What Is Speedball?
Speedball is sometimes conflated with other variants of Paintball, and it's sometimes even dismissed as just another word for Paintball itself! It’s substantially different, however, with an intriguing history and a set of exciting rules designed for high-octane matches.
A brief history of Speedball
Speedball is one of the three main Paintball formats (alongside Scenario Paintball and Woodball) and has an array of defining features. In the early 1980s and going into the 1990s, Paintball was played predominantly in the woods. As the sport grew in popularity, attempts were made to make it more accessible and entertaining for spectators, which is where Speedball came in.
Speedball was first invented with competitive tournaments in mind. The format exists to make Paintball more compelling to audiences, as well as more competitive for those involved. One of the most popular Paintball locations in the 1980s was a field in South Carolina (now the SC Village Paintball venue). It was completely flat and didn’t include any trees; it just had buildings for cover. From there, the concept of Speedball began to develop.
Speedball grew throughout the 1990s and 2000s and quickly became one of the most popular variants of Paintball. It’s the format usually favored for professional competitions, and as a result, there are countless Speedball leagues, teams, events and even slightly different rules. If you've ever watched competitive Paintball, chances are it was the quick-fire, spectator-friendly Speedball format.
What are the main features of Speedball?
Despite some variations within Speedball, the format itself is broadly similar across all tournaments. Cover is the most defining trait of Speedball. Matches take place on a flat plain with clearly marked borders. This plain is interspersed with various cover points. The cover can be anything, but nowadays it tends to consist of large, inflatable bunkers. Players must use this space tactically to capture a flag from the opposing team. As the name suggests, games are extremely fast-paced and action-packed. The need to pin down the opposition means that Speedball players go through much more ammunition than in other formats and often prefer specialized tournament guns like the Empire GS HPA.
Speedball demands teamwork. Depending on the setting, teams usually consist of three, five, seven or 10 players. Teams must work together, communicate and plan their moves. Rapid feedback regarding the position of opposition players, their movements and advances is key to success. This heavy emphasis on teamwork and communication makes Speedball the most tactical variant of Paintball, and teams usually wear uniforms.
Another defining trait of Speedball is that each team begins within shooting range of the other. This guarantees high-octane action from the start, which is, again, perfect for spectators. The aim is to get the game moving quickly but to retain tactical nuances through the incorporation of cover (bunkers) and strategic objectives (the flag).
Unlike other formats, Speedball essentially negates any concept of stealth. Since the matches take place on a flat plain where everybody is visible and within shooting distance, the matches place far greater emphasis on teamwork, communication and, of course, speed, which is why participants tend to favor more maneuverable equipment like the Maddog Pro protector.
What are the rules of Speedball?
The three most important features of Speedball are the bunkers, the fixed width of the field and the flags. Teams compete to capture their opponent's flag, but there is a degree of variation between tournaments. In the “Two Flag” format, a flag is placed at either end of the field. Both teams start next to their flag, and the aim of the game is to advance and capture the other team’s flag without losing control of your own. This is the most common form and the one usually seen at tournaments.
Are there other variations?
Yes! A variation on the “Two Flag format” features just one flag located in the middle of the field, which opposing teams must compete to capture. This usually offers a much more frenetic style of play as teams compete for control of the centre of the field. X Ball is a twist on this format that involves much larger teams. Each team is divided into individual squads who compete to capture the central flag, and then switch out for a new squad once they've completed the round. Turnaround times are short, and if players don’t make the switch quickly enough, they aren’t allowed onto the field.
Whatever the format, Speedball relies on teamwork and excellent communication. Point systems vary per tournament, with some awarding individual points for surviving a round and others giving points for taking down an opponent.