Basic Tactics

As the new guy, you don’t want to do dumb stuff that will get you tagged out within the first two minutes of the game. You need to know some basic tactics and strategy. Some, but not all military tactics, will work in paintball. And, watching all of the Rambo movies will certainly not teach you how to advance onto the opposition.

In this article, I discuss some basic stuff to keep in mind before and during the game as follows…

Before the game

If you are able to, look over the field with your team. Look at all the bunkers and figure out their weaknesses. Is it a pile of branches thrown on top of each other? Not a good bunker. You may be surprised how paintballs can get through the smallest places. Think about “what ifs” when you’re at a bunker. Can I get a clear shot if the opponents move this way? Look at the pros and cons of the bunker. Talk it over with your teammates. Usually, during rec. ball, there is little time to do it. If that is the case, try and look around just before the horn blows.

When you are at the field before the games starts, one of the most over looked tactics is not topping off your hopper and ball carriers. It is no fun when all of a sudden you are out of paintballs. Before every game, fill them up to the top. Another item that is forgotten is your air supply. On nitro tanks, there is a gauge that shows how much PSI you have in the tank. If it is around 750psi, fill it. For you CO2 users, it may be hard to tell how many shots you have left in your tank. Look on my CO2 chart in my CO2 and Nitro/HPA – F.A.Q. for an estimated shots per fill. If you are close to shooting that many times, fill the tank up. Best to check these things as soon as possible when you are tagged out or when the game is over.

Now you are on the field and at the starting point. The horn is about to blow. What do you do? Well, other than taking the safety off and taking out your barrel plug, you need to start talking with your teammates. Quickly discuss where each one of you is going move. Who is staying behind guarding the flag or protecting the rear? Who’s heading left and right? What bunkers are you going to get to, secondary bunker if able to? Paintball is a thinking game. It is not a good idea to bunch up. It just provides a larger target to shoot at. If the paintball misses you, it may hit the guy that is with you.

When the horn blows, run as fast as you can to those objectives. Run to the furthest one first. Teams that can get into position and further up the field first will usually have an advantage. I cannot stress enough that it is not a good idea to not know where you are heading. You have to think ahead. If two of you get into one bunker, one of you will get tagged out. Bunkers are usually not large enough for two people.

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Proper way to hide

When hiding behind bushes, do not depend on it to protect you from on coming paintballs. One paintball could get through, and it only takes one splat to get tagged out. I do not advise standing or crouching behind trees unless there is no other option. These do not offer good enough cover.

If you only have that type of cover, stand back from it. There is the illusion that makes the tree seem wider than it is. To show what I mean, hold up you index finger in your right hand and the thumb of your left. Pretend the index finger is a tree and the thumb is you. Put your thumb directly behind the “tree”. Thumb sticks out, right? Now, move your thumb away from you about 6″. Your thumb is now magically hiding behind the “tree”. Use this to your advantage when moving up on somebody. Keep the tree inline of your opponents’ vision. Also, stay low behind the tree. It is usually wider towards the bottom.

I suggest this technique that many of the police academies instruct their cadets with a little bit of twist. When taking any cover, position yourself away from the bunker by a few feet on your knees. When wanting to peer around the bunker, simply lay back like your going to lie down while leaning to the side. This offers a really small target and offers maximum visibility of the field.

This will feel odd when you first do this. It may even feel like your out in the open. You are not. You are providing yourself with the advantage of seeing the enemy better and quicker. If you have the chance, watch or look at some pictures of tourney players behind bunkers. And do not keep popping out the same side over and over. If you do, you may pop out to on coming paintballs. Pop out on one side, then the other. Mix it up. Always keep your opponent guessing what side your going to pop out from. Not only that, you will get a good feel of your surrounding environment.

Simply put; do not just hide behind your cover. Use it to your advantage! You need to use the cover properly. Being right up against cover is not good. Your field of view is limited. You will not be able to see the field very well let alone where your opponent is located. Even maneuvering around is hard if up against your protection. Be reasonable when behind cover. I am not saying to stand out in the middle looking around.

The best cover is one that is solid. You will not have paintballs magically finding their way through a hole. Be mindful of what is sticking out. A paint mark of any part of your body is enough for you to be tagged out. If you are behind something that is big and round, watch your feet. Also, are you a large target? If you carry a pack with extra paintballs, this will stick out some times. Also, your ball hopper on your marker will be sticking up pretty high. Most fields allow a legal tag with a splat mark on the hopper or pack.

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Another “maneuver” that you can do (and practice) is called snapshooting. This takes some time to practice. If your comfortable with the marker you are shooting, this is a great way to send some balls down range while limiting yourself as a target. What snapshooting is, you pop out quickly and shoot about 2-3 times. Then you pop back behind your bunker. This takes skill to know where the paintballs will travel without really aiming. Try to aim in the general direction and ready to shoot your target before popping out. Lean out quickly and pull the trigger two to three times. Learning to shoot from both left and right hands will help. Pop out on the left, then right of the bunker. Mix it up. I do not suggest over the top. This exposes you to not only the front, but also on your angles all at the same time. Also, learn to snap shoot while lying down, kneeling, crouching, and in the standing position. Again, mix that up as well.

If you are being barraged by paint, it may require you to get in tight to the bunker. Face either to the left or right directly behind the bunker. Your shoulders should line up with your target in front of you. You can still snap shoot in this position. If shooting out the right side, have your left knee up and shoot with the right hand. If shooting from the left, have your right knee raised and shoot with your left hand. Doing this will let you scramble to a new bunker quickly if the opportunity permits.

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If you are sitting in the bunker for 2 minutes, it is time to move. The longer you stay at a bunker, the more likely you will be flanked and tagged out. Before you move, look around. Get an idea where you want to go. Not only those, look where the opposing team is. Most likely when you pop out and start running, you will be shot at. You will know where the shots are coming from.

