Paintball: Speedball vs. Woodsball

    The game of paintball is divided into two very different categories:  speedball and woodsball. Speedball is a fast-paced form of team paintball in which the object of the game is to either eliminate the opposing team or to capture their flag. An average game of speedball lasts approximately ten minutes. On the other hand, woodsball is a slower format. In this type of paintball there can be many objectives, such as blowing up the enemy base, capturing vital pieces of military intelligence and equipment, rescuing hostages, or taking control of an important building or area on the field. There are many differences between the two types of paintball, including aspects that can be spotted immediately and those that require knowledge of both games to understand, yet there are also similarities. The biggest differences between the two types are those that are visually apparent to any spectator of the sport.

    It is easy to tell a speedball player apart from a woodsball player. Speedballers wear bright colored jerseys and sport extravagant accessories while woodsballers are much more reserved in their attire, which consists of basic camouflage. The reason for this is simple: speedballers want to stick out in their environment and woodsballers want to blend in. A speedball field differs remarkably from a woodsball field, as well. A speedball field is made up of a football or soccer field, grass or turf, with very large and highly visible inflatable structures placed about in a seemingly random fashion. Speedballers hide behind these big, balloon-like bunkers during matches. A woodsball field offers more natural cover and provides the players with trees, bushes, clearings, hills, rivers, and the occasional fort, bridge, or man-made trench. This environment suits the paintball commando as he creeps toward the enemy facility. Apart from what they wear and where they play, speedballers and woodsballers are easy to tell apart by looking at the markers they carry. Speedball players prefer lighter, faster, and more visually exotic guns than their woodsball brothers, who gravitate more toward weapons that look like real bullet-firing guns and can be fitted with attachments such as scopes, laser sights, and flashlights. Such markers are classified as “mil-sim”, which is short for military simulation. Players packing these seem to have the most difficulty with airport security, but there is more to the game than what can be seen on the surface.

    Beyond the stereotypes, speedball offers players a massively unique experience when compared to woodsball, and vice versa. The strategy involved with one format is markedly different from the other. In a speedball game, teams aim to close lanes of travel to the opposing team while moving their own players further and further up the field. The goal is to create fresh firing lanes from unexpected angles and methodically eliminate enemy team members while maintaining constant communication throughout the team. It is commonly said that a quiet team is a dead team, so players often yell out unique code words and use sport-specific vernacular to communicate various situations to their team, and they do this throughout the course of the ten-minute match. It is an orchestrated process from beginning to end and all players are constantly on the offense. In contrast, woodsball teams are more likely to divide themselves between offense and defense. Offensive squads move silently and swiftly through the field to the enemy base while maintaining radio contact with their defensive counterparts, who watch for incoming enemy assault squads. Players use the natural cover offered by the field in combination with their own camouflage, and sometimes even remote-detonated paintball mines or tripwire traps, to stage ambushes. Oftentimes real-world military tactics prove to be useful on the woodsball battlefield, yet there are aspects of the game that both formats share.

    Paintball is one of the safest sports to participate in because of the strict requirements and standards placed on protective equipment. Whether a player is hiding in a bush or creeping up the left-side tape line, paintball goggles are a must and will keep new and old players alike from losing their eyesight permanently. Markers have to be checked with a chronographer on nearly a daily basis to ensure the paintballs are being shot at safe speeds. Special precautions are taken to prevent the more evil players from bringing and firing frozen paint. Referees are always present on the field to keep the matches safe and professional, enforce the rules, and to handle disputes between players.  Another part of the game that is common in both speedball and woodsball is the amount of money required to play on a regular basis. Paintball is an expensive hobby. Markers average around two hundred to five hundred dollars and a case of two thousand paintball rounds costs about sixty or seventy dollars. Also common to both formats is the difficulty in forming and maintaining a successful team; players have to be treated fairly; team sponsors have to be acquired; and practices must be scheduled and organized in order to prepare the team and its players for tournaments and big scenario games. The life of a paintball player is not always an easy road.

    While speedball and woodsball are extremely different, they are merely variations of the same sport. Speedball players may never be caught creeping through the woods, and woodsball players would not be caught dead behind a large balloon bunker. People may recognize the difference in appearance between speedballers and woodsballers and any player will say that the way the game is played between the formats is unique, but one statement that cannot be made is that either version is any less “paintball” than the other. They are both paintball, and I suggest trying both speedball and woodsball out before making any judgments.