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Twilight Zone VI
November 2-3 2003 by Bill Mills
Each year, Viper Scenario has two anchor events - Texas Revolution in the spring, and Twilight Zone in the fall. This year marked the sixth annual Twilight Zone scenario game. The event was held at Paintball USA in Cypress, Texas, on the western outskirts of Houston.
The scenario centered around the ever present mythology of alien life and technology being hidden away by the US government at Area 51 - a base that officially does not exist in the Nevada desert. The game pitted TRUTH - an organization of civilians dedicated to discovering, uncovering, and publicizing the truth of what is going on at Area 51 against various branches of the US government intent on hiding it and covering it up with disinformation.
In the early days of scenario paintball, 24 hour games ran 24 hours straight. Somewhere along the line, game producers realized that the majority of the players don't actually want to play paintball at 4:00 in the morning, even though many will go well past midnight. By shutting down part way through the night, and taking meal breaks, 24 hour games weren't providing 24 hours of game play.
Kerry "Viper" Rosenberry adapted his game format to give game breaks, but also maximize available game time. Viper scenarios run later in the day on Sunday, and have game time on Friday, unlike most scenarios that start on a Saturday morning. For Twilight Zone 6, players were polled, and there was not enough interest for Friday afternoon game time. Viper planned to start the game on Saturday morning.
Friday night was still party time as players arrived, many choosing to camp out at the field. The Texas Rock Gym brought out a portable climbing wall which proved to be entertaining for those who took part. Sign ups were taken for the scenario chess tournament. As a fun extra for the game, a chess tournament was scheduled with the winner's team to receive points in the scenario game. National Paintball Supply's Texas warehouse employees Trey and Travis brought out their event support trailer both to sell the game's 32 Degrees paint, and also to supply various accessories and tech support for the players.
Saturday morning, things started moving at the field at eight in the morning. Hurricane Air was on site, filling compressed air systems. They are a new Texas based air fill company who are refreshingly strict on safety, their air techs constantly wearing eye protection while filling tanks.
There was a light rain falling - so light that rain probably wasn't the right word for it. Player orientation involved a safety and rules speech from Viper, and Pepe, the head referee for the event. Player ID tags featured three chrono punch marks - referees would punch each one to indicate that the player had been checked through the chrono station. Each card also had two judge marks. For a serious rules infraction, a judge could punch a judge mark out, if a player ended up causing a problem after both marks had been punched - something Viper pointed out has not had to happen yet at one of his games - that player would be escorted from the property.
By a show of hands, it was learned that about 10 percent of the people attending were playing a scenario game for their first time. They were mixed side by side with players from long standing well known scenario teams like Blitzkrieg, the Dogmen, Texas Marshalls and Mayberry Marauders. Viper explained that the majority of the game's points would come from missions completed. Players would have three opportunities to reinsert into the game after being eliminated - five minute insertion windows were held every 20 minutes, with large LCD clocks in the insertion zones.
Viper then proceeded to introduce the game's two generals. Nick Virciglio was cast as the Dreamland general, serving as a Viper scenario general for the first time. Barrie "Nudie Bear" Reed arrived into the introductory briefing in a black Hummer, to address her team - TRUTH.
The Paintball USA field was geography well suited to the Area 51 theme. A creek split off about one fourth of the field from the rest. Open straight roads through the main field area were named for Nevada highways - Highway 375, the Extra Terrestrial Highway, Groom Lake Road, and Highway 318. The small side of the creek became area 51, with bases marked as aircraft hangars and area S-4. The southern portion of the base area consisted of large open speedball fields with a few two story towers.
The game began at noon, with the first missions assigned to both teams being to pick up supply drops. Orange lock boxes were "dropped" on the field in specific locations. These missions were more important than just earning points. The boxes contained demolition cards that the teams would need to blow up bases, and medic cards that they would need to heal players on the field. Completing the supply drop missions would affect how the teams were able to complete their other missions during the scenario.
While the two teams ran out to pick up their boxes, the inevitable first battle broke out on the speedball fields, as they were located halfway between area S-4, the government headquarters and TRUTH headquarters. Orange smoke bombs added to the battle.
Field maps that laid out numbered grids on an aerial photograph of the field were provided to the refs and field staff by Scenario News magazine, a newsletter dedicated to scenario paintball. The maps proved to be a big help in specifying where missions and drops would occur.
