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Castle Conquest 2006
Story and Photos by James Dawson - May 2006


Two teams, one vastly larger in number, in fair New Milford, where we lay our scene; from a ten-year grudge break new attack, where blue Marbalizer makes castle walls unclean; from forth the four main gates to this large castle burst, a brace of paintball players with markers high; their misadventures and comic overthrows, doth with one’s victory begin a new decade; to which if you with patient eyes attend, where gossip hath missed, my toil shall strive to mend.

And so is laid the expansive stage of Castle Conquest XXI, the official birthday party for Endless Mountain Recreation Paintball’s (EMR) 10th Anniversary party, presented by PMI. The cast includes, under Michael “Blue” Hanse, Blue’s Crew, Pub Crawling, Boneheads, Brew Crew, Ferrymen, Carter’s Commando, and many more; under Bullseye of Joint Fury, the forces of aggression were comprised of eight hundred attackers from various scenario teams and virtually every state east of the Mississippi. They came together in New Milford, Pennsylvania, to battle over Castle Aaarrgh—a massive, two-story structure with three-story towers and a complicated central courtyard filled with barricades and props, enclosed walls with windows and turrets and all the accoutrement you expect of a top-notch scenario field.

Ten years ago the first Castle Conquest played out on this very spot, the intervening decade seeing massive improvements to the lay of the land and the play of the field. Tippmann Town is forty yards away from the front wall, the Iroquois Invasion field rolls out towards Ferrymen’s Airfield below Wall 4, with Fort RTD and Beach Head above walls three and two respectively. This corner of EMR’s 122 acre complex has every sort of bunker and building a scenario player could want, and enough natural terrain for lone-gunmen to sneak almost up to the very walls of the castle.

“Everything I did here,” explained field owner Mike “Blue” Hanse, “I did from a player’s standpoint. I know what I want as a player. I don’t want to stand in line for an hour to get my bottle filled; we have sixteen fill whips that’ll do forty-five-hundred (psi). I don’t want barbed wire, so we took all the barbed wire out. I don’t want to see trash, so my refs pick up trash. You won’t see soda cans, broken pallets… Everything I do out here, I do from a player’s standpoint.” And he plays in his events, trusting in his expert staff: Field Manager Chris “Deuce” Hanse, Operations Manager Chris Menichini, the man behind the scenes (and the forklift) Action Bob Lanstrum, and others. Five seconds after “game on,” Blue led home team Blue’s Crew through the front door in Wall 1 and straight into the fray.

Pub Crawling and the Chitown Hustlers exploded out of Wall 4, down through Iroquois Invasion, to the edge of the Ferrymen’s Airfield, where they dug into the tree line to greet their opponents. In tight clusters and screaming packs the rest of the defenders sprinted from the castle to forward defensive positions, trying to stave off far superior numbers. The player ratio was just over 3 to 1: 250 defenders played all-out to hold off the tremendous waves that came from an 800-player-strong attacking force. These odds, where the attackers vastly outnumber the defenders, are the norm for Castle Conquest—they keep things interesting.

Frequent reinsertions keep the games dynamic and fun, while keeping players in the action all day—no prolonged, forced downtime for anyone. Attackers reinsert every twenty minutes from a point near the International Paintball Museum, a large yellow building on the edge of the Vendor’s Village. From there they charge uphill through the forest or Tippmann Town, or circle wide through adjacent fields to attack from high ground above Wall 2 and Wall 3. From these rises, they can pour indirect fire onto the parapets and into the courtyard, and team captains can get a visual fix on the ten props inside the castle. Should the attackers retrieve four of the ten objectives—the King’s Ransom, the Royal Platter, EMR’s Coat of Arms, and other cool props—in the first three hours of the siege, then the game is called a victory for the attackers and teams get shuffled around for a second game…this was not the case. Nowhere near.

The attackers used cunning strategy to cut off access to the doors: by crossing lanes of fire they kept intruders from breaching the walls, and by effectively deploying players behind barricades in the courtyard where they could shoot straight out, they kept attackers from even getting near the doorways. Cunning players with quick trigger fingers guarded the gang ramps that connect the edges of Wall 3 with the adjacent bluff, while players lined up near the windows to shoot angles from inside the very walls themselves. Their ten-minute reinsertion time, twice as frequent as the attackers, helped keep the positions manned as the action closed in on the castle itself.

But still, 3 to 1 odds are hard to overcome. At 2 o’clock the first attackers swarmed in through Wall 3, while others pushed hard on the door in Wall 4. One attacker made a beeline for Blue’s Royal Stallion, while others fought their way into the walls. Inside the dark, the play closed to mere feet and inches. “You fight for every inch you take,” an attacker explained on the way to the reinsertion zone with three hits on his mask. “They make you pay for it, too!”

The ten props were stolen by 2:50, at which time the attackers had secured most of the castle. Blue Marbalizer, a special color scheme made by PMI exclusively for EMR, dripped from every horizontal surface. Players’ shoulders were solid blue from rubbing against the walls and bunkers, and the areas around each window showed the wrath of intense conflict. The defenders were pushed clear to the mouth of their in-castle reinsertion zone, where they could scarcely battle any longer. The referees called time just at 3pm, and as quickly as it started, the conquest of Castle Aaarrgh was over. A mighty cheer went through all the players, as they vented their final reserves of adrenaline in mighty roars. It was pure paintball insanity, and a great way to kick off the next ten years of EMR.

Saturday night came fast upon the field, the players waking from naps or just finished cleaning their gear. A great tangle of pallets and logs sculpted by the hands and forklift of Action Bob Lanstrum caught fire to open the night’s festivities: a campout bonfire party as much a part of Castle Conquest as the game itself. Massive amounts of food were grilled, dished, and served to friends and family, everyone bringing what they could and eating what they wanted in a great community BBQ extravaganza led by Boneheads and Joint Fury. At the mouth of Bunkhouse Row, Pub Crawling broke out their huge grill and projected paintball videos on the side of the bunkhouse across the street. Players ate, told tall tales, and were merry long into the night.

Sunday brought the ten-team Deuce’s Wild 3man tourney, dominated by speedball players but fun for all. Though successful, Deuce didn’t anticipate trying to do another such tourney the day after Castle Conquest. Other players woke up slowly and made their way to either the pump-only game, or the open play game, and with these groups explored the other fields at EMR—Sgt. Splatters and the all-natural-bunker Hanse Hollow fields proved particularly popular. By four o’clock that afternoon the players had slowly slipped away towards home until only a handful remained. They came in to strike camp, passing through the remnants of vendor’s village. Tippmann and BT Paintball had been there, along with Alien Paintball and Engler Custom Paintball Guns, J&J, Allen Paintball Products, and a proud showing by PMI with their sprawling tent.

As they passed the proshop, many players caught Blue’s eye and attention, thanking him for the great time they had and promising to return. One man from Baltimore remarked “I take back every foul thing I said on the way up about having to pay $80 a case, it was worth every penny five times over. I had a great time, this place is great, the family, the game, and the paint was good, it was worth every cent.”

And so closed a field-record breaking event, with the last of the 1,050 players driving home with smiles on their faces. Many of them will be back for the fall Castle Conquest this year; may they all return safely again.
 

 


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