Whether you crave fast-paced and action-packed combat that rarely pauses or more methodical, volleying engagements, a paintball field exists that’s right for you. Although each area and facility can vary dramatically in how games play out, one very general distinction exists between two major types of play: woodsball and speedball. Each of these games has its quirks and benefits, but together they allow paintball to be a fun and broadly enjoyable hobby.
Key Differences Between Speedball and Woodsball
Speedball VS Woodsball
One of the most noticeable differences between speedball and woodsball is the speed at which most games play out. Speedball games are, as their name would suggest, very fast-paced and contain little downtime in which nobody is shooting at anyone else. Some speedball games take place in tiny areas where just a few people can push and flank one another so quickly that reaction times become more critical than aiming and staying behind cover.
Woodsball, on the other hand, typically involves a larger environment with many terrain features and natural obstacles. This difference means that the average game takes much longer and far fewer are willing to push rapidly and abandon their cover. A player gunning across an open field can expect to get hit by enemies he can’t even see, making the only viable strategy one of slow and methodical advancement on enemy positions.
However, different fields and facilities can change this, with some indoor and outdoor arenas having longer engagement distances and slower game speeds compared to smaller woodsball areas. The best way to figure out how fast or slow an individual facility feels is to either go there yourself and try it out or to talk to individuals familiar with both the place in question and other locations in the area.
Both speedball and woodsball can be played by random groups of individuals with no tactics whatsoever, but for those who prefer to assemble a team and plan out their strategy beforehand, speedball and woodsball offer very different opportunities and sets of advantages and disadvantages. Experienced teams plan and strategize for both types of play, and many different game modes, and while I may not be a competition-grade player, I’ve picked up on a few of their words of advice over the years.
Woodsball games rely on defense and ambush to set the pace of a game. In game modes where one team defends and one team attacks, the defenders have ample opportunity to find ideal spots to set up and establish lanes of fire on an advancing enemy. Even in games where both teams must attack one another (such as capture-the-flag) much of the strategy boils down to one side defending a location or sector and the other team working to counter those defenses.
Speedball, on the other hand, works at a much faster pace and depends more on team cohesion than set-in-stone tactics and strategy. Having a teammate push up too far or move in the wrong direction can destroy your movement and leave you vulnerable to the other team, making lightning-quick decisions and leadership critical. Make sure to always listen to your team leader when playing speedball – it could cost you the win to go off on your own.
Cover and Engagements
Another significant way that speedball and woodsball show their difference is in how cover is laid out and used in each situation. Woodsball fields primarily rely on trees, rocks, and tall grasses for cover and concealment, generally allowing people to hide better and remain camouflaged with their environment. As a result, many engagements on a woodsball field involve two sides shooting across open areas at a very general location, trying to keep the other team from flanking or advancing while punishing anyone foolish enough to leave cover.
Speedball arenas, on the other hand, tend to rely on wooden or inflatable props to provide cover against enemy fire. These objects do little to conceal anyone behind them while also providing more predictable protection against incoming paint. Most speedball engagements happen at very close range with one or more players caught out of cover when they finally do get hit.
Some arenas (of both playstyles) incorporate more complex and unique cover elements. For example, I once played at an outdoor facility that featured a crashed airplane in the center of the map. Depending on how frequently these objects appear and where they are, they may significantly change how the game plays around them (such as an old building housing a control point behind multiple doors that must be cleared and defended). Most woodsball areas feature areas like this that may provide high-intensity combat within a small area of the otherwise slower-paced field.
Some gear elements, such as masks and markers, can and should be used for both woodsball and speedball. However, some gearing elements that are commonly seen at woodsball locations rarely show up when playing speedball. Woodsball players often don camouflage and surplus military gear to better blend in with the environment and support a more extended session of play. When taken to the extreme, these gearing considerations can turn into milsim games that emulate real-life combat.
Speedball players, by contrast, have little need for heavy clothing and camouflage. As a result, most players choose to wear old but protective clothing along with a scarce supply of ammunition suitable for a relatively short matchup. Whereas a woodsball player might load up an entire vest worth of extra paint, most speedball players make do with, at most, one or two spare tubes of ammo.
In general, speedball is easier to get into than woodsball. When I first started testing out my equipment and seeing how I liked the sport, I initially visited only the local speedball arenas. However, once I started buying more gear and learning how to play with better stealth and tactics, I eventually started to play woodsball more and more.
Although these general patterns should hold true for most facilities, I cannot stress enough how much each individual field can vary in every way. Some woodsball locations may offer intense fast-paced gameplay, while some indoor arenas may be designed to support long-distance volleying. Make sure to research the places near you carefully, so you know what to expect when you head out for a day of paintball.
Hi, my name is Jeffrey Alan. I’ve been playing paintball and airsoft for years, having started out small and slowly making my way into bigger and better events while learning as much as I can about the sport. Read More