Speedball Tactics

I wanted to provide some tips and strategies for you speedball players. Would like to share what I have observed and tried. What I share here in this article is merely a rule of thumb and can be expanded on per your ability and play style.

What is Speedball?

Speedball, Hyper-ball, Airball, whatever you call it, is a fast paced game in the sport of paintball as compared to the first games back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s I will try to suggest techniques for the overall field play. Then get into some specifics for the back, middle and front player.

Speedball is different from woods ball and scenario games that used to be played in the beginning of the sport. In speedball, you and your opponent are on enclosed field and within sight of each other. The field of play is divided by numerous sizes and shapes of bunkers. From the middle to your edge of the field on your side, the bunkers are arranged in some fashion. The opposing teams’ side is a mirrored setup of what you have. So each side has equal bunkers.

Some tournaments will have different rules for game play. The most typical rules are that your team needs to take the flag that is in the middle and hang it on the opposing teams starting area before the time expires. Points are then scored for each opponent tagged out, pulling the flag, and hanging the flag. Of course, negative points may be awarded for each of your team members are tagged out.

This type of paintball game is very common and has propelled this sport into the “mainstream”. It is internationally played. The yearly event of the IAO held in Pennsylvania will host amateur teams from around the world. Paintball is not just an American sport. Teams from Russia, Canada, France, Sweden, and many others all converge on the field to play a sport that they all love.

Now that you know the jist of what Speedball is, how about I go over some tactics that may improve your game.

Overall Tips

Walk the field before the game if at all possible and make mental notes. And, walk around the bunkers as a team and talk with each other. The front and back needs to know positioning. The middle player needs to talk with both front and back. Get to know the angles you would get from bunker to bunker. Plan on moves from one bunker to the next. These should be moves that will not let you be out in the open. Best to take a long route using bunkers near and far as cover than to go direct with wide open area.

Basically, the first 15 seconds of the start of the game of speedball can virtually determine the outcome of the game results. Getting from your starting box to your assigned bunkers for good positioning is critical. Watch out for a stream of paint in the travel zones. You may run into paintballs being shot down these lanes.

Those players playing front must run to there bunkers. Leave the shooting to the back players. If the front player is busy firing, he will not get very far and may need to share a bunker. The very beginning of the game is critical to get into the right positions. I will explain the duties of each of the players in detail later.

The next important tip after you make it to your bunkers that I can share is to watch your angles. Do not concern yourself with trying to shoot at targets directly in front of you. You should be aware of what is going on. But don’t try to take that person out. Watch your angles. You should really concern yourself with targets 30* from your front to 90* beside you. You will have a much greater selection of targets at these angles.

Be aware that you will also be targeted by those using those angles. Defence from this is to get up tight to the bunkers. Make sure that your appendages (elbows, feet, pods) are not sticking out. Some tournament rules allow marker hits to count as tags. Make sure your hopper is not sticking out. There are times when you should not be tight on the bunkers. That is when you are getting ready to move and seeing what is in front.

One thing I noticed is when one of your team was tagged out, the other team usually forgets about that area and goes onto the next. Use this lull to move into that position and surprise them. Something a mid player can do since he needs to be flexible. On the other hand, when you tag somebody out, be aware for the other team trying to refill that position.

Tunnel vision is another thing I noticed that some have trouble with. Basically, you see your target and are so intent on it that you do not see anything else to either side. Somebody could come up on you and tag you out. This does happen more often when one is shooting. Be aware of your surroundings.

Air bunkers are sometimes not fully inflated. If this is the case, you could use the barrel of the marker to make a small “dent” in the side. This dent will allow you to take optimal positioning behind the bunker by keeping most of your body protected. A flaw in some bunkers is that they do not sit flat on the ground. If so, you may luck out and shoot your opponents foot from under the bunker.

Moving needs to be thought about first. Plan your move. Especially when bunkering. More on bunkering later. When you want to move, try to see if where you move to will provide a better field of fire. As in, giving you a new angle to use to shoot at your opponent. Look for any firing lanes that you will be running through. A consistent stream of paint may not be a good idea to run through. Listen to the bunker you are behind. If it is not being hit, you may be clear to run.

