Monday, February 25, 2013

ETV and the X-Factor Tryout

Dan Napoli, Brad Maugham and crew were in town this past weekend getting the film footage to produce another paintball masterpiece. An extension of, and follow-up to, last year's X-Factor tryout production I'm looking forward to seeing the finished piece as I think it will have something for everyone interested in competitive paintball and will deliver a pretty unique product. First, an inside look at how X-Factor as a team works and second, what I hope is a really clear-eyed look at the struggle and desire of some up-and-coming players to prove they have the right stuff to take the next step. For players who have been there the tryout should strike a familiar chord and for those newer to the game it should be an eye opener as to what the grind is all about. For every success story there are a dozen failures, two dozen players who must come to grips not achieving their dream--at least not just yet. And decisions to be made; is it worth it? Do I keep on? Considering past productions I can hardly wait. Fingers crossed. No pressure, guys.
The tryout process was a positive for me as well as it gave me additional insights into the team and some of the undercurrent of dynamics at work which will (hopefully) help me do my job better as the season progresses as well. The team has been laying the groundwork for the upcoming season for a few weeks now but the next couple of weeks there's a lot of work to be done--and there's going to be a lot on the line. 15 teams in Dallas playing for a pro title, the first of the year, and a spot in the Champions bracket moving on to the second event of the season. Seldom if ever has the beginning of a season seemed so fraught with importance. So consequential. All the teams will come out fighting tooth and claw to make the cut and with so many teams having made significant changes in the off season everything is up for grabs. Who is going to want it the most? Who is going to be best prepared to grab the brass ring?
The latest new look Russian Legion will be in San Antonio the next two weekends leading into the event. It should be excellent preparation for both teams. Can't wait. If you're in the neighborhood drop by and catch some of the action.


Okay, not altogether apropos but how can you go wrong with a James Bond tribute post title? If you're a member of the surviving NPPL politburo today it's gotta seem like the sky is falling, doesn't it? Oh, by the way, how'd that Hawaiian Challenge event turn out? Killer, huh? Oh, not so much? Really. Who'da thunk it? (Yes, for the record, I am kicking a wounded league while it's down--and I'm just getting started. NPPL Facebook also stated there would be a 1-day event on the 23rd and a NPPL-sponsored practice on Sunday the 24th hosted by Chuck and Pev.)
So Bart's money is out (of the NPPL) and Impact is in the PSP for 2013. The NPPL Board put its foot down and said, "No!" and very quickly discovered they didn't control Bart's wallet after all--though after three seasons it's easy to see how they made that mistake. Not counting all the other pro teams to bail on the NPPL before Impact the first casualty is the (apparent) disbanding of Chicago Legend. While it's easy and natural to feel sympathy for the players and the loss of a competitive team VFTD will not be joining in the general eulogising of Legend owner, Dennis Olsen. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "I come not to praise Ceasar but to bury him." Happy to spend Bart's money he's the first to cut and run when the going gets seriously tough and is the same guy who two years ago arrogantly promised the NPPL would bury the PSP and who threatened Camille for having the temerity to go work for a league that actually paid her salary. I don't doubt the guy has friends in the game. He probably doesn't kick puppies. But, contra Hinman, the game won't miss him. The second casualty will be Chuck & Pev's travel schedule and the third casualty is already Gino's decision to align Valken in the NPPL camp and publicly spin the PSP as the villain in that little melodrama. (Oops.)
And we are left, for the time-being, with the question: Where will the money come from to continue to operate a money pit masquerading as a paintball league?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Impact: Window of Opportunity Opens a Crack

Word on the street is sealed up tighter than an acrophobic's sphincter at 10,000 feet about to take his first unwilling skydive--but Mr. Curious is on the job--and he delivers once again. Rumor has it that Bart Y. approached the PSP sometime in the last 48 hours to see if there was any way to get his team, Impact, into the pro scrum of Champions & Challengers. Apparently an offer was made that Bart was willing to take to the NPPL Board. Rumor has it that meeting didn't go Bart's way as the Board rejected the latest deal/offer/plan/whatever. That leaves Bart in the precarious position of deciding what to do and not having a lot of time to make that decision. Seems the offer came with a very limited window of opportunity to either accept it or reject it. Further complicating matters is just what sort of deal Bart can make independent of the rest of the NPPL Board. One supposes he can simply leave the NPPL to its own devices by putting his wallet back in his pocket and rejoining the PSP.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Miscellaneous Big League Stuff

