Where do you want to play paintball? Ask yourself that question. Are you more comfortable outdoors, in a big open field and forest, where your enemies could be lying in wait behind the terrain? Or do you prefer closer, more intense action and room-to-room clearing? Paintball fields and arenas come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but finding the right stomping grounds for your hobby is ultimately up to you, the individual. Think about which of these environments sounds right to you and look for the best facilities in your area.
Different Paintball Field Types
The most popular type of paintball facility is the outdoor arena, which can vary drastically in size and playstyle but always has a few common characteristics. Firstly, the owners of these fields stock them with tons of props and obstacles that provide cover and lanes of fire for a variety of different game modes. The layout and nature of these obstacles can change from place to place, but most of the time, they are set up to provide a combination of short and long distance engagement opportunities.
These are my favorite paintball fields since they have the size and opportunities inherent in an outdoor environment but are still designed from the ground up to make combat fun and challenging. Outdoor paintball arenas tend to be larger and packed with more types of cover than indoor arenas, which (to me) outweighs some of the benefits that those facilities can have. Some of the props used for cover can be very interesting, too – a burned-out car husk or an old factory spool makes for a great piece of cover to hide behind.
Almost as common as outdoor arenas are their indoor counterparts. These locations tend to be smaller and support fewer players at once in a single game, making them simultaneously more action-packed and better suited to coordinating a small team. Some arenas can be relatively small, taking up only a few rooms in a larger building, while others can occupy a whole warehouse space by themselves.
My personal opinion is that indoor arenas can feel limited by space constraints and a lack of creative props or terrain elements found in outdoor facilities. Most obstacles in indoor arenas I’ve been to seem to be inflatable or barebones and lacking in concealment opportunities. However, those differences also make for somewhat faster gameplay.
The most significant advantage of an indoor arena is the simple fact that it is indoors. No wind can curve your shots, no thunderstorm can shut down a planned event, and nothing closes during harsh winters or sweltering summers. Indoor arenas are the only way to enjoy all-weather play without bringing out heavy winter clothes and special weather-resistant paint – an advantage that keeps me coming back every season.
I put milsim woodsball into a separate category because these games truly are their own unique animal. Milsim games involve larger areas, slower gameplay, and tactical approaches to every movement. People come decked out in surplus military gear and, typically, with paintball guns that emulate the appearance of real-life weaponry. Getting into milsim requires knowledge of tactics and a grade of gear that stands a cut above what might be typical of other facilities.
Milsim players tend to be knowledgeable of military tactics and are often current or former military members themselves. If you decide to try out a few milsim events, you should expect to find that each round takes longer and goes slower, with some operations taking multiple days to complete. Also, importantly, you generally cannot buy or rent equipment from a milsim event organizer, so make sure to bring your own stuff.
Woodsball can also be played more casually, with some events hybridizing milsim styles with faster arena-style play and others being set up like an arena, minus the actual arena. The ability to use trees and terrain as cover and concealment allows for some tactics and game modes that may not be possible in a well-maintained dedicated facility. Plus, it may simply feel more authentic to duck for cover behind a log or a rock than behind a paint-stained cardboard box.
Woodsball may happen regularly in a small section of woodlands dedicated to playing, or could be an occasional event organized by locals willing to play on or lease out their land. The best way to find these events and locations is to get networked with local paintball teams and clubs that get updates and communications from nearby organizers.
Depending on your location, you may have a disproportionate number of one or two of these types of events and fields. If that’s the case, then your best bet might be to visit each of them and get a feel for which one has the best player base and overall field structure. Each field is unique – playing on a fresh one might totally change the way you play.