Paintballis often played using different variations of its basic rules. The most obvious variations are referred to as different 'game types', and among them are woodsball, speedball and scenarioball. Some of the smaller-scale variations are allowed on most commercial fields, while others are only played in private games (usually because of the variation's questionable rules or complex nature).
Capture the Flag- A team must take the flag from the opponents' flag station on the opposite side of the field and return it to their own station in order to win. The flag may also alternatively be placed in the center of the field, left for both teams to compete over.
*Elimination or Slayer - The objective is for either a team or individual player to eliminate all of their opponents.
Tournaments may be played with teams of various sizes, although the most common modern-day formats are 3-man, 5-man and 7-man. 20-man and 15-man tournaments were common on wooded fields in the 1980s, and professional paintball teams played 10-man for most of the 90's and into the new millennium, but today tournament paintball is dominated by 3-, 5-, and 7-man formats. In most tournament formats, teams play a set of games against various opponents. Teams earn points for each game, with the most points awarded for capturing and hanging the flag, but some also awarded for opponents eliminated and teammates left alive at the end of the game.
*Capture the Flag - The original tournament format, woodsball tournaments of any size are commonly capture the flag format, as well as most 3-man and 5-man speedball tournaments, but may also be used with other team sizes. The game starts with a flag at each team's starting station, and the team to capture their opponent's flag and return it to their starting station wins. The National Professional Paintball League plays a 7-man capture the flag format, which was used in the NPPL US Paintball Championship (NPPL Commander's Cup 2005 in Miami) broadcast on ESPN2 in the spring of 2006. 7-man capture the flag is also played by regional tournament series like the Xtreme Paintball Sports League and the New England Paintball League.
*Centerflag - The two flags of capture the flag are replaced by one flag located at the center of the field. The first team to take this flag to the opposing team's starting station wins the game. 3-man, 5-man and some 7-man competitions primarily use the centerflag format. Paintball Sports Promotions, a national circuit, offers 5-man centerflag divisions in addition to XBall.
*XBall - A newer format first played at the International Amateur Open in 2002, XBall pits two teams against each other in multiple rounds of Center Flag played one after another until game time runs out. A team scores one point for each game of centerflag they win, and the team with the most points at the end of the match wins. Professional XBall matches are 50 minutes long, split into two halves, while non-professional matches use various shorter game times. Although only 5 players per team play in any given game, depending on league rules, teams may roster up to 19 players and substitute them after each point. Unlike most tournament formats that forbid players to communicate with people on the sidelines, XBall teams have a coach who can communicate, along with the spectators, with players on the field. Players who receive penalties are not permanently removed from the game, but placed in a hockey-like penalty box for several minutes. The National XBall League, a professional circuit associated with Paintball Sports Promotions, plays the XBall format, which was also used for the Smart Parts World Paintball Championships broadcast on ESPN2 in the fall of 2006.
*XBall Light Like XBall, but only has one period, typically 15 minutes long. The first team to reach a set point total (commonly 5 or 7 points), or the team with the highest point total after game time has elapsed, wins the match. XBall Light is offered by Paintball Sports Promotions as well as regional series like the Carolina Field Owners Association.
*Foxes & Hounds - Players are divided between a small group, called the "foxes" and a much larger group, called the "hounds." The foxes enter the field of play first and are given a limited amount of time to conceal themselves. After this preparation time has elapsed, the hounds enter the field of play. If, after a predetermined amount of time has elapsed, the hounds are able to eliminate all foxes, the hounds are considered the winners. If one or more foxes have not been eliminated, the foxes are considered the winners. Alternately, once all of the foxes are eliminated, the hounds try to eliminate each other, with the last hound in the game being the winner.
Michael Myers- Is a game similar to zombies but one person (Michael Myers) can play with his marker on fully automatic and with as much paint as they want, while the rest of the players are trying to get him out but have to manually feed their hopper or marker and the game only lasts for 5 to 10 minutes. Michael Myers wins either by getting everyone out or by surviving till the clock expires.