If you have missed the most recent VFTD--Facebook posts on the Millennium you may want to pop over and check those out first. (View-from-the-Deadbox FB) The latest word is that at least 2 and perhaps more SPL teams will be dropping out in 2013. So far Ignition is in--whose next?
More interesting is the Facebook page for the Millennium's effort at depressing CPL level team turnout at the first CPS event in late March. (free CPL practice) It was not clear to me--using assorted translators--whether or not the Med Cup layout will be available for that practice or not. It sounds like the layout isn't due to be released until the day after the "free" weekend to the public but it isn't clear whether or not the event layout will be the practice layout--though that was implied in earlier communications.
Also interesting is the list of invitees. While I'm not up on the complete rosters of the CPL teams Jason Wheeler of RL will be there (apparently) even though he is competing in the MS this season with a D1 team. I've asked Jason about this and as soon as VFTD hears back I'll post any or all of his reply as he permits. If any of y'all recognize invitees who aren't on CPL rosters post 'em up in the comments. At this stage it all seems rather murky.

On this side of the Atlantic thanks to Mr. Curious's rare skill at covertly wire-tapping Big Brother's eavesdropping capability it's beginning to sound like there is dissension in NPPL City amongst some of the principles although just what the disagreements are about is unknown at this time. Also it appears an avenue of dialogue still exists between Bart Y. and the PSP though whether this means there is any negotiating room with respect to Impact participating in the PSP this season is unclear. As of this writing the team remains out.
And finally there is the question of the Hawaiian Challenge. Will it or won't it? Due to happen this coming weekend there is literal radio silence from the NPPL. It was never very likely given the less than 3 week window for non-Hawaiian teams to register, pay and arrange travel--and then there's the question of the layout--was one ever released? I couldn't find it at either the NPPL website, Hawaii Extreme Paintball or on Facebook. My guess is the whole thing disappears down the collective NPPL memory hole and is simply never mentioned again. Even if that doesn't happen could the PSP or any other promoter, big or small, get away with this kind of grossly unprofessional conduct?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Open Questions for the NPPL

The latest NPPL postings on Facebook have left me confused. As a consequence I have a few questions, the answers to which would clear things up nicely. I figure if I'm confused others might be as well so here we are. (Btw, if you--as readers--have any additional questions post 'em up in comments and maybe we can get everyone's questions answered in one place at one time.)
First, will the registration page have a link to team lists for events like it did last year--and appears not to this year? (I'm asking 'cus most teams want to know and because one of the Facebook announcements mentions the possibility the Hawaiian event may be cancelled. When? I take it entries will be refunded?)
With the Facebook announcement on Saturday of series prizes for all divisions--primarily free entries to 2014 events--is that in place of or in addition to the individual event prizes posted on the NPPL website a few weeks ago under formats, divisions and prizes? (I'm assuming it's both but you know where assuming can get you, so ...)
Then there's the pro two-on-two's at the, is it, 4 star events? I'm assuming (again) that it's active NPPL pro players [on a 2013 roster for instance] but that still leaves a few questions unanswered. Do the duos have to be from the same team? Is their team expected to send them to these events? What's the format? If participation isn't mandatory what's the minimum number of "teams" allowed to compete for the $2500?
I also saw something about the pro division being locked in 2013. What does that mean going forward? How many replacement teams will be allowed in before the division is locked?

That's it for now. Thanks.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Impact Out

--of the PSP pro division! Mr. Curious is calling this a done deal (but as y'all know done deals are undone all the time.) Rumorology is unclear as to the cause though it's easy to speculate it is part of the hardening stance between the two leagues. (A countervailing theory suggests this move may have been motivated by a desire to keep deep pockets from setting off a bidding war for the top players--rumor had it Bart was dropping some serious change on his latest acquisitions--a move that could cripple the competitive balance of the fledgling Champions & Challengers changes to the pro division.) Given that the conventional wisdom is that the NPPL doesn't continue to exist without Bart Y.'s continued support it would appear the PSP has tired of endless on again off again negotiations. Considered in the light of other pro team departures from the NPPL for the 2013 season--including XSV, it begins to look like a determined push to settle the dueling leagues once and for all.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

