Paintball Field Positions and Overall Game Strategy

Once the whistle blows, a paintball game can get pretty chaotic. Where should you go? What's do you do? Does your team have an actual plan, or is it pretty much every man for himself?

Paintball Strategy

The fun thing about playing paintball is that every team is different. Every time you go to the field, you'll be paired up with different people and placed in different scenarios on different fields.

Some teams will be good. Others will be terrible. But ultimately, your team is what you make of it.

With some good communication and a little bit of pre-game planning, you can turn a bad team into a decent one.

You don't have to be a professional team to talk to each other, and you don't have to play together week after week to get a feel for how your teammates operate. In just a few games you'll start building some solidarity.

By lunchtime you'll know who's good, who's bad, who's fast, and who's slow. You'll also know who likes to do what when the whistle blows, and how you can plan more effectively around that knowledge.

As you play, you'll find that the game of paintball relies heavily on teamwork. Without teamwork, you'll get picked off quickly and easily, because you'll be caught out of position, outflanked, and hopelessly stranded by the advancing enemy team.

The Basic Positions of a Paintball Field

In most standard games (which are usually capture the flag), you'll play on a long rectangular field. One team will start at either end; this is your "base", and your own colored flag will be kept here.

From there, there several positions to know that are important on any paintball field:

Center Field

The center of any paintball field is the main battlezone, and the heaviest firefighting will always happen there. Most fields have central bunkers that are well protected; it's getting to the bunkers (and holding them) that's difficult.

When the whistle blows, the fastest players will generally sprint toward the center of the field and try to take these important positions. Getting there before being hit is a matter of staying low and sliding behind cover as quickly as possible.

When a teammate has a central bunker, you need to protect them. You do this by watching their flanks, and firing upon anyone who's advancing on the left or right. It's usually a good idea to have two or more people in the center of the field; each can watch a different side, so as not to get run up on blindly.

Left & Right Flanks

Running up the left or right side of the field is a popular way to learn the game. By keeping just inside one of the out-of-bounds markers (usually indicated by yellow tape in most outdoor paintball fields), you get to advance toward the enemy base without worrying about getting shot from one whole side.

From these outside positions, you can get a good angle on the center of the field. Advance far enough forward, and you can even shoot out the enemy players who've captured one of the central bunkers.

Here's where you also need to be careful however, because these players can also shoot you. Never run too far ahead of the rest of your team, and always keep your eye toward the center of the field - as well as straight ahead, where you might run into opposing players who've run along the out-of-bounds marker from the opposite base.

The Rear of the Field (Home Base)

Staying home is always an option, especially for first-time paintball players wishing to see how things work. You can take up position behind a tree, bunker or obstacle, and wait to see how the game unfolds before deciding what to do next.

Should your team do well, and your center and flanks are advancing? You can advance with them, looking to join in on firefights with bunkered-up enemy players.

But should your team do poorly, and the center crumbles? Wait patiently and silently for the other team's advance while protecting your flag. Remember: you'll give up position by shooting your gun MUCH faster than by being seen. The second you start shooting, everyone around you will know where you are.

If you're hanging back at home base, protecting your flag during an enemy advance is most important of all. Keep an eye on the field and don't be surrounded to the point where you can't even poke up long enough to take a shot.

Advance Vanguard (Enemy Base)

If you're one of the smaller, lighter, or faster paintball players, the vanguard might be right for you. Beginner players and even expert veterans alike all need to be careful here, because you can get shot up very quickly (and very badly) when attempting to capture the enemy flag.

There are two general ways you can enter an enemy base: by force, or by stealth. Both are dangerous, but they're equally fun.

If you go in shooting, be sure to have backup and use caution. Running up like a crazy nut and trying to shoot out every base defender will only get you eliminated, and painfully welted-up in the process.

Some players can capture the flag by stealth, and this can be really cool. Success depends on a player's speed, sneakiness, presence of mind, and just how much disarray the enemy team is already in.

In certain games, no one hangs back to guard the flag at all. It's there for the taking, should you make your way far enough forward (usually along the sides of the field). But in other games? The flag is guarded by several people, and you'll need to eliminate or force a surrender on those players before being able to grab the flag and run with it.

Playing With Teammates (and Choosing Positions) in Paintball

If you start the game without at least talking to some of your teammates, you're going to lose most of your paintball matches. Because if everyone decides to do the same thing when the whistle blows (such as rush up along the same side of the field, for example) the enemy team is going to quickly outflank you.

Someone always needs to go right. Someone always needs to go left. Other people need to take the middle, or at least keep the opposing players from advancing too far into the center of the field.

It's always best to ask other players what they'd like to do, and then go from there. This is not only courteous, it also enables you to fill-in for the weak spots of your team. Most of the time, other teammates will realize what needs to be done and jump into these roles as well.

Some players will be runners, others will hold position. Some will hang back and try to snipe or pick off incoming players. Still others are playing paintball with groups of friends; these will pair off in 2's and 3's rather than go solo.

Red Paintball


The runners of your team need to be fast. They'll be ready to go the second the whistle is blown, and they'll seize important forward positions. If you're a runner, it's your job to quickly take up as much valuable real estate as possible, once the referees signal the start of the game.

Paintball Sniper
Green Paintball


The defenders of your team will advance more slowly, but they need to guard the runners once they get into position. It's also a good idea to place some of your better-firing weapons into these roles. Anyone with a gun that shoots exceptionally far makes a good defender, because they can lay down cover and suppressing fire from long distances.

Blue Paintball


Paintball sniper is a very cool position. The role is often played by a veteran or expert player who has an excellent weapon, and usually someone who's played the role before.

I once played with a sniper who wore camouflage netting that covered his back completely when he lay down. He even had leaves and grass glued to the netting, and this made him almost invisible to the naked eye... even if you were standing right next to him. This guy was content to lay there every match, creeping forward slowly in the games we were doing well and hanging back to pick off opposing team members who advanced on our flag in games we didn't do so hot.

Snipers usually hang back near the flag and wait. Firing is their weakness; it immediately gives away a sniper's position. So in general, a paintball sniper will wait until enemy teammates advance very close to his positon before firing upon them in groups from a hidden position.

Orange Paintball

Flag Runners

Before starting, choose two or three teammates to be flag runners. These will be the players who rush forward to capture the enemy flag when the time is right, and who rush to bring it back to your base.

When the flag is seized, the entire field will turn its attention upon the person who has it. So if that person is you? Be sure to put your head down and RUN! In some cases the flagrunner will even drop his or her gun, in order to gain valuable speed and to end the game. Other teammates will pick up the weapon for them, or they can get it later on after the whistle has blown.

Paintball Gear