Make your own luck.

At this year’s Paintfest I sat in the bar the night before it all started with Ainsley, Owner of Lucky 15’s Elite Paintball team, and we got talking to a few guys from team South Coast Reapers about all things Paintball and one of the things that we took note of was how they, as a young inexperienced team, struggle to work out any game plans when they play the CPPS airball tournaments. 

So I asked if Planet Eclipse sponsored team Lucky 15’s could help in some way.

Luck is important. But a good plan is essential.

The Lucky 15’s are the best current team in the UK. I don’t think anyone will argue with that statement. They have done it all themselves, learnt on the job, trained hard and honed their skills to be where they are today. They have a huge talent base of young hungry players with a few experienced players guiding the missiles. They have very kindly tapped away on a keyboard and given you a glimpse behind their curtain to see what they do to make things work. If you are a new / inexperienced team or even up and coming (or higher), you could do a lot worse than to grab a brew and have a read below.
Huge Thanks to the Lucky 15’s for doing this, the first in a series of Lucky 15's tutorials……

In this first installment of our guides to implementing strategy we will be outlining a simple framework for constructing effective game plans. A game plan is simply how a team wants to play the field and organising its players to achieve this. This goes beyond simply where players go on the break to the jobs they’ll do during the point. A well-thought-out game plan will facilitate teamwork and ensure organised play on the field. Given this, the discussion and careful construction of a game plan should form a large part of the preparation for a tournament. This article will detail a simple framework around which game plans can be constructed, using the CPPS 2019 Tomahawk Open layout as an example throughout.

For us a game plan typically focuses on control. We will set up to control the field so that; 1) the opposition’s front players cannot reach dangerous spots where they can kill players and apply pressure. And that 2) our own front players have enough time to break down the field and move into these dangerous spots themselves. Clearly there are instances where a control-based framework is not optimal, often due to the clock or score, but we find this to be a very reliable starting point and thus is the framework we discuss in depth here.

This strategy, as with all good game plans, requires us to assign players different jobs. On the Lucky 15s we divide our players to either; front players, to push downfield and reach dangerous spots as quickly and as safely as possible, or back players, to control the field and prevent the opposition’s front players from doing the same. On the 15s we typically like to play with 2 front players and 3 back players. This is important as it gives us a foundation around which we begin to structure a game plan. We know we will typically have 3 back players, who between them have the job of covering zones and communicating, and 2 front players who have the job of getting downfield.

To construct a game plan around this control-based framework we typically follow an approach that can be divided into three steps; 1) identify dangerous spots 2) identify dominant bunkers which can most easily prevent the opposition from reaching dangerous spots, and 3), organise players so that all the zones are covered at all times.

Step 1: Identifying dangerous bunkers:

This is a crucial first step to coming up with any game plan for two reasons; firstly, it gives front players a target bunker each point, this will help your front players stay aggressive. Too many times we see players dig in at a spot that can’t meaningfully impact the game when they can move into dangerous spots and win the point from there. Secondly, identifying dangerous bunkers highlights which bunkers you want to keep the opposition out of.

Every field has dangerous bunkers, sometimes they’re god spots that straight up win you the point and other times just let you draw guns and apply pressure. Typically, the dangerous spots are ones that can shoot multiple bodies. Furthermore, for these spots to be useful in a game plan they also need to be consistently reachable and easily protected. You don’t want to plan your whole strategy around reaching the oppositions bag 1, this won’t happen on a consistent basis and it’s such an over extension a good team will likely just run the player down.

Now we know what these dangerous bunkers typically look like we can hopefully identify them. On the layout below we have highlighted the most dangerous spots and their shots on our case study layout.

On this field we highlight the bag 4, the snake 50 and the oppositions snake 1 as dangerous spots.

The bag side is pretty simple, the bag 4; has good shots on the snake side, is reachable in a typical point, and easily protected by multiple back spots. Why not the bag 5? Well the bag 5 has very similar shots but is much harder to reach and harder to protect, probably isn’t worth the risk for a front player to work hard and make a move that doesn’t make them more of a threat.

The snake side is a touch more complex. Here we highlight two particularly dangerous spots, and the potential utility of the second is heavily dependent on the players success at the first. We found by crawling up pretty wide you could reach the snake 50 unseen. This means you could catch the players in front of you off guard. If you hit these shots (just one reason why drills are so important) you will have created an opening for yourself to crawl to the oppositions snake 1 at which point you can pretty much win the point with the number of excellent infield shots.