EPBF Beatdown: Hamet Speaks

The plot, like a bubbling batch of goulash, thickens. First, the EPBF kicked the CPS to the curb. Second the Millennium counter-scheduled a free practice weekend on the otherwise unavailable Med. Cup event layout for CPL teams the same weekend as the first CPS event. Then GI/DXS chose not to sponsor the CPS but also strongly urged their sponsored teams not to play in the CPS and their distributors not to get involved. And now we have the official Laurent Hamet (MS/EPBF) response on a French website, in French no less. However that hasn't kept VFTD from making available to y'all our unique combination translation and paraphrase that not only reveals what it says but also what it means.

"Look, it’s like this. If the CPS had been satisfied being an Italian league we were well on our way to recognition and inclusion in the EPBF. But no, Slava had to get all uppity and decide to run events where he and the CPS didn’t belong. If the CPS had stayed in Italy everything would’a been swell. Now those right-thinking Italian partners of his bailed and started another Italian league under the aegis of the ipbs. They know their place and they’re happy to have the Italian piece of the EPBF pie and not rock the boat. Besides, Slava is a deadbeat and the CPS might have a negative impact on other EPBF member nation leagues some of whom just happen to be our business partners in one venture or another. Once it became clear the CPS was gonna cause trouble action needed to be taken.
"To prove his bona fides Laurent reminds us that when he was a player he carried all his gear and that of his teammates too on his back to the various venues walking uphill both directions no matter the weather and was grateful for the opportunity to pay outrageous prices because he loved the game so much.

"Returning to the CPS he explains the simple truth there is no place in Western Europe for a Millennium competitor as there is no money. It’s a time of hardship and we’re (the MS?) already squeezing the rocks [of competitive paintball] as tight as is humanly possible for every last drop of blood. Besides, this CPS thing is a joke. It may look cheap but there’s no way it can sustain itself at the prices being charged of players and vendors. What looks like a good deal to the uninformed is really a paintball series that is doomed to failure. This is followed by a litany of “hidden” costs that a reputable and properly organized tournament series has to undertake in these days of endless regulations and rules.
And if you don’t believe me (Laurent) why just ask Bart Y. from Edmonton Impact who has carried the financial burden of running his own half-assed league lately.

"He begins the closing paragraphs by asserting the MS is the world standard and while not cheap the league is following a thoughtful and conservative course into the future that will change the economic model and provide all kinds of heretofore unimagined coolness in future venues, exciting media and even outside of paintball sponsors! While not at liberty to offer details he wants everyone to know what future blessings the MS will bestow if only y’all have a little patience and get (stick) with the program. Go Millennium!"

So there you have it. Is the CPS a league destined to failure by its own mismanagement? Then why go to this much trouble? And why make such a concerted and unprecedented effort to keep CPL teams away from the CPS? From this vantage point I don't need to know anything about the CPS to see that the power establishment in Euroland sees them as a threat, a threat they are determined to crush.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Millennium Plays Hardball

You won't see the offer below on the official MS website or their Facebook page. It is aimed at the CPL teams and in essence offers them an unfair competitive advantage going into the first event (the Hillbilly Riviera Cup at Puget-sur-Argens). It's free to play and teams can bring their own paint or buy on site at a discount. A media tower for filming is available and practices will have referees on the sidelines, etc. Along with an opportunity to play the event layout prior to its official release date and practice the new 360 M. And did I say it was free? So what's the catch?

Due to the late season kick off this year we are pleased to offer all CPL teams a free training weekend in Frankfurt on March 23rd and 24th 2013.
Not only will you be able to practice against Europe's best teams but you will also have an opportunity to test the final layout for the First Millennium event.
With the changes to the central bunker, we have many exciting new layouts that are a game changer. To ensure we start the season with truly world class competition we would very much value input from as many of Europe's top teams as possible. The official layout for Puget will only be announced after this training weekend.
For the practice you can bring your own paint, or buy on site at a very cost effective price. Accommodation will also be available at a very low cost. The field to be used will be Germany’s number One tournament site in Solms, home to the DPL Bundesliga:
The field in Solms offers pit boxes for the teams, Millennium Series high quality scoreboards and referees, media tower to take video footage, all at your disposal for free."