Think before you move. Plan ahead. Where are you heading? What if things go bad, where to go next? There are two types of moving. One is slow and quiet. The other is fast and noisy.

If you are not under fire, it is easier to move compared to if you were under fire. Sometimes, if your not being shot at, the opposing team doesn’t know your there. This makes your movement easier. If this is the case, take your time. You will not make much noise if you do so. Watch where you step. If possible, don’t step on branches. Stay low when you move. A crouching player is harder to hit incase you stumble upon a sentry. And always look around. I have made it a habit to look side to side every 10-20 feet. Best to move from some kind of cover to cover whether it be a tree, bunker, or a bush. Always hold your marker up and ready to return fire.

If you are moving up on somebody, keep an obstacle between you and them. Watch your prey in case they decide to move too. But don’t focus on them. Look around from time to time. It is also a good idea to move from bunker to bunker if possible. That way, if your opponent does see you moving up on them and decides to shoot at you, you can dive behind some cover.

Many times, when you move, you may be under fire. Assess the situation. Are you able to stay a bit longer? Then stay. However, the longer you stay, the more time your opponent has to flank you. Again, look to where you are going to move. Your opponent will usually have the habit of sending so many shots before they duck back behind their bunker. Learn that. After you hear the last shot hit your bunker, RUN! Go as fast as you can to your predetermined place. And don’t bother crouching. Running and being low will not provide you with optimal speed. Many experienced players will run full force and slide into the bunker. Kind of like a baseball player sliding into a base. Feel free to do this. The Paintball industry has made knee and shin guards just for this type of sliding. Something to consider.

Move in short bursts. Running for a long distance for about 25 feet is too far. And don’t try and fake a direction. you are giving your opponent time to aim their marker on you. Be unexpected. Maybe pop out and shoot a few rounds, then run out the other side of the bunker. Surprise them.

If you need to retreat, do so in small steps. Don’t just run to your flag station. Just like moving up, look to where you moving back. If able to, don’t turn your back. This offers the opportunity to return fire and slow the opponents advancement.

If you have a buddy with you, have him shoot at the opponents before and during your sprint to a bunker. This cover fire should keep the heads down and your movement hidden. Do the same for your teammate. When you are able, shoot towards your opponent’s bunker and keep shooting. As soon as you are shooting, your buddy should run as fast as (s)he can to the destination. Kind of like a leap frog game. Use this to advance or retreat. There is less chance of getting shot then to run without this cover fire. This requires communication. Another key factor that is needed during play.

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Communicate with your comrades. Let them know where the opponents are, if they are moving, if you need to move. If possible, avoid yelling out that you are out of paint or air. You might as well stand up and say, “Shoot me!”. Use codes. Like, “My foot hurts!” could mean that you are out of paint. Or, “RAPE!!” if your flag has been taken. And keep these code words short and simple. If you need to think about what was said, your not focusing on the game. Re-think the codes and shorten them up.

Before or during your walk onto the field, designate those that will stay behind and defend the flag. Get a flanking team together and have them hang back. As soon as the firefight starts, this small flanking team should automatically try and get around to the opponents unguarded sides or rear and take some out. While discussing this, make sure you are not in earshot of your opponents.

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Shoot things

Keep your marker up close as you lean out from behind a bunker or move around. You will have better reaction time for sending some shots down range if the opportunity arises. Rest your trigger finger(s) in the trigger guard. Not on the trigger. If you jerk back behind the bunker quickly, you pull it by accident and tag out a fellow teammate or referee.

When you are shooting, be sure of your target(s). Make sure it is not a fellow team member that is moving up or even a referee. Try and look before you shoot. Alot of the time, you will not be able to do this. That is when snapshooting comes into play (explained above).

While scanning for targets from behind your bunker, do not focus on targets directly in front of you. There harder to shoot at. Look diagonally down the field. Most players will focus on targets in front. You may be able to get a few shots at a player behind a bunker that is diagonally from you. Also, be mindful that more experienced players will look for targets as well at these angles. Do not sit too far back from your bunker.

If you see something sticking out, shoot it. Do not always try and shoot at bodies. Most field legal tag outs are not always on a person’s body. You can tag somebody out by hitting their marker, hopper, or even his pod carrier. If you can see any of these, these are fair targets. Check with the fields on this. Do not be afraid to shoot a lot of paint. Many players will go through 400 paintballs in one game. That is too much in my opinion. I am just saying not to be afraid to shoot a lot if there is a target available. Especially those that are behind bushes. And don’t forget about feet. These are often targets that are sticking out. One other thing to watch out for. If you see your team mate just walk off the field with a paint mark, watch that area. That is now a weakness in your line. Usually, that spot will be taken over by somebody of the opposing team. Great him with paintballs if they advance to the position.

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Getting the Flag

I have been in a game where the flag was taken and on the return, your flag is not there. What happened? Well, you may not have met any opposition except for the defenders when you took the flag. Then on the return, again, no opposition except for no defenders and no flag. When you grab the flag, leave a comrade or two by the flag station. If your flag was swiped, your opponents will be so relieved to see there flag station and assume that they still have won. What a surprise when they are shot at from there own flag station. And also assume that they will do the same trick.

Protect the flag carrier. Have some in front clearing the way and some in the rear to slow down those that wants to give chase. I have seen teams not realize that their flag was taken. When they do, more than likely, all of their fire will be on that person. Shoot at them and keep their heads down.

Watch the more experienced guys. Ask and follow their direction. You will still make mistakes. It is all part of the learning process. As you play more, you will develop a “style” of play that is unique and develop tactics that work for you. With more games under your belt and learning from your past errors, you will be a great player. Think before you act and watch your angles.

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