Monday, August 9, 2010

More .50cal Montreal Info (and Arnold Big Game review)

As promised, I headed out to the Arnold Paintball Big Game in Havelock, QC this past Saturday. Between a lot of heated firefights and scanning the ground for loose bars of Kuwaiti bullion, I ran into Arnold and asked him some questions about what motivated him to adopt .50cal paintball equipment at his indoor field.

First, Arnold was quick to correct me in that they now ACCEPT .50cal paintball guns, but have not "adopted" them as official field markers or field paint. They simply allow owners of .50cal markers to bring them into the facility, and being a field paint-only operation, they sell the balls to go along with them. As for his motives, he said that he and his business partner Ken have been friends with Richmond Italia since they were toddlers, and when Rich asked them to start allowing .50cal equipment, they obliged. Although the paint isn't selling like hotcakes, he admitted it was "moving" fairly well.

At this point, Arnold called over Ken, who'd been helping out at the nearby AK's Proshop booth. Ken outlined some of the advantages of .50cal paintballs, saying they hurt less (although he said the impact is about the same at 20 feet or less), they fly straight, and are cheaper (you get a lot more balls per case than .68cal). He said they have about 15-20 feet less range than .68cal balls because of their lower weight, but despite the lower weight they usually break on target because of a specially formulated thinner shell.

As for the future, Arnold claimed that .50cal wasn't catching on very well in Canada, but that it's very successful at the moment in the U.S. and Europe. He expects Canada to catch up soon, and will be allowing .50cal markers at his outdoor field next season in order to keep up with the trend. Arnold said he'd have a .50cal marker available for a tryout later on that day, although I never saw it (though I might have missed it while out on the field).

The Big Game

Arnold's Big Game was once again organized this year by the Milsim paintball team Sudden Harm. The scenario followed a "Three Kings"-style plot, where Kuwaiti gold plundered by Iraqis (actually gold-painted sections of 2x4) were scattered around the field. To earn points, players had to find the gold and bring it back to the base to be hoarded. At each re-spawn (every 20 minutes), the bars back at the base would be counted, and points awarded to that team based on how much gold had been stockpiled. Raids on enemy bases to steal their gold were encouraged!

The admission price for walk-ons was $30, which included a roast pig dinner and party after the game on the Saturday night. A case of Draxxus Blaze paintballs cost $120 (but $80 if you paid for it before July 1st).

The Players

I'm not sure of the actual numbers that showed up, but I'd estimate that over 300 people attended, with more showing up in the afternoon. There were 3 teams, including the Americans, the Iraqis, and the Germans (don't ask). The crowd overall were very "Milsim", with pretty much everyone in varying degrees of camo and tactical gear. This is something that I appreciate very much at scenario events, because it's just hard to get into the theme when you're fighting with or against a guy in a shiny red jersey looking like a Motocross rider who lost his bike. Don't get me wrong, I love Speedball, but I find that guys wearing that gear to military-themed events look as ridiculous as someone showing up to play at a Speedball tournament wearing CADPAT and combat boots!

Camping on-site was allowed, and many people brought tents or trailers to spend the night The game continued on Sunday from 10am-1pm, followed by prize draws for those who were still there. I couldn't make it on the second day, but apparently some pretty nice prizes, including 10 markers, were available to be won.

The Field

Having played at 2 Big Games at Arnold Paintball, here are my thoughts on the place for Big Game play:

1 - The place is HUGE! There are about 10 fields open at Arnold, and 9 of them are combined for the Big Game. Even with 300 players on the board, combat tended to cluster in pockets, and there were still huge tracts of land that were deserted. This left a lot of room for an organized team to get its s*** together and flank enemies, run recon missions, and sneak over to raid an enemy base and steal all their assets (this actually happened to my team last year, near the end of the game). A downside to this field's size though is that it could easily take you 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. A couple of times when I walked back to get air from the far end of the field, I found myself grumbling that I'd "paid good money to spend the day going for a walk in the woods".

2 - STAFF: The staff are really friendly, and have an eye for paintball safety. They pounce on players who take their masks off in play areas, or who walk into deadboxes without a barrel cover. The only trail into or out of the playing area features a chrono table with 3 red chronometers set up. You can't pass any further than the chrono station without putting some paintballs downrange under the watchful eye of a staff member. No outside paint is permitted, both to pay the bills AND to make sure that the paint isn't hard Wal-Mart crap that can cause injury. Hopper checks are few and far between, but I did notice some people getting checked. One thing that bothered me though is that although the staff were good with the re-spawning early in the day, as the day wore on they got lazy. Groups of players would just sit in deadboxes, waiting for a staff member to come and round them up to take them to the re-spawn point at the next scheduled re-spawn time, but no one would ever show up. Players would get frustrated, and leave the deadbox with their gun in the air, wandering the field in search of their team's re-spawn point.

3 - No lunch included: Hey I'm all for carving off a hunk of flesh off a roast pig at the end of the day, but anyone putting their back into a paintball game just can't go that long without food! This left no choice but to go buy food from the snack bar, where the choices were bags of chips or meat cooked on a dirty barbecue. I'd have gladly pitched in an extra 5 bucks on the admission price for 2 slices of pizza and a can of Coke delivered at the lunch break, like most other fields offer at these large events.

4 - Having just recovered from a Paintball injury, I'm more aware of trip & fall hazards on paintball fields. One thing that I REALLY have to highlight is how hazardous the terrain at this field is. The entire field is laid out on extremely rocky ground, with boulders jutting out from the ground everywhere. So if you're coming to play at Arnold and want to leave with your kneecaps intact, wear your kneepads!!! I can't count the number of times I tripped on those buggers and stumbled just walking around the field. But when you're running during a shootout, and your adrenaline is pumping and you get tunnel vision, that's when it can get REALLY dangerous.

5 - Another BIG safety gripe I have is that there are countless dead branches lying everywhere, in large, random piles. These are obviously left over from earlier clearing work on the fields, and they need to be hauled off somewhere instead of being left on the borders of individual fields. When the entire park is opened for a Big Game, and the boundary tapes are removed, it's so easy to get caught stomping through a large pile of dead branches as you navigate the terrain. Not only is this a tripping hazard, but if you get shot at while standing in one of these "branch dumps", all you can do is stand there and get eliminated. The alternatives would be to dive for cover, which could lead to getting stabbed in the chest by a dead branch, or to kneel or drop down in place, which would probably lead to a visit to your local proctologist! The worst thing is that some of these piles aren't even on the borders of fields, but are on the fields themselves. Apparently someone at some point thought it would be a great idea to leave some piles right in the middle of fields as bunkers for cover, even though some of the said piles are only about 2 feet high. These things really need to be taken out of there.

Fun fact: When yours truly was down to about 30 paintballs near the end of the day, I decided to run a banzai charge (the ONLY way you should go out in paintball!). I yelled and ran ahead and sprayed paint for a good 5 seconds before tripping on one of those damn piles and falling flat on my face. So there I was in the open, face-planted on this pile of branches (luckily unhurt), trying to get back up, while paintballs flew at me from all directions! That was definitely not what I'd planned.

In conclusion, if you're looking for a great Milsim scenario game where you can scrim with like-minded Milsim players on a large battlefield, be sure to check out Arnold Paintball's Big Game in 2010. Just make sure you pack a lunch, wear good boots, bring protective gear for your knees, and watch your step!

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