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Paintball Scenario Game Operations

By Bret Golihew

Paintball Scenario Games are not new, but they have become the fastest growing type of Paintball game. Players, field owners, and sponsors have come to recognize the entertainment value of large scale, well-organized recreational games.

This guide is intended to give a description of the most common types of Paintball Scenario Games or PSGs, briefly explain their design and show ways to help you to play. If you have never played in a PSG, this guide may help you to understand what they are all about and maybe help you decide to try one.

Unlike Tournament play, there are really no losers in a PSG. No matter who won the scenario, both the victors and the vanquished go home satisfied. The thrill of victory in a PSG is real, but there is no loss of honor or respect in being on the losing side. Being there and enjoying the camaraderie and friendships of players from distant fields makes all the players winners.

PSG Themes

PSGs are one of the most rewarding experiences Paintball can provide. The first thing to understand about them is that they are a FUN fantasy event. PSGs can't be compared with real war or combat. War is a terrifying and horrible experience that forces Man to face his fear of death and commit actions that take human lives. The only fear that should be felt in a PSG is not having enough money to buy more paint. BIG difference!

If the theme of PSG sounds too military or war-like, don't take it too seriously. The technical limitations of Paintball prevent any realistic simulation that could be used to duplicate actual events. Think of it this way, it is like staging a re-enactment of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor using squirt guns- everybody gets wet, nobody gets hurt, and you might even learn something.

The critics of history based PSGs don't understand that the theme is a creative tool that the writer of the scenario game uses to set up certain situations. It allows characters, locations, and movements to be applied to the groups of players. The game, as played out, can be applied to almost any place and time- past, present, or future. The theme can however, allow prospective players a mental headstart on the game.

The most popular themes are Science Fiction and Action movies, TV shows, and historic or military events. The most popular reasons for attending a PSG are the type, producer, location, play date, field fee & paint price, and finally- the theme, as depicted in pre-game advertising.

PSG Types

There are many different kinds of PSGs. But there are a few things common to all types that help create a successful event for both the field and an entertaining experience for the players. Planning and preparation are the key factors of a good PSG. Writers start with a theme for the game and an accurate map of the playing field. These are used to set the boundaries of Who can do What and Where they can do it. A common feature of almost all types of PSGs are Hospital and Medic Rules. These special PSG features enhance the player's game experience by providing a method to return them to the game after elimination.

PSGs can be placed into two main categories, Single Day and 24 Hour.

Single Day PSGs

The most common type is the Single Day PSG. Good for both large and small fields, they are relatively easy to set up and run. The Single Day's advantage over the 24 Hour is the shorter time investment for the field and the players. They are usually 8 to 12 hours long and are normally played in daylight only. Single Day PSGs can be divided into 2 main variants, Mission Oriented and the Big Game.

Mission Oriented PSGs

The best type for small fields, Mission Oriented PSGs divide the day into a series of mission time periods. The total group of players present is divided into two equal groups and a leader is selected. Each mission begins in the break or assembly area with the 2 team leaders being given a map and written mission orders for the next game. The teams will have to perform opposing mission assignments within a specified time. When that time expires, or the mission of one team is accomplished, the players return to the break area and receive the next mission. The game can be played with the teams assuming alternating offense and defense roles, with the defending team entering the field first.

The advantage for this type is that it offers the producers excellent control of the overall PSG through the use of written mission orders for each game, selected areas designated and prepared in advance, and set times for each mission and breaks. A typical Single Day Mission Oriented PSG will allow up to 12, 30 to 45 minute missions with 15 minute breaks between the missions.

Mission Oriented PSGs rely heavily on the use of prop objects placed on the field before the game. The field is usually 'seeded' with props like ammo boxes, document envelopes, a dummy, or unusual items like a balloon tied to a tree or a cooler full of soda. Placing these objects on the field in advance reduces the task of running the props out to their correct position before each mission. During the course of a mission, the offense team is tasked with locating and returning an object to the break area while the defense team acts to prevent that from happening. Other type missions include setting up ambushes, attempting to capture or eliminate a specific enemy player, or the classic downed pilot rescue.

