I have been playing in Large format Games for ten years now. I thought I'd pass on what I learned the hard way, so you won't have to go through the same agony as I did. (Ain't I a prince?)
To simplify things, let's say there are four types of Large Format Games (LFG for short). There are other types but they are largely modifications to one of the four basic types of LFG: Big Games, Simple Scenario Games, Complex Scenario Games and Mission Oriented Games. Each have their own unique characteristics, but share many common denominators. Knowing the differences will help you play that particular game better and have more fun.
Please note: The following definitions are mine. These are not "official paintball terms", I only use them in the context of this articles and for the sake of clarity.
- Big Games: These are the games where there are hundreds, even thousands of players. Usually there are very few props, the objective is to capture and hold territory and specific areas for point scores.
- Simple Scenario Games: They are very much like Big Games, but they also have missions that players can complete for points. There is an emphasis on the Big Game objective (capturing and holding territory) but there are missions thrown in for extra points. This is the level of the LFG that starts having unique props. It's a Big Game with props.
- Complex Scenario Games: These are like Simple Scenario Games, but they have more "behind the scenes" action. There are spies, secret societies and elaborate props. They usually are based on historical battles or wars, and many times they have a firm grounding in science fiction, fantasy or humour. This is beyond the Big Game with props and many players get to play "roles". The Complex Scenario Game also is a live action role playing game.
- Mission Oriented Game: This is a Complex Scenario Game where there are more missions than territory to be held. Completion of assigned missions will get you more points than holding your command post.
Mayhem, anarchy and confusion. The individual player really doesn't see the big picture. They also don't see themselves as having a chance to be the single player who changes the balance of the game by eliminating another player. That's the game we're all used to. You take out an opponent, take advantage of the hole and help win the game. Don't think this is going to happen in a LFG. It is very rare.
If you're the type of person who likes the feeling of directly participating in the victory of your team over theirs, I suggest the Complex Scenario Games and the Mission Oriented Games. This is where small team and individual action get most of the glory.
If you want to just go out and shoot a lot, the Big Game and Simple Scenario Games are for you.
Know the Rules
If you can, have a copy of the rules with you, even when playing in the game. When you are registering, ask if the organizers will have copies of the rules available to players. Many players ask for the organizers to send them copies and add the cost of postage to their entry fees. This is essential for Complex Scenario Games and MIssion Oriented Games.
You have to know things like: Where props have to go, once they're found? Is a prop is complete or it is a component of a larger prop? Do you get points of you stop the opposition from completing as mission? How long do you have to hold an are to get points? Do you get points as long as you're occupying an area? Who are your leaders? Who are their leaders? Are there time limits on missions? Are props returned to the field once they are captured and returned to where they are supposed to be?
Games have been lost because players did not know the answers to those previous questions.
Get a Map
Ask for a map of the playing area, most LFG provide them. They might no be very detailed, but they'll help when you're lost. A crappy map is better than NOT having one at all.
Water and Munchies
Carry water with you. You're going to need it. You won't always be able to get back to your car for a drink. Bring snacks for the same reason. Granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix and other non perishable munchies always have a special pouch on my gear during an LFG.
Be prepared to walk -- a lot -- for most of the day. Wear footwear for comfort, not for traction and speed. "Tourney cleats" are the worst thing you can wear. You're going to be on your feet for most of the game. Cleats are not made for all day endurance, that's why hiking boots were invented. A good pair of army or jungle boots are aslo a good idea, if you can't afford high-priced hiking boots. They're a lot heavier than commercioally made hiking boots, but they're designed for someone who is on thier feet alot, the infantry soldier. (A few years in the infatry taught me the value of a good pair of boots.) Be advised that this is not the place to be breaking in a new pair of boots. Blisters can end your day very quickly, and painfully.
Getting Hosed and Lit-up
Be prepared for multiple hits and getting hit after you have been eliminated. The LFG is known for the "hose or get hosed" type of play. Players, even those who are normally not hosers, will let loose. I usually go through 500 paintballs on a normal paintball day. In an LFG, I can easily spray out a case of paint. Try not to get mad when you get hit twenty times, before or after you are eliminated. The other players aren't lighting you up on purpose.
If You are Hit
When you are eliminated, get out of the way as fast as you can. Hold your hand s and your marker up over your head. I always carry a large white bandanna or handkerchief and wave it around after I'm hit. You have to remove all doubt that you're out. This doesn't always work, but I found I got hit lesss when I waved a white flag.