Well, it just happens the Millennium kids suddenly scheduled it to be the same weekend as the first CPS event of the season. Did you read Major League Preseason? Among other things it highlighted the fact that the fledgling CPS appeared to have a strong commitment from legit pro teams (mostly European) this year for their 4 event series and that the EPBF, far from representing the ideals behind the sports federation concept, was being used to limit the potential popularity of the CPS. Now the MS is providing free play that delivers an unfair competitive advantage to any CPL team that goes to Germany instead of participating in the CPS.
This is the same MS that charges 200 Euros an hour per team to play the event fields in advance. The same MS that is charging CPL teams 2000 Euros plus VAT per event for Race To 5--the same format offered by the CPS for 450 Euros--and the same MS that has premium priced the rolling bungalows at Oasis Village for the Hillbilly Riviera Cup. (Check prices directly with Oasis Village and ask yourself how much of the difference is a kickback to the MS.)
If it wasn't plain enough already the EPBF is simply another tool to control paintball except this time on an international scale and that those who have placed themselves in power have corrupted the purpose of the federation from day 1. (And I don't say that lightly as I have, in the past, defended the concept and given the current leadership the benefit of the doubt.) It should also be plain to see that the MS is frightened of the potential of the CPS. Now I've never attended a CPS event and can't vouch in any way for the quality of their events but they are offering the same format from a quarter to a third of the cost of a Millennium event in places like Venice, Paris and Milan and even if they're no better than an MS event that makes them a vastly better value. (This should also give our friends in Asia pause to reconsider their apparent whole-hearted acceptance of the federations idea at least as it's being implemented to date lest y'all be tainted by the association.)
And finally, the last thing that ought to be plain is that if the CPL teams had any brains or balls they wouldn't allow themselves to be "bought" for a free weekend of paintball. It should be very clear that the MS is trying to protect its status in Europe and that the CPL teams represent that status. Here is an opportunity to bargain with the MS with some real leverage--but of course that won't happen. And if you're a divisional team what does the MS offer you that the CPS doesn't besides higher prices and their disdain.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dateline San Antonio

This past weekend I flew in for my first practice with the X-Factor guys. Saturday was uncharacteristically chilly and it drizzled off and on all day. (I blamed SKemp. I had to. Otherwise it was on me.) Sunday was warmer but still overcast, a good day to do some work. Even so there's no mistaking where you are. Every other old shed or barn has been converted into a bbq joint and for breakfast, if you're in a hurry, it's the drive thru at Las Palamas for a chirizo and egg served up in a hot tortilla.
Our home field is the latest project of the tireless owner (and Poppa) of team X-Factor, Alex Martinez. Saturday saw the nets go up on the second turf field while a local 3-man tourney was being run on the other turf field. Besides that there is an airball field on grass, a hyperball field, a miniature Alamo to attack and defend and more acreage for future expansion. Once the team had gridded out the field we setup one of the Sup'Air sample layouts and got down to business.
For the guys the weekend was a continuation of the preseason effort that began early in January. For me it was a first step in getting to know the players better, observe their play in more depth and begin the dialogue that will put us all on the same page working toward our shared goals. Alex Martinez, Ryan Brand and the guys made it easy as did the not unexpected discovery we already share a lot similar ideas about the game and how it ought best be played. There will be one more tryout weekend in a couple of weeks but there is no doubt in my mind that the essential pieces are here and the best that can happen is we add depth to a strong foundation. While I continue to take the measure of things and tread carefully I am, if possible, more excited about our prospects for the coming season than I was before. We've already got a surprise or two in store for Dallas.

The Monday Poll in Review: Champions

Did you see any surprises in the list? Well there was Vicious on top of the list but Vicious definitely belong in the top ten anyway, right? Look at it this way--everyone who wants to is an eligible voter but not everyone who can will vote. It matters more to some than others so. Some get more involved--and that ain't a bad thing. Imagine the free for all if all the teams tried to rally the fan base to get out their votes. That would be fun to watch--and since every VFTD poll is guaranteed completely unscientific with an almost limitless margin for error--the results are merely a distraction, a Monday morning opportunity to kill some time debating the great paintball questions of the day.
Btw, the results went like this: Vicious, Heat, Infamous, RL/Dynasty (tied), Damage, Ironmen, X-Factor, Impact and 187. Just missing out was XSV followed by TonTons, Aftershock, Thunder and CEP. A range of 8 votes separated Infamous from Ironmen and the gap between 187 and XSV is close enough to make that a soft 10.
So, are these the top ten? The first Champions bracket in the PSP--or will it be different? Only the next The Monday Poll from VFTD knows for sure. (And we'll do it again once the prelim brackets come out and we see the match-ups.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Major League Preseason

