So, you’ve got your airsoft rifle and sidearm. You’ve got the gear. You’ve got three friends joining you for a day out on the field. Maybe you’re at your local field. In that case, the referee staff will have the day planned out with a mix of objective gameplay and combat scenarios. What if it’s just you and seven of your friends with a large open space for a little backyard warfare? Even there, a little bit of brainstorming and some rules can make the day much more fun for everyone. I’ve compiled a not-so-comprehensive list of 8 airsoft game types played and moderated by field staff. You’ll also read about a few games that work best with smaller of people willing to follow special rules.
Whatever game you try, there are going to be some rules that crossover between them. Your ref will make sure everyone knows what they are. In case you’re playing at home with friends, here are some of the most common safety guidelines that will keep the day (relatively) painless.
Seriously, this one should go without saying. We risk copyright infringement from MGM when we say it, but you’re gonna shoot your eye out. It may be a different story with your mouth guard, but you only get one set of eyes. Don’t mess around with them.
While airsoft may feel like a contact sport, it really isn’t. We shoot each other with 6mm plastic pellets, but that’s the only contact that should happen on the field. Contact will certainly not fly at your local field. You may be sent home or even banned. During a pickup game at home, try to keep physical contact to a minimum.
Most fields will put a limit on the distance at which you can shoot at an enemy player. This is for everyone’s safety. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to open up on your back with their 400 FPS airsoft gun from three feet away. If you catch an enemy in a compromising situation like this, just call them out with what’s called a safety kill. Yell, “Surrender!”, or “Bang bang!” They’ll thank you for it. You can do away with safety kills at home, but you probably shouldn’t.
When you’re hit by a BB, all you should say to other players from that point is, “Hit!” and the walk back to the spawn. Don’t tell living players about the sniper you spotted in the bushes. Don’t let them know that there’s a baddie right around the corner. You’re dead. There are no ghosts in airsoft. It’s simple: don’t talk to living players.
You and your friends know you’re playing a game with airsoft guns, but the general public may not. Carry your gear in bags from the parking lot to the field and back. This is less of a problem at your local field, but it could get you into some serious trouble at home. If there is anything you can do to let people know you’re playing a game, do it. Now ladies and gents.. On with the Airsoft Game types!
Common Airsoft Game Types
Airsoft Game Type # 1 – Force on Force
This one goes by different names in different fields. Basically, two (or more) teams take to the field and have a chaotic plastic firefight. Players have infinite respawns and play continues until time-out, usually 10 or 15 minutes.
There may not be a clear winner by the end of the match. One way to decide who won is to see which team was farthest into the enemy’s half of the field at the end of the game. More than likely, one team will cite various reasons why they prevailed. I like Force on Force early in a day of airsoft because it’s a great warm-up.
It gets my blood flowing and mind ready for more complicated objectives that may come later in the day. If you’re new to a field, it gives you a chance to take your time and familiarize yourself with the map. You also get to test your equipment in a live-fire scenario to see what works and what you should leave in the staging area.
Airsoft Game Type # 2 – Elimination
Like Force on Force, this mode are basically teams duking it out. The difference here is that you as a player have limited lives. Sometimes just one, but mostly it’s two or three respawns. The game ends when one team is completely out of surviving members. You’ll need to be more strategic here. I like to gather a few capable teammates and push up together slowly. Take incoming fire seriously. Keep your eyes open and watch each other’s backs. You’ll have a more successful round of Elimination this way.
Airsoft Game Type # 3 – Team Deathmatch
The rules for Team Deathmatch are slightly different than Elimination. Instead of individuals having lives, the entire team has a pool of respawns. Someone, usually a referee or other volunteer, stays at each team’s spawn. Their job is to count how many times players have returned for a new spawn. When one team exhausts their spawns, the game is over and the other team wins. It is even more imperative that you take your role in the team seriously in Team Deathmatch. Only with constant communication with other players will you know if you’re contributing to your team’s success.
Airsoft Game Type # 4 – Domination
This airsoft game type plays out much like it does in first-person shooters. There are one or more objectives on the field to capture and hold. Your job is to get to these objectives and take them for your team. For most organized fields, taking an objective for your team means you’ve raised your team’s flag over it. It may be on a flagpole, or it may be a large road cone that you stick your team’s flag into. Regardless, the referees will tell you how to capture an objective for your team.
If you’re playing a private game, you can use your smart phone’s stopwatch feature to keep track of how long a team has held an objective. Simply set one (or more) smartphones on the field to mark it as an objective. To capture an objective for your team, start the stopwatch and let it count up. To take an objective from the enemy, press the Lap button and you will restart the timer at zero without erasing the other team’s time on the objective. The team with the most time on total objectives at the end of the game wins.
Airsoft Game Type # 5 – Extraction
This game reminds me of Steal the Bacon, but with airsoft guns. There are objects on the field to take and bring back to a specific point. This point may be your team’s spawn or a more contested area so that the other team can attempt to steal from your team. Objectives can be big or small. I’ve played with an EMT friend where the objective was a heavy rescue dummy on a stretcher. Huge boxes that need multiple people to move, and smaller objects like old spent propane tanks, lengths of PVC pipe or broken laptop computers are also common Extraction objectives. Capture the Flag is a type of Extraction mode.
If you’re playing at home and you’re extra careful, you can even make the object a person. This, of course, goes against one of our safety guidelines to avoid physical contact with other players. However, if all players exercise an amount of maturity and common sense, you can have an interesting game of Extraction.