Be a Hero
Take chances. Go for it! Lead the pack, charge, rush and shoot. If you are hit, you'll be back in the game after a short wait in a holding area. (It's also a good idea to know where the holding areas are, in relation to your present position.)
TACTICS AND TIPS
There's Going to be a Bomb at the HQ!
Let's say you heard a rumour that your command post or headquarters was going to be blown up by some scenario provided "weapon". Most command staff will simply vacate the HQ and stay in the neutral areas (in camp, not on the field) to avoid being eliminated. However, games have been won by fooling the opposition into thinking this was about to happen and then taking advantage of the lack of command leadership to defeat the opposition. There is s simple way around this. Just move your command post to another location on the field. You should be continually scouting sites for alternate command posts, in case you have to evacuate the one you're in.
Oh, no! I'm alone!
Stay quite, move slowly and avoid large concentrations of opposing players. Head for the nearest boundary and stick to it. Travelling along the boundary allows you to have 180 degrees you don't have to worry about. This is because you shouldn't be finding the opposition on the other side of the boundary tape. If you do, they're out of bounds and usually ruled out of the game.
If you want to actually go and do some damage, you must pick and chose your time and place. It must always be on your terms. The engagements must be quick and you have to get out of there before things start going bad for you. You may only get one shot, but from my experience, that one shot usually connects and it unnerves the opposition.
It's Just Us, Guys.
Let's say it's just you and a few teammates. They may be the players who came with you to the event, or they may just be a group of players with the same coloured armbands. Be that as it may, you should still follow the advice I gave to solitary players.
Pick your battles. Try to come in behind opposing players (especially if they're trying to capture something your team owns). Set up ambushes.
Another way for you and your buddies to have fun is to go scouting for opposition weak points and send messages to your leaders. This is called reconnaissance and most LFG leaders appreciate teams gathering it for them. You can even volunteer to be a recon unit for your side. This is a riot. Remember, your motto is: "Sneak, peek and take off." You don't engage the opposition unless you're shot at first. You don't tackle even smaller groups of players, unless they have something your team could get points from. (Some Mission Oriented Games give points to the opposite team for stopping a mission.)
We Found a Prop
Do you know what to do with it? If not ask a ref, or refer to your LFG rules (if you have them -- this is why I told you to get a copy.)
When you get the prop, sit down and THINK of what you are going to do. PLAN! Tell all the players who are going to be escorting the prop the following things (if they are applicable according to the rules):
Where the prop has to go. Who must receive the prop. Protect the prop at all costs. Do not engage the opposition unless in self defence. Inform them of special requirements (time limits, if it will take two players to carry it, etc.)
If you do have a copy of the rules, take charge or provide guidance to someone in charge. Tell the other players you know what to do with the prop and flash the rule book.
I guarantee if you have a copy of the rules and a map of the field, players will listen to you because most players just don't know what's going on.
I Want You Guys To Attack the Opposing Team's Fort.
If you have a leader (general, etc), and they want you to do something, the only way you're going to win is if you do it. The leader usually has information you don't know about. They may know that there are only twenty players at the location they want to take. You may be a diversionary attack so that a larger force can attack from another side. You really don't know and sometimes they do not have the time to explain things to you. A good leader will know what's going on and you have to trust them. Hey, even if you don't trust them, no one's gonna get killed if they're wrong.
A Great Place to Practice.
I like to go off on my own and stalk other players. I like to sneak up behind "enemy lines". I like to take pot shots and people and scamper off. It doesn't do much for the big picture, but I'm teaching myself how to work alone.
This is good for your team as well. A small group of players can cause havoc in the right place at the right time.
You can also practice marksmanship, camouflage, ambushes and many other skills you can use in normal games. All day long.
We Specialize in LFG's
This is a good place for your team to go to an LFG and work together. There are some teams that specialize in playing in an LFG. They volunteer for missions, they perform reconnaissance, they conduct harassing raids to divide the opposition, et cetera. These types of teams are highly prized by LFG command staff. These are also good teams to join up with, during the game. They'll see most of the action.
We Like to Play in Villages/Forts/Heavy Woods/Et Cetera
Most LFG are spread over large areas. They are usually several different playing areas with the tape removed from between them. If you like speedball, villages, heavy woods, open fields, forts or what have you, chances are there will be one of those things in a LFG playing area. You can play there all day.
Well, I hoped this helped. These are the lessons I've learned to make any LFG I'm in a fun day of paintball.