The Big Game

This popular Single Day Big Game format is great for large fields and is best characterized by its simplicity. Often arranged as an annual event, some are run as benefits for local charities. Usually the scenario aspect of the game is not as detailed as a 24-Hour PSG or as structured as a Mission Oriented game. A Big Game normally will run for 6 to 8 hours and usually ends with a climactic battle.

The Big Game starts with each side being given control of half of the field, with each half containing several strategic areas that must be defended from capture. Usually, these areas will include the HQs, an ammo dump, a village, or a fort. The object of the game is to control those sites for a length of time to score points. Props, such as dummy missiles, ammo boxes, or drums are used to provide movable objectives for special mission recovery. Pyrotechnics, sound effects, and staged events are used to spice up the action.

Often this type of PSG will employ a small 3rd force on the field to act with independent goals or as team to ally with. Occasionally this group is used as Terminators. The Terminator has some form of reduced vulnerability to ordinary weapons and must be dealt with through unconventional means such as a paint or smoke grenade.

Vehicles are also very popular with the Big Game PSG. Everything from trucks, helicopters, hovercraft, and Paintball Tanks have made appearances at them. Recently Tanks have grown in popularity to the point that many Big Games are routinely including them.

The 24-Hour PSG

The 24-Hour PSGs are the most complex and involving type of PSG for both the players and the fields. They have been greatly popularized and practically invented by the master of the genre- Wayne Dollack. He and his wife Jackie travel to Paintball fields in their motor home spreading their unique brand of Paintball Mind Game to an eager and enthusiastic audience. (It's almost a cult)

The key to their success with the 24-Hour format is that like a traveling road show, they bring a highly organized and professional system to fields that otherwise would never have attempted to produce a PSG of such complexity. Wayne's effective advertising and skillful game designs have set a standard for 24-Hour games that few can match. One of those trying and succeeding is Viper Enterprises of Texas. Using the same format that Wayne perfected, Viper is striving to bring the Dollack type Role-Playing to Paintball players west of the Mississippi.

A Dollack PSG is a unique experience. Missions go out to both teams by radio, each players gets a detailed identity for them to role-play, audio and pyrotechnic effects are used for atmosphere, and Role-Playing spies play their parts on the field and in the break area. You can truly play the game on many different levels- hunter, sprayer, soldier, or spy. You can get as deep into it as you want. For 24 hours, you are in Wayne's World.

The basic game is played like this- Each team controls a HQ area. Wayne calls in missions to each side by radio every 15 to 30 minutes. The team generals send out squads with mission order cards to complete those missions. If completed, a ref will sign off on the card and it will be turned in for points. At the same time, the Role-Players will be at work having secret meetings, sabotaging missions, selling and trading information and game props, and in general trying to cause the enemy as much confusion and trouble as possible. You just won't know whom to trust.

The 24-Hour PSG divides the day into 3 sets. A day game- from 12 noon on Saturday to dusk, a 1 hour stand-down to set up for the night game, a night game that lasts until dawn, another stand-down for breakfast, and finally a morning game that ends at 12 noon on Sunday. After the game ends, an assembly is held at which the winner of the game is announced speeches are made, and awards and prizes are given out. The December 1997 game- "Area 51" at Wayne's home field in Ocala, Florida, gave away $40,000 in prizes.

This is just a brief outline of a Dollack game. There are many more complex aspects to his PSGs than I can explain here. Lets just say it is worth it.

PSG Players and Their Roles

The General (CO)

No matter what type of PSG you play in, there will be some sort of command structure. If you are lucky enough to be a General, or CO, use your command wisely. Always remember that the individual player is a paying customer of the field and must not be abused by your authority as their leader. Never ask a player to perform any task that you yourself would be unwilling to do. You have a great responsibility to lead the other players in your team by good example. If you are abusive, your subordinate teammates will either act like you or may defect to the enemy and frag you. This really does happen!

