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:: Paintball Reffing Manual

:: The Customer Comes First

Most refs were players first - and as a player we look at other players as friends and foes.

As a ref, we must think differently. Most players come to have fun with their friends, and they PAY good money for a paintball field and its staff to provide a fun/safe/challenging environment to do that. The first time player will return is they have fun, and they will likely not return if they have a bad time. It is these players we must think of when planning what to do next, when splitting up teams and running games.

The customer is the player, and the customer should have a good, safe time. Both are important, and both are the responsibility of the reffing staff. Before the game, the head ref needs to establish the ground rules through the safety briefing, and more importantly, establish his authority as the guy in charge.

ask you self frequently : "will this be fun for a first time player?"
be authoritative and professional
be calm, clear and concise when explaining the rules
take time to ask for and answer questions. The only dumb question is the not asked.
be consistent - and stand by your decisions. If you change your mind, make sure its your idea.
DONT don't let the veteran players push you around - they may have valuable suggestions, but the ref is in charge.
be rude, condescending or confrontational.

Lay down the rule, but be nice about it. Make sure they have FUN, but that they do it SAFELY. If you have to choose between FUN and SAFETY, SAFETY comes first.

:: Getting Ready for the First Game : Which Game to start with?

You have explained the rules and answered questions, issued markers and goggles and now its time to decide what games to play and to pick sides. The first time player's adrenaline is starting to pump right now. The fear of being shot at by a paintball moving at 280fps and actually being hit by one is faily terrifying -and the first game should be picked to make sure thet everyone is allowed an opportunity to see the bad guys up pretty close, to shoot and get shot at. The first games should also be SIMPLE - and without a lot of variations or complicated strategy required. For these reasons, there are several good first choices.

2 Flag Antietam - for 10 or more (the best choice if players are still arriving)
2 Flag No Mans Land ( Great for 20+)
Total Elimination - 1/2 field Antietam -- great for small groups (less than 10 players)
Control the Village - or Center Flag Village
Tower : its to easy to stay back and not engage
President : requires dynamic teamwork, and good communications

For a whole list of games and descriptions check out the Rec Ball Games Page

:: Getting Ready for the First Game : Picking Teams?

When picking sides, there are several things to consider:

Do keep friends and groups together - at least for the first few games. If they want to split up - let them come to you with the suggestion.

Do split up the veterans that help coach their teams. One good, experienced player is worth 2 mediocre players and 4 newbie's. Take this into account when counting sides.


Do split up firepower - count fanny packs - and each team should have about the same number. (Special note: If the vets w/ pumps are getting hammered - they will likely gear up, and kick their game up a notch - This can make things a bit aggressive for the newer players)

Don't assign a team captain and have them pick sides. This leaves some kid being picked last, and is pretty hard on the ego.
Don't go 1,2,1,2,1,2 down a line to pick teams. This splits up friends.
Don't let the veteran players push you around. Some will try.
On occasion a truly veteran team will show up and they will want to stick together. In these cases, stack the other side at least 2 or 3 to one

Once the sides are split, look at them and try to guess who will win. If this is an easy call, move a player or two around. Then play a game or two. If one team rolls over the other team and doesn't loose many or any players in doing so, things need adjustment.

A common was to adjust teams is to add late "walkon" players to the loosing team.

Another way to adjust teams is to allow the loosing team to pick a player to move over. (and yes, one player can make a huge difference.) Keep doing this until things even out.

A best, most common technique in picking teams is to split the very skilled players down the middle, balancing leadership and firepower, and then putting groups of players all at once on each side.

:: Getting Ready for the First Game : Walking On and Explaining The Game

When walking on the field for the first game grabs the flags, pull on you goggles and walk to the center of the field, mid way between flag stations or to the closest flag station and then explaining the game.

DO Make sure the flags are in place
DO HEAD REF TIP: "make sure there are no inappropriate flags on the field, IE flags from other games, or American flags. New players will use these to win a game, when they haven't made it to an enemy station. Don't use the American flag as a game flag. Maybe this isn't in the army handbook, but its just not respectful."

Explain "We call this game ______________".

Keep your plugs in until the count down. And stay at your flag station until the game starts.

One team will start here, and other other over there.

The boundaries are here, here, here and here.

The time limit is this.

When you get shot go here. Be sure to hold you gun up and plugged when you walk there, and move quickly to avoid getting shot more. Remember, no talking to other players once you are eliminated.

Don't forget the surrender rule / Bunker Tag Rule / Tree of Life Rule (or any special game rule)

The object of this game is this____________.

To win you must__________________.

Any questions?


:: Game On

The traditional game start announcement goes like this :

Walk to the middle of the field, and depress radio transmit button and yell:
1 Minute Warning
30 seconds!!! / 30 seconds!!!
Blue team are you ready?
Red team are you ready?
Gentlemen on field name, game name, time limit.
Goggles down, Barrel plugs out
Game on in 3, 2, 1, GAME ON!!!!!


