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Two paintball players on a forest playing field
A SupAir playing field
Green paint

Paintball is a tactical team sport in which players mark themselves with paintballs using markers . The player who is hit and thus marked must usually leave the field of play.

The paintball - usually just called "paint" for short - describes the paint balls used, which normally consist of a gelatine shell and were previously filled with a mixture of potato starch , vegetable oil and food coloring , but are now mostly filled with colored polyethylene glycol . She gave the sport its name. The paint is environmentally friendly and will biodegrade without leaving any residue in the open air within two weeks.

The marker is a compressed air weapon that usually uses the gas pressure of a CO 2 or compressed air cylinder to fire the paint.


Paintball's roots go back to 1940 when the Nelson Paint Company was founded by Charles and Evan Nelson. The company had some patents for remotely marking trees with spray guns. At the request of the United States Forest Service to mark trees safely from a great distance, paintball was developed in its original form by Charles Nelson in 1960. Nelson used gelatin capsules for horses, which he filled with paint. These paint balls were also used for marking cattle.

Nelson Paint commissioned the Crosman company to develop a suitable gun for firing the paint capsules. After four years of development, the Crosman 707 was launched in 1965 , based on the Crosman 150 . However, it sold so badly and put such a financial burden on the manufacturer that Crosman withdrew from the business after about three years.

After Crosman left, the Nelson Paint Company signed a contract with compressed air gun manufacturer Daisy Manufacturing Company (now Daisy Outdoor Products ) to develop an entirely new marker for the paint capsules. The Daisy Splotchmarker , which Nelson marketed under the name Nel-Spot 707 , was created under the direction of James Hale . With the Nel-Spot 707 , the first paintball game was played in 1981.

Wall Street retailer Hayes Noel and author Charles Gaines discussed a wilderness chase game they wanted to play with friends in a beer mood in the mid-1970s. The aim was to find out who could survive better in the wild and whether instinct or learned knowledge was crucial. A friend of the two, George Butler, then saw Nel spot 707 in a farmer's catalog. Bob Gurnsey and Hayes Noel wrote the rules of the game. It took them another four years to put their game idea into practice. In May 1981 they bought a marker and tested it on Charles Gaines' son Shelby. The first paintball game took place on June 27, 1981 in Henniker, New Hampshire . It was a capture-the-flag variant in which twelve participants competed against each other. The second - and the first commercial - paintball game was held in Alabama in October 1981.

After publication in magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Time , the path to further marketing was open. With support from Gaines and Hayes, Bob Gurnsey began selling a starter kit that included a nel spot gun, paintballs, compass, goggles, and a rulebook. From then on, paintball was marketed as the National Survival Game (NSG) or The Survival Game . Bob Guernsey opened the first commercial paintball field in March 1982. In April 1982 the first franchise field opened in Oklahoma, and PMI ( Pursuit Marketing Inc. ) was founded by Jeff Perlmutter and David Freeman. With the establishment of PMI - Perlmutter and Freeman could not agree on licensing with the NSG - a further step in marketing and commercialization followed: PMI as an umbrella organization set up paintball fields and provided the operators with the necessary equipment. The first marker was built as the PMI-1 by the Benjamin Sheridan Air Rifle Company .

In June 1983, Lionel Atwill, one of the twelve players in the first game, published the first publication on the sport - The Official Survival Game Manual .

With the patenting of the oil-free paint (US Patent 4,634,606) on January 6, 1987, it was no longer necessary to wash out the paint stains with turpentine oil . The paint was invented by George A. Skogg of Nelson Paint.

Concept and development towards sport

International is the common umbrella term for all forms of the game "paintball" that was created in the USA in 1981. In Germany, the term "Gotcha" is sometimes used - mostly by non-players. Gotcha is an American slang expression that stands for "I got you!" And was best known through a film from the 1980s.

While tournaments were held shortly after the emergence of paintball, it was not until 1992-93 with the establishment of the National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) that there was significant progress towards establishing paintball as a sport. With the first television broadcasts of paintball tournaments by ESPN in 1993 and the first paintball world championships in 1996, the sport established itself and was accessible to a wider audience.

Today paintball players are commonly divided into “fun players” (“rec players”, from “rec” for recreational) and “tournament players”. While tournament players play almost exclusively on SupAir fields, the fun players can often be found on forest fields.

