Finding a Scenario Game Near You

Finding a Scenario Game Near You

Before I clue you in on how to find the type of game that best suits your paintball disposition, allow me please to wax etymological for a moment on the changing nature of the word scenario.  What I once thought of as a clear-cut word has become, like everything else, a muddied phrase with lots of gray areas.  I’ve come to realize that when people use the word “scenario,” they could mean an actual 24 hour role-playing paintball game, or a big game, or simply paintball played in the woods.  I heard a few players at my local field who were decked out in their mil-sim gear say, “Hey, let’s go back to the woods course and play scenario.”  I thought these guys have a production trailer, props, and prizes?  No, but to them the word scenario has become synonymous with playing tactical (whatever that means) paintball away from the speedball arena.
 

Since scenario has become a spectrum,  to decide what type of paintball experience you’d like to have, it’s best to first understand what’s out there.  Big games occupy one end of that continuity.  These events usually have certain predetermined goals that run continuously throughout the course of the game.  For instance, a common objective is for teams to try to control as many key points on the field as possible.  A ref will walk around and check which team’s flag is flying at each of those stations and award points accordingly.  The advantage of big games is that they’re easy to follow and a heck of a lot of fun, especially when you have hundreds of  players on a team, but don’t think that just because the event is labeled a “big” game that there will be masses on the field.  I’ve traveled to one of these that turned out to be 15 on 15 – considerably smaller than many walk-on rec games.  This little big game did have running objectives and reinsertions, so technically it met the definition.  If you’re a savvy internet surfer (and who isn’t these days?), then check out the activity on the field’s forums, which can act as a gauge for how many players are likely to attend.  Send a private message to the locals to ask questions about the usual game size.  Since not every field owner is a straight-shooter (paintball humor there), I’d contact the players to get the facts.  Then you can weigh distance, entry fee, and paint costs to determine if you’ve made the right choice.

 
The second category of games is all that stuff in the middle – that gray area I mentioned.  I’ve increasingly found that these have become the most common types of games with the scenario label, ones that contain some aspects of the true scenario game but don’t quite get there.  Big games with a back story fall into this category.  To draw more players,  fields producing big games will give them back stories like, In times of old, knights championed justice and put their lives on the line for the common good, but then the demons came… Prologues spice a big game with some scenario flavor, and if you’re new to the scene, these games might be a place to start, but don’t expect more than a dolled-up big game.  A few fields go further by building props and creating missions based around the game’s premise.  Instead of constantly turning flags at the three forts, the Alien team might get the mission to take their eggs from the breeding pits to the host bodies without cracking them, while the Space Rangers bravely try to stop the alien infestation by destroying their eggs.  The next mission could be something else entirely, but it’ll be based on the back story.  Games in this category are often produced by field owners, and they are usually single day events. Some fields will encourage costuming and build realistic props to immerse players in the story, nearly pushing their games into the realm of the real scenario, but they lack one crucial element.
 
The true scenario game has all of the above: the props, missions, story, and costumes, but as I see it, the important aspect that distinguishes it from events in category two is the role of the player.  Scenario players receive role-cards containing background information and hints about the character’s personality and motivations.  Often they hold clues that could help solve some of the game’s conflicts, but only if the holder of that card chooses to act on them.  This is the major distinction.  In a real scenario game, the players write the story as they play the game.  A capable scenario producer monitors what’s happening on the field, what interactions are taking place, what wacky schemes the players invent, and he reacts to them, altering the missions, props, and the entire flow of the story to fit what the players create.  Players form alliances, supplant their officers, go off on personal quests, and shape the game experience for everyone involved through their own decisions.  In one game I witnessed opposing generals meet on the field during a major battle, declare a temporary truce, and work together to defuse a bomb that, according to the storyline, threatened both teams.  Once the bomb no longer posed a danger, they stabbed each other in the back of course, but that sort of intrigue can only happen in a game controlled by players.  One of the beauties of scenario play is that you don’t have to immerse yourself in the storyline if you don’t want to.  Sometimes it’s fun just to run around and shoot people in a target-rich environment, or to take part in interesting missions, but to get the full experience, play the game to tell your story. 
 
If you want to find a game near you, start by checking the local fields.  If you don’t know where your local fields are, I suggest using PaintBall.com’s field finder. If you’re after the true scenario experience, the only way to go is to play with a national producer.  That means you’re looking at Black Cat Paintball, Wayne Dollack, Viper, MXS, MPP, 24 Hour Games, TAW, or NOCER.  Some producers, like Black Cat, take their games coast to coast, while others, like 24 Hour Games, are more region-specific.  Look at the websites, find a game within your range, and take the scenario plunge.  Let yourself become a part of the story, and see what happens when you shape the game with your own decisions.

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