Mastering Maze and Trench Fields
I'd like to start this with a trip back to the old school. Forgive me for being a dinosaur, but it's actually relevant. Many years ago there was this indoor field in St. Paul. They took over a warehouse and ran the field inside the steel cavern. This in itself isn't much to write home about, but the part of the field that was brutal was what we called the "city". It was a long strip that ran from end to end of the warehouse and it was nothing but rooms with doors offset to each other. Meaning you could move through it, but you had no idea what was in the next room.
There were some players who could run the city easily, and make it almost to the other end of the field before they got noticed. Then there were people like me who really didn't like it in there, as it was just evil. Some years later they moved into a new facility in another section of town. They took out the city concept and replaced it with a few buildings that were room to room clearing. I didn't like going in there either.
But when you talk about these kinds of structures, you're going to talk about close quarter's paintball. There's something to be said for it, I guess. It takes nerves of steel to play it, knowing that on the other side of your wall is another guy with the same intent as you do. It took a while to figure it out for me, but I think I got it down how to play this stuff.
This brings me to the first lesson. You don't always win these duels. There's a very high "windshield to bug" ratio to these encounters. To badly quote a Dire Straights song, "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug." So understand right away that you're not always going to win these duels. You can swing the odds into your favor, but you will never be 100% victorious.
We need to understand the nature of mazes, trenches, and so on. The first factor is that in this kind of encounter you do not know what's on the other side of any given wall. The difference between this and playing in urban terrain is the size of your openings, and the mentality. Urban play can be room to room, but in paintball most mazes are one opening, one small corner. Mazes are more like a small house without a roof. And your mentality switches, because you're on a heightened state of alert when you play.
That being said, I also see a lot of the same mistakes made in mazes as I see in urban terrain. Once someone goes into a trench, or a maze, or whatever, they get this bright idea to sit still and not move. I'm not a fan of people who sit and graze on a patch of land. You need to take some risks to win, and you can minimize the risks you take if you take a moment to think about things.
Let's take a moment to look at a maze, or a trench style field. The big question to ask is "Do I really need to go in there?" If the real objective of the game doesn't involve going into a trench or a maze, then don't! Nothing annoys the other team more than when you ignore paint magnets and try to achieve your objective. But let's say that you can't avoid the maze, or the trench. That's fine, if you use it well you can go very far.
Perhaps I should define a maze before continuing. I'm not talking a labyrinth here, and you won't have to watch for Minotaurs. What I'm talking about are walls that are set up so as to create lots of angles, so you can not run straight through them. So this can be a few "L" walls placed near each other, or a "box in a box", or doorways offset from each other. Trenches should be pretty self explanatory, as should foxholes and the like. But, it's a hole in the ground that's not easily visible from the surface. All that being said, let's dive in there.
I'm going to use the inner wall from EMR's castle as a case history, because playing in there was a learning experience. To set this up, they have a castle that has an acre speedball field inside it, the walls are in a maze-style arrangement of doorways, each offset from the other so a ball can not travel more than forty feet in a straight line. I had the privilege of playing inside there for Castle Conquest 17, as a defender. So I had a lot of opportunity to really learn.
When the attackers got inside the walls, they took over the maze section very quickly. In order to get them out, we had to resort to doing it one doorway at a time. What I found was that there was no easy or good way to do it. The real key to winning is to get on the offense, and to not give up initiative when you have it. And do everything you can to get the other guy to react to you.
Case in point: an attacker was in a window frame opposite to my doorway. I knew this because I was using the walls to my advantage. I could see through the small slats between the wooden boards and see what he was doing. He was already set up and posted on my position. I couldn't snapshoot fast enough, and I got hit. My problem was I was reacting to his position, and I wasn't able to switch the roles. He had me literally in his sights.
Looking back at the situation, I can see a few ways I could have changed the roles. I was trying to snapshoot, but I wasn't fast enough. I should have tried different heights, going low or going middle, to make him guess where I was going to come from. Or I should have tried to talk the guy with me to go low, and I'd go high. I don't care how talented you think you are, with two people at two heights... You can't shoot us both. I'll take the trade if it gets us one more wall forward.
