paintball games

Different Types of Paintball Games (and How to Play)

Paintball is one of the most adrenaline-saturated games ever invented. As long as there is no risk of damaging an unsuspecting bystander or property, paintball can be played anywhere. Established fields use old warehouses, woods, old residential structures, inflatable barriers, and more.

While the variety is impressive, paintball tends to fall within three types of games: 

  • Woodsball
  • Speedball
  • Tournament-style games 

These games bring unique challenges and opportunities, which keeps players on their toes with "evergreen" fun.

Woodsball Games

The first and most common paintball game is woodsball. Most paintball players were introduced to the sport through a woodsball game. Woodsball is by far the most accessible and beginner-friendly game, but it's hardly the most shallow. There are dozens of different "scenarios"--like capture the flag, capture and defend, elimination, etc.--that players can do in a woodsball setting.

Objectives and Rules

Woodsball, as the name suggests, is played in a wooded area. The field generally covers a minimum of a few acres and can have both natural and artificial barriers set up. For most gameplay, players start at opposite ends of the field and begin shooting at each other when the referee starts the game. 

The most common scenario is capture-the-flag, where two or more flags are on a given field. The first team to raise their flag on all of the different flagstaffs is considered the winner. 

As a general rule of thumb, if a paintball hits a player or their marker and breaks, that player must raise their hand and call themselves out. If a paintball fails to break and leave a paint splatter, the player is not considered "out" despite being hit. Splatter from a nearby breaking paintball is not considered to be a hit.

Woodsball Paintball Gear

The best gear for woodsball is camouflage or darker colors to try and blend into the underbrush. However, players frequently wear colored armbands to help others identify which teams they're on. These bands are usually high-visibility and can negate the effects of camouflage. Body armor is also recommended to reduce the pain of a direct shot but is unnecessary. Finally, a good paintball marker with a longer range and better accuracy is recommended. In a woodsball scenario, it's not necessary to have a marker with a high cycle rate like with speedball-type games.

Speedball Games

Speedball is similar to woodsball in that players use paintball markers and paintballs. However, the field is generally smaller than a woodsball field, and there are only man-made obstacles arranged in an identical way on the field. Historically these obstacles have been giant wooden spools and corrugated metal drain pipes, but recently, many fields have started using inflatable obstacles. Because the obstacles are highly mobile, they can often be set up for play on a football field or a soccer pitch.

Speedball does not have many scenarios the way that woodsball does. Instead, the games are played based on a couple of different points systems. Without overcomplicating the point-system details, players earn points for marking opponents, capturing the flag, and surviving to the end of the round.

Because the field is small compared to a woodsball field, the games generally conclude in a matter of a few minutes. Despite the short duration of each game, players normally send more paint downrange during a 3-minute speedball game than during a 10 or 15-minute woodsball game.

Objectives and Rules

The objective of speedball is to capture the other team's home position and eliminate all opposing players. If a player is marked with paint, then they must call themself out. Hits to the paintball marker or the helmet are considered valid hits.

The players start at opposite ends of the field and will run from bunker to bunker, trying to hit the opposing players and avoid getting hit. Once all the players are eliminated, the team can effectively capture the other team's flag/position and win the game.

Speedball Paintball Gear

Because of the quick gameplay style, speed and mobility are highly valued. Teams wear light clothes and use light equipment, often made of carbon fiber. A high rate of fire is also highly valued since the game is frequently won by the team that can shoot the greatest amount of paintballs.

Scenario Tournament Games

Tournament games are some of the most thrilling forms of gameplay in the paintball world. This form of gameplay generally takes the form of a woodsball game but will cover hundreds of acres of territory. For tournament-style games, players will travel from all over the country and occasionally the world. Because of the massively-multiplayer style of the event, a tournament will often last an entire weekend with specified break times for meals and resting.

These sorts of scenario tournament games are elaborate and go well beyond a simple "capture the flag" with full-scale battle reenactments from real wars. Every year in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, more than 4,000 players from all over the world attend the Normandy scenario event. This tournament lasts the whole weekend and is only one installment of a larger year-long three-part tournament.

Objectives and Rules

Because of the massive nature of these games, each field has its own rules to govern gameplay. The objectives are generally a combination of smaller mini-games like capture the flag, capture and defend, and others. Since the fields are so large, hosts make use of "medics," who tag people back in after they've been marked so that they don't have to walk all the way back to a respawn point which can take up to 20 - 30 minutes depending on how big the "map" is. 

Scenario Tournament Paintball Gear

Scenario tournaments most frequently mimic the type of gameplay found in woodsball. For paintball tournament equipment, players value a marker's accuracy and range over cycle rates. Additionally, players also tend to favor mil-sim markers which add to the realism of the event. 

In scenario tournament games, camouflage is crucial to the success of a team. Most of the time these games are played in wooded and natural areas for which camouflage yields large dividends. Body armor is also widely used since speed is less important than in speedball-style gameplay.


Even within these different styles of paintball, skill levels can range from beginner, intermediate, and professional. However, regardless of your skill level, you're sure to find a paintball game that will grab your attention. Lone Wolf Paintball has been equipping paintballers across the USA for over 25 years. To view our selection of paintball gear for all skill levels and playing styles, take a look at our product pages. Happy paintballing!