Airsoft Game Types to Play with a Smaller Group
Airsoft Game Type # 6 – Betrayal
I love this game because it’s a huge change of pace from the tactical combat you come to expect when you take to an airsoft field. Betrayal is a game mode inspired by another game mode called Trouble in Terrorist Town. TTT first appeared on a PC video game called Garry’s Mod. It’s a free-for-all mode where the players on the field have an uneasy truce not to shoot each other on sight.
Among the players are traitors. Their job is to kill you and your friends. They are outnumbered by the innocent, but here’s the rub: you don’t know who the traitors are. The only thing you know for sure is that there is a detective who is definitely on your side. The game ends when either all traitors have been eliminated or all innocents and the detective have been killed.
All you need for this gamemode is a set of playing cards, a gun for each player (pistols work best) and some other airsoft guns hidden around the field. To start the game, pull the ace of spades, two or three diamonds and enough black cards for the remaining players from the deck. Deal the cards randomly to each player.
Players dealt black cards are innocent, just trying to survive to the end of the game. Players dealt the diamonds are traitors. The player dealt the ace of spades is the detective. That player then reveals to all players that he is on the innocent’s side. The innocents can trust the detective, but the detective cannot trust the innocents. After all, how do you know if that person approaching you is looking for a friend or looking take you out?
You need a way for the traitors to identify each other without the innocents finding out. Have all players form a circle, close their eyes and raise their hands. Ask all traitors to put a thumb up and open their eyes. Once they’ve had time to identify each other, have them lower their thumbs and close their eyes. Then all players open their eyes.
The traitors have a trick up their sleeves. They are the only ones who can quietly bring down other players. Either use rubber airsoft knives or a soft chop of the hand to perform this deadly melee kill. As an innocent or a detective, you need to keep other players at a distance. The detective also has an ability. He is the only player who can ask dead players which team they’re on. The best way to do this is to have the dead player hold onto the detective’s arm. Squeeze once for innocent, twice for a traitor.
Another twist to this airsoft game type you can add to the game is a traitor testing zone. Set up an area on the field with one volunteer who is responsible for the traitor testing zone. This Keeper knows the identities of each player in the game. There is no killing allowed in this area. When three players enter the zone, the Keeper will either nod or shake their head. A nod means that all players in the testing zone are innocent. A shake means that one or more of the players are traitors. No one outside of the zone must know what the Keeper revealed.
What if an innocent player accidentally shoots another innocent? Develop some sort of punishment for this. You can force this player to use a dart gun or a spring-action airsoft gun as their only defense in the next game. Maybe the offending player must act as the Keeper. Or maybe they must shoot with their off-hand. As you can see, there are quite a few rules of honor here, which is why Betrayal only works on a small scale. You can scale the number of traitors and detectives to a number of players present. The rules seem simple, but the mind games involved are endless. You can bluff, form tight-knit alliances, backstab and much more. Just use your imagination!
Airsoft Game Type # 7 – Murder
Murder is another airsoft game type that came from Garry’s Mod. You’ll need enough spring-action pistols for each player, a rubber knife, a deck of playing cards and fluorescent tape. In this game, one player’s mission is to kill all other players with the rubber knife. Sounds tough, right? Well, for the most part, the bystanders are defenseless. There is only one player who is armed, and even then, they only have a spring-action pistol. They can choose to reveal themselves or remain anonymous. The choice is theirs. Use playing cards to randomize the roles at the beginning of the game.
Hide lengths of fluorescent tape around the field. If an unarmed player finds five pieces of tape, they, too get to arm themselves with a spring-action pistol. The game ends when either an armed player kills the murderer or the murderer stabs all of the players. If the murderer kills an armed player, the bystanders may pick up his pistol to defend themselves. The murderer may also throw their knife, but they risk being unarmed when confronted by an armed player.
Airsoft Game Type # 8 – Infection
The infected almost always win this one, but for me, it’s the journey that matters. For this airsoft game type, you’ll need either a spring-action pistol or pie pans for each player. One player is randomly selected to be the alpha zombie. Their goal is to tag other players and turn them into zombies. The other players are survivors. Their goal is to live as long as possible. Bragging rights go to the player that ends up as the last man standing. The pie pans mentioned above are for zombies to wear as necklaces. They act as a target for the survivors to shoot. The zombie “dies” when the pie pan is shot three times. If you have enough spring-action pistols for everyone, the zombie dies in one hit and you can do away with the pie pans.
At the beginning of the game, only the alpha zombie knows they are the zombie. Within the first minute of play, the alpha zombie must attempt to turn another player. Once they reveal themselves, they must find and put on a pie pan necklace. When a zombie is “killed,” they remain dead for 10 seconds, then rise again to stalk the living.
Airsoft Game Types Final Thoughts
Hopefully, you learned something from this list of variant game types. The game modes you play at fields can easily be scaled down to smaller groups. Imagine setting up a backyard for a breach and clear Elimination mode! You can simulate Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Rainbow Six: Siege. Finding new ways to play airsoft is essential to keeping interest in the hobby.
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Noah Mains is a writer, an airsofter, and most importantly, he’s stuck in the 80s. From Colt SMGs to David Bowie to brick phones, he has an acute appreciation for the greatest decade, and is more than happy to share his enthusiasm for the ALICE gear system (the superior loadout, of course) with anyone who’ll listen.