By 1:45 in the afternoon, the rain increased a little, but was still rather light. Along the field's creek were three bridges, one near the government base, and two side by side near the TRUTH base. As TRUTH brought a group of players across the bridge, starting a small battle on the Speedball field, a player slipped off of the wet bridge and knocked off his goggles. In under fifteen seconds the referees had stopped the battle, and had all players frozen in place with their paintguns on the ground while the player was taken care of. After the situation was taken care of, play resumed.
A feature in Viper Scenarios are major battles. The first was held on Saturday afternoon at 3:30. All play stopped for about fifteen minutes in preparation for the battle on the speedball fields - the team that won the battle would earn 25 points on their score. Putting these battles in the game gives some big firefight excitement in addition to the creeping through the woods and small skirmishes that typify a scenario game. The first major battle winner would be determined by which team had the most players in a central space between two laydown sewer pipes when the battle clock expired. Both teams played hard, and near the end a number of players who were out of air and or paint jumped into bunkers with just their paintgun barrel, taking out the opposition with a barrel tag. When the time ran out, both the government and TRUTH each had one team member in the center - the battle was a draw and neither team received points.
In the afternoon, a crew of clean suit wearing EPA agents checked a crashed UFO to make sure it was not radioactive. Both teams had a mission to recover four of the eight alien bodies from the wreck. The government team was slow in getting to the site, and TRUTH was not only quick, but got there with the support of a tank, enabling them to grab all eight bodies.
As the game progressed into the night, tight base security was limiting the amount of role playing missions completed. It's difficult for a spy, double agent, or executive officer to negotiate with the opposing general or XO, if they can't get to them. Something that helped keep the role playing alive were mailboxes for the generals and XOs. Viper had purchased some black locking mailboxes, inspired by the real mailbox at Medlin's ranch which is a key landmark for Area 51 observers. The mailboxes were placed off field, and provided a safe and secure method for notes to be left for key role players.
A battle at night on the speedball field was loaded with special effects. Smoke bombs and strobe lights made the battle intense, while Viper stood atop one of the two story towers and threw out "flying saucers." The saucers were actually Frisbee style flying disks loaded with flashing lights and sound effects that ran for several minutes as they flew over the player's heads and landed around the field. Unfortunately the players were so consumed with the paintballs flying past them, and with shooting their opposition, that they didn't bother to pick up the disks, which were worth points in the game - and became much harder to find in the dark once they turned off.
The bridge claimed another victim in the night, TB Wright the executive officer for the TRUTH team ended up with an injured ankle that fortunately was mild enough to walk on the next morning.
The rain steadily increased through the night, as some Texas counties went on flood alert. By the morning, much of the field was underwater, and the rain still fell, but that did not deter the die hard amongst the scenario players. Vehicles stuck in the mud of the parking and staging area became a problem that was solved with the pulling power of a few four wheel drive trucks and the Hummer that had brought in the TRUTH general.
When Viper announced plans to cancel the Sunday final battle unless there was enough interest, players immediately went forward, and plans for the battle were on. With the water and mud on the field, the battle was as much about diving and swimming as it was about shooting. The Dogmen proved instrumental in winning the battle to gain points for TRUTH.
The end of the final battle was the close of the game, and players gathered under the shelter of the food tent for door prizes and awards. The first prizes given out were a pair of Tippmann A5 paintguns with Pro Team Products accessories kits. These were raffled to players who had registered early, as a way to encourage preregistration for Viper Scenarios.
Nudie Bear, the TRUTH General handed out a number of awards which included Team Knights as the Most Valuable Team, Josh Fagin sportsmanship, Atomic Wedgie as the Most Formidable Opponent, and Bobby Gogolin as the Most Valuable Player. Nick, the government general selected Blaze to recieve the Sportsmanship award, the Dogmen as the Most Formidable Opponent, and for his Most Valuable Player - the bridge that slowed down his opposing XO for part of the game.
Following the awards were prizes of various sizes, shapes and descriptions thrown out to the crowd or raffled to players. A number of these prizes were entry fees to scenario games from various promoters, all of whom cooperate for the growth of scenario paintball.
Viper announced the scores for the game, cautioning that since many of the mission cards were still wet from the rain, final verification of the scores would not take place for two or three more days. He said that the two teams started out fairly even, and stayed neck and neck through Saturday afternoon, and the night. The gap only really widned during the day on Sunday. The final score gave the win to TRUTH over the government 402 to 334.
We would like to extend
our thanks to Viper and his staff for their hospitality, to Reverend Splatter
for helping us make it from the airport to the field in one piece, Emmit
for getting us back to the airport, and the the crew from National Paintball
Supply for the laughs and the warm, dry place with power for our computer
in the NPS trailer.
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