows the opposing team to move past their positions, completing the lazy flank. This potentially involves enemy players walking within feet of the ambush squad. Once the commander of the ambushing team begins to fire, the rest of the squad do so as well, eliminating the opposing players, and quickly recovering for another oncoming attack. An ambush should be a quick kill that deeply damages the opposing team, with minimal friendly casualties. The tactic requires patience and practice, and should only be relied on by players familiar with their teammates, who know the area well. A good flank can obliterate a strong defense with as little as a few shots.
Carelessly charging an enemy force is a common error committed by new players. Woodsball is highly concerned with angling an opponent's position. Taking an angle on your opponent requires a good understanding of cover, and the area in which you play. Players that have taken good angles on a defensive position but forgotten their flanks have found themselves trapped in the dead man's box. It is important to remember that, while flanking the enemy, you still have flanks of your own. To angle properly requires courage, and trust in both your skills and your surroundings.
The usage of cover is an essential element of paintball. While flanking or angling an opponent, it is important to stay near cover, but not against it. While moving, experienced players position themselves slightly away from cover to maintain mobility, but keep it positioned between themselves and their opponent. Once they begin firing, however, a player should move closer to cover so that it provides optimal protection.
There are numerous different styles of playing woodsball. Some of the most popular are summarized here. Each style is known as a player position, and will often require different individual tactics, equipment, and even different mindsets. Player positions usually suit different kinds of people, and are often chosen for a player by the player's personality. Normally, player positions are only useful if one is playing on a coordinated woodsball team. This is because of the likelihood of having a disproportionate number of player positions in walk-on games. For example, there could be too many scouts to riflemen, or anti-armor specialists to scouts, etc.
Special Ops Paintball has an overview of their recommended player positions, including pictures, gear recommendations, and roles here. While the site does describe several good strategies, it is highly commercial, so product recommendations should be viewed very carefully. A broader set of established positions are identified below.
The infantry are the most commonly seen players on the field. Usually, woodsball teams will consist of up to 75-90% infantry, with the remaining percentage distributed amongst specialists.
Scouts are always lightly armed and fast. Usually, they are counted on by team command to 'take point' in front of a squad. In numbers, they can also act as a team's quick response force, hovering behind their team's front line and filling in the gaps as friendly players are eliminated. However, scouts' primary responsibilities lie in finding units of the opposing team, and then leading elements of the scouts' own team to destroy those opponents. Scouts tend to be chosen for their speed, lightweight gear, intelligence, and their initiative on the field (most 'adrenaline jockeys' are assigned as scouts).
The bulk of a team's forces are riflemen. They are generally grouped with squads, and rarely play individually unless as a last resort. Most 'newbies' will start out as riflemen, due to the general nature of the position, and because they operate in groups. New players are known to keep together in their first games, forming what are colloquially known as 'newbie clumps'. Being automatically assigned as riflemen gives strategic meaning to this trait.
Conversely, an experienced rifleman is the 'jack of all trades,' and is expected to fill in when a specialized player has been eliminated. Accordingly, they tend to be competent in virtually every style of paintball play.
There are a number of different specialties that can develop in woodsball and scenarioball, due to the wide range of possible equipment configurations and the different needs that come about in play. Thus, specialists are quite often more diverse than general player positions. Specialists are usually integral to a team's strategy, especially if there are a large number of specialists present within that team. This effect is doubly apparent in scenario games, when a particular class of specialists may be assigned to a team to better forward that team's designed purpose.
For example, a given scenario has team Alpha playing as guerrilla insurgents, and team Beta as a mechanized force attempting to destroy them. It is probable that Alpha will have a concentration of accomplished ambush players, often marksmen (see below), and anti-armor infantry. Beta will probably have a concentration of riflemen, perhaps gunners, and mech pilots to operate the tanks, armored personnel carriers, etc.
Players with the fastest-shooting markers are usually assigned as gunners. They tend to hang back and 'longball' the opposition, letting scouts and riflemen move up alongside the other team. Gunners are responsible for providing heavy suppressive fire, and they will often rush up and down the front line, providing cover for other elements of the team as they advance.