Depending on the organizer of the league or the operator of the field, a distinction is made between BYO and FPO with regard to the purchase of paint. BYO ( English Bring your Own , for example "Bring your own [paint]") gives the player the freedom to decide where and which paint to buy, while FPO ( English Field Paint Only ) has the paint from the organizer or operator of the field must be bought. Especially with FPO, an additional source of income is generated, as inexpensive paint - sometimes of poor quality - is sold at a relatively high price. In some cases, field operators also offer to use their own paint for an extra charge on top of the game fee.

Game types

Five SupAir players at breakout (start signal)

There are numerous game variants in paintball, but they are all played with the same basic rules. Usually a distinction is made between recreational paintball with the main variant woodland and the actual tournament paintball as speedball.


Speedball is an umbrella term for paintball games that take place on relatively small, clear and flat fields. Speedball is a type of game with mostly artificial coverings. The game is played very quickly due to the short distances and the coverings, which are usually symmetrically arranged for both parties. If the coverings consist of inflatable geometric figures such as cylinders, cones and boxes, one speaks of SupAir. The vast majority of tournaments are played on such fields. In contrast to woodland playing fields, it is also possible for spectators to get a good view of the field and the game.


X-Ball represents a more recent form of paintball, for which the classic SupAir format has been prepared for media. The teams play against each other for points in a five-man format, for example, on a turn-based basis - always two teams against each other on time. There is one point each for “tearing” and “hanging” the flag or activating a buzzer. The game is not ended here after the flag has been hung, but paused for two minutes, during which the players receive instructions from the coach, are replaced and can prepare for the next round of the game. Then the next round of the game starts over.

The game has become much faster and the teams are more willing to take risks, since losing a flag does not mean defeat for the game. The size of the teams has also grown. By extending the playing time and increasing the speed of the game, there are usually several "lines" that go onto the field, similar to ice hockey. The team in the pit box is between 5 and 12 men.

Recreational paintball

Recreational paintball (abbreviation RecBall, German  recreational paintball ) is the umbrella term for any paintball game that is not played in the regular league or tournament. RecBall includes many different types of games. For example, Big Games and Scenario Games also belong to the RecBall category. There are many variants of RecBall playing fields. It is played both in the forest and on specially designed fields or in halls. The focus is on having fun and less on the competitive situation.

Woodland and scenario

The classic woodland playing field is located in the forest and has little or no artificial cover. The term woodland is also used as an umbrella term for all types of game that are played on uneven or confusing terrain or outside of tournament fields. Playing fields of this type are the original playing fields that were used in paintball. Such fields are difficult to find in Germany, as the legal provisions make legal opening difficult. Woodland is not to be confused with illegal play in the forest.

These games can have “scenic” or themed backgrounds, with themes ranging from film and book templates to historical templates. Here, however, the topics only serve as an “environment” on which the scenario is built. Furthermore, tactical aspects come into play, whereby the role models can sometimes be found in the police or army. The first goal is to complete the task, it can happen that in the end a shot was not fired. In addition, the equipment of this type of game can be adapted and the amount of ammunition can be limited.

Big Games

A special feature of the scenario games are big games, in which an unusually large number of players meet. The world record is more than 4,320 players in a single event.

In Europe, this is North vs. South is the largest event with over 1800 participants and a playable area of ​​more than 200 hectares. It takes place annually on an active training ground of the British Army in England.

Also known in Europe is the Veckring Big Game , which is held three times a year in France. The EuroBigGame (EBG) is held annually near Mahlwinkel (Germany) on an approximately 55 hectare part of a former military base of the group of Soviet armed forces in Germany , which was mostly dismantled and renatured. There are an average of 1500 players.

Due to the large number of participants and the associated income, it is possible for such events to offer special experiences that cannot be found in normal paintball games. These include, for example, specially converted vehicles or old tanks to support the game, or the massive use of pyrotechnics. Sometimes exotic locations, for example an active amusement park or a medieval fort complex, are made available as paintball fields for a few days.

Game variants

All types of games can vary from one another in terms of the number of participants and the equipment used. In order to make games particularly exciting, for example, additional paintballs can be prohibited. In the so-called "Mercy mode", regardless of how often they have been marked, players can stay on the field until they either give up or run out of paintballs.

Capture the flag

In Capture the Flag , two teams of equal size play against each other. You can play on a SupAir or Woodland field. Each group starts from its own starting point. Your own flag is also clearly visible there. The goal is now to steal the opposing flag and bring it to your own starting point. It is the most popular variant of the game and is common at national and international tournaments. The game variant Center Flag, on the other hand, is mostly used for the faster X-Ball. Here the teams fight together for a flag that is placed in the middle of the field. All other game variants play a subordinate role in tournament sports and are mostly practiced by amateur players.