Now we’ve identified the dangerous bunkers we know which bunkers we want our front players in, and which bunkers we want to keep the opposition out of. This lets us focus on step 2, identifying bunkers to control the field.

Step 2: Locking down the field.

In this second step we want to identify the bunkers from which we can reliably keep the opposition out of dangerous spots. These bunkers should ideally be able to see multiple gaps before the dangerous spots and slow the opposition as they move from spot to spot. These bunkers should be relatively easy to gunfight and communicate from. They should also be easily reachable, if not on the break, then soon after, otherwise a good front player will already have pushed downfield by then.

For this layout we identified the snake can, the bag tower, and the brick as excellent bunkers from which we could control the field. These bunkers could see multiple gaps before dangerous bunkers on both sides of the field (as shown in the figure below). This means if one player gets put in, they can ask one of the other back players to switch and cover the zone for him. Furthermore, brick had also some very reliable bounce shots on the bag side, meaning any lost dominance could quickly be re-established, severely limiting any movement on that side. Paintball performance did a great breakdown of our Mustangs using these bounce shots to cover for the bag side tower being put in. These bunkers were also very easy to get to, the snake side can and the bag side tower were reliably makeable on the break and it was extremely easy to make it to the brick very early in the point.

With a careful look at the figure above you will notice that it becomes difficult to control players once they’re in the snake. This has been a fairly common trend with snake sides this year, especially when the corners have been weak, and is something to pay attention to when walking the field / training. As mentioned earlier, a smart player could crawl into the 50 uncontested by crawling wide and blocking themselves out. This will become important in step 3, organising our players.

Step 3: Organising our players.

This is where we put the game plan together. We now have a good understanding of the field, we know which spots we want our front players to reach, and which spots we can use to prevent the opposition reaching these spots. We just have to make some decisions about setting up our back players to control the field.

How your team chooses to set up form here is completely up to your team. But we on the Lucky 15s chose to organise our players for this layout in the following way. We always had the snake can looking snake side. The plan on the bag side was a touch more sophisticated. We put the bag tower heads up on the break but as the point developed the bag tower and the brick would work in a pair. Between them they would communicate so that one player would always control the bag side and the other would help the snake can control the snake side.

We chose to set up this way as for a several reasons; 1) we always wanted two guns snake side as a move into the snake 1 opens up a pretty unpreventable move into the snake 50, one of the spots we deemed especially dangerous, whereas a move down the bags usually didn’t result in the opposition being in such a dangerous spot. A player in the door was one move away from being dangerous while a player in the bag 1 was three moves away from being dangerous. It’s worth highlighting that given the snake 1 to snake 50 move is so uncontrollable it was very important to deny the snake on the break with good break shooting. Something we will discuss more in our next article on breakouts. 2) both the tower and brick can easily control both sides, so if one gets put in the other can cover for them if a switch is called quickly enough, this increases control by working as a team and not having to engage in risky gunfights. 3) Both the bag tower and the snake can are reachable on the break, so playing these heads up initially means we have control on both sides from the break, therefore there is less pressure for the player to get to the brick right away. And 4) having at least one of our players shooting cross-field at all times isn’t a bad idea as it also prevents players running through the middle.

This was a fairly complex game plan that relied on our team’s ability to communicate to make sure all the zones were covered, and so we would not recommend this for newer teams that struggle with this level of communication. Instead newer teams might just want to set up with a simpler approach that doesn’t rely on great communication. For example, put the bag side tower always on the bags, the snake can always on the snake, and brick switching back and forth depending on the situation, paying most attention to the more dangerous snake side when at full strength.

So that’s it, that’s the framework around which we typically design our game plans, a framework that has worked for us with few exceptions. In summary you want to identify the bunkers that are going to give you the biggest headache, set these as a goal for your own front players and come up with a strategy of how to deny these from your opponent. We recommend following a three-step framework of: 1) identifying the dangerous bunkers, 2) identifying all the bunkers that can watch zones to stop players reaching these bunkers, and 3) organising your back players in such a way that all the zones will be covered at all times.

We hope you enjoyed the read at that you learnt something. If you have any questions let us know in the comments or on the Lucky 15s Facebook page.

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