When time comes to move, move fast! To limit your time in the field of fire, take a few steps back behind the bunker. Then go! Focus on your destination. Don’t look around. Get to your destination as quickly as possible. If you run from the edge of the bunker, you are alittle slow for a few steps and an easier target.

When running to your destination, hold the marker in the hand away from your opponents. Paint can break on your marker and count as a hit. Another vulnerable area is the mask. Put your hand up about a foot. Not on your lense. Otherwise the refs may think you are wiping. Keeping as little hard objects in the line of fire for your opponents to hit will more than likely score a tag than if it is your body.

Some players have learned the technique of sliding. They will run full force towards there bunker and do a baseball slide right behind cover. I have seen some slide upright on there knees with there marker up in the ready firing position. Others are face first. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way. If you go head first, keep the barrel up. Nothing like breaking paint due to a grass filled barrel.

Practice shooting with both hands. Snap shooting from one side of the bunker to the other is a good skill to have. One can pop out to get a quick look at the field. Then the next time you pop out, you know where to send the balls. And don’t send a constant stream of paint down his way. Break up the pattern. If he pops out during the lull of your pattern, he may pop out when you have paint sending his way. A pattern would be to shoot 3 balls, stop for a split second, then fire 1, stop, fire 5, etc… And shoot to the side alittle. Not at the bunker. If they do try to snap shoot, they will be greeted by a stream of paint.

Fill your pods to the brim. That is, fill your pod, close the lid and shake. Shaking will settle the paint into an optimal position. Open and add a few extra balls. Not so much that the few you add will break and put goo on the bottom balls. By doing this, you won’t rattle when you run. Come time to fill your pod, don’t put the half filled pod (or empty ones) back in your pack. Time is wasted and allows an opponent to move up on you if they see you filling and fumbling to return the pod to your pack. Toss the pod you pulled out behind you. Pick it up after the game.

Another useful thing is to communicate with your team. Talk to each other. Let them know if you are pinned down and where they can direct fire. Or let your team know that you are moving up. Back players will see more of the field and can direct the team appropriately. Develop vocal codes as the other team may be listening.

Some teams break up the field into quadrants. Say that there is a player on the opponents side to the left. He would be in quadrant “C-1”. Or an opponent in the back center. That designation could be “D-2”. With this system, the back player can call out to each player and they can reply what they can see. Do get a system that works for your team. Keep it simple.

Talk with the back man. Since he is more of a support fire man and coordinator, he needs all the information possible to make the right decisions. Ask him where he may be shooting so that you don’t get in the way. Ask to find out if there is anybody in an area that you want to move to. Walk with him when you walk the field. Speedball is a team sport. Not an individual one.

Clothing can help you on the field. It should be loose fitting. Not constricting. However, not too loose. Some tournaments will not allow excessively baggy clothes. Paintballs will have a better chance of bouncing off then to break on a hard surface.

The more you move, the more chance you get to get into an angle to tag the other team. Don’t move, and you are just a sitting duck. Take chances. Remember, it is not the marker or equipment that makes a player, it is the individual. The more risks you take and learn from your mistakes, the better you will be.

Bunker plays

There are many size and shapes of bunkers. Some fields utilize air filled bags. Some barrels. Others wooden plats. Some shapes add uniqueness to a field.

Many fields incorporate something called a snake. This is a shape of several bunkers put together that resembles a snake. This can make or break a game if handled in such a way. It is probably the hardest bunker to play. This keeps players behind it low. However, in a capable player, they can wreck havoc on the other team. Before the game, walk the snake. See the angles that you can fire on. Notice gaps where you may be open to oncoming fire. This includes those bunkers on the ends that has an angle on the snake.

While in the snake, you must know your surroundings. It is hard to do because it is also best to be as close to the wall of the bunker possible. There could be an opponent just around the corner in the snake. How about that end bunker in the corner? They usually have the best angle to fire on those in the snake. Best if you want to use the snake, take out that corner player first before moving into the snake. Like shooting behind bunkers, never pop out at the same place. This could mean moving from one end of the snake to the other. It may be wise to use a team member in the back to support you.

