Nobody starts out with a special role in paintball. As we play more and figure out where our strongest skills lie, we start to fall into one or more bands of players that each fills a different role out on the field. The more you play, the more likely you are to see each of these player varieties “in the wild” and figure out exactly where you fit in among them. But until you have a more advanced understanding of what types of players there are in the average game of paintball, take my advice on how to play with them.
Paintball players who like to push up and put themselves at risk are one of the most common varieties you’ll see on the average field. I tend to go with these players and pursue a more aggressive approach to most game modes. Being a pusher isn’t easy, and you’re more likely to get hit (and at closer ranges) than anyone else, but the nonstop adrenaline and thrill of action can’t be replicated through any other playstyle.
Pushers don’t mind being at the front of the pack, so if you want to follow in their footsteps, you might be able to rack up hits on the other team as they try and take down your buddy. If you prefer a more defensive playstyle, make sure to support your team’s pushers as they advance by laying down suppressing shots and calling out targets. The best way to counter a pusher on the other side is to set up a line of fire near the front lines and wait for them to cross it.
The harasser is the player who likes to sit a little further back and pick off enemy players who get a bit more aggressive or suppress enemies in support of their teammates. These players may not score very many hits, but their constant fire and fortified positions make them a continual harassing force for the other team.
Many players who take up this role are newer and may be afraid to push up and face down enemy fire, so they may respond well if you try and lead them forward. Others are good shots who know how to identify threats and can serve as an excellent supporting force while you make advances. Look out for where the harassers position themselves so that you know what positions you can receive support from, and from where the enemy is likely to dish out suppressing fire.
Ambush players like to lie in wait for an enemy to cross their path before taking an easy shot to finish them off. I tend to get impatient when I play paintball, so these roles never appeal to me, but if you have the skills and mindset to ambush your enemy, you can be a considerable threat to pushing players. Sniping from afar with a long-range gun is another great way to act as an ambush player.
I’ve found that many of these players already know the fields they’re playing on and generally want to do their own thing since they know the terrain and hiding spots so well. Some may also be heavily camouflauged and may not want to move for this reason. You can count them as primary defenders for whatever position they’re near, but not as someone you can rely on for a lot of support.
Sometimes, your teammates may already be pushing, defending, and camping enough that you don’t know where to fit in. This is when you become a standard rifleman – someone who stays in the middle may push a softer objective and can be relied upon for a variety of tasks. In a team environment, this may be an essential and highly skilled player who can fill multiple roles as needed by the team and situation.
These are the players that you should be calling to first when you want to organize a team push on an objective, or if you need support on one of your flanks. Unless they’re currently engaged in a firefight that they cannot break off, riflemen are almost always willing to come and help out with whatever task you need help with. These players also tend to be more active and aggressive, so keep that in mind when figuring out what to do with them.
These are rather broad categories of players, and depending on your gear and day-to-day conditions and plans, you may fall into multiple at once or shift your preferences as time goes on. Learn how to play in each of these roles, and your game sense should start to increase to the point where you instinctively know how the other team behaves on any given field. I’ve come to call this point “paintball enlightenment” – and the only way to reach it is through teamwork and practice.