Tale of the Tape Line
What is a tape line? It's the area of the field closest to the boundary line and all the bunkers inside it. If you've ever been at a paintball field watching from the sidelines, you'll have a great idea of what they're all about. Most of the action and bodies are on the tape lines, yet there hasn't been a lot of column space devoted to the tape. Until now.
When you're walking the field, remember that you have a limited number of players (5 or 7) on the field. Think about how you're going to divvy them up on each side. You'll probably have to stack one tape and leave the other undermanned. While you're walking the field you'll come up with a gameplan, a series of actions or a bunker that's going to win you the game. If your plan is to flood the snake with players, you'll need more players on that side. The snake tape becomes your focus. We refer to that as pushing a tape. Your other tape is referred to as the hold tape. Occasionally these terms won't apply because of the field layout or the way you're playing, but they're good concepts to familiarize yourself with. Each tape line will feature a different set of bunkers unique to every field. Although the bunkers will be different, the bunker makeup of the tape falls into a few categories.
Snake tapes feature a long bunker series running parallel to the tape for most of the field. These bunkers tend to be small and low to the ground and often resemble a snake. In the old days it was an actual snake -- very cheesy, with tongue and all. Fortunately we've moved past that.
With a snake tape, you'll need at least a snake player and a corner. Controlling the tape is key on this type of field, so put your strongest corner on the snake side. Your snake player must be fast and should probably be small. You want an aggressive player in the snake, one who's always pushing the issue. Err on the side of aggression. You're also going to need a plan for controlling and containing the snake. If a player gets into the snake unchecked, he'll be on your side of the field in seconds. The corner can shut down the tape line but you'll need someone else to watch the entry lane into the snake. Use the bunker with the best shot at the lane. This bunker could be anywhere on the field, usually the back center or a small bunker behind the snake. If the snake is a key bunker on the field, your player needs to understand that his job protecting the lane is critical to your victory and anything that happens if someone gets in is his fault.
Despite my reluctance toward product placement, it's what everyone calls them. They're the round, triangular pyramid things. They didn't even look like doritos. Then they made the dorito 3D. That changed everything. Dorito tapes are funny, because the doritos themselves have so many angles. They're usually staggered, so you can just as easily play the inside of the bunker as the outside. You want your dorito players to be smart, lone wolves who can get kills on their own. Controlling the tape line usually isn't as important on this type of tape, so you can put in a more versatile corner player who can move and get kills. Of course, this depends on the field layout.
The ------- Tape
Some tapes are named for the structure located on them. Examples: Car Wash -- big, rounded structure that kind of resembles a log cabin, Everest -- tall, mountainesque structures, etc. You should decide what you're going to call these bunkers while walking the field, so your team can agree on a name. These tapes are unique and should be thoroughly evaluated. Bunkers that look good may not be. Bunkers that look useless often aren't. Sometimes these are things you'll only learn by playing the field. The exact bunker and its role will determine how you use your personnel.
There are a few different types of players on the tape, but they're basically divided between those attacking and those supporting the attack. Corner players are the rooks of paintball: always guarding and eager to open a flank. They're in the corner bunkers on the field. If you have to go down the tape to win every game because your forwards are dead, you aren’t doing your job. Your primary job as a tape player is suppressing to tape to keep your forwards alive and active. If the game ends quickly and everyone is alive, you’ve done your job. If they botch it, you have no choice but to make your way up the field, but always remember: Support your front guys first.
Controlling the tape allows your players to move around with ease. If your corner can keep his mirror (the other corner) in, your tape player is guarded from his biggest threat and can check off any other threats before moving. Many corner players spend their game wrapping, shooting inside and looking for shots without really establishing a tape presence. This prevents your team from establishing a tape presence, and your players from moving to better positions. It's all about control. Control the tape, control the game.
Forward tape players should always be looking for their next move. As long as you have support behind you, make it to that next bunker. You'll have better cross-field shots on the other team as you move further up the field. Unless you need to, let your back player do most of the battling for the tape -- he's in a better position to battle than you are. These players are fast and have quick gun-fighting skills. They're always pushing. Insert or cover players do some of both of those jobs. They act as intermediaries between the back line and the front line. These players have to be versatile and smart. Insert players fill behind the forwards and go on the attack.
Their primary job may be to provide additional cover for the front player, or to fill up next to him quickly, or to stay in his spot and protect a lane, or anything, really. Ultimately, moving up the tape takes teamwork, and that's why you see novice teams look befuddled when they're trying to play it. You need a sense of direction. What are your goals? Getting your front guys into key spots to win the game. Where are you on the field? What's your specific job? On top of that, you need to understand what your teammates on the tape are doing, how your job affects them and vice-versa. Verbal communication is big on the tape. Not only do you need to communicate with your immediate teammates, but you need to send that information cross field to the other tape so they're aware of what's going on.
Controlling the tape isn't difficult, but it does require manpower, firepower, brains, guts and teamwork, as well as a steady influx of practice and training. Good luck and stay in school.
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