Pop can or soda can are usually bunkers that are tall and in the back of the fields. Cylinder in shape. These bunkers allow one to stand. Great for the back players to get a good view of the field and to communicate with the other players. Shorter ones may not allow you to stand.

Another similar bunker to the pop can is the bricks. Some are tall so that one can stand behind these, while others are shorter. I have seen some used in some form of snakes in conjunction of long bunkers. For these types of bunkers, there really is no special handling when playing these bunkers.

Beams resemble logs. These allow one to crawl up a field to possibly a better position. But, like the snake (and these may be used to make snakes) may require you to be pressed against the wall and have limited acquisition of your surroundings.

Doritos look like the snack food, super sized! They offer limited cover because of the angles. More of you can be exposed when you pop out to shoot. Unlike the pop can and bricks. Wedges fall into this as well since they are a close cousin with the resemblance of the shape.

There are many more bunkers that one may encounter. Like the car wash, crosses, tombstones, etc… All have advantages and disadvantages. For examples of bunker shapes and how fields are set up, visit the Supairball website.

Snakes are great bunkers as they can allow a player to move almost entirely up the field. For this reason, respect it. Use your angles from the bunkers. Walk the fields before the game and get behind each bunker from each side. Notice the angles you can get.

If when you move, listen to what is around you. If the surrounding bunkers are being hit, chances are that there is somebody shooting at you. If nothing is being hit on the surrounding bunkers, you could either think fast and keep going to the next bunker. Or, you may get a jump on the opposite team and surprise them.

Another thing to notice while walking the field is to see the kill zones. These are basically main traffic areas that, especially the back players, will want to know. These kill zones would be open areas between the bunkers that players will need to negotiate when they move. When a player is in these zones, he will take fire. The wider the space in these zones, then the more they are a prime target.


The term bunkering comes from those that have successfully moved up on a player and tag him out. I was at the IAO one year and seen an exhibition game. I believe it was Sweden vs. Russia. A single Swedish player successfully bunkered not one, not two, but 5 players. If you are successful, you can tag them in the back. The other side of the coin is that you can come around and be greeted by a barrel or be shot at by your targets team players. With that in mind, you should consider the move a high risk move. Chances are that you will be tagged out. Ask yourself, will your self sacrifice help the team overall? Try to bunker the opponent if they are keeping your team at bay. Something worthwhile. This is usually the back corners or middle front.

Before one bunkers the target, consider where he is looking. Signs of the direction of where he is looking are barrels and hoppers appearing from around the bunker. Maybe even gas clouds when they are shooting. If you cannot see any of these signs, bunker to the right of the bunker as around 85-90% of people in general are right handed. Therefore, they will be looking on there dominante side of the right. Also, see if he has support from his team. This may give you your chances of survivability. And knowing where the others are will help you take the proper cover and start to fire on there positions.

When you move, take a few steps back as if you were going to another bunker. This will provide you with cover before becoming a target. Those few steps back will give you time to get more speed out of the bunker before becoming a target. As you approach the bunker, go straight and focus on it. If you are looking at the other bunkers, you may be suprised as to what you see around the corner of the bunker you are moving up on. If you zig-zag, it just offers more time for the opponent to notice you or possibly have there team shoot at you longer. After that person is tagged out, get behind cover quickly.

Tips for the Front Player

You guys in the front will get a good work out. Not only will you be running full speed to get as far up the field as you can, but you will also be the main target. It is where the action is.

I have seen teams use a front player as cannon fodder. This player runs all the way up to the middle point and some to draw fire while the brunt of the team gets better positioning. May even lure a player out into the open to get tagged. Other front players are skilled to getting into and moving around in the snake if the field has one.

Front guys should be fast on there feet so that they can get as far up the field as they can. But the question is where do they run to? Before the game starts, you need to walk the field. Get behind the various bunkers and see what views of potential enemy bunkers are for shooting at. Pretend that you have your marker and aim. Be aware of your own cover as well. Don’t just walk around aimlessly at the bunkers with your hands in your pocket enjoying the fresh air. Technically, the game has already started!

