At Action Games Paintball, players streak across 80 acres comprising six woodsball fields speckled with forts, towers, bridges, and bunkers. After playing one of 10 themed games such as capture the flag or attack and defend, they post up against a towering tree or at a picnic table and dig into a complimentary, all-you-can-eat barbecue lunch.
A lot of big things start in a garage; Boston Paintball, however, needed a warehouse. The team of paintball enthusiasts came together in 1992, and they spent 10 years in a downtown warehouse, introducing thousands of people to the sport and spilling more paint than an artist working on a tilt-a-whirl. But even that space eventually proved too small, and the company has since expanded to three locations in the greater Boston area.
Fully stocked pro shops and indoor fields greet players at the Chelsea and Ashland outposts. Maynard, on the other hand, takes the game outdoors. At every location, the staff keeps competition safe and fair, pairing up players based on ability from beginners all the way up to tournament level.
Sneaking up the ridge, the players prepare to storm the multilevel Castle Anthrax, a wooden fortress where defenders lurk in its 20,000-square-foot interior and ready their counterattack. The castle is one of seven outdoor playing fields at AG Paintball, which has been featured on WMUR's "New Hampshire Chronicle." Amid forest terrain, participants duck into huts, snipe opponents from behind paint-splattered barrels, and trick the guard sphinxes into unveiling one of the multiple entrances to the Octagon. Updated annually with new fields, the facility hosts both novice and experienced players and matches those of equal experience and skill for games in varying styles of play. After their bouts, guests can restock supplies in the pro shop, commission repairs from the onsite gunsmith, or grill some burgers in the covered patio area, where those 21 and older can also enjoy BYOB privileges once all gear is returned.
Just under an hour's drive from Boston, Merrimack Valley Paintball's fields are just big enough for referees to keep an eagle eye on all the action. Arching over the woodsball field is a thick canopy of trees, providing good cover in case of rain or flaming hail. As they maneuver around the tall trees, players duck behind stacks of logs and other obstacles. On the speedball field, combatants enjoy regulation-style play, whether they're packing high-end .68-caliber markers or Splatmaster gear, engineered for a softer impact so kids as young as 10 can play.
BBs fly across Citadel Airsoft's 60,000-square-foot indoor facility as marksmen square off in CO2-fueled contests. Three days a week, open skirmishes reward strategy in 30-minute games that follow a variety of rules and scenarios such as Downed Pilot, where rival teams compete to either rescue or capture a specific player. For more experienced sharpshooters, Citadel organizes indoor and outdoor simulations that test players' mettle with unique obstacles and targets painted on remote-control houseflies. First-time players can boost their airsoft skills during training events and add to their personal armory with safety equipment and supplies from the facility's onsite pro shop.
On Xtreme Action Sports' 13,000-square-foot indoor field, every surface in sight is splattered with colorful reminders of paintball impacts. The maze of wood walls draws players into close-range confrontations, forcing them to dive for cover beneath open windows and tactically placed barriers. Whether using paintballs, airsoft pellets, or laser tag markers, teams fan out into the facility in search of opposing players or first aid kids that inexplicably hover and spin in the air. Between competitions, players can return to the pro shop to peruse markers, safety gear, and travel accessories.