When I started to play paintball mil-sim and recreational I didn't understand the standard field paintball rules well which put me at a disadvantage in playing. I spent the last couple of days assembling the best standard and commonly used set of rules for paintball fields.
While there is a general set of safety based rules which are universally at all paintball locations and venues, of course strictly enforced, it is quite common to have specific game rules be different at fields.
These modifications to rules will typically be posted someone on-site or in the waiver form you signed prior to playing but can sometimes be missed in the excitement.
There are a large amount of generally followed rules or guidelines that fields all will do their best to enforce and follow. While not always 100% I tried to make sure overall they were covered below, as always please speak to the field before playing to ensure they don't have any special field rules you need to follow.
The pinnacle rule of paintball is to always remember that your goggles stay on at all times. The only exception being when you are in the neutral zone which is completely outside of the field of play. This is the primary rule as if it is not followed then you could get shot in your face and a hit to your eye could mean loss of site if not worse.
Paintball markers shoot capsules (paintballs) out of their barrel at an extremely fast speed. So fast that they can sting and even cause bruising your skin. It is important that if you bring your own marker to a venue that the marshal checks that the velocity is set to under 280 (fps) as above this can result in the hit from the marker actually causing nasty welts on the skin.
If you are renting the equipment from the venue then the markers will be checked periodically by themselves to ensure they meet the said velocity settings.
The neutral or dead zone is your area of safety, no markers are allowed to be used within this area. The field you play at will take time typically to explain this area to all players. You should take some time to explore this place yourself prior to entering any matches as you will need to exit the field of play to this safe zone whether you are hit, surrender, or called out by a marshal.
In addition, the neutral zone is somewhere where you will all gather at the start or end of each game, to take a short break, and prepare yourself for the next game. Sometimes this area will have a marker test area where you will have to put on your mask and you can fire similar to a firing range if you need to tweak your marker prior to the next match.
It is an important tip for your personal safety and that of others playing that you do not waste time on the playing field once you are eliminated. If you take time to leave you are much more likely to get shot again. You also need to remember to hold your marker above your head as you make a quick and direct route to the neutral zone.
It is never acceptable to shoot a lone player at point-blank range, especially when playing fields at public facilities. It is a player wide community belief that if you should bunker someone you allow the player to offer a surrender opportunity instead of shooting them at very close range as this can cause bad feelings towards new players and make them not want to come play again.
When a game is occurring a ref (or marshal) who is standing next to a player may shout that "player is neutral". This is meant to tell the other players that the mentioned player is temporarily out of the game.
Many times this will be done specifically if a player thinks they are hit and the marshal is validating that a hit occurred. Other times this can be tied to a marker problem and the player is not to be fired upon.
Don't think because this has been called though that the player is out of the game. Many times the player will be shortly back in the game.
Sometimes in the heat of the moment, in-game after a player is eliminated in aggravation they may yell information back to their team. This is at its heart cheating and should not be done as the elimination shouldn't be a benefit.
Ensure you maintain the spirit of the game by not communicating with any players after you are eliminated. There are a few game exceptions where you can talk to your own players but this is an exception rather than the rule and should be explained before any match starts.
A player is out and eliminated from the game when they are hit from a paintball by any other player which impacts and breaks on their body. The paintball must impact and break depositing the paint on the player’s body to leave a clear and visible mark.
This or a referee deciding are the only times you are eliminated, this elimination also lasts only for the duration of this match or game. A valid paint marking size will tend to vary between fields and parks, typically a successful hit will leave a circle about 2" diameter on the player’s body, goggles or marker, and hopper.
Winning Tip / Tactic From Professionals - Wear loose or very baggy clothing which will allow for paintball hits to often bounce off of the clothing which will help combat your elimination from the match.
Splatter on the other hand, which happens when a paintball hits and breaks on or against an object, like a tree, doesn't cause a player elimination. Though this is at the discretion of a referee and the field, in general, this rule is upheld unless a definite strike is shown.
At most paintball fields, the rule will be that you can eliminate a player by hitting them on any part of their body which is uncovered or covered by clothing including the torso, arms, legs, head and feet and also anything they may be carrying including the marker, hopper, air, pods, flags, or a backpack.
That being said, some sites may have their own field-specific rules about what will be considered a valid hit. This may limit you to the body and leg shots hits or I have even seen places run a multiple hits system to eliminate players from the game.