*Paratrooper - Players are given a token (such as a colored arm-band) and paired off. Each pair constitutes a team. Teams enter the field of play sequentially, each team being given a couple of minutes to take a position in the field. Once all teams have entered the field play begins. Any time a player is eliminated he must give his token to the team that eliminated him. At the end of a predetermined period of time, the team with the largest collection of tokens is declared the winner.
*Street Fighter - A regular Elimination game played in an interior field, with the exception that players are not allowed to enter bunkers, castles, or any other "hole" in the field. Usually played in teams, this variation often forces opposing teams into
*Protect the President - two teams, One Being the President and His Guards, and the other team the terrorists. While the Guards are permitted to carry one or two weapons (depending on the Referee's choice), the President is unarmed. The terrorists job is to try to shoot the president. The guards can be shot as many times as possible and not be eliminated, but if the president is shot once, the game is over. the Objective is to get the president from one location to another (crossing the field possibly if it is in a commercial arena).
*Hostage - Similar to CTF except the "flags" are actual human beings. One team defends the hostages for a set amount of time or until the other team is eliminated, while the other team attempts to rescue the hostages. The hostages will only move when nearby or in direct contact with one of the attacking players and are not allowed to use any equipment aside from the required goggles.
*Civil War — This is a rule variant that can be added to any of the above game variants. Participants forgo a traditional hopper-style ammunition container and load each of their shots manually. Depending on the size of the teams, a certain amount of players may have an 8-round magazine to simulate a
repeating rifleand one person per team may have a full hopper in order to simulate a Gatling Gun. The start of a Civil War game, like its namesake, usually begins with both teams opposing each other across an open field where each team will fire an opening salvo and then fire at will from skirmish positions.
D-Day- Played at specified fields because of required terrain. The field is a steep hill. Usually has man made bunkers, as opposed to the more commonly used inflatables. One team starts at the top of the hill and another at the bottom. The objective is for the team starting at the bottom of the hill to make it to the top. D-Day refers to the Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II, which was mainly composed of amphibious landings performed on the coast of Normandy (thus the uphill fighting and bunkers).
*Castle - This is played with two teams with different numbers of people. The smaller group (defenders) is put in a Castle or series of trenches or bunkers to make a solid defense. Then the larger group (attackers) tries to eliminate everyone in the castle. The castle is usually placed in the woods. This game is played with a time limit of usually 15-30 minutes. If the time runs out the defenders win. If the attackers eliminate all of the defenders before the time runs out they win. If the attackers are eliminated the defenders win. In some formats there is a regeneration for the attackers but not the defenders.
*Zombie - A team game where a single person starts on one team (Zombie) and a number of players is on the other (Humans). A zombie cannot be eliminated by anything but a head shot. Everyone the Zombie eliminates become Zombies themselves (switches teams). The game ends when either team is completely eliminated.
*The Lemming Game - A two-sided flag is placed in the center of the field, visible to everyone. The object of the game is for two teams to fight over which team's color is up on the flag. A time limit such as 20-30 minutes and re-insertion are used so that the flag gets switched back and forth. The team with their flag up at the end of the game wins.
*Black Hawk Down - A three-sided game variant, Black Hawk Down is based on the movie with the same name. In this variant, One small team (varies with the game size, but 4-8 members in a total of 30-40 players), Often called the "Spec. Ops." or "Special Forces" team, must rescue a team of 4, called the "Pilots". The rules on the pilots vary, but it is often agreed that the pilots can be fully armed, but may only reload their hopper once. The remaining players form a team called the "Rebels" or the "Insurgents". The Pilots start the game in a solid, centrally located bunker with two flags, usually pinned to the outside of the bunker. The Rebels And the Special Forces start at opposite ends of the field, equidistant from the Pilot's bunker (The "Black Hawk"). The goal for the Rebels is to "Capture" at least two of the pilots by capturing the flags on the Black Hawk. The Pilots goal is to be Rescued by the Special Forces team, not the Rebels. The Special Forces must rescue 2 or more of the Pilots from the Black Hawk, much in the same way as the Rebels must capture them. However, if more than two pilots are eliminated (by either team shooting them), or if the Special Forces rescue 2 of the pilots (By capturing the flags), The Rebels immediately lose, and the Special Forces are declared the winners. If a player "Bunker taps" the Black Hawk (eliminating all 4 players inside), then Both teams have lost, and the game is replayed from the beginning. The game is usually played with a time limit of 15-25 minutes.