Hit the base

At Hit the Base , two teams of equal size play against each other. The game is played on a SupAir field. Each group starts from its starting point ("base") with the aim of reaching the opposing base and pressing a buzzer there or striking the base. The advantage in tournament sport is the clarity of touching the buzzer.

Elimination or Deathmatch

In elimination or (team) deathmatches, two teams usually compete against each other. The game is played until all members of a team are marked and one or more players from the other team are left. This variant is often played by amateurs, as the tactical component is not particularly large and is easy to understand and, above all, easy to play, especially for players who come into contact with paintball for the first time.

Last man standing

Last Man Standing is an everyone against everyone game and has nothing to do with team play. The participating players start at different locations. Each marked player has to leave the field, the last player wins. In order to avoid any permanent reluctance of the players, the so-called "Sudden Death Mode" is announced after a certain period of time. Here the players have to reach a previously agreed point, which leads to immediate victory.


VIP (or President) is played with two teams that do not necessarily have to be of the same size. A team has a specially marked player, the VIP. In this game, the VIP protected by one team must reach an agreed point on the field without being marked by the other team. The VIP is usually not equipped with a marker or has a low shooting capacity. The game is over when the VIP has reached the agreed point or has been marked.

Civil War or Gettisburgh

Two teams consisting of the same number of players stand in rows, side by side, facing each other. The aim is to mark all opponents. Each team takes turns marking, whereby each player is only allowed to shoot one marker before the other team's turn to mark. The unmarked players who are still facing each other afterwards take one step forward and try to mark their opponents again. This continues until the last player is still standing. This is the winner or representative of the winning team.

Paintball equipment

A paintball player's equipment can include many parts. The safety of all players and referees on a playing field is a top priority. Without a paintball mask or at least approved protective goggles, nobody is allowed to enter or stay on the field. The equipment also includes the marker and its accessories. All other pieces of equipment are optional and adapted according to the game, the environment and the preferences of the player.

Leagues and tournament series

The sport of paintball is spreading steadily. In Germany there is the DPL and the XSeries. As an international tournament series in Europe, the Millennium Series (until 2017), today NXL Europe, the Pro Shar Cup and the CPS are decisive.

German paintball league

The German Paintball League (DPL) as the German paintball sports league is structured in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Bundesliga as well as regional, top, association, state and district leagues. Since 2014, a new league has been added between the Association League and the Regional League. The game is played in 5-man format (district league 3 man) on fields with sub-air cover from the Millennium Series. There are always at least 6 referees on the pitch, and 8 to 10 referees in the higher classes. There are separate referee training courses and advanced training courses to maintain the high standard of refining in the largest organized paintball league in the world.

The game days of the first and second Bundesliga are broadcast in full by the Radical Entertainment team via live stream on the Internet and commented on by a team of commentators including guest speakers from the individual teams. Some of the match days of the third Bundesliga North / East as well as other divisions that are played in Garzau are also broadcast as a live stream and commented on.


The XPSL was active in Germany from 2006 to 2013. It was characterized above all by the X-Ball format and consistent BYO in all classes, especially the latter was a strong contrast to the FPO strategy of the DPL in the lower performance classes (up to and including the upper league). It was structured similarly to the DPL in state, regional and national leagues. In 2013 the first and second Bundesliga were merged and this league was played in a seven-man format. Since 2014, the XPSL has no longer organized its own tournaments, but has merged into the X-Series.


Since 2014, the tournament series XSeries has been played in Germany in the format known from the American PSP, with corresponding cover and rules. The XSeries is divided into the performance classes X3 Amateur (beginners: 3 men), X5 Amateur (beginners: 5 men), X5 Challenger (advanced: 5 men) and X5 Pro (highest class: 5 men).

The main goal of the XSeries is to be a league “by players for players”. For this purpose, low prices and BYO are used in all leagues and a friendlier relationship is sought between organizers and players.

Millennium Series

The Millennium Series is a European tournament series that has been held since 2013 in the Puget Sur Argens (France) Mediterranean Cup , Bitburg (Germany) European Masters, London-Basildon (Great Britain) Campaign Cup , and Paris-Chantilly (France) World Cup . Previous locations were, for example, Saint-Tropez, Paris Longchamp, Málaga, Antalya, Charleroi, Madrid, Marseille, Toulouse or the Nürburgring. The tournaments are always played on a weekend on three or four fields specially created for the tournament. The first game day is Friday, the finals take place on Sunday (the so-called Sundays Club). In addition to the games of the individual teams, there are also smaller secondary tournaments, for example the Nations Cup, the Womans Cup, the U18 Cup, the Over 40 Cup and a "one-on-one tournament" in which individual players compete against each other.

