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Paintball (a.k.a. skirmish) is awesome! Sure it leaves you sore and poor, but it's the closest thing most of us will ever experience to being in battle and nothing beats the adrenaline rush of being on an advancing front line!

As fun as it to shoot people with small pellets of paint, what makes paintball a fantastic is when you start using some teamwork and actually win some of the games! I've played paintball about four times now - once in Cairns and three times in Brisbane (Australia) - and below I've written everything you should know about paintball and (if you are REALLY keen) some strategies to help you win!



Approximate cost: $100-$150 AUD (in Australia) for a 3 hour session

Paintball is expensive unfortunately, costing you anywhere between $70-150 depending on where you play and how many time you fire. The biggest expensive is the paintballs, and when you play aggressively you can easily go through a pack of 100 paintballs in three-to-five minutes! Most venues have three or four different deals with different number of balls... as an example Skirmish Samford has a $30 Basic Pack with only 100 balls in the gun and no overalls, a $70 Battle Pack with 400 balls and a $100 Monster Pack with 600 balls.

For most guys the biggest pack IS worthwhile, because nothing sucks more than running out of balls on the front line, then having to pay for the (more expensive) extra packs. Girls often tend to stay on the back-line and play defensively, so the middle pack is the best.

If you end up with left-over balls after your six-or-so games, most venues play "speed ball" on a small field where you can cut lose and use your extra balls.

NOTE: Most places require a $20 deposit per person up to 2 weeks before the game and if you get a group of >10 people you can usually get a discount.

What to Wear

At most venues they provide you with camouflaged overalls included in the package which protect your arms and legs pretty well. First time players are usually very anxious about protection and so they'll start doing crazy things like considering jeans and jumpers for extra padding underneath the overalls. This is CRAZY! Although this *may* lesson your bruises, you'll die of heat exhaustion. Even on the coldest day, you will overheat once you start running.

I personally recommend an old t-shirt (which you may or may not take off if you get hot) and old shorts (ideally with small pockets to keep any keys). By wearing small shorts (go the stubbies!) you can put your overalls on comfortably without have to compete for the changing rooms and/or small dirty toilets.

To protect your neck you can wear a cap backwards, or a big sweat rag. For the girls most places provide chest padding for girls, which they should definitely use. For the men they might hire cricket boxes, but the overalls are pretty baggy and you would have to be very unlucky to be hit in the "sweet spot". If you're really worried save yourself the extra $5-15 and use a sock! This is the ONLY time when underwear stuffing is allowable. :-)

Remember that paint will seep through the canvas-like overalls (especially if there is mud) so wear your worst clothes! Your shoes will get filthy so it's best to wear an old pair of cross-trainers... something closed in, good grip and nothing bright!

In summary:

  • Old shorts
  • Old shirt
  • Old outdoor shoes
  • Cap | gloves | extra socks

What to Bring

Additional to what you wear it's also good idea to also bring:

  • Water bottles (leave on a table or even in your fort!)
  • Change of clothes and a towel (leave in your car)
  • Deodorant (before the long drive home)
  • Snacks! (some packages include food, but there is not harm bringing extra)
  • Sunscreen (although not much of you is exposed wearing overalls)
  • Money! (most places accept keycard)

Some people will think taking a camera onto the field is a bad idea. It's something you do "at your own risk", but I've done it twice before and so long as you keep it in a protective leather case during game-play it's unlikely to get damaged. It is, however, much more fun to shoot people with the gun than camera!

Knowing where to keep your stuff is usually your biggest concern when going to skirmish! To be safe I leave my wallet at home and take only my driver's licence, keycard and car-keys in a pouch in my pocket. Some places have lockers, but out in the bush it's *usually* fairly safe to lock any valuable stuff in the car and leave stuff like snacks and water-bottles on tables at reception for your half-time intermission. If you're worried about you car getting broken into ask one of the referees.


During the first game you'll realize the limitations of paintball guns: paintballs guns are not accuracy devices and quite ineffective over distances of > 50 meters! Even with your barrel perfectly still, each paintball seems to fire at a slightly different angle from the last and if you are really unlucky you'll get some grit in the barrel and each ball will arc off to one side - hence it is critical to keep your nuzzle out of the dirt. The guns are gravity fed so (as they will tell you) you must keep the gun fairly upright as you fire. Some people like to line up the gun along one eye, but keeping in mind the lack of accuracy and the big hopper on top of your gun it's often better to just fire, watch the "trace" and then adjust your aim.

