Mastering Stealth Techniques
Playing the paintball field is as important as playing the game of paintball. When you're playing in the woods, you have a lot more space to work with than you do in an arena. Plus, you have a lot more stuff that you can use as both hard and soft cover. What this means is that woods paintball can be a game of stealth and patience. Keep in mind that the first paintball game ever played was won by a guy who didn't fire a shot. He used stealth, taking opportunities when they presented themselves.
If I just lost you, do a little research and read about it. It's probably on the Internet somewhere.
In the past we've covered camouflage and the basics on how to use it. What we're going to do now is basically "Ninja 201," or "how not to be seen while you're stealing someone's flag." I'll talk about scenario games, but these basic techniques work in walk-on games at your local woodsy fields against the weekend warriors. In fact, that's a good place to practice. The fields are smaller, and the price of failure isn't as bad. Translation: You only get shot by three to five people instead of 50 or more.
First let's cover gear. You don't need to buy anything else than you probably have right now. Really, you don't. Part of the stealth mentality is traveling light. Don't carry anything more than you need, if you can help it. If you only need four pods, that's all you should carry. If your air tank only has enough for three pods, only carry three. I know, "Duh." But sometimes, people need to be whacked with the "common-sense clue-by-four." You should carry a watch you don't mind trashing. You should also have knee and elbow pads, a pair of decent gloves, and sensible shoes. Beyond that, you can do all these stunts in your old BDUs. Actually, I have. And if a big fat guy can do all this stuff, you can, too.
Camouflage has been discussed a lot before, and I don't think I need to get into post-mortem equine sadism to make the point. But if you're serious about stealth, you'll have a bin full of camouflage. I know I do. I can pick out a specific color scheme to match what the woods looks like that particular weekend. How do I know? I cheat. I live near a forest preserve, and what it looks like is about 90 percent true to every field in the area. If you don't happen to live near any trees, just use common sense. The colder it is, the less green you'll see. Or just wear BDUs and hope for the best.
Now the fun part: the techniques. You can literally practice these in your house, if you don't mind looking like a goob in the privacy of your own home. A lot of stealth should be done by feel. It's why I used to play in tabi boots, because I could literally feel all the terrain underfoot. But after the stitches, I had a change of heart. Not to mention footwear.
So you're in the woods, you want to get over "there," and you want to do so without the other team seeing you. Sounds great. But let's answer a few questions first. How much time do you have to do this? Walk-on games are 10-20 minutes tops, but scenario games are 24 hours. Do you have a mission you need to accomplish by a certain time? Stealth isn't fast, and you need to be decent at time management.
Next question. How much of a threat are you looking at? Is the other team looking right at you, or are you far enough away from them that you can get away with some movement first? Do they know where you are, or do they know where you might be? Can you fool them into thinking you're somewhere else? And how many of "them" are out there? Five? 30? A few hundred? The answers to that should dictate what you do.
Third question: What does the field ahead of you look like? Open terrain? A trail to their flag station? Thick weeds that would break any lawnmower in half? This may dictate your style of movement, and your path to your destination. Which brings up another question. Where are you going, exactly? "Over there" is good, "Over to that tree to set up" is better.
What I'm getting at is, you don't want to just dive into a bush and hope for the best. Take a moment to think things through. Consider what's in front of you, what's behind you, what you're in, and then go for it. Some field knowledge goes a long way here, and "local knowledge" of that one foxhole that you can't see until you fall into it can play into your plans.
Once you have your plan, then you want to move. The goal of stealthy movement is to move around without the other team seeing you. OK, "Duh" again. But think about this a moment. You don't want the other team to see you moving, so move when they can't see you. It's possible to walk out in the open unseen. During one large game I hid with a teammate and watched the opposing team run past us both to get our main base. Once they all passed us, they never turned around. Why should they? They thought they had gotten everyone behind them. So we walked up the trail, in plain view, and surrendered 30 or so people between the two of us. Literally, they never saw us coming because we came up behind their backs. They never heard us because we didn't shoot them. We used a mandatory surrender rule to take them out. Sure, it's not the "Ninja Stalk" you may be expecting. But it worked. They never saw us and we crippled their attack before we got taken out.
Most of the time, you're not this lucky. You have to work at moving toward an opponent who knows you're coming or is waiting for you to come. So now you need to work on some stealth techniques. It's not impossible to crawl up on someone who's watching for you, but it's easier to do it when you can fool them.
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