An Army of One
There comes a time in every man’s life when he must take care of business by himself. I’m talking about the solo mission – in scenario paintball of course. Normally artillery, tank support, an airstrike, and a tactical squad of twenty constitutes the best way to knock out a mission, but scenario games, like life, don’t go as planned. In certain situations generals have to call upon a single player to step up and score one for the team. So read on and learn when to push the one man mission and how to complete it if you’re the player who has the paintballs to try it.
If you’re commanding in a game, you should generally (get it?) avoid the problematic solo mission. Typically, eliminated players have to drop all props, including mission cards, and even if the rules don’t stipulate that, dead players don’t talk, so it’s hard to get another player to pick up the mission without being briefed. Therefore, running a solo mission takes too many chances. Even if, as a general, you control the entire field, don’t take unnecessary chances. That said, there are times when it’s necessary to put all your eggs in one basket.
Special missions, delicate missions that require more than brute firepower, work well for single players. At a recent game I generalled, the mission called in required one player to meet with the enemy general to negotiate his surrender. An armed squad would have met with stiff resistance, but a single, unarmed player might have a chance to get behind enemy lines by presenting herself (as was the case in this game) as a non-threat with vital information. During the course of the discussion she asked the opposing general if he would consider surrendering to end the game early. He said no, she passed off some bogus information and walked away. End of mission – score points for the home team.
Aside from missions best handled with tact, the only other reason to send a single player is when you have an experienced hand you can trust as opposed to a group of guys you can’t. I would never want to keep any players from running missions who really want to get involved, but loosely organized teams who only want to run and gun typically don’t get the job done when the game is on the line. That’s when a single badass would serve you better. One player who knows what he’s doing on the field, who knows when to shoot and when to hunker down, represents a safer bet than an undisciplined gaggle of grunts.
If you’re that single badass chosen to run a solo mission, you need to know that there are two ways to go about it - subterfuge or stealth. Guns blazing is not an option. Even the most experienced player on the planet can get shot in a scenario game when paintballs can fly from any direction; at least that’s what I tell myself. A newbie blind shooting with a rental gun will score a hit every now and then, so avoiding firefights is the best way to keep from getting shot.
Let’s examine how both strategies work with a common mission objective – take and hold. This scenario mainstay requires a team to establish control of a flag station or building and maintain that position for a certain segment of time. Usually this flag lies in a highly contested portion of the field, right in the middle of the action. Both teams have the same objective, and for the scenario producer, a mission like this focuses the action and promotes more shooting if the gunfights have died down. Sometimes though, a twisted producer will send players to hold a flag near the enemy command post, a mission that’s practically impossible since enemy reinforcements get to insert next door, providing a constant stream of combatants. Don’t give this mission up as lost, a canny player can knock it out using either stealth or subterfuge. At a game I generalled in Alabama, I had to control a flag in a small clearing near the opposing CP. My solo player and I had established a direct radio link, allowing me to coordinate his movements. As he crept through the woods to take that position, I marshaled the rest of my forces to assault the enemy CP from the other direction. While the enemy’s eyes turned south, my lone player crept from the north and stayed hidden near the flag for the required 15 minutes.
At a game in Virginia, my team got the same mission. Earlier in the game both generals had received several crucial coded transmissions. I grabbed a first time scenario player whose role-card indicated a cryptography specialty. I had him remove his armband tape, gave him a calculator (code-translating computer) and a mission card, and told him walk to the other team pretending to be a neutral role-player. My solo player met with the enemy general and offered him his services as the sought-after code breaker. To avoid the chance of being shot, he asked to work at the flag station behind the enemy base. Upon his arrival he slipped the mission card to a ref, and 20 minutes later he informed the opposing general that he had broken the code; he passed off fake information, then returned to base, take and hold mission accomplished without firing a shot.
Sneaking is fine for the night time, but for daylight missions I vote for finesse. Role-playing works best, but you can still pull it off by remembering the basic technique – don’t act like a target. This is the scenario version of the dead man’s walk. If the rules allow you to take off your armband, do it. You want the enemy to perceive you as a non combatant or a harmless role-player. If you can’t remove or conceal your tape, then act like you’re not playing the game. Don’t plug your gun or indicate you’re eliminated – that’s cheating. Simply walk around and look for your pod or cell phone or whatever will keep people from shooting you. While you’re successfully not being shot, you can complete your objective. If all else fails, use the power of positive thinking. Repeat after me, I am not a target.
Taking on the spy role is the ultimate one man mission. Being a spy forces a player to act alone, presenting a trustworthy face while sabotaging and undermining the team. As a spy, you must watch yourself both on and off the field. If a member of the command staff sees you hanging out or camping with players from the other side, they may start putting the clues together. Also, to get the most out of your role, you need to stay in constant communication with your real general. Hang out near the enemy base and try to get on every mission team. Insert yourself, even if you’re not ordered to participate. Follow the mission team, radio in the location of their mission, and try to subtly blow the mission. Spies should stay in cover for as long as possible – until near the end of the game – then eliminate the general for points and skip gleefully back to your real side.
Running a one man mission might be an insane proposition, but it’s also the sort of thing, that if you pull it off, it’ll give you fodder for stories and bragging rights for a long time.