Once the game is on, Always let your presence be seen and known on the field. Don't distract players during the game, but approach them from different angles during the game to let them know that you can and will be everywhere at once. Don't just hang out on the tape line, but roam the whole field (or your sector).

Approach a player (all sneaky like) from behind... Move into their peripheral vision (slowly)... They will be a little surprised, but move away (silently) right after you make eye contact. Try to move around a lot, and do this little trick as often as possible. This will get in the players head that "these refs can show up at any time, from any angle"... You won't ever have an issue with wiping once you are in the players heads.



Look for players pulling up their goggles on the fields or walking around without their barrel plugs in safety zones.

HEAD REF TIP: "Remind newer players to keep there masks on at all time before every game, and any time you deem it necessary. If you see a player who likes lifting his goggles on the field, or walking around the safe zones with out a barrel plug give them a warning. then another warning. then sit them out for a game. Most players will not intentionally disobey the rules."

HEAD REF TIP: "New players, particularly younger players WILL take their masks off. Be ready. Use your body to shield their faces and get their masks back on ASAP."


Once play begins feel free to give advice to newbies. typical newbie advice is

  "Dont bunch up"

"Watch your left side"


"You are too far back - you need to move up"

  "Dont shoot your own player"

Look for potential dangerous situations. The most common is a very close shot involving a bunkertag. Look for the potential and move to it. If you see a situation where a bunker tag is eminant, move quickly to the area and quickly stop both players after the bunker tag from shooting point blank. Advise the agressor in a soft voice, "dont forget about the surrender rule"


On occassion a player will bunker down, get shot, and then not want to get out of the bunker for being scared. Move to this player and call them out. Put your body in the line of fire and advise them.

HEAD REF TIP: "In my paintball reffing career, the number one issue I've had to deal with is overshooting and point-blank shooting. A player who feels abused WILL NOT be back. Make it a point to explain the procedure for what to do if you're eliminated. This one simple step will save you more grief than anything else I can think of."


In Mutual Elimination situations the Ref Says: Making the call for a near-mutual or true-mutual elim: Be very enthusiastic and say "Beautiful Mutual", several times if you have to. Of course the players will both want to argue, but you are complimenting them on something, which solves the argument before it happens. By the time both players remember that they want to argue, they will have barrel plugs in and be walking off the field. This is also a good way to keep players friendly with one another after a tense situation.

If you make a call, stand by it. it will make you look weak if you change your mind. Never call down another ref in front of players. Never reverse a call another ref made. Players see that and will lose respect for the refs.
Sneaky Guys : Don't give away a flanking or stealth maneuver.

Frequently a game will include the opportunity or necessity for a players or group of players to make a stealth or flank move. Nothing gives away a move like this quicker than some orange vest moving through the woods. If you must follow a group, separate from the group by at least 120 ft, and then following behind and to the side - or if you know where they are going, move there first and wait. Be on hand for when they open up. Bird dogging is when you follow too close and give the players away. This also includes watching a hidden player, or paint checking a player at the request of the enemy player for the purpose of having you locate the hidden player. Veteran players DO watch the younger/ less experienced refs to see where the enemy is.


Once a flag starts moving, make sure a ref goes with it. It is ok to birddog a bit in this instance, unless the flag pull was very stealthy. Run with the flag until hung. If the player running the flag gets shot, pick up the flag and hang it on the closest tree in plain view.


There are two types of paintchecks - the first is where the players is taking a lot of splatter and is dug in. In this case, call "The Player is Neutral"
move between the player and the enemy and hold you arms up to provide a shield for the player and have then stand and turn. If clean, you can tell them to either run or to get back down in their hole. Then yell "The Mans Clean" or "Mans eliminated" and "Play On!!"

The other type is an instance where you may have seen something, and want to check it. Run to the player in question and tell them "keep playing - you are not neutral " and then avoid the field of fire and check the player without stopping play. Then yell "The Mans Clean" or "Mans eliminated" and "Play On!!"

If you feel sneaky and want to get even with abusive "paintcheck calls" feel free to go paint check a tree or pine cone and then call "player clean".

HEAD REF TIP:"When you make a paintcheck call on a player, be sure and point to the player you're making a call on. Especially when there are multiple players close by. It the heat of a game, it can be very hard for players to know who your call is on."

HEAD REF TIP: "Do not call players neutral for a paintcheck unless it is absolutely necessary, most of the time you can do a "drive by" paintcheck, let him know what you are doing, be thorough and not disrupt the game. Both players will appreciate the effort. .. Be LOUD when you make a call and use hand signals. This helps prevent confusion."

If you see a player playing out of bounds, warn them to get back in bounds - "don't cross the yellow rope" or "hey buddy, you are out of bounds. That yellow rope is the boundary"

If you see a player purposefully wiping a kit, or playing with a goggle hit -call them out and give them a gentle warning. If you see the same player do it again, sit them out a game, and ask the field owner/manager to speak with them about why its necessary to wipe.

