There are two type of airsofter, Those who seek realism in their games and those who don’t. Often those who seek realism will plow endless amounts of money into the hobby and spend as much time as possible in creating the perfect loadout, They’ll also try and spend as much time as possible playing the offshoot of Airsoft we often refer to as Milsim.
Now there’s nothing wrong with using the word Milsim, It’s an easy way to generically describe the event and distinguish it from the more common “Walk On” events we pretty much all either started out at or still currently attend. One thing to note however, Is that it’s very difficult to find an organiser who will admit to hosting a “Milsim” game, Speaking with Matt B from Stirling Airsoft a few months ago, He stated that Stirling do not offer Milsim Events, Their events fall into one or several categories depending on the game that beat suits the location.
Such as the key events held in Caerwent and more recently at Swynnerton. These games are heavier on the roleplay and lighter on the shooting… A clear set of Rules Of Engagement help this become an immersive event where your able to take on a role and have a little creative input, Either a peacekeeper who will struggle to tell whose a threat and who isn’t, Or play the role of an insurgent masquerading as a gardener or postman (you get the picture).
Generally a lot more defined as to whose the enemy, However there’s often not much more Combat due to the way the game flows… You might be on a 6 hour patrol up and down hills and not see a soul, You might end up spotting an incoming enemy and setting a snap ambush that develops into a 2 hour gunfight… It’s objective based and a lot of emphasis is put on individuals to look after themselves… No ones going to offer you a fun mission off the bat, you have to work hard finding intel and earn it.
Often set at a dedicated FIBUA site such as Catterick, these are akin to other event organisers “Battle Sims”. The aim here is for objective driven gameplay but with a fair degree more action…
The phrase milsim can often have negative connotations, I can fully appreciate why organisers such as Stirling avoid the word. Also, Milsim is seen as either too super-serious and walty as fuck or as a self depreciating punchline depending on your viewpoint…
Other organisers are out there, Most offering “Battlesims” or “Themed Games” at great locations and varying degrees of realism and organisation. From Legion Airsoft Events, Gunman Events and Ambush Adventures to Infiltration Airsoft, Airborne Airsoft, Brit-Tac and many more…
Add this to several Skirmish businesses offering their own flavour of themed games and you all of a sudden have more events per year than you could ever attend. However… And this is vital, Your expectations must be reasonable when Booking onto an event…
Local site letting a player organise a “Milsim” when the only experience they’ve had is either 4 years in the Catering Corps back in the good old, Pre GWOT days or slightly more relevantly they’ve attended a game hosted by a reputable and well run themed game organiser and fancy bring g a taste of that magic home (Usually because after attending a well run weekend game, going back to a Sunday walk on feels like taking a backward step, Like going from Lego to Duplo).
I don’t want to rustle any jimmies, And I’ll not mention any events or sites… But a well run event which people will remember and return to the next offering, will require 3 essential parts. Much like the Fire Triangle, Remove or replace one element and it’ll turn into a short affair indeed.
For an objective based game to work well you must know your site, It doesn’t need to have buildings (They massively help though) but it must have good and varied terrain, Natural obstacles (To offer both concealment and cover) and most importantly the organisers must make effective use of this terrain. Making sure that the opposing teams have a fair crack at any key points, Avoiding the potential for the game to become stale. One of the best themed games I’ve attended was Op: Uncharted, A dystopian civil war style event at Battlelakes in Kent and run by Infiltration Airsoft… Not a super serious contemporary milsim, But it had a great location and it was used well.
Never forget this is Airsoft, We players pay you money to host an event for our enjoyment. Being Ex whatever does give you a massive amount of unrivalled respect and credibility, However… It doesn’t necessarily give you the ability to host a great Airsoft event. Be humble enough to take on board feedback and adapt your game to the real time situation, you don’t have to script an event to make it work… The best events I’ve attended have been given little nudges to ensure the battles happen in accordance with the overall vision. Have that vision from the outset, What do you want the game to look like? What are the objectives going to be? Who is playing that particular “Person Of Interest” and who is running the comms and organising the event on the ground, making sure the marshals are where they should be and in general, Making sure the game flows well.
Yes, The players. Each and every one of the attendees has a shared responsibility to add to the event, Whether its by immersing yourself in the role, Which will often be a key factor in how well a themed or role-play driven game will fare, Or simply by being the best version of yourself you can be…
Be helpful, Offer to stag on at 4am so your driver can get some extra sleep, Make a drink or fill the canteens for your whole group, Not just yourself… Play to your strengths, If you can’t make it over that 10 foot wall, offer a foot up to someone who needs that extra boost. Have a chat and give someone that nudge if they need it and if you know someones attending on their own, Make a place for them and be sociable… I’ve attended plenty of weekend games on my own due to team mates and friends not being able to make it, I make an effort to say hi to strangers and be friendly and its always returned twofold.
If your looking for the ultimate immersion, something beyond the offerings of the above events… Unfortunately we airsofters don’t seem to be able to hold onto our “realsim” organisers… Tier One Events went “invite only” a few years ago, And for all intents and purposes are non-existent.
CAG – Combat Airsoft Group (Read S23’s interview with them here) offered what many described as the “Definitive Milsim Experience”, With event staff who had both the real world experience to lean on with a good understanding of how to incorporate these experiences and ideas within an airsoft event. Unfortunately, after receiving some unwarranted backlash due to the actions of a completely unrelated event at STANTA, They decided to walk away from airsoft… A very sad day indeed and a sobering reminder that we need to perhaps shut up and listen, Not repeat the unverified bullshit that too often sweeps through our little community.
Hopefully one day there will be a number of options for the discerning “Milsim” player, A number of options that allows healthy competition and gives prospective players the choice to find a n event that suits them. Unfortunately, I see a lot of established skirmish sites offering “Milsim” events that are 8 hours long and offer only what should be the basis of a normal days airsoft… Objective based gameplay and ammo limits. Although this is often ignored, Sites refuse to back up their rules for fear of annoying their regular customers who want to load up with 6 high caps and a couple of spare bottles of ammo rattling around in their viper cross-draw holster.
Overall, I guess i’m trying to say that we have the power… The ability to ask and seek those types of games which we crave. If there truly is a market for the Realsim game, Then someone with the resources and experience needs to step up and run it. There’s money to be made, not millions, sure… but enough to generate profit.
Make small compromises if you must… After all its a game, But at the same time have a mission statement for what you want the games to look like and follow through with the execution both in the run up to and during the game.