Let the games commence!
If you’ve read our brief Airsoft Event Overview, you’ll know that Stirling Services events use Airsoft weapons, which fire small plastic ball-bearings rather than paintballs. This alone makes it possible to use replica weapons which look and feel like the real thing. From this authenticity, players then go the next step and kit themselves out to be as authentic as possible and the nature of the game changes from just being a blast-fest to becoming a far more realistic and tactical game. How far each player goes is up to them as individuals with some players re-creating actual military units, or just making up their own unit and banding together with a crowd of mates to have a coherent team.
Players come from all walks of life and all age groups. I met investment bankers in their fifties and college students just turned 18. And it’s not just limited to the boys either with a fair few girls playing too… There was even a husband and wife playing as a couple of Royal Marines. Some players go for the all out roleplay approach and will spend the weekend playing with a full pack containing everything they need, just as if this was a real conflict and they had had to tab in with all their kit while others will play quite happily as a squad but not be too bothered about recreating a real military unit or behaving exactly as the force they’re dressed up as.
All of this adds to the authenticity of the event and Matt and I soon realised that this was serious stuff. Thoughts of running up a debris pile, spraying bullets everywhere and yelling ‘Get to the chopper!’ in a thick Austrian accent were soon banished when we were assigned to a squad. These guys were so well kitted out that you really would have difficulty telling them from real troops, and as it turned out, two of the three were in the TA anyway. Happily, we admitted to being total n00bs and rather than being treated as dead weight we were given a quick brief on how things were going to work and how to cover our mates as well as move tactically, covering our arcs of fire.
Now all of this is fine at the player level, but its useless unless everyone does the same and this is one area where everyone’s attitude was pretty amazing. Every player there wanted to play the game the way it was intended to be played, obeying the command structure that was put in place in the two opposing sides and then trying to achieve the objectives set for us by the commander. Stirling Service had gone to a lot of time and effort to make the best use of the site and had come up with a scenario continuing the AOW storyline, which everyone was then briefed on.
The rules of the game were very simple and relied heavily on everyone playing fair and being on their honour to own up to being hit. A single hit anywhere on the body put you out of the game but only as long as it took to walk back to the regeneration point and then you could fight again. Commanders could take two hits, but after the first, unless another player came over and “medic’d” them, they couldn’t move. If an enemy player medic’d them, the commander would be captured for 20 minutes and in this fast moving game, that wasn’t a good idea.
In action, we saw very little cheating going on with the vast majority of disputed calls being over getting hit on the webbing where you wouldn’t feel the hit. In these cases, the player who’d been hit didn’t argue, put up his weapon and took the kill in good humour… stroppiness was non-existent. Restraint was also in evidence with hardly anyone ‘blind firing’ or just blatting away for the hell of it. In a room clearance later in the game I popped my head around the corner to look up at an enemy barrel about a foot from my head… he could have shot me from point blank range which would’ve hurt like hell but he didn’t, he just said I was dead, which was fair enough by me. But anyway, all that comes later in the game…
Once we had had our briefing and been told our start point, we moved off to wait for the ‘go’ signal and let the game begin… but you’ll have to read about that in my War Diary, coming very soon…