One of the most popular arguments I encounter in regards to my knowledge of paintball is I will start to talk about the differences of scenario and speedball and people will immediately accuse me of being a “hack” claming that I don’t know what speedball is. So I figured it would be a good idea to make a post talking about the game of speedball and some of my opinions on it. Speedball in its purest form is also known as airball or xball. It is played in 15 minute games with 5-7 players on each team. Depending on the number of players the size of the field and the number of bunkers change to meet the rules of the game. Your goal is to eliminate the opposing team or have more players than they do at the end of the game. In some styles of airball you must also capture the opposing team’s flag to win the game.
Some rules that are very different from those in scenario games are the different types of penalties and how they work. In scenario paintball a majority of games are played on the honor system, yet the refs play a more involved game in speedball. They perform many paint checks, remove players from the game, and can also enforce penalties on teams such as 1-1 and 3-1 which are translated into one for one and three for one. These penalties can drastically sway the pace of the game. For example if you get shot and wipe and the ref sees this he can issue a three for 1 which means you and three of your teammates are eliminated leaving your team dwarfed in size. There are also various classifications of positions front, center, and back… pretty easy to understand. This is mostly for organized games of speedball because as you get into recreational speedball the structure becomes less ridged to account for the wider range of players.
Here is where things get a little fuzzy though, when you actually look at the three most disputed arguments in comparing speedball/airball to scenario/woodsball. No, I’m not talking about the amount of skill, money, or fancy equipment required to play but when you look at speedball compared to scenario three big differences appear.
- Time of Games
- Amount of movement
- Volume of paint used
First of all the difference in the time of games is indisputable. You cannot say that a 15 minute speedball game lasts as long as an hour long scenario game. Now, it is possible to argue that if you get out in the first 15 minutes of a scenario game you will not be playing as long but now days many scenario games (including the SPPL) are moving to re-spawn games where players are reinserted into the game every few minutes. On average I find myself lasting for a minimum of half the game. I watched some Airball on ESPN 2 the other day and recorded the times of the game and they lasted an average of 8 minutes.
The games being longer is also probably why in a scenario game most people move more then they would during a speedball game. Let us assume we have an extra large speedball field the size of two football fields. Even if you ran all the way to one end of the field and back you would still not cover the same distance as moving even half of a 30 acre field. Just these statistics means that movement is more of a focus in a scenario game than in a speedball game. However I would take it one step futher and say that in a speedball game you can get your position at the beginning of the game stay there, firefight, and do pretty well. Many players try to do this in a scenario game near a flag, base, or other objective and end up finding themselves shot in the back. The fact that enemy fire can essentially only come from a 180 degree radius in speedball allows the strategy of holding a bunker to be much more effective. Now before we get all feisty front men I understand that the dash to the fifty at the beginning of a game is a dash of faith and that you are in fact moving. Yet once you get to the snake most players will stay there till the team is down to one maybe two players which again shows the effectiveness of bunker defense in speedball.
Since the bunker defense plan is by far the most popular style of speedball players new, old, experienced, and professionals alike the first ¾ of a game are played out in firefights (sitting around slinging paint at each other) until one player sticks out to far or for too long and gets tagged. So if you know this is how your game is going to play out, it would only be intelligent to increase the amount of paint you could shoot in quick bursts. So if your marker shoots faster, you will probably use more paint, and thus need to carry more paint into the match. Thus if a speedball player walks onto the field with four pods and leaves with one they are using more paint than a scenario player who walks onto the field with two and leaves with none. However, in a scenario game it is not uncommon for players to leave without opening a pod, and sometimes only with firing a hundred shots. Don’t get me wrong I have a marker that can shoot around 15 bps (fingers only, non-electronic) but I only carry two pods onto the field with me and normally don’t use either so just because you have a faster marker doesn’t mean you will use more paint. But when I see three fifteen minute long games with players using 4+ pods per each game they are using a much larger volume of paint that that of an average scenario player.
All of these facts brought together would lead me to believe that in a game of speedball the focus of a player is their marker and it’s BPS. While in a scenario game tactics come first. Do I have any data to support this fact? Well let us take a look at my firing team; you have my Uncle (50+) and Phillip (12). We frequently will be playing recreationally at a local field and have a group of “professional” speedballers come and challenge us to a match of five on five. My initial reaction to this is always to smile and say the most feared words of any speedballer “Ok fine, but no pods.” The game starts off and before you can say “Left side ready” the two additional walk-ons are out. As the game plays out and the airballers run out of ammo and find themselves fighting a team with 300 paintballs versus them with maybe a dozen each. We move up allowing them to take potshots with their remaining paintballs and then if they have not called themselves out we surrender them. So if the amount of paint and BPS is not the focus of speedball why does this always happen?
In addition when I talk about speedball most people immediately think I believe there is a complete lack of tactics and strategy. That all they do is shoot at each other for fifteen minutes. This is incorrect; I know that any team who does well in a match has to have some strategy. Knowing who goes where and communicating the enemy’s positions, and firing lanes are just a few examples of good speedball tactics. Nevertheless as stated above I believe that tactics are more important in a game of scenario than airball. For an easy example let’s take a look at player/equipment specialization. If you look at the three positions of airball and their players you will notice slight differences in the equipment they carry. Yet by turning around and looking at the equipment that scenario player’s use, a more diverse range emerges. I am not talking about the mil-sim add-ons as a many of these do not add any real advantage to the marker. I am talking about stocks, scopes, remote lines, barrels, grenade launchers, and even the type of hopper. Different positions in scenario games will have different add-ons for their marker to increase the effectiveness they play in their position. Throw in the use of exotics such as grenades, mines, mortars and tanks and the differences in the tactics of JUST equipment lean heavily towards the game of scenario paintball.
Just by touching on the basics of the two games I hope that I have demonstrated that I do get what speedball is about yet I also know the differences. The honest truth is you may like faster, more intense games and that is great I am glad you found something you love. Nevertheless by telling you what I think are the differences in the game I am not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t like airball or speedball but rather they are just not the game for me. I prefer a game with different emphasis and which is why I consider myself a scenarioballer instead of an airballer.