*Control Points - An odd number of Territories, or Control Points, on the field are designated. Each team begins with one control point (usually spaced so all other control points are in between the two starting points) and must try to capture the remaining control points. Control points are captured when all the players guarding it (if any) are shot, or the players guarding fall back. It can be played with a time limit (the players who have the most control points at the end of the time limit win), or it can be played with untimed elimination. The two inherent variants of elimination for this game are the standard "One Shot, One Kill" elimination, or it can be played so when you get hit you fall back to the last bunker you captured. When you get shot and you only have one bunker left, you're out for the remainder of the game.
*Medic - Each team is divided evenly, and each team has two medics. The two teams go into a non-timed elimination game. But when hit, the medic can bring you back. A person can only be brought back twice. On the third hit, they go to the "dead box". A medic can bring back another medic, but the revived medic is just a normal player.
*"Mutants" - A type of team elimination where there are two teams- mutants and humans. When a human player is out, they switch teams and become a mutant. The mutant team tries to eliminate all human players. Eliminated Mutants only sit out for a certain amount of time, usually ten minutes. The game ends when all human players are out.
*"Patrol": participants split into a patrol team and attacker team, this is usually set up on a road or trail, the patrol team must make it to a certain point with a certain number of patrol team members left, the attacking team is out trying to eliminate them usually hiding along the path. The attackers start at a point, usually at the end, and the patrol at the start.
*"Predator": This variation is very similar to mutants only the game starts with 2 predators and 6 humans. if a human gets shot by a predator, they become a predator. the only hit that counts on a predator is a hit to the head. This will turn the predator into a human. the game ends if all predators become human or all humans become predators.
*"Vitals" - A Paintball contest variation where only hits to the chest, back or head count as eliminations. Hits to the legs, arms or shoulders do not count.
*"Drop the Bomb" - Teams are split equally into 2 teams, one team is given a "bomb" which must be dropped at a specific location. The other team have to attempt to stop this from happening by shooting the bomb carrier. This game is usually played where there is one main zone feature (i.e. a castle) where the bomb must be dropped. If the player carrying the bomb is shot they must drop the bomb for another team mate to pick up. Sometimes the defenders cannot leave their base/zone until after two minutes depending on the referees choice. This game is played with a time limit of usually 10-15 minutes. If the time runs out the defenders win.
*"Boss" - A player, usually the most skilled in the group, puts on a large coat or jacket on backwards and faces off against an enemy team of four or more. The "boss" can eliminate players by simply marking them with paint, however the opposing team can only eliminate the "boss" by getting paint on his uncovered back. Whoever eliminates the "boss" will become the "boss" the next round.
*"Superman" - An all-against-one game; one player is invulnerable while everyone else is eliminated with one hit. The game is over when the superman either surrenders from the pain or gets everybody else out. The superman is also not allowed to take any sort of cover or sprawl out.
*"Sorry" - This game starts by two players who facing off in an area usually clear of cover. Then they both exchange a friend/spouse to the other player. The "hostages" are then used as
riot shields. This causes both payers to take very accurate shots as to eliminate the enemy player without hitting the hostage. Occasionally this may turn into a battle of threats and bluffs by repeatedly saying that one will eliminate their own shield/hostage. To play this game one should have high accuracy or psychological understanding.
*"Mercy" - Mercy rounds are endurance, free-for-all rounds, with players attacking anyone and everyone. Players will not be considered out unless they call themselves out. As a result, The objective of a mercy round is to be "the last man standing". Pain tolerance and accuracy is essential to knocking out opponents while remaining in the game.
*Ten-Ball - Each player starts the game with only ten paint balls in their hopper and carries no extra pods. The winning strategy is to out-manuever your opponents into a successful firing position while staying out of their sights. An interesting variation especially at the end of the day when paint stocks start to run low.
* Woodsball game variants
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