The first time you see an enemy in the distance and shoot you'll notice the ball travels in a downward arc, and learn to adjust your aim up. Smart people will soon realize that it's a waste of ammo shooting at distant targets! You may get a lucky shot, but at >40 meters most of your balls arcs away, breaks in twigs, or bounce rather than breaking (since it has lost most of its velocity at that distance). When you're within 20 meters of the enemy you must sprint between barriers and learn to keep your head well down when not shooting. However, if the enemy is more than 40 meters away you can walk around pretty safely, casually suss out where the enemy is, talk to the guy next to you and plan your next attack. :-)


Most paintball guns these days are semi-automatic, so you can very quickly fire a burst of three shots (< a second) and then take cover again. Semi-automatics are also good for the paintball people, because you'll use up ammo fast when you're not careful! When you run out of ammo the gun makes the same noise, but no paintballs fires. Rattling your gun should give you an idea of how much many balls are left without opening the hopper (and this might also clear any blockage).

When you reload you are very vulnerable. At some venues you'll carry refills on you, but at most venues you must go back to base or call a ref to refill you: thus giving away your position. Be VERY careful not to rush the refilling process and always, ALWAYS tightly secure the hopper before you move! Nothing sucks more than all your balls spilling out, yet it happens to most people at least once! At most venues you're not allowed to pick balls of the ground, even if you've just dropped them. I've also had a couple of times where I've crept into the perfect position behind enemy lines only to find out I'm empty when I fire at them. Needless to say I got bruised and I wish I'd checked my ammo first.

If you have balls but the gun isn't firing, some of the guns have a small lever you pull back to help clear the barrel. If the gun still doesn't work, see the ref, and he'll try to shake it around and fix it. Sometimes the gas canister pressure runs low (below 100 psi) and your balls will get slower: and they'll screw in a new gas canister for free.

Getting Hit

Everyone is scared of getting hit the first time they play - especially if you've heard stories and seen photos of people with giant welts. Yes you will be hit, but after your first hit you'll realize it's not so bad and start to lose your fear and start having fun.

The pain of a hit depends on:

  1. Where you were hit.
  2. How far away the shooter was.

A lot of the time you'll get hit in the mask or the gun (especially when peeping over barricades). Getting hit in the face doesn't hurt at all (the mask wraps around your whole face and ears): just go to a ref and he'll spray it off (never try to wipe it yourself, it just smudges). Getting hit directly in the torso isn't so bad: although for girls they usually provide free padded chest protection. The places most likely to hurt are: the hands (which is rare, but fingerless gloves protect against), the exposed top of your head and neck (which is why it's good to wear a cap backwards) and the shins... but when you're full of adrenaline pain won't even bother you!

The biggest factor is how far away your shooter was. The pain gets worse as you get closer. At 40 meters a hit feels like someone flicked you, but at 5 meters, that's when you can get the big welts! Hence close shots are discouraged and most places have rules (usually an optional surrender) when someone is that close! I highly recommend surrendering. :-)

Something that may surprise you is that paintballs commonly bounce off you without breaking. Only if the ball explodes on you are you "hit". If you know you're hit, immediately put up your gun to let people know you are dead (and stop shooting at you), and walk back to start point or the re-spawn point (many games you'll have unlimited lives). Often it's not obvious if you are hit, so if you're behind cover use your hand to see if you have paint on you (or ask a friend) because once you've put your hand up you can't change your mind.

The bottom line is getting hit is part of the fun and it doesn't hurt as much as you think. The real fun is on the front line: so don't spend your time cowering back in fear! No hits means no fun!

NOTE: Insurance statistics show that paintball is one of the safest sports, with fewer injuries per exposure than sports like football, soccer, and baseball. Just watch where you run!

Mask Problems

A couple of times I've played my mask went foggy (on the inside) which pretty much prevented me from playing. It might just be me: maybe I just overheated and my face gets really hot, but there was also a time paint somehow splashed onto the inside of my mask (as well as my mouth). For safety reasons (to avoid losing an eye) your mask must be tightly secured and you're not allowed to reach into the underside of your mask when on the field, but in retrospect I wish I'd asked for a fresh one - even if it meant going back to base. When your mask is not clear your shooting ability is rendered useless and you paid good money to shoot people! You should do the same if you have a dodgy gun!


Why Teamwork is Important

During your day you'll play a number of games with different scenarios, rules, and objectives. In some games you'll only have one life but in most games you'll have unlimited lives (although it's a long walk back to the re-spawn point). Sometimes they might do an "every man for himself" game, but at most places you chose or get assigned to one of two teams (with different helmet and/or gun color) and it's the two teams against each other from then on!