During the break, run fast and low to your destination. You can get a little more speed when you are leaning into the direction you are running. Running upright may get you tagged…. by your own back players.

Another key is the positioning of the marker in your hands. It should not be up shooting. Leave the shooting to the support back players. Next, carry your marker in the hand that is nearest to your teams starting point. A paintball has a better chance of hitting a hard surface. If the marker is between you and the opponents’ fire, best to just walk to the kill box.

When you arrive close to your destination bunker, many tend to slow down there run so to not overshoot the bunker. Do not do that!! That slowing allows the opponents to get you zeroed in and tagged. Slide! Paintball apparel that is available has built in pads to reduce injury for players that slide. They also have slippery material to reduce friction during the slide to allow you to lower your profile even more during the slide. Take advantage of that. Besides, I am sure as a little kid, you enjoyed sliding down a grassy hill and get those wonderful grass stains. Not only shoot others, but to relive those fond childhood memories.

Some have mastered sliding on their knees while bringing the marker up to firing position. This reduces the lag time that it takes to regain “composure” from the run to the firing. And the more paint there is flying, the better chance of hitting your opponent that may be getting to there target bunkers. Not only that, but you will have your shooting angle that a back player would not have.

So, now you are in your bunker. What should you be shooting at? If you have an opportunity target close by, go for it. Otherwise, believe it or not, try to shoot the back players. You as a front player will have a better chance of tagging them out than any other player using the angles. By getting them out of the game, you are reducing communication and fire support. Your back players should take care of the fronts and keep them pinned.

If you left the back players take care of the back players, then come the superman effect that I mentioned in another article for tactics . With that distance, the target can simple step back behind the bunker. That, and the longer the paintball travels, the less likely that the balls will break.

Listen to your surroundings. You really cannot see how fast a paintball is traveling. Though, during impact, an experienced ear can tell if the originator of the paint is near or far and at what angle. You also may here a poorly filled pod if somebody is trying to bunker you. Listen to your back players. They are your eyes in many cases. They usually have a better vantage of the entire field than you would hunkered up close behind a bunker.

Listening to your back player needs to be a mutual trusting relationship. He is your life ring in the ocean. He is your second set of eyes. He may see somebody attempting to bunker you and to tell you to look to that side. Sure, the back players job is to keep the opponent front players behind there bunkers. That is not 100% possible. Would it not be better for the team to hear your back player tell you to look at your blind spot and have two sets of barrels trained on the guy trying to bunker you? And do what he says immediately as seconds count. Think of him as your drill sergeant. If he says jump, don’t ask how high. Do it!!

There will be times that your opponents will not like you’re positioning on the field behind the bunker and will be the focus of fire. Squeeze in tight. Be aware of your personal self. This includes hoppers in your pack, feet and hoppers. A ball will break on these items since they are hard objects.

Tips for the Middle Player

Most 5-man teams do not have these. But the larger ones like 7 and 10-man teams are more than likely will be present.

Like the front player that needs to be physically flexible to get in tight behind the bunker, the mid players need to be flexible as to there positioning on the field. In some cases, they will need to play the roll of the back player. In other cases, the roll of the front.

When walking the field, they have a greater task of seeing what bunkers are best to be behind for the best angles and finding those moving lanes. When you start to loose some of your team, the middle guy needs to swing into that action and pick up that empty position.

Try to change strategy from game to game using the middle players. If you know your opposing team is strong offensively, could be best to use the middle player as a back for extra fire power and having more paint fly. If the team is more on defense, put the pressure one and have more front players. Observe the other team at the start of the game before the whistle blows. You may conclude what type of play and make the adjustment accordingly.

Like a front, you should get into position quickly. However, since you are not needed to go as far, this allows opportunity to add to the fire power of the back. Your target is the other mid players. Not really the fronts.

As a mid player, usually the field is larger and commands from the back players are harder to hear. Being in the middle, you can relay the command. You are also pulling double duty as you are far enough back to assist the fronts along with the back player. And you are also forward enough to make moves and get better angles. You would be both covering the fronts moves while making the attack moves yourselves.

