One of the coolest aspects of airsoft at large is the immense amount of variety that can be conjured within each and every game.
If you’re new to this flavor of nerddom, it can often be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what’s what. (Let’s be real, gameplay type will often dictate what kit and gun you should roll to get the most bang for your buck.)
So we’re here to help narrow the field down with some explanations of the types of games and what to expect.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, we think that airsoft can broadly be divided into three main types of distinct games: Force on Force, Speedsoft, and Milsim.
Everyone’s First Toe in the Water: Casual Force-on-Force Pickup Games
Chances are, your first exposure to semi-organized airsoft games will come in the form of a force-on-force game.
Whether that game occurs at an actual sanctioned field or your backyard (assuming you have the privacy and common sense to be able to do that and not terrify the neighbors), the basic gist remains the same.
Teams are divided up into generally equal numbers, and must then eliminate each other until one team is easily declared the winner.
However, there are thousands of variations on that same core premise. Depending on the craftiness of your local field’s refs, you might see other classic entry-level game types thrown in as well.
Capture the flag, rescue the downed pilot, capture strategic points on the field, disarm the nuclear briefcase, etc. generally aim to keep the atmosphere light, the rules simple, and the game fun.
All fields have their own regulations when it comes to the actual airsoft guns used during games, and you should pay very careful attention to what those rules might be.
Generally speaking, most pickup field games are going to have an FPS limit of 400 as measured with a .20g BB, or 350 FPS for CQB / indoor play.
Fields may also enforce a medium engagement distance — meaning that engaging an enemy player within the MED is a no-go for safety reasons.
As always, pay specific attention to the safety brief if the refs give one before the game.
That said, force-on-force games are a fantastic way for newer players to get out and begin to get a feel for their gun, the mechanics of team play, and the rules that come along with it.
Fast-Paced, (Sometimes) Competitive Action: Speedsoft
If you’re looking for a version of airsoft that thrives on tricked-out guns, twitch reflexes, and aggressive playstyles — Speedsoft might just be for you!
While the term itself is a bit of a slang casually used to refer to competitive gameplay not concerned with scenarios, Speedsoft has evolved over the last decade into what is essentially paintball with airsoft guns.
Players typically focus on building gun setups that allow for an incredibly high rate of fire — often with HPA systems — to really saturate a target area and force an enemy player to call their hit quickly to facilitate blazing-fast gameplay.
Speedsoft is not for the faint of heart!
While the core premise is quite simple — use speed, aggression, and a gun tuned right up to the allowable limits to win — the gameplay itself can be downright brutal.
We’re sure you can imagine what being nailed by a gun shooting 30 rounds per second is like. It’s not pleasant.
While none of us here at OTT are particularly big fans of speedsoft gameplay, its continued growth obviously means that there are folks who are.
We’re now at a place where several different brands have cropped up that aim to cater specifically to the speedsoft player, such as SpeedQB, mixing functionality with visual aesthetic and stylistic flair that abandons wholesale the military theme that airsoft generally draws from.
If you want pulse-pounding gameplay, have a high tolerance for pain, and harbor a fierce competitive spirit–speedsoft might just be for you.
It’s Basically LARPing, but with Guns: Milsim
Standing in stark contrast to competitive gameplay of speedsoft is Milsim — obviously short for military simulation.
While there’s no hard definition on what exactly Milsim is exactly, generally the games are going to revolve around immersive environments, storytelling, and some semblance of kit and gear restrictions.
On the shallow side, maybe you get a bit of backstory on the factors that lead into the event that you’re attending helping you understand the tensions between the in-game actors.
In the very deep end of the nerd pool, the details regarding the plot and participants are crucial to the gameplay itself, and you’ll likely need to join an existing in-game “unit” to get the most out of the event.
Milsim bridges the gap between LARPing and airsoft — and if you’re too cool to spend a weekend doing a silly accent or act out your death when you’re hit, you may want to steer clear.
While not all events push the envelope with regards to gameplay and the physical element of the game, the more extreme event promoters host non-stop, 40-hour games where you’re never truly out of the event’s in-game battle.
You’re going to be placed within a squad, being directed by a squad leader, who’s, in turn, taking directions from your platoon leader, who ultimately takes direction from the CO.
At their best, milsim events allow you to get totally lost within the fake world the game sets up as being very real — which is usually pretty easy when you’re essentially living within it for a few days at a time.
Wrapping It All Up
Whether you’re looking for a casual weekend thing to do with friends, or you want to reenact Call of Duty games, there’s a variety of airsoft for everyone.
Finding your niche in airsoft may take some exploration, but it’s definitely worth it when you find a game that makes you unable to wipe the grin off your face.
What variety of airsoft interests you the most? Tell us about it in the comments! And if you’re new to airsoft be sure to check out our Top 10 Tips for New Players.