I thought it might be fun to take a look at this year's efforts at so-called major league paintball series before the season officially kicks off. This year's candidates are the PSP, the NPPL (fingers crossed), the MS and, making its first appearance here, the CPS (champions paintball series) based in Italy and organized by one of the former ECS promoters. (I think. Maybe it was the Centurio or the Grand Tour. Whatever.) Which is interesting because of a move made earlier this week by the EPBF. More on that in a second.
The PSP opened registration today for Dallas--which will give all those D4 kids something to focus on instead of asking the same questions over and over in the Champions & Challengers thread at PBN. (Kidding. Kinda. It's not just D4 kids, d'oh!)
The PSP move to Champions & Challengers will, in time, deliver exciting brutal and unforgiving hardcore paintball action across the pro bracket that will actively draw the best teams in the world. And if there was any doubt before about the preeminent league in the world this move cements the PSP's place on top. That said I predict this first season won't be all peaches & cream--and that the naysayers and hand-wringers will have occasion to whine anonymously on the internet--but that in the end the pieces will fall into place. Imagine the suspense at the once an afterthought fourth event when all the pro teams will be fighting for the 10 Champions spots and a shot at a World Cup title. In the meantime divisional hasn't been forgotten as a new rule book is in the works along with a focus on consistency and continuity for all teams and players regardless of field or division. After some (apparent) delays registration has opened and there are currently 81 teams signed up. Last year Galveston has 150+. Anything in that neighborhood would be a solid success.
Regulars know I'm not bullish on the NPPL, particularly at the "pro" level simply because the league has diluted the quality of the pro competition instead of accepting reduced numbers and appears ready to do so again in 2013. In what I think is a positive move the league returns to its bread-and-butter 7-man format while mostly giving up their race to variants (which largely amounted to more divisions, smaller divisions, less competition, smaller prize packages, more prize packages.) (Of course the league hasn't actually posted any prize package details in over a year so they may or may not be following the percentage formulas they once offered.) Along with those changes there is the inclusion of minor events (no pro division participation) and some venue changes and additions. While perhaps sounding good the venue changes suggest that league leadership--such as it is--is disconnected from reality with minor events in Hawaii, Vancouver (let's try this again!) and majors in Tampa and Denver. Registration opened on the Hawaii minor 23 days prior to the event dates--and there was no hue and cry 'cus nobody is going to be there unless you're from Hawaii to begin--a factoid I can't confirm 'cus registration no longer appears to allow access to an event team list. The Tampa venue of old was (and is) an excellent one but there isn't a 7-man field in the whole state of Florida and hasn't been for years. I am not, like so many others, calling for the NPPL to go the way of the dodo or stay to "help grow the sport" [I feel dumber just saying that], just that it's a poorly run series with a format that interests a minority of tourney players at best. Besides, when I asked the Magic 8-Ball if the NPPL was gonna run all 8 scheduled events it said, "No way, Jose."
The MS appears relatively unchanged, for better or worse, with no word of a rulebook coming from either the MS or the EPBF despite promises dating back to last year. (And beyond.) Given that registration for the first event, the Mediterranean Cup, hasn't opened yet there are no solid indicators yet as to how the teams will respond this season but if last year is anything to go by the Millennium should enjoy another strong year. It should also be interesting to see what adjustments Houston Heat make in taking over the GI Sportz spot in the CPL--and who, if anyone, they add to their roster to replace the missing Russians in Euroland. While Heat needn't be a player in the player sweepstakes right now I can see them making moves in the near future and perhaps using the European tourney option year to bring in players they have a longer term interest in. Or maybe not.
Now we come to the surprise entry this year. (Btw, for those who want to make a case for PALS--at least the World Cup Asia given the Intercontinental Cup competition--it doesn't qualify as it's a one off without either a series or a standard for qualifying. What do you mean it doesn't qualify? Which one is not the others? 'Kay?) Couple of (three?) years ago VFTD kept tabs on the Grand Tour, which evolved out of the merger of the Centurio and ECS, more or less, because they had a modest, but real, pro division. Last year was the first (second?) season for the CPS with a top division called the Super League--and, over the course of the season a few established pro teams competed. And if that was all they could offer this season I probably would have left it off the preseason review. But instead, it turns out the Super League is drawing a significant pro team participation with names like Art Chaos, Edmonton Impact, Nexus, Icon, Outrage, TonTons and Vision to name some of the pros joining the party. Half the current Super League is MS pro teams plus Impact so it looks like it's time to start paying attention. Besides, they have had events in awesome places like Venice [okay, Mestre on the mainland but still ..] Vienna and apparently have plans to add a Paris event this season.
Remember the EPBF mention earlier? It seems the federation sanctioned one of the CPS events last year and that the league filed for recognition for the whole series this season. Turns out the EPBF (within literal days and hours) of the filing has declared the CPS anathema--or the paintball federation equivalent. No indications yet as to just why. A paperwork snafu wouldn't merit the statement the EPBF put out. One can't help but wonder if it isn't the political reality of the EPBF at work perceiving a potential threat all of a sudden and acting to cut them off at the knees. While the "federation" idea remains a high concept the fact remains that those currently in positions of power within the EPBF have their own paintball fiefdoms to protect.
The stage is set. VFTD will revisit the major leagues over the course of the season as events unfold.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Design: Same as the old design?