I am not saying that if a back bunker team mate is tagged out, don’t move back to take that position. You could if you wanted to. However, in the case for a front player, one should seriously consider taking that position up. I mentioned earlier that more than often, when a position is tagged out, that area is forgotten. Use this to your advantage and reclaim that area.

When the paint flies, it is always a changing of tactics to be used and the middle player needs to make split second decisions. Off the break, there may be a lucky shot to one of the back players. Having that missing player will hurt with communications for your team. The middle player can fill in that spot. Same if a key front position is taken out.

Tips for the Back Player

On the battlefield, it is nice to have heavy artillery rain down on your targets to keep them down. And while they are static in there fox holes, allows you time to make your move. Similar too is the back player for paintball. Just the lack of exploding shells. This is the brains of the team. He needs to know everything that is going on during the game and direct players accordingly.

Think the back player should walk the field since they don’t run far to a bunker? Incorrect! Once again, like the front and middle players, the back players should also walk the field. Not really to do the mop up if the entire team is tagged out. But to know what the field layout is and to know what may be in the minds of the other players during there move. Know where each teammate will go off the break. Another thing to look for is travel lanes. These would be large gaps that your opponents need to negotiate at the start of the game. Send paint down these paths.

The back player needs the trust from the front players. If the back player sees something going down and warns the front player, the front player will need to act immediately. The back players are the extra eyes to the front. When the front shooter is shooting from one side of the bunker, the back player should watch his blind side for possible bunkering moves by the other team.

The back players should be shooting the opponents front players. And the front should be shooting their back players.

The back player is also the manager. He needs to communicate what is going on in the field since the front guys can’t see the big picture. Tell your team everything. If you are getting shot at, tell them where, color marker, if he is in the snake. Offer potential targets like there is a hopper sticking up center right or pack showing back right bunker.

If you can coordinate, you could get the tags you need. Say you are the back player. And you are watching a front player’s left side since he is shooting right. There is an opponent’s front player shooting at you and pinning you down from protecting his left. If you tell him where the shot is coming from, he could shoot out the left side as you protect his right. With the switch, the opponent player may be focusing on the back bunker where you are at and not see the front player shooting low.

When things start to go nuts, it is hard for players to stay focused. Especially when there sight is limited. You can calm them down. Remind them to breath. Give them the info they need.

Remember when walking the field, you were looking for travel lanes? I bet if you can see your opponents eyes at the very beginning, they are focusing on there destination. And when the whistle blows, he is running with all his might to get to that location. As a back player, you are shooting at the front guys. And I am sure these guys that are running are the front players.

Therefore, what you need to do is shoot at there destination bunker. Yes, unless you are super good at leading targets, it is best to send a stream of paint towards the location that you think they are heading to. I am sure that the first few shots will go long or short as you bring up your marker. If you were leading your target, you will need to compensate for the moving target AND the range. If you just had to worry about his destination, range is all you need to adjust. Because they are running so fast, they may not have the ability to change there direction.

Don’t worry about getting shot yourself. Your opponent back players will be trying to take out your front players. Maybe have your middle players shoot at the backs. Just remember, the further the paintball travels, the less energy it has to break. So, unless you have your pack in your front and shooting from the hip, get out and shoot that travel zone.

Because the back player is coordinating his team, this adds a lot of pressure on him. They need to be calm and relay that calmness to the team. By no means let up on your communications. Get out there and see the field.

When you have 2 back players, they need to coordinate with each other. But, have one guy that is the coordinator. Would be very confusing for the fronts to get 2 different commands from there back players. The right side needs to know what the left side is up to.

You are also fire support. Because you are shooting constantly when the whistle blows, you will need a lot of paint and air with you. Don’t worry about being weighed down. You’re the back player. In no way should you as the back player pass the front players. You’re in the back to coordinate the team and suppress the travel lanes. The only time for considering moving up is close to the end of the game.

Being able to guess correctly where your target will pop out will lead to success. We are a creature of habit. And if we are comfortable with it, we tend to stick to it. With that in mind, send a stream of paint to the left of bunkers. People do tend to favor there right side. If this target pops out consistently on the left, makes for a good bunkering target. Tell your front player what to do. To help out, shoot at the targets left to keep him busy.

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