Paintball warriors embrace fast and furious version known as 'speedball'

Two teams of speedball players line up and wait to take their turn on the field.


By FRED ZIMMERMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 13, 2005

Splat! That’s the sound of elimination for paintball players.

While it may take hours to find the enemy and hear that sound during traditional “woods” paintball games, it can take merely seconds to be “killed” in the popular realm of speedball.

The game is a classic paintball variant, but it’s played on a 120-foot-wide by 150-foot field, and games last up to five minutes, according to Anthony Wong, a Marine Corps Community Services outdoor activities recreation specialist who organizes paintball tournaments on Okinawa.

“Speedball is more of a challenge,” Wong said. “It’s fast-paced, and there’s not as many places to hide.”

He said the playing field is “mirrored” with the exact setup of inflatable obstacles on each side, with a total of 19 obstacles.

There are two typical ways to play: elimination, or capture the flag. In elimination, the team that takes out all its competition wins. In capture the flag, the winning team either must pull a flag at the middle of the field and carry it to the opponent’s end, or snag a flag from the opponent’s end and return it to their own.

To determine “kills,” the rules are simple — if the player is hit anywhere on the body, he or she is out of the game. In standard “woods” play, a player is knocked out with a “true kill” — a shot to the head or torso, Wong said.

Speedball starts with a countdown and then teams of five rush forward, rapidly firing at each other. The first goal is to try and get players as far forward as possible to stake claim to the ground. Each team typically designates players who will play a forward, offensive- type role, or play back in a defensive mode.

“The back players cover for the front guys,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel McFattier, who works at the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron. “Constant communication between all players is key … that’s what wins games. Constant communication, and a lot of paint.”

McFattier said he’ll shoot off anywhere between 400 to 500 paintballs in one game. Most players, he said, carry between 300 to 400 rounds into each match, and front players carry less than back players since they shoot less.

In a game where speed is key, that goes for the weapons also. McFattier said he averages about 14 paintballs fired off per second. Each player on his team, the Bunker Monkeys, spends about $60 a week on paintballs alone, and a “decent” gun costs more than $1,000.

While most players get into the sport of paintball via the woods game, McFattier and the Bunker Monkeys say the faster-paced game is addictive.

“We prefer speedball because of the rush … it’s a faster-paced game that’s adrenaline-packed and more athletic,” said McFattier, who has played in Germany, France and all over the United States. “You can basically set up and play anywhere with a good playing surface. Once you play speedball, you don’t want to go back … woods ball is too slow.”

A defensive speedball player takes aim behind an inflatable bunker while an offensive teammate tries to move forward during a tournament on Okinawa.