The thing I did to right was I used the walls to my advantage. As I said earlier, when playing a maze you don't know what's on the other side of any given wall. That's not to say that you can't figure it out in context. I could see through the small slits between the planks, and I could see my opponent. Even when I'm playing an indoor maze where it's solid walls, I can still see around corners if I use what's given to me. For example, light and shadow. If the light is in the right place, you can see a shadow of what's behind a wall. Sometimes, with some of the more translucent barricades, you can see the shadow of your opponent from the other side of a wall.
You can also listen for your opponents as well. If I can hear a wall just getting pounded with paint, and it's not on my side, odds are that it's being directed at someone else. If that's the case, someone is over there. Or even better, there are times you can hear them shooting, or talking, or whatever. If paint is not flying at you, then odds are that you can go around the corner and take them out. It's taking the facts you have, and drawing a conclusion with it. You won't always be right, but you can learn a few neat tricks.
So let's say that you don't have any kind of hint or clue, however. You think there's someone on the other side of the barricade, but you really don't know. So how do you get around corners? Well, fast and carefully. Assume that the opponent has his back to the wall, and is facing the corner you're about to come around. Most fields won't let you blind fire, so sticking your gun around the corner and shooting is not an option. You're going to have to go in there.
Put your paintgun so that it's almost touching your chest, with the barrel pointing the direction you think someone will be at. There's no recoil with paintguns, so you can hold it at a weird angle. Choose a path that is furthest from the wall you're going to go around. Now comes the tricky part. As you go around the corner, the moment the barrel gets around that corner you shoot. Not before, as you don't want to announce your plans to the other guy. Catch them by surprise, and keep moving. If you stop to brag, I can almost guarantee that the other guy will retaliate.
On the other hand, let's say you're on the receiving end of this. Don't hide with your back next to an opening, that's inviting the situation I just talked about. If you can help it, go against the far wall. If it can't be helped, keep listening for a player on the other side. You'll be surprised how often you can hear balls in pods rattle, once you know what you're listening for.
Depending on your situation, you can do even more sneaky stuff. In one situation, I had backed into another room in a maze when I heard the other guy coming. When he entered where I was originally at, he was confused not to see me. So I took the liberty to give him a lesson in mobility. Again, I'm acting, and I made him react to my movement. The more you can take control, the better.
One final part before I move on. Most mazes I've seen have multiple ways to get in and out. Don't be afraid to leave a maze once it's outlived its usefulness. If you don't need to stay there, don't! You don't need to go the entire length of a maze all the time, so don't feel like you absolutely have to. Besides, sometimes there are better angles outside the walls, so go for them.
Related to mazes are trenches. I love trenches. It's an economical way to put opponents into a straight line for me to shoot when I flank them. Very efficient. If you go into a trench, understand that you're trapping yourself in what's essentially a maze in the earth. Do some research on the Maginot Line; you'll see what I mean. Now you can do some really nice stunts in there, but you have to play with your head, not with your trigger.
Most trenches I've seen on paintball fields are long. One in particular runs the length of the field it occupies. What this means is you can use "Gopher Theory" when you play in a trench. You can shoot from point "A", tuck down and run to point "B" unseen, and shoot from there. If you're extremely sneaky, take an old hat and put it on the trench at point "A" when you duck, and go cover yourself at point "B". Opponents hate that. It's dirty, it's underhanded, and it's exactly the kind of thing you'll kick yourself for not thinking about doing earlier.
Mobility is really the key to playing in a trench situation. If you sit in one place, you will get flanked, you will get shot, you will not like it. Unless the trench in question is saturated with people, you should be able to at least briskly walk around with minimal exposure. Plus, be prepared to leave the trench once it's no longer a useful place to be. Just like the mazes, if you no longer need to be there, get out and move up. And oh yes, watch your flanks too. Some sneaky guy like me just loves to run parallel to trenches and see what an electronic trigger can do.
Both trenches and mazes offer a sneaky way to move up the field and a great way to use cover against opponents. But they can offer you a false sense of security if you let them. Stay on your toes, use your senses, and utilize your brain. Plus, don't be afraid to improvise on the fly. Sometimes, the best answer to a situation is the one that nobody expects. That includes yourself.