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Area 51 Florida Paintball Productions puts on a scenario game.... Time for a road trip. We loaded up the official "WARPIGY" jeep with all of the gear for Team Mamba, and headed north. Our first stop was Orlando on the 4th of December (97) to stop in at the Xtreme Media Group paintball industry conference. A pretty cool event, where we got to host a roundtable discussion about paintball on the internet, and how dealers and fields could utilize the net to better serve their customers (and find new ones). Also cool, because a lot of people we knew were there and we got to talk and visit (even got a sneak peek at a prototype of the Field Rental Automag).
From Orlando, we went further north to Ocala, and threw up our tent at Wayne's World. The game would not officially start until Saturday, with most people arriving Friday. This left us with the choice of campsites, and time to mill around. Our next door neighbors were from Rex Moving company, and were a bunch of piano movers. They were pretty new to paintball, but were very excited about the weekend. Then there was us, 4 members of Team Mamba, the USA Performance Products factory team. Myself, my wife Dawn, and Brodie Brockman (from USA Performance Products) and Angela Bergman (from the parent company, US Amateur Sports).
If you didn't see it before check out the Area51 Page. That gives you the skinny on what the game was about. Something to notice is the size of the prize package. A lot of people have been saying that we will see the paintball industry move the focus of some of their sponsorship dollars to recreational paintball, as tournament play is really only a small percentage of the paintballers out there. Well, it seems that is the way things are heading, there were over $40,000 in prizes given away at the event as door prizres! That's right, you didn't have to be on the winning team, and you didn't have play the most out on the field, you just had to be a participant for a chance to win.
As Friday arrived more and more people started arriving. We ran into a lot of new, as well as familiar faces. While Brodie and Angela were busy showing off the Viper M1 at the USA Performance Products booth, Dawn and I went around talking to people, getting pictures, and getting video for PigTV.
The vendor's tent, sponsored by Worr Game's Products filled up quickly with assorted vendors and game sponsors. Barrels Of America set up their display and owner Dale Hilton finally settled my question of wether the name was pronounced B. O. A. as separate letters, or Boa, like the snake. "Either one works, he said". Intense Marketing had a full table of paintguns and accessories, for players who needed that last minute part. Owner Charlie Holton had his usual smile and straw hat made famous in the Sgt. Splatter cartoon. Jim, Pam and the whole family from Indian Springs were showing and selling their loaders next to Doug Zander of Benchmark Products. Aside from expansion chambers and grips, Doug was showing his new twist-lock barrel plug and matching front grip with storage space. AKA had their barrel and accessory line on display. Further down, Enola Gaye was doing a brisk business selling their exploding paint grenades and "cold" (non-fire hazard) smoke grenades, which were used often on the field. Pro Team Products booth carried a number of their accessories including barrels and grip frames. Rose Griffith from Unique Sporting had set up a large display of their loader harness line. Outside, under the DYE tent, Steve Rabakoff of the Iron Men had set up a display of the Dave Youngblood Enterprises barrels and accessories, including DYE shirts and mouse pads.
Friday night registration packets were turned in, and brief introductions were given by Ben Toricelli, and Paul Devane (who was recently awarded "Nicest Guy in Paintball" at the 97 World Cup). The Pyrotechnitians from Team Men In Black gave a safety talk about what type of pyrotechnics were legal (only "cold" smoke and grenades like those from Enola Gaye) for players, and about the various trip-line surprises they had placed out on the field. Those little surprises exploded with a flash of light and a very loud bang. While they were safely placed up in the trees, the safety talk was a "just in case" precaution about what they looked like, and who to notify if one were discovered loose on the ground. Paul also explained the organization of the game. There were basically two teams. Nightscape consisted of the base security forces in charge of Area 51. The Civilian Intelligence Network consisted of a wider variety of people, however they were all of one single mind. The truth of what is hidden in Area 51 must be known.