The entire game is broadcast live on the Internet and commented on by a team of commentators in English, including guests from the individual teams.

Characteristic of the Millennium Series is the so-called Millennium M, a large M-shaped sub-air cover, which is usually set up in the middle of the playing field, lengthways or across, and makes a large number of game variants possible. For the Millennium Series, an upgrade kit for the existing covers is released every year in order to change the requirements every year and to be able to set different layouts of the covers and thus the playing field again and again. In 2012, for example, there were four thinner snake reels and four L-shaped covers, the so-called snake elbows. In 2013, a few “outriggers” for the Millennium M were added to increase its variety. In 2014 two large round coverings, the so-called medusas, were added, and in 2015 small pointed pylons, the so-called cones, were added.

During the current 2017 season, the Millennium Series was bought by the American NXL. The game operation as a European tournament series will be continued under the name NXL-Europe.


The NXL ( National Xball League ) is the (semi-) professional tournament series in the USA. Originally designed as a professional segment of the PSP and founded in 2003, the NXL was no longer continued in the 2009 season in favor of a uniform league structure within the PSP. With the end of the PSP in 2014, the NXL came back as the National Paintball League and successor to the PSP in 2015. The NXL organizes five tournaments at changing locations throughout the season (March to November). In recent years, for example: Las Vegas, Dallas, Nashville, Cleveland, Chicago, Atlantic City and Orlando.

The biggest event in the league every year is the season finale, the so-called World Cup, usually located in Orlando, Florida. Over 3500 players from 35 countries took part in the 2016 World Cup.


In 2017, NXL bought the rights to the Millennium Series. Since 2018, NXL has been organizing an international tournament series in Europe under the name NXL-Europe as the successor to the Millennium Series. The basic tournament format has remained largely the same, but in contrast to the Millennium Series in the NXL, the referees do not use hand signals but instead use colored flags to visualize penalties on the field and penalties have been converted from "eliminations" to time penalties. The events of the 2018 season will take place in Prague, Chartres, London-Basildon and Paris-Chantilly.

Like all NXL events, the events will be broadcast in a paid live stream.


The Champions Paintball Series, or CPS for short, is a European tournament series that is held at different locations, for example in Italy or France. The game is played on the layouts of the American PSP and divided into different game classes according to their rules.


In the USA, paintball is mainly performed in the national PSP (Professional Paintball League) tournament series (Dallas Open, Mid Atlantic Open, Chicago Open, West Coast Open, World Cup Florida) and in twelve regional PSP leagues. The game is mainly played on natural grass, unlike, for example, in Europe, where mostly artificial turf ("turf") is laid in order to guarantee a constant field even after several match days.

In the United States, paintball tournaments have been broadcast on television since the late 1990s.

Legal situation


Paintball is operated on special playing fields that must be paved and designed in such a way that paintball cannot penetrate outside. Usually this is achieved with safety nets or palisades. Using markers in public and thus playing in the public forest, for example, violates the Weapons Act . Markers must not be accessible or ready to fire during transport. This is particularly true when they are uncharged and are in a locked container.

In response to the Winnenden rampage , the ruling coalition planned a ban on paintball at the beginning of May 2009, but this was abandoned until further notice after protests and with reference to the need for further investigations. Although the case law denies a violation of human dignity - unlike the Laserdrome - the moral reprehensibility was left open. The tax court of Rhineland-Palatinate dismissed the action of an association founded for paintball tournaments, which had tried in vain to obtain the status of non-profit and tax exemption at the tax office .


The paintball game itself is only allowed on specially set up and approved paintball sports facilities. Games in open terrain or in the forest are prohibited.

The practice of sport is usually possible from the age of 14 in the presence of a parent or legal guardian. From the age of 16, playing is permitted on most of the facilities upon presentation of a written consent from a parent or legal guardian. Since 1997 you have to be at least 18 years old to purchase a marker in Austria.


Paintball markers are not to be used everywhere. The game is only allowed on a designated, enclosed area. Access to the site must be cordoned off by a fence so that no uninvolved passer-by can get into the line of fire and no shot can get outside. Playing, for example, in public and private forests violates the gun, nature and hunting laws. When notified, it is determined because of endangerment to third parties, disturbance of wild animals and environmental pollution by the color. Fines of up to CHF 5,000 and conditional imprisonment are possible. In order to be able to play paintball, one needs a suitable private property whose owner allows it to be played; In addition, the necessary permits must be issued by municipalities and authorities. These areas are checked and approved. If a playing field meets the requirements, it is released for play. In the canton of Zurich , paintballing in the forest has not been possible since the beginning of 2008 because the relevant permits are no longer issued.