With two teams the most common scenarios are:

  • Defend the fort (team A defends an area, team B attacks and wins by putting a person/barrel/bomb/flag in it)
  • Capture the flag (there one or more flags on the field and whichever team captures them all, or has the most at the end, wins)
  • Survivor (the attacking team must find and kill all the enemy)

There are many paintball variations, some may even involve rescuing and/or escorting a hostage, but most games usually last 5-20 minutes before the whistle is blown, and then the two team swaps sides.

In most games with an attacking and defending team, the attacking team has unlimited lives, but the defending team has only one life each. In games such as this it's critical that the attacking team always keep the defending team under pressure and keep pushing towards their objective. When the referee says one minute to go it's time for everyone to really push forwards! When there is only 30 seconds to go then its DEFINIETLY time to run forwards to capture that last flag or place the bomb. Too often I've seen the attackers lose a game they could have easily won because they left their charge too late.

It seems to me that most players suffer these problems:

  • They play overly defensive.
  • They are afraid of getting shot if they come out of cover - even when there is nothing to lose and everything to gain!
  • They too unsure of themselves to yell out for people to advance.
  • They hope that someone else will take charge or win the game for them.

My friend Alby pointed out: "wow, if one team just got their act together, they could totally dominate!". Instead most teams have no real strategy and limited teamwork skills. Especially in the first games it's pretty much everyone doing his own thing and not letting anyone else know their ideas... and I don't blame them!

It's pretty scary for any one person to try and take charge at the beginning. A team might be anywhere between 20 and 40 people, most of whom you don't know you - and the people who are from your group are hard to recognize in their camo and full face-masks. I've wanted several times to take charge, but ended up chickening out. The next time I skirmish I want to force myself by asking the referee to give us two minutes to talk strategy!


Communication is the key to winning paintball. This was the most important lesson I've learnt. Communication can happen on many levels, but these are the easy ones which everyone should become comfortable with:

  • Ask your team-mates where the enemy is: "Where are they? " | "I can't see who's shooting at me."
  • Tell your team-mate where the enemy is: "There is one behind those tyres." | "There is a whole bunch of them coming up the right side!!"
  • Ask your team-mate for suggestions: "What do you think we should do?"

At this stage communication is open, and you should feel comfortable actually making suggestions!

  • Suggest a good position: "How about we go up there, it looks like a good spot to defend"
  • Suggest advancing: "We can't shoot them from back here, I think we should push forwards"
  • Suggest a strategy: "How about we try and take the flag around the side"

This is all pretty basic stuff to get communication started, but let's face it: in the heat of battle you soldiers shouldn't be using a passive voice! The next step is to become assertive!

  • Tell the guy in front to stay down: "Keep your head down, there is a guy behind that tree, I'll try and pick him off "
  • Get a group of people to advance: "Most of them are dead and we only have a minute left, start attacking!!"
  • Get the guy beside to lay down covering fire: "Okay cover me, I'm going to run behind that next barricade"

As you build up camaraderie with people you'll hopefully more comfortable with the idea of talking to each other and encouraging people to push forwards!

Covering Fire

Getting your team mates to provide covering fire is one of the most important strategies in the game. Your success at running to the next barricade without getting shot depends on you running fast, but also depends on your team mates firing at the enemy so that they are too busy ducking to fire at you. Most people tend to duck as soon as they see the first paintball fly over their head!

Running Between Cover - Using Angles

When you're close to the enemy you really want to run from one barrier to the next, and it's difficult to run and shoot at the same time! While running out in the open you are obviously very vulnerable - and while it helps to have covering fire from your team-mates the other strategy which works really well is running at an angle. In paintball it's ten times harder to hit someone running sideways (relative to your position) than running straight towards you. To hit someone running at an angle you not only have to move your gun, but aim in front of them (because your paintball will take half a second to reach them)... add that to the inaccuracy of the guns and it's QUITE hard to hit someone running 15-30 meters away if they are running sideways at speed! Hence if you know where your enemy is you should try to run in diagonal lines towards them (or perpendicular if you want to out-flank them) from one barrier to the next.

Being Dominant

Being dominant doesn't just mean running forwards, but making sure that your gun is pointing towards the enemy as often as possible. People usually duck at the first sign of fire, but if you know where an enemy is, it makes sense to keep your gun trained on him, so that the next time he surfaces you're ready to fire. Now that you have this guy (or maybe two guys) pinned down your team-mates are more likely to advance or start shooting at other people who you can't see but might otherwise be moving in a position to outflank and shoot you. Obviously you should decrease your exposed surface area at all times (including when you are "up") to reduce your chance of being hit by a long shot - and sometimes lying down is a good way to do this. By being dominant you also force your enemy to play more defensively, which is good. Being dominant is about making your opponent too scared to move, because as soon as he puts his head up several people are just waiting to shoot him. Knowing when to duck, and when to pop up and shoot is a real art. Although risky, it's great fun to creeping up behind someone who is pinned down by your friend.