Here we have one of the new layouts Sup'Air posted at PBN as a sample--of what to expect I suppose. Of the samples posted I chose this one because it will also be the competition layout for the first CFPS event and first AXBL event. While I'm not prepared to make any sweeping statements based on one design but it does share some interesting characteristics with some past layouts.
And, of course, there was the debate last fall about whether returning the field to its original length or adding additional props was the answer to speeding points up. Related to that Sup'Air posted some alternate ways the Cup field might have been different (read: faster) with extra props. The problem with that was while some extra props in the back 30 was nice they had zero impact on one of the causes of slow play (on that field) which was placing a dedicated gun on the gap feeding the snake and frequently doing so from one of the midfield stand-ups.
With the PSP returning to the original length I was curious to see what if any changes might be made to the general designs offered by Sup'Air--particularly given 4 more props. I was also curious to see how new designs would compare to old ones, would there be any indications of change consistent with the talk surrounding Cup? For some years now designs have utilized the stand-up props as blocking lanes OTB. In many instances the placement of some of those stand-ups encouraged teams to play one or both, oftentimes shooting the crossfield. While not inherently wrong it is a characteristic that doesn't serve the stated aim of encouraging speed, movement and aggressive play as it is a fundamentally defensive posture. (Not every stand-up within the zones or elsewhere is necessarily a defensive play--but it's easy to see the difference.) As you can see on the diagram the two center (grey) columns are marked A and the two bordering (darker grey) columns are marked B. These are the zones where the stand-ups serve the majority of their lane blocking function and incidentally encourage a defensive posture when played. On this layout 6 of the 8 stand-ups are within the two zones and the other 2 abut a B boundary line. This is in line with the last three years of designs that on average have 2.85 stand-ups in the A zone and 2.3 stand-ups in the B zone for an approx. average of 5 stand-ups per design.
Looking at inserts and feeds to both wires our sample doesn't appear to have added extra bunkers to shorten the gaps between props but to be sure I calculated the appearances of inserts and feeds by wire side over the same 3 year period as I did for the stand-ups. And with two on each side this is actually a small increase as the snake side average is 1.5 and the d-wire average is 1.2. (I did not count Pins when they were used in place of other more traditional props thinking that the Pin remains primarily a blocker not really suited to consistent play from the majority of players. (Even so that alone wouldn't change the numbers more than a fraction.) So while 2 per side is slightly above average it's not unheard of.
So far it looks like business as usual--so will the shorter field really speed up points across the board and across the divisions? I still think so but there is another factor I hadn't given much consideration until the end of last season, the "technical" snake. Oh sure, I didn't have a good word for it from its first appearance in the media but it can be made playable. What is proving more difficult is to make it playable past the 50. If neither team can use the snake to effect from their opponent's territory it's like posting a giant stop sign.
(And this particular snake will be problematic both in terms of passing the 50 and playing snake 1--if there's an opponent in their snake side MT. It looks like the move is to go for MR in the central snake construct.)

