Thursday, August 25, 2011

Defense vs. Offense

The PSP NJO field layout is ideal for the purposes of this discussion because it's relatively easy to understand the characteristics in play--especially if you've played on the layout at some point, either at the PSP event or a local or regional one or even just for fun.
First let me suggest that more often than not people confuse the pace at which something happens for the style of play involved. Let me further suggest there are fundamentally three styles of play in competitive paintball; offensive, defensive & tactical or conditional play we can call counterpunch paintball. Finally let me suggest that teams can also have tendencies toward different styles that aren't the style itself. Few teams are truly defensive and only defensive. Fewer teams are only offensive. Most teams are counterpunchers with either an offensive or defensive tendency.
A breakout that eliminates 2 opponents can turn into a short point if the team recognizes and responds as a group (or a, ahem, team) to the opportunity 2 quick eliminations present. That doesn't make a team an offensive team. It probably does mean the players have some aggressive tendencies and have learned (and/or been taught) how to capitalize on such opportunities. However, that same team on a breakout that leaves both sides 5 up is likely to play a very different point from the one played with the 2 early eliminations. Is that a style change--or simply the result of different circumstances? (Hint: it's not a style change.)
Now consider our hypothetical team on the PSP NJ layout breaking out 5 up. As we saw this result was not uncommon particularly if the teams stayed inside and played the "safe" primaries; Home, either or both the show side MT & Can, the pit side MT and/or midfield Temple. Variations on that set-up allowed teams to cross up their lanes or play them straight up and offered movement in stages for getting wide. One might be excused for considering that breakout to be fundamentally defensive--but that would be a mistake. Any breakout, wherever the primaries are, is a tactic. What happens after the breakout is your style or tendency indicator--most of the time. (It does little good to try and force "big" breakouts if the aggressor continues to lose bodies, and points in the process. Better to take up positions that can be used to take control of the field in order to then execute a gameplan consistent with a team's strengths and abilities.) At NJ even Dynasty routinely took short positions on breakouts--and frequently do anyway--as part of a larger strategy and because they have the players and talent to execute aggressive play from any breakout formation.
Take a moment to consider the NJ layout. The show wire had limited bunker options countered by decent Home shooting lanes, excellent dead zone lanes and two stand-up bunkers the taking of which made wide rotations difficult OTB. There were better Home shooting lanes wide on the pit side along with the midfield Temple and close by MT. The layout encouraged short, safe breaks that also allowed for having 4 or 5 guns up coming off the board. (The weakness of any short or inside breakout is heavy pressure up the center--because, in part, there are no wide guns able to counter a center push. As a practical matter the only consistently effective center attack was the show wire side of the X even though teams routinely tried to use the fifty dorito and lockdown the pit wire using the upfield Can. That option was sometimes effective but usually only as part of a larger mid-game push and a numeric advantage.) Given a layout like NJ what is a team to do? To a larger than is usually acknowledged extant any given layout will strongly influence how every team plays regardless of their preferences or tendencies.

To be continued. Next time we'll take a look at the inside/out game in more detail.


sdawg said...

I love love love these kinds of articles. You should really consider getting a publisher and putting a book out. I am not kidding.

But, first, I need ask a fundamental question: what are the simplest definitions of offense, defense, and (what I'll call) counter-offense?

I would guess that offense involves attempting to take unoccupied bunkers to obtain a superior position to eliminate opposing players, particularly by obtaining the element of surprise and thereby avoiding risky gun fights.

Defense consists of attempting to eliminate opposing players while they are attempting offense (I.e. Shooting a lane in anticipation of opposing movements) while at the same time minimizing risk of elimination by staying in one's occupied bunker unless movement has low risk of leading to elimination bunker.

Counter offense would involve starting out defensive to maintain a advantage on bodies early in a game, then taking hired risk moves, such as attempted run-throughs, when the opposing team has revealed their attempted play.

It seems like at the lower levels of paintball, offense leads to more success, and at the higher levels, the game is always counter offense. Defense only works if your team has an awesome paint sponsorship and superior gun fighting skills (from dedicated drilling). Most teams don't have either of these, which could explain a trend from offense to counter offense to defense.

Ok, how'd I do?

Baca said...

Pretty good.
Offensive theory says the combination of speed & movement will, when executed properly, overwhelm any and all opposition.
You basically pegged the defensive theory; patient, low risk, key lane control that waits for an opponent to make mistakes. Which is okay as far as it goes but defense doesn't close games.
Counterpunch basically uses elements of both with teams shading to one pole or the other. And, of course, moderating their approach based on what a given layout will allow.

Breakout primaries may be influenced by a team's tendencies but not necessarily. Breakout primaries are less of a style indicator than the mid-game.

Offense can be very effective at the lower levels largely because of the disparity of talent & development possible within the same divisions. That, and the level of gun skills are often less developed which makes the principles of offensive paintball more effective. At the pro level all of the teams, more or less, have a high level of proficiency that often mitigates purely offensive efforts. As such the pro game becomes a conditional game. We'll get into that some too.

sdawg said...

Awesome, thanks for the feedback.