Hardcore: The Decline And Return Of Milsim

It doesn’t matter which generation you belong to, You’ll always be reminded of how easy you have it compared to the last. Whilst a pinch of salt is in order when digesting this information, I’d have to say there’s a bit of truth in it.

The word Milsim is used far to often, I use it (As many do) to allow a definition between a regular Skirmish and something a little more in depth. I understand that it’s far from perfect to simply use the phrase as a catch-all term but in the absence of a better word it’ll have to do.

I’ve attended a fair few themed games over the years, From “Hardcore” events where you’re carrying everything you need for several days on your person to the less intensive weekend events where you can always wander back to a berthing area and grab some shut eye without fear of the enemy coming at 4am.

Probably the most recognisable company organising “Milsim” events at the moment is Stirling Airsoft, Certainly it’s the company I’ve had the most experience with. An important point to note is that Stirling themselves have never to my knowledge used the phrase “Milsim” to describe their events.

So what is a Milsim and what does it require? Right, so let’s forget all the bollocks about what you call it, Themed game/Battlesim/Milsim etc… What I’m on about at it’s heart is a game where a little preparation has gone into place to create a playing environment where it’s focussed more on the planning and execution of a military style mission rather than slapping armbands on both sides and saying “There ya go, find and shoot the other team”.

In my opinion, there are several defining points that separate a Skirmish from a Milsim:

  • Restriction of ammunition, certain weapons restricted and an emphasis on weapons relevant to the role/side chosen.
  • Rules Of Engagement: Defined set of rules that allow interactions not seen in general skirmishes. Not simply having a shoot on sight for those who might appear as non-combatants and enabling characters in game to become an element that helps the immersion.
  • Structure, having a good and competent commend structure with the event organisers ensuring that the game is run to the standards expected by the players and making the game feel a little more planned than simply two teams blasting each other.
  • Staged events such as rescue or snatch missions that enable players to plan and execute a mission, This can also be on a larger scale such as an overall mission brief with a clearly defined set of sub-missions to be completed throughout the games duration.
  • An understanding from the staff and players that they are to behave in accordance with the game rules and also within the spirit of the game to ensure that it doesn’t devolve into a simple “shoot all the bad guys” affair.
  • Special elements such as the site itself or certain vehicles within game that you wouldn’t generally see within a standard skirmish.
  • One thing people often overlook is the expectation that is placed upon the players themselves, It’s not as simple as “I’ve paid my money, I’ll play how I want” … When you agree to attend, You absolutely must act in accordance within the spirit of the game. Ignorance is no excuse, Theres a world of information out there and everyone has a responsibility to swot up on an events “Do’s and Don’ts”.
  • I will point out that there is a distinct lack of the more involved type of game on the market, by that (And I mean this with all due respect) where you have Skirmish as say the entry level and one ring above that you have something along the lines of Airborne Airsoft where it’s literally two teams in green or tan uniforms battling over a bomb shaped box with a flashing light and a switch all the way up to something like CAG’s game where after a backbreaking TAB into hostile territory, certain callsigns were expected to then infiltrate enemy held territory, Perform ongoing surveillance and a CTR to gain further intel that dictated how the rest of the game developed. Well… It would have except the team were captured and “executed”. Some might say this is a little too far, But it’s important to remember that even your average Sunday walk-on is viewed as walty or over the top by some other people so to a degree and with the greatest respect you should be able to shrug off any undeserved flak you get for having a hobby that involves dressing up like action man.
  • Not a week goes by when people talk about the lack of “upper echelon” milsims available, And it appears to have spawned a lot of well meant but poorly executed “Milsim-lite” games that are run by skirmish sites and event organisers that don’t follow through with their intended goal, generally because in any given scenario they pander to those who pay them. Not the worst business model in the world but it rarely inspires excellence. Let’s take for example a game that was organised by a generic walk in site with little to no experience in immersive tactical gameplay.
  • Site: We’re hosting a Milsim!
  • Regular players: I’ve always wanted to go to a Milsim!
  • Site: We’re having ammo limits and no high caps!
  • Regular players: but I only use high caps, I’m not buying mods for just one game…
  • Site: Ok, only one high cap allowed if you don’t own mids, But no box mags on anything but a support weapon.
  • Regular Players: Oh that sounds a bit too serious for me! I joined this site for a laugh, not to be told what I can use!
  • Site: OK! You can have a box mag high cap on your MP5 but no ammo in game!
  • Regular players: OK that sounds fair… What about lunch? Is that included?
  • Site: you’ll need to take your own food into the game, it’s a 24 hour non stop event!
  • Regular Players: Oh I cant stay out for 24 hours, where will I sleep?
  • Site: Ok, we’ll have an 8 hour break during the night….
  • It’s this pandering in particular that ruins an event before it’s even begun. I’d love to say it’s a rare occurrence but many sites I’ve seen try hosting a themed game have failed due to a perceived need to keep their day to day customers appeased. I’d suggest to those sites that Milsim or themed games are not to everyone’s taste. Don’t pull a “Battlefield 5” and change the core elements that make it so desirable just to keep people happy who’d rather just be wandering around the woods.
  • Not all is lost however… Nature abhors a vacuum and in the absence of this ultra realistic level of immersion, Every so often a company like CAG, Stirling or Tier One pops up and offers players the opportunity to do something very special. Stirling have hosted one of the most interesting games ever thought of, A VBSS based game in the Bristol Channel! Certainly not one for the faint of heart and if I’m honest, A little too hardcore for me. But having spoken to a couple of the Grey Fox guys that went, It was certainly an unforgettable event. Stirling still appear to offer one of the best themed events on the market, They strike a good balance between immersion and trigger time… But for all their strengths it’d be nice to see some healthy competition!
  • CAG might also be returning to the Airsoft scene, After a dramatic exit in 2016 which was mostly a case of Airsofters not being able to think before shouting on the internet they’ve potentially decided to host another event. Not much is known at the moment but in the community amongst those who attended their previous events it’s buzzing with excitement!
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