There will frequently be times in the game where you are uncertain about a marker hit. You or the opponent may have been hit by splatter from a close object and it is unclear if the paint mark was a direct hit or not. You may also believe that you were hit by a player that was already eliminated who then broke the rules by firing at you.
Winning Tip / Tactic From Professionals - When in doubt, ask - The the best policy is to always ask either a close by team mate, or the referee whom can validate the hit for you.
Referees understand this and are always ready to perform what is referred to as a "paint check" for you. This call is common and well understood that if you shout "paint check" the closest referee will come over to check and clarify either a valid or invalid hit on you.
In addition, some field game rules can allow you to be considered a "neutral" player during a check which means you are temporarily not in play and are "inactive" and not able to be fired or advanced upon by any opposing players while checks are completed.
When 100% certain that you have been hit and marked and are eliminated from the game it is typically acceptable for you to shout the words "I'm Out" or "I'm Hit". The declaration that you are out of the game can also extend to if you inadvertently walk out of the field of play.
In other game types this can also be extended to being hit by a paint grenade or paint mine. Both of these are specialized equipment which are used in some game scenarios. As we have mentioned before though it is very important to ensure you have had a direct paint hit before you declare yourself out, since you can't put yourself back in, especially if a resulting mark has only been caused by splatter.
Make sure you use your ability to call a "paint check" on anyone you suspect has been hit. This extends to all the other players if you believe you have successfully hit them and they are either not aware they were hit or they may be attempting to cover, or remove, the hit.
Please keep in mind it is illegal and obviously against the rules for a player to continue if they have taken a valid hit and continue to play and attempting to remove the paint mark. Attempting to remove a mark has a name because it is so common, the term is "wiping".
If someone should be caught cheating and/or "wiping" marks then the field and referee staff will consider severe penalties against the player, and even the team in a tournament, which may include a permanent ban from future games.
There is specific tournament penalties, due to the high attempts, which include the "3 for 1" penalty. This is where if any player is found "wiping" a paint mark during play then 3 players from that team will be eliminated from the field for the game duration.
In a paintball game there are some specific circumstances where a player may want or need to make a voluntary or forced surrender. It is accepted that on most fields of play that if any player is at close range, around 10 feet away or closer, from an unaware opposing player that a player may shout the word "Surrender" or "Freeze" prior to shooting. This gives the player the opportunity to surrender and avoid a close range marker hit.
The player that is caught unaware then may shout "I’m Out" or raise their hand or marker to show that they have given up and they surrender. If the player decides not to accept the offer of surrender the opposing player is within their rights to open fire and initiate action. This leads to the distinct possibility that they will be hit with a volley of paintballs at a very close range which is likely to be fairly painful, both short and long term on the day.
Winning Tip / Tactic From Professionals - You should always offer an unaware opponent the option to surrender before firing upon them as this is thought to be fair and sporting. Additionally, consider firing at the feet of a player if they do not accept your offer for them to surrender.
Players which are new to paintball tend to get overly excited, the related adrenaline rush makes them volatile on the field with inadvertent firing of their marker. You would do well to keep this in mind as you need to make a judgement call while playing alongside inexperienced players. Use the "Surrender" call only when you have them pinned and also unaware, as they may well shoot you.
This approach is different in tournament games as you will typically find the "Surrender" call won't be enforced and justly the players will fire upon opponents without an offer to give up. In a tournament players are also able to use a play called a "run through". A run through is where the player will run forward and shoot any or all opponent players in his path.
The "Surrender" rule is not always valid depending on the field and game types being played. The reason why the rule exists is to ensure novice players aren't intimidated by players and plays made by more advanced players opening fire at close range as this can be quite painful.
Most fields will start and end their rounds with a whistle blow. When you hear the blow of the whistle the game has started and is live for fire or has ended and firing should conclude. Where ever you are once the whistle blows you need to make your way back to the neutral zone to prepare for the next game.
It is vital to good game play that you listen and obey the referees at all times while at the paintball field. They will help you during play and they will answer any questions you should have about a game and resolve any issues that arise on the field.
Similar to all other sports the referee always holds the final decision on any matters or disputes. You should remember not to disagree or argue with the decision of any referee while on the field of play.
Take some time to make sure you grasp the rules overall and verify with your local field if they have any different rules in addition or in replacement of the ones I have listed above. Enjoy your play and make sure to try and make a new players day also as it may be what it takes to convince them to come play again and again, each player can help make this sport inviting to new players and it's your duty to try and grow this!