Advanced teams will often have heavy weapons to combat opposing tanks, boats, and aircraft. However, such players will rarely be seen anywhere except 'Big Games' (games where sometimes hundreds if not thousands of paintballers will play) and Scenarioball. Heavy weapons specialists may carry paintball grenade launchers, paintball rocket launchers, paintball mortars, and operate mounted paintball machine markers. If there is a tank assigned to a team, heavy weapons specialists may instead take up the role of tank pilot (also referred to as mech pilot), as their knowledge of heavy weaponry tactics provides them with an advantage.
Marksmen are players who are dedicated to unparalleled accuracy on the paintball field. They are often characterized by expensive equipment, a cool mentality, and a passion for excellent shots. Woodsball marksmen are best known for their ability to sit back from the front line, safely out of harm's way, and longball the enemy positions from afar with effects as great, if not greater than those of the infantry on the front line. Due to their characteristic accuracy and stealth, they are often observed in teams that are known for ambush operations, ghost flanks, and stealth maneuvers in general.
Woodsball marksmen are often used as special operations elements in specific situations. While this is seen mostly in scenarioball games, it occurs in woodsball as well, in cases like a hostage extraction operation, a VIP elimination operation (for example, assassinating a 'general' or 'president'), and other such games. Classifying marksmen as special operations elements in such games should be done with hesitation, however, as often players from many other positions are utilized as special operations forces as well.
The term 'paintball sniper' can be controversial. Critics of paintball snipers argue that the function of a military sniper cannot be carried out by a paintball player, as paintball snipers in general cannot make kills at distances substantially greater than any infantryman. This is partially due to the fact that, unlike firearm weaponry, paintballs cannot be adapted to have more effective range, and due to velocity restrictions, they cannot be fired with greater force than other markers.
Proponents of the term counter that the difference is great enough to warrant a class distinction. Their argument is based on the concept that even if a paintball sniper is unable to hit a target at greater range than a standard rifleman, he will expend far less paint in doing so. For example, a riflemen may use 30 or more rounds to hit a target at 100 feet, while a marksman may only use 3 balls to hit the same target, if not less. As a kind of unwritten compromise, the term 'paintball marksman' is emerging in various areas throughout the world, which is more widely accepted than the original term.
Speedball is a variant game type developed in 1988 in southern California. Usually played on smaller fields with structured arrangements of cover and obstacles, the quintessential characteristic of Speedball is speed, which manifests itself in the short length and fast-paced nature of games, as well as the tendency of speedball markers to be capable of shooting up to twice the rate of fire of most woodsball markers. Speedball is also differentiated from woodsball in that speedballers commonly wear brightly colored uniforms that are easily spotted and would often be considered detrimental to players in Woodsball games, which tend to rely on stealth.
It is the gameplay strategy inherent in Speedball that sets it apart from traditional Woodsball games, as opposed to speed itself (which is also an important factor for Woodsball players). As such, Speedball gametypes are sometimes played on Woodsball fields.
Scenario paintball, known colloquially as 'scenarioball', is very closely related with woodsball. Scenarioball is, by definition, any paintball game that is played according to a predefined scenario. Most scenarioball simulates military operations, in the kind of scenario presented and often the equipment and 'costumes' worn to events as well. Scenarioball has a widely known reputation of being played by organized paintball teams that are usually not found in basic recreational woodsball.
Elimination or Slayer — Generally the most common variant of woodsball played, and again mostly among new-comers to the sport. Elimination rules can be played by two or more teams. Essentially, teams engaging in combat until there is only one team left still in play.
Capture the Flag (CTF) — While the primary objective in Elimination is to eliminate as many enemy players as possible, the primary objective in Capture the Flag (sometimes abbreviated to CTF) is to capture the enemy flag instead. This is a very popular game type, second only to Elimination itself. CTF is also not limited to woodsball - CTF is arguably the most common variant of Speedball.
Often in CTF, there are two flags - one for each team. Each flag would ideally be situated in a base, bunker or some other such defendable position, which is then called the 'flag station'. The enemy team must find the opposition's flag station, seize the flag, and return it to their own flag station. Once the enemy flag is in one's own flag station and one's own flag is still there, then victory may be claimed.
Assault, or Siege — Assault is a fairly common game variant where the players are divided into two equal teams. One team — the 'defenders' — must hold a fixed location on the field. The other team — the 'attackers' — must attempt to completely eliminate the defenders or touch a flag in the center of the defenders' base. The defenders, in contrast, must completely eliminate the attackers or hold their flag for a set amount of time.