If Role-Playing is involved, be very careful of who you trust. Don't accept any envelopes or packages as they may be booby-trapped. Make no mistake about it, in a PSG, eliminating a general or his command staff can score big points. There are enemy players who are specifically tasked with hunting you down, so watch out. Some of them can be very devious. A type of this spy to beware of is the traitor. It is almost certain that some of your own players will actually be an undercover agents working for the enemy, patiently waiting for the best moment to strike.

The Role-Players

In a Dollack game, there are players who show up just for the Role-playing. The Role-Players will have their own game going inside the larger PSG and will have a major impact on the overall outcome of the game. An important point to remember about most PSGs is that Missions win games, but Role-Players can outscore Mission points.

If you accept a role to play, you will be provided with specific goals to accomplish in the game. It is very important that you try to maintain your character's integrity and motives as they were given to you. The Game Director will provide you with certain props and meeting times, so it is important to preserve the continuity of the game by staying in character and not trying to take over the game with your own private agenda.

Other Roles

PSGs offer some form of role to everyone in the game. Some are very complicated, most are simple and easy to do, but all are about the most fun you can have while playing Paintball too!

The Executive Officer,(XO), is the team's second in command. His duties are to assist the General with the running of the team and in the absence of the General, he is in full command of the team.

The Platoon and Squad Leaders are responsible for executing the mission orders from the command staff. When a mission is accomplished, they are also responsible for providing the necessary proof of completion to the HQ.

Most players in a PSG are Grunts. As a Grunt, your obligation is to perform the tasks or missions that the team leaders give out. This is not to say that all orders must be blindly followed. The important part is to complete the mission in the time allowed. If you have a good understanding of what is required, you won't need much direction to complete it. Grunts should try to help the team leaders to maintain unit cohesion by trying to stay together and operate as a team. Grunts also get important tactical roles- these are Medics, Weapon Specialists, Combat Engineers and Demolition Experts. If you play one of these roles, it is very important to learn what you can do with the role and use your skill as best that you can. Your team will be depending on your abilities.


Radio can be a major tool in large scale PSGs. A Dollack game uses them to send missions to the two teams. Each team will also use them for communications between the command staff and individual squads. These are called radio nets.

The PSG director may use 3 radio nets- one each to the two team command staffs and another to the refs. The two teams will each operate several nets for squad to squad and command staff communications.

A single radio equipped team can create a very effective method of control over an entire side. This is how it works- a team will take control of a side when one of its members play the role of General. The General then assigns each of his radio-equipped teammates to positions in each platoon or squad. Using codes and call signs, the General now has people he trusts in each of the squads. This creates a very effective command and control structure.

The types of radios being used are mostly FM UHF 'Sport' type radios and 40 channel CBs. Also short-range FM Vox headset types are very useful for squad communications. One thing to keep in mind about using radio is that it is not secure. Everything you say over a radio net is subject to interception and even jamming by your opponents. Use codes!

Final Comments

This article represents most but not all PSG types, as there are as many different variants as there are imaginative producers of them. Each PSG is a unique event. It reflects the character of the field, the practicality of the scenario, and the composition of the players who show up for the game.

PSGs are not for all Paintball players, but if everyone would at least give them a try they may find that they can learn a lot from them. Most PSGs are played on large fields forcing groups to play in a 360-degree environment, not the normal forward only assault of Tournament style. The PSG teaches players to learn energy and paint conservation, how to lead and how to follow, effective communication methods, the honor of how you play instead of how you win, and finally- how to meet people and have a great time without the pressure of high performance failure syndrome. As PSGs and teams dedicated to them rise in popularity, more fields have recognized the publicity, entertainment, and customer satisfaction values of the PSG, so more of them will be produced. Look for one at a field near you.

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