No doubt VFTD will revisit this topic a time or two during the year to see what, if anything, is changing--and whether it's for the better or worse.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Monday Poll: First Champions

I know, it's kinda an obvious choice for a The Monday Poll but so what? Amongst the likely contenders which ten teams will form the first Champions bracket in wherever the hell the second event is gonna be? Easy peasy, kids. Pick your top three candidates and in a week we'll see what your collective wisdom has decided. After all this time you know the drill--vote, vote, vote. (Keep in mind the off season moves and to do a really thorough job you're gonna have to project the probable brackets too. Just saying.) Or you could just pick your three favorites and let it go at that. Who will be the first Champions?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

PALS Thailand 2013

Baca's Mailbag recently received a request to breakdown the PALS season opener and after all the drama of late it seemed like a nice change of pace. I will also try to do regular field evaluations over the course of the year focusing either on a particular unique scenario or revisiting how fundamental paintball applies to a given field. (If you send in a request please include the layout diagram.)
The Breakout
The inclination of most teams will be to find shooting lanes OTB from the nearest bunkers since there is no Home bunker, in effect setting up an alternate Home bunker. Some of those teams will have players who shoot a lane as best they can while they move to the nearest bunker. And fewer still will simply leave a player or two in the back center (green zone) to lane as they normally would even though there isn't a bunker there. If your players are comfortable doing so it is a good tactic as long as you don't do it all the time. Any team that chooses this option is subject to counter laning.
The orange TCK is the ideal alternate Home except that it leaves a player potentially isolated. Teams will quickly discover in walking this field that there are trade-offs that will have to be made and in order to accomplish their goals they will need to work together. The snake side T has a good lane on the gap between the d-corner T, insert SD and the D1. As does the orange TCK. For snake side control however the T has only a narrow lane of visibility across the gap that feed S1. Both the d-insert MD and orange TCK have better lanes across the gap feeding S1. The difficulties that arise is the inclination to cross up guns from the back line early in the point--constant communication is essential here--and the necessity at some point push one or more of those players to a wire to lead or support the push. There are no simple answers but one or more of the back line players must be prepared to move and make the transition from a primarily defensive position into an offensive one at a moment's notice.
The Snake
Let's look first at getting into the snake. As usual the point of contention is the zone or gap between the snake 1 and the nearest insert, The first thing to take note of is the colored areas in pink and blue. The pink denotes an area that the snake side back line Temple (Aztec) can't see and the blue is a similar area unseen by the insert TCK. This means that the move from the corner into the snake should be one of your basic plans for getting onto the snake. Keeping in mind the opponent's corner MT vision is partially blocked by the (S1) Brick and the only clear lanes come from the cross field.
Even though the shooting lanes are narrow the gap to fill the snake is fairly large and a determined effort to keep you out of the snake can be successful unless your players act in concert. With only 3 insert bunkers available filling the snake can't be done sneakily but it can be accomplished by any of the insert positions. The trick is to use your other available guns to control your opponent's edges--or at least force them to play tighter and further decrease their ability to lane your snake runner so that when he/she make the move into the snake it is uncontested or nearly so. For example, the corner shoots at the insert T, your T player shoots at the inside edge of the opposing corner MT and now your TCK simply needs to get his mirror to stop shooting in order to dive across into a unseen space behind the S1 Brick. Alternately it may be necessary for the corner MT to wrap and pressure cross field positions while the TCK contains his mirror and allows the T player to make the snake run. There are lots of variations, the point is always the same--coordinate your efforts to achieve team goals--like getting into the snake.
The D-Wire
The key here is getting into D1 asap and immediately looking for the crossfield kills out of the snake side inserts. And the key to getting into D1 may very well be a strong, active presence in the d-corner T. The corner T is the only way to slow down movement up the d-wire from D1 and if your opponent is in their d-corner T it must be matched. From the d-corner T it is possible to contest edges with the few positions that can lane the gap feeding D1 with the exception of the insert SD. If there is a player in the SD their line of sight will be limited and it shouldn't be too difficult to force them off their edge long enough to make the move into D1.
That should be enough to help you get started on prepping this layout for the upcoming competition. To all the teams that will be competing, best of luck!