There are no legal age limits for practicing the sport. Most paintball facilities, however, require the presence of a legal guardian for children under 14 and a written declaration of consent from the legal guardian for children under 16. From the age of 16 playing is usually possible without any further formalities.

social acceptance

Paintball is a team sport. Above all, teamwork and tactical skills are required. With the growth of sport and the course of the game, more and more athleticism and physical fitness are required. Some American and English companies even use it for employee training. In Germany, too, the halls and fields are increasingly being booked by company and leisure groups.

The woodland game with camouflage clothing in particular is sometimes received with skepticism by players in Germany and is often associated with military sports and the glorification of war. Supporters of this type of game, however, vehemently reject the analogy and emphasize the team aspect of the game. On some playgrounds in Germany, unlike in the USA, the wearing of camouflage clothing and the use of replica markers are not allowed.

In 2000, the educational scientist Linda Steinmetz prepared an “expert opinion on the violence affinity of the members of the (German) paintball / gotcha scene”, which shows that “paintballers […] are by no means aggressive in their everyday contexts. This also applies to going to bars or shopping as well as behavior after leaving the field of play during a tournament. The ability to live a thriller does not seem to have become inflationary. The group or scene members see no wear and tear or habituation in the 'stimulus consumption' that demand stronger or even 'more real' experiences. "

In the decision of the Lower Saxony Higher Administrative Court of February 18, 2010 it was stated: “Measured against the degree of reality of some computer games, [...] paintball / reball seems almost harmless. It is difficult to understand that the participants, who - like other fellow citizens - are exposed to much more vivid depictions of violence on television, cinema and the Internet, should come through this game to an attitude that denies the fundamental claim to value and respect that everyone deserves . It is more likely that the participants perceive the game as a communal experience just like other team games and that social contacts are thereby more likely to be established and strengthened than moral decline occurs. "

Similar games

Complementary sources

  • Daniel Maiberg: Paintball - The Book! Facts, tips and types of games . Kretschmann Mediamarketing 2006. ISBN 3-9809567-1-7
  • Thomas Gaevert : Does anyone feel a killer instinct here? - Paintball in self-experiment , production Südwestrundfunk 2009, first broadcast on September 16, 2009 SWR2

Web links

Commons : Paintball  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ History of Paintball: Origins and Evolution. In: June 9, 2014, accessed June 18, 2015 .
  2. ^ A b c Mary Bellis: Paintball - History - Guns and Markers. In: Retrieved June 18, 2015 .
  3. a b c d e f g Paintball History. In: Retrieved June 18, 2015 .
  4. a b Martin Ludwig: Paintball and its history of origin - Part 1. In: February 25, 2013, accessed June 18, 2015 .
  5. ↑ Based on the film “ Gotcha! - A crazy trip “at the end of the 80s
  6. ^ NSG National Championship 1983
  7. Jim Thorpe: 4000+ Paintball Players to Recreate D-Day. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on March 4, 2016 ; accessed on November 9, 2015 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. North vs. South. Retrieved November 9, 2015 .
  9. Interview with an employee of the EuroBigGame. In: Retrieved November 10, 2015 .
  10. paintball. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on November 19, 2015 ; accessed on November 9, 2015 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. see Exceptions from the license requirement for carrying § 12 Paragraph 3 No. 1 WaffG, as well as exceptions to the permission to shoot § 12 Paragraph 4 No. 1 WaffG
  12. § 52 WaffG
  13. Exceptions to the license requirement for carrying § 12 Paragraph 3 No. 2 WaffG in conjunction with Section 2 No. 12 and No. 13 WaffG
  14. ↑ Gun Law: Coalition withdraws paintball ban plan. In: Spiegel Online
  15. BVerwG judgment of October 24, 2001, Az. 6 C 3.01, full text .
  16. Christoph Werkmeister on the judgment of the VGH Munich of January 31, 2013: Paintball and human dignity
  17. ^ FG Rhineland-Palatinate, decision of February 19, 2014, Az. 1 K 2423/11, full text .
  18. Airsoft Weapons Ordinance 2013
  19. Expert opinion on the affinity for violence of the members of the (German) paintball / gotcha scene (PDF file; 90 kB)
  20. NS OVG decision paintball is not inhumane! dated February 18, 2010