Shoot to Thrill: 15 Types of Paintball Matches

The basic premise of paintball is, well, shooting people with paintballs. However, since the birth of this hobby, players have come up with many different types of paintball games to spice up those weekend battles.

While most players only play a few game types regularly, you should still be aware of the scope and breadth of paintball games out there. Finding the game type you enjoy the most will go a long way toward keeping you excited and invested in paintball. These are common, broad types of games.

Of course, every club or group will come up with variations, which may one day become popular types in their own right. However, in tournament play the rules for these game types will generally be the same within the same regions. Let’s take a closer look at what’s on the menu.

Team Elimination/Deathmatch

This is probably the closest to a “vanilla” paintball experience you can get. Two teams with the same number of players face off against one another. The playing field is meant to be symmetric in the sense that there is no inherent advantage to playing from one side or another.

Teams try to eliminate each other until time runs out or one side is completely eliminated. The team with the most players standing wins. This is a wonderful game type that requires tactical team play; even if you get taken down, your team can still win. So, pretty satisfying overall.

“Round”/Individual Elimination/Deathmatch

As you can probably tell from the name, this is basically the same premise as team elimination, but every person is in it for themselves. If you see someone that’s not you, shoot them. The last person standing is the winner, which makes this somewhat similar to a “battle royale”.

In general, this game type works well if you have a small number of players – where splitting them into teams would make for teams that are too small. Playing individual elimination with a large number of players is chaotic and can be fun, however it’s not a game type with a lot of structure, and it can get old fast.

Since every person is their own team, placement is usually done at the start by letting everyone run to a position a few seconds before the match starts. This helps level the playing field.

paintball single

Team Elimination with Respawn/Reincarnation

This is a variant of team elimination in which players who have been taken out go back to their starting point and go back into the game after a set amount of time has elapsed. There are a couple of reasons to do this, one of which is extending how long the match will go on. While it isn’t really a separate game type, this does affect gameplay. For example, the person who is coming back into the game now has knowledge about your position and your team’s activities, which would not be the case otherwise. This can make these games tense, as you have to quickly reposition or rethink your tactics after sending the other team’s players back to their end of the field.

Stock Classic Paintball

In any hobby you are going to find some people who want to preserve history or who have a purist streak. When paintball first became a thing, the markers were manual, pump-action devices. Stock classic matches strictly limit players to using classic equipment and there will be strict rules about the type of marker or ammo you may use. Stock paintball isn’t all that popular and it certainly isn’t the face of paintball that everyone thinks of these days. However, the unique strategy and pace of the classic game is still worth experiencing.

Scenario Paintball

Scenario paintball is a catch-all term for paintball games that don’t have simple, clear victory conditions such as elimination. In one scenario you don’t score any points for shooting other players; instead you’ll score for achieving specific goals. This can be taking over specific buildings, reaching a predetermined point, or protecting something from attack. Although not a game, you could consider scenario paintball as being similar to training exercises, such as hostage rescue or anti-terror raids, done with paintball equipment.

paintball team


This is the most popular tournament format, and where paintball can also shine as a spectator sport. When people think of paintball, speedball is likely what comes to mind. The play field is artificial, open, small, and littered with artificial obstacles and cover.

Since speedball is essentially played on a field, it makes the chances of players getting hurt smaller when compared to woodsball. Not to mention it’s easier to watch.


While classic paintball restricts players to using vintage-style equipment, woodsball is perhaps the most traditional of arenas. Paintball was originally played in wooded areas, providing plenty of tactical opportunities and long play times. It has since been superseded by speedball, which is what the kids love to play these days. However, woodsball is far from dead and provides a pulse-pounding experience. However, it is also somewhat dangerous compared to the controlled, artificial arenas. Broken bones and bruises are not uncommon.

Capture the Flag

This is a classic war game where each team has a base with a flag in it. In order to win, a team must infiltrate the opposing base, grab the flag, and then plant it back in their own base. This can be a brutal combination of both attack and defense as each team tries to attain victory. There are several varieties in capture-the-flag, but essentially, teams have to split themselves into attack and defense groups and manage the tactics of the other team.

Center Flag Push and Pull

This is a variant of capture the flag, but there is only one neutral flag in the middle of the field. The game can be in push or pull form. With the push variant, your team needs to take control of the flag and then push it into the enemy base. So this is basically a variant focused on assault for whomever has the flag. There is no point in defending your base if you are in possession of the flag. The pull variant is the opposite. Once you have the flag you need to take it back to your base in order to win. The other team has to stop you.

Center flag is a lot more variable than capture the flag, simply because it does not encourage entrenchment. Both teams have to constantly attack to gain control of the flag and then constantly move with the flag when they have it. A great game type.

King of the Hill

Like the traditional children’s game of the same name, king of the hill paintball is all about controlling a zone. There is usually one or more bases that are controlled when occupied by a given team. If there is only one base, then the winner is whoever controls the base when time is up or when the other team is eliminated. If there are multiple bases it could be majority control.

These game types often incorporate player reinforcements so that total elimination is not a victory condition. Really, there are plenty of sub-variants, but base conquest is the constant element among them all.

Paintball Splatter

Bomb the Base

This is like an asymmetric variant of capture the flag. One team has an object (it can be anything) which represents the “bomb”. Their job is to plant the bomb in a specific place. The other team has to prevent this from happening. If either team is completely eliminated the game is over. If the bomb reaches the zone, then the game also immediately ends.

There are other variants as well, such as having a neutral bomb or each team having a bomb. The main difference between this game type and capture the flag is that the zones that have to be defended are not player bases. They can be anywhere, increasing the challenge considerably.


In siege or “defend” games one team is entrenched in a base structure or area. They have to fight off the advance of the other team, whose job it is to take the base by eliminating the entrenched team. The defending team has to hold out until the time limit for the match elapses, which means their tactics should be less risky. The other team has to take the base before time is up, which really puts the pressure on them.


This is a very interesting game type. Every player’s name is written on a card or piece of paper and thrown in a hat. Players draw names, which they keep secret. Obviously if you draw your own name then you have to throw it back in and try again.

When entering the field, you only look for and try to eliminate the person whose name you have drawn. You don’t shoot at anyone else. However, since you don’t know who drew your name, you have to treat every other player as if they are hunting you, by avoiding them (there’s way more to it though).

When a player gets eliminated, they pass the card of the person who they have been hunting to the other player. They keep the cards of anyone they managed to eliminate. The game is over when only one player is alive. The winner of the match is whoever eliminated the most targets.


With VIP, one player in each team is designated as a target to protect. The VIP is usually unarmed, but not always. The goal is to protect your VIP while eliminating the opposing VIP. So the game ends when either VIP is taken out.

paintball action

Asymmetric Team Games

While the games I’ve mentioned here don’t always give the two teams the same role, team sizes and abilities are usually the same. There is, however, a group of game types that have unequal team sizes. There are quite a bunch of them so I won’t go through them all here, but they include Vampire, Predator, Terminator, and Zombie. The smaller team usually has special powers, such as being able to take more hits before being eliminated. For example, in Zombie, the zombie players can take many hits before going down, but they are only allowed to walk. These games are not always well balanced, but they can be a lot of fun.

Tip of the Iceberg

There are many, many more original game ideas and new ones are being thought up every day. Only a few are suitable for tournament play, but all of them are fun in one way or another. Some people love certain game types so much they play nothing else. So do your own digging, try some different variants, and figure out which part of the paintball universe you belong to.