Close Urban Combat

Most games I've played are spread out, but in some games they recreate "urban warfare" and have lots of wooden structures/forts close together. Surrendering people is always tricky, because half of them will try and shot you almost as a reflex action! In these games you are most likely to get hurt and shot at close quarters, so knowing where to move, when to wait, and how to play "sniper" and wait is especially important.

Sniper Position

As you should know, a sniper is someone who finds the perfect position (usually on high ground) where he can see the enemy and pick them off from a distance. You're not allowed to climb trees in paintball, but if you take time to inspect the field, there are usually a few great places where you can lie down and shoot people without being seen. When you're in a winning position (i.e. a place where you've shot lots of people) keep using it! Good sniper positions are hard to find, and usually on the very edge of the field next to the yellow tape. If you're cheeky you can ask the referee for advice. :-)

Splitting in Groups for Attack

For a group of forty spread over a field is impossible for one person to coordinate, but a few times I've noticed small groups work out their own successful strategy. For example, last time I played there was a group of about six guys from a buck's party who yelled out instructions to each other and by the end of the day were advancing like a real team. Three of them would lay down fire, while the others ran forwards to shoot and/or surrender the defenders who were hiding from the fire. It was pretty inspiring and with their leadership we easily won most of our games against an overly defensive and less organized team.

This level of teamwork is not so easy for a group of strangers, but in small groups it's still possible if there is someone in charge! If you're an attacking team it's a really good idea agree to split into group of six and have a designated leader for each group. Depending on the field, it might make sense to have four groups: front, left, right and one slightly back. Ideally the middle one puts pressure onto the main "forwards" while the teams at the side move around the edge of the field and trying to surround the enemy. An outflanked enemy will fall very quickly.

Although the idea of groups works well, you must also make sure you still spread out! If you run clustered together or run in single file then it's likely you'll all be gunned down together.

If you are playing the defending team (e.g. defending a fortress) spitting up into groups is overkill! In this case it's better to mix it up, talk to the guy beside you, and make sure you have a good line with no gaps!

Game Strategy

Never mind how good you are at shooting, a well executed strategy that can win the game! Your strategy for each game and each field should be different, and it obviously really helps if you've played that game/that field before, because you'll know what works.

In games like capture the flag the best strategy involves everyone running forward as fast as possible to get the best position (especially if there is a flag in the middle). Once two teams are gridlocked it's very hard to get push the opposition back, but there are easy meters to be made at the start. If you have unlimited lives and you are not shooting people or not creating a diversion you may as well not be in the game!

In games where you have to get a bomb or move a flag into the enemy's base it's also good to be aggressive and ALWAYS keep the bomb moving! As soon as that person is hit he has to drop the bomb, so there should be another person lined up to keep it pushing forwards. In situations where you have to run and carry something it's best to get people to give you suppressing fire and consider leaving your gun behind (you can pick it up after you are shot)! :-)

In one game I played the objective was to get someone into a tunnel to pull a cord and apparently the record was one nine seconds when the whole attacking team ran out as one tight mass towards the tunnel. That kind of stuff only works if you have a leader to take charge and everyone is confident enough to follow and get shot!

In games where without unlimited lives, I don't suggest getting carried away though! If it's the early stage of the game and you only have one life you should spend lot of time peeking over and/through barriers and make sure you are clear before you make any movements! When it comes time to defend it's obviously time to be less aggressive and just make sure you are positioned well, and don't give away your position away!

Paintball Fields in Brisbane

In Brisbane I believe there are three fields:

  • Skirmish Stanford - {Samford ~40 mins drive past Brisbane Forest Park} - $100 for 600 pb, 3 hours | 8 games. Nice facilities, fairly laid back (the let you pick up spilt balls), awesome fort and 5 excellent fields! ****
  • National Paintball Fields - {Blacksoils ~40 mins drive near Ipswich} - $100 for 600 pb, 3 hours | 8 games - poor toilet facilities, but pretty good fields. ***
  • Top Gun Paintball Brisbane - {Keperra ~10 mins drive} - $120 for 500 pb - never been.


Paintballs is something I think everyone should do a few times during their life! After the game you'll be tired and sore from running, so don't plan anything else in your day! The next week you'll be showing off any bruises. :-)

Skirmish is heaps of fun, but you'll definitely get the most out of it if you spend some time on the front line and as you get more confident you can work on strategies! Nothing beats the adrenaline of being on the front line and helping your team win, which is why the next time I play in Brisbane I want to make sure I step up and instigate some real teamwork!