Warn every cussing player to keep it clean - "we have young ears"

Find ways to dissolve conflicts before they happen. Never get in a confrontation with a player on the field. If a player wants to argue a call, move them off the field (out of bounds) to discuss the situation calmly    HEAD REF TIP: "Always be polite, calm and firm because if you get excited/angry the player will do the same. The more aggressive a player gets in discussion the calmer but firmer you need to be. When he sees he is not getting a "rise" out of you he'll calm down."

:: Between Games

The period between games is an opportunity. Back at the compound, players share their exploits with their friends, release some of the adrenaline and tension developed during the games, fill up on paint, air, water, clean off, rechrono their markers, clean their masks and meet other players. You as a ref have more responsibilities that you may think during this period. The Head Ref puts the most important of these very well:

 Field Ambassador Tips
DO Mingle with ALL of the players not just your friends and experienced players. You are an ambassador for the field and this also gives you a chance to test the water to see how the day is going for all of the players.
DO Talk to the non-playing parents - be friendly, mature and considerate. Reassure them that you have the safety and interest of their child on your mind. They will appreciate it and this will increase the likelihood of them returning again.
Offer non-players the chance to observe the game by putting on a vest and goggles and going out with you. Just remember your first responsibility is safety and running the game but when you can point things out to the observer and explain what's happening you may create a player or at least an advocate for the sport


  "Turning Games" Tips

While paintball players can sit and chat forever, they came to play. And once they are ready to play, it is time to play. Extended periods of waiting to play is a huge complaint by regular players and repeated slow turnaround times will send players elsewhere to play paintball. TriggerTyme was once famous for very slow turnaround times due the refs being more interested in hanging out with each other and toying with their own markers than the players playing paintball. There were days when 5 or 6 games were played, and games did not start until 11:30am.

Your goal as a ref should be to make sure every player has fun playing paintball and no player should ever have to enter the trailer asking "when are we going to play?"

YOUR GOAL : 12 to 18 games a day - first game at 10:00am. (nice weather)
8 to 12 games a day - first game at 10:00am. (summer)

For a whole list of games and descriptions check out the Rec Ball Games Page


Do make an announcement as you reenter the compound from the field telling the players how long to the next game, and include the suggestions to drink lots of water, get more air and paint if you need it and to clean off old hits.

  • NICE WEATHER : turn games every 5 minutes. "Next Game in 5 Minutes - so get what you need now". 5 minutes is plenty of time during nice weather. Don't wait on one or two players. They will learn to hurry if they want to play.
  • SUMMER WEATHER : turn games every 10-15 minutes - and constantly suggest to all players to drink lots of water. Players passing out from heat is a very real problem and is dangerous.
DO Wander around and get a feel from all the players how things are going and then pick the next game accordingly. See "Picking Teams" above.
If some players are discouraged, move a player or two to their side, or keep adding the walkons to their side, or play a tower, search and destroy, jail break or president game to help them fight with a larger side.


Playing Sets

If you don't see players entering the trailer to sign in, or driving in to the parking lot, it may be a good time to go play a set of games. A set consist of multiple games played back to back with a small 3 minute break in-between - usually at a remote staging area. If you are planning to play a set, advise the players to bring some extra paint, and water - and tell the parents and the staffers in the trailer that you are going down to the remote staging area (or village) to play a few games. And to safety brief any any new players walking on, and then send them down there to meet you.

During the summer heat, limit sets and turn arounds' to 2 games.

Good sets of games follow:

Staging : Remote Staging on Bunker Hill

  • No Mans Land - two flag
  • No Mans Land - turn around - two flag
  • Ho Chi Mihn Trail - two flag or center flag
  • Bunker Hill - Search and Destroy
  • Bunker Hill - Two flag
  • The set can be closed out with a game of Jail Break on Antietam.

Staging : The cross roads at the Speedball Field


  • Blitzkrieg (2 flag village/pow camp)
  • Center Flag Village
  • Control POW camp
  • The Island of Dr. Morreau - center flag pow camp / village w/ 3 teams
  • Food Fight (2 flag - Pizza Hut vs waffle house)

For a whole list of games and descriptions check out the Rec Ball Games Page

When the players look exhausted out, (usually 4 games), take everyone back to the compound for a 20 minute break. This technique of running SETS is a great way to run private groups, and for normal play to keep everyone playing instead of walking back of forth to the compound. It saves time and energy. Be sure to take 2 or 4 co2 tanks and some paper towels, and 2 flags when playing a set.

In the remote staging areas, watch for unplugged guns in the netted area.

When you return to the compound after running a set give the players 15 minutes to recover - many will need air, paint and water.

A slower game may be nice to follow a set : example: search and destroy on Antietam or the President Game