Mastering Open and Urban Terrain

Mastering Open and Urban Terrain

by Rob "Tyger" Rubin
Gloves & Gun by
Admit it. Ever since you watched those World War II movies as a kid (or Escape from New York for the geekier ones of us) you’ve fantasized about urban combat. Yelling “Pow! Pow!” at your friends in the woods didn’t cut it, so you got into paintball. Shooting people in the woods was fun, but the thoughts of clearing rooms and rooftop sniper positions still haunted your dreams. OK, maybe I’m reading too much of my own life into it, but there’s no denying that urban fields have become one of the most popular draws in the scenario world. Now every little paintball field wants to build a town or at the least, a village to pull the players in. I’ve played in everything from abandoned neighborhoods on the West Coast to military MOUT facilities in the East, and here are my tips on how to survive those mean streets and emerge victorious, like Snake Plissken.

Come Packing. Urban fields require a slightly modified kit bag, so pack accordingly. Start with your feet. If the field has paved roads, concrete floors, or stairs, wearing your usual cleats will not be the optimal choice—too slippery. When the paint starts to build up on the stairs and in the streets, people sprinting for cover start falling. Wear the grippiest shoes you have. Hiking shoes or SWAT boots work well, but regular hard-soled combat boots might not be the best choice. You may also consider additional head protection. MOUT sites offer plenty of opportunity for players to fulfill their rooftop sniper fantasies, so expect to take more shots to the top of the head and dress accordingly. Read the rules, especially the ones on grenades and LAWs. Will a rocket clear a room, or an entire floor, or will it blow the whole building? If you’ve been looking for an excuse to break out that nifty paintball rocket launcher, an urban game will be the place. You’ll be able to destroy rooms to get rid of personnel, and the unobstructed streets allow for open lanes for tank eliminations.

Building Defense. Control of key structures is critical to winning a game on an urban field. Getting into the building is hard enough, but keeping your hard-earned real estate will be critical to your team’s success. Here’s your chance to think like a tourney pro. Stick two players in a room positioned like they’re playing the back cans on an airball field. The player on the left shoots through the window toward the right, and vice-versa with his partner. In tournament ball we call this crossing up, and it’s an effective way to present a defense while maintaining as much cover as possible. Stay tucked tight and hold your spots. The opposition will try to rattle you by rapidly firing into your window, hoping to either hit you or cover the movements of their players who are running for the door. Hold your cross and stay on your guns. If you have a third player, a good position for him would be under the window facing the door to your room, especially if you’re in danger of being back-doored by invading forces. When you take a large building with a sizable team, send players to every floor, including the roof if possible. However, once that building is no longer on the edge of the action, pull all but a token force so you’ll have plenty of troops to push forward.

Running the Tape Lines. Let’s say you’re on the outside looking in­—a bad place to be in an urban game. You need to establish a foothold in the city before you can do anything. Rally the troops and take the nearest building with a massive swarm—grenades, paint, and rockets flying. Use your rolling armor to bolster your moves if possible. Once you have some ground, don’t push through the middle of the city, as that will open you up to angles from all sides. Instead, you’ll want to start by running the tapes, a strategy that will offer you protection from one side instead of paint from all sides.

Walking the Field. If you’re given a chance to walk the field ahead of time, do so. Urban fields often have hidden angles and shooting holes that you’ll find halfway through the game, when they could have benefited you from the start. Most scenario producers distribute game maps; verify the building locations and familiarize yourself with the names of the structures. If everyone is screaming that they need backup at the hotel, it doesn’t do you any good unless you know which building that is. Most large urban fields such as MOUT sites are full of traps—alleyways that look relatively easy to run but can be shot from multiple angles and little hidey holes. Walking the field ahead of time will help you become aware of those traps as well as which buildings you’ll want to control so you can spring an ambush or two yourself. With so many players and companies filming scenario games, another option is to study some footage of the field before you even arrive. If you can learn from the successes of the players in the video, you can duplicate their strategies when you’re at the field.

Don’t ignore the woods. The majority of urban fields I’ve played have a wooded component on the fringe. Yes, those mean streets are alluring, but don’t forget the freedom of movement that the woods can offer. Those trees create so many obstructions for paint that even when you’re lacking full cover, movement is still possible. If you’re running into a roadblock at the city, a wide swing through the woods could take you to an area away from the front lines where the buildings are less heavily defended and those defenders aren’t expecting an assault. If you’re getting hammered by enemy tanks in the city, the woods give you an option because most tanks don’t have the maneuverability to push through underbrush. Stay away from the trails and move to a new entry point in the city.

Clearing Rooms. This is probably the skill, more than any other, that is at the heart of urban paintball. I’ve played with teams who specialize in it. They move in small units of four or five and each one has a role to play. When they break the plane of the door, they’ve assigned shooting zones, with guns coming in high and low and one sweeping quickly to target the wall adjacent to the door. It’s often impossible to clear a room without losing one player, but the key is to stick to those assigned zones and not to waver because you see a target. You have to rely on your teammate to shoot targets in his zone; you’ll handle the ones in yours.

If you know the building is enemy occupied and there’s no chance of hitting friendlies, come in with your markers blazing. At Viper’s Blanding MOUT game I saw a pro tourney player clear a room single-handedly. On his running approach to the door he started his Shocker up, and as he ramped to full speed he leapt through the doorway, spun, and shot those players on the inside wall. His leap into the room took him past the kill zone in the door and surprised the defenders. This goes to show that foot speed, fast guns, and the ability to run and shoot are valuable skills in all types of paintball. Personally, I favor the easy method—grenades and rockets. Pitch a couple big boys into a room or fire a LAW round through the window and you don’t have to worry about the chancy nature of CQB.

Paintball on a quality urban field is one of the coolest experiences, whether scenario or big game. More fields are building their own cities, so put my advice into play and make that concrete jungle your own personal playground.

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