When Saturday morning came, player packets went out to all of the teams. Each player received an ID badge to be stamped as they went through the chrono, an event patch and their ID papers. The ID papers explained the role they would play. Each team general was given a series of mission cards. As the game progressed these mission cards were assigned to players. Players left their respective bases singly or in squads. Typical missions were to take and secure sections of enemy territory, or to recover artifacts and prevent them from falling into the hands of the opposing team.
Now, I know that I said the Armageddon flying saucer was the most impressive scenario prop I had seen before, but it now has been moved to second best (it's still very impressive). Wayne Dollack and his crew really went to town with the props for this game. In a trailer, they had set up a mobile intensive care unit complete with an Alien body. In October, as we made our great road trip, moving from California to Florida, Dawn and I made a special stop in Roswell New Mexico (If you don't know what happened in Roswell in 1947, you haven't been watching the X-Files enough). We visited the International UFO museum there. What we expected to be a little tourist trap, was actually a very well presented not-for profit information center. On display, they had an alien dummy and operating room props used in the motion picture "Roswell". Well let me say this. The quality of the set-up in Wayne's trailer just blew that museum display, made by Hollywood professionals, plain out of the water. Also on the field, was the APC. This big lumbering gray tank was based on the armored Personnel Carrier used in the movie Aliens, and was sponsored by USA Performance Products. It was built with a wood outer body over an old van. It was complete with nose and roof turrets as well as an assault ramp in the back. The interior was done up too, complete with a command center with displays of vehicle status that looked like the touch screen panels right out of Star Trek.
Saturday afternoon, there was a special celebrity mission. A number of the paintball celebrities in attendance boarded the Area 51 tank and drove deep into the heart of Civilian Intelligence Network territory. As the tank lumbered down the road Angela Bergman operated the top turret, taking shots at players on the road-side from a completely protected position. Chuck Hendsch of RP Scherer held smoke grenades out one of the back hatches, building a smoke screen as they drove through the woods. Inside sources informed me he dropped the first one inside, surprising a lot of the passengers as the air suddenly turned pink while everyone grabbed for it to toss it out the window. As the tank rolled up to the blue base, the ramp came down. Bud Orr (WGP), Brodie Brockman (USA Performance), Tim Schloss (Pursuit Products), Marty Tripes (Scott USA), and Paul DeVane (PMI Southeast) poured down the ramp, paintguns blazing. They followed along the slow moving tank, using it for cover as they cut out a chunk of the enemy defenses. Eventually they were overwhelmed by superior numbers, but they made a valiant effort. As day rolled into night, action slowed down for dinner and the costume contest, which was sponsored by Kingman International. Various entries ranged from simple masks like the alien who carried a "will probe for food" sign, on up to Richard McLean's lumbering robot which featured remotely controlled arms packed with Mirage paintguns and a video periscope so that he could see when his windshield became too covered in paint.
With full stomachs and warmer clothes (it got downright cold!) players re-chronoed to 250 fps to head out for night play. It was clear that Nightvision equipment would have been beneficial to have. We hit the field, and before even going on, we captured a group of blue Nightscape players. Well we didn't so much capture as convince. You see Dawn has a way with words. We'd had dinner with Tim Schloss, Jeff Orr (both of whom we hadn't met before, though we knew Bud who introduced us). Tim Jeff, and another friend of theirs were swayed to change arm-bands so we could all go out as one squad. We started out at the red base, where we turned blue ID cards in and got new armbands. The ID cards went to Norio Hyakawa , director of the Civilian Intelligence Network (played by Kerry "Viper" Rosenberry).
Most cautiously, we worked our way up the back line, and started up the field. A passing train gave us plenty of sound cover to move about 30 meters. Then we waited. We had dispersed in a single file line up the left side of a road near a tapeline. We had taken out a couple of blues on the back tape, so we figured there must be more, and it would be easier to wait for them to come to us than to trudge right into an ambush.
Dawn was up at the front, followed by Tim and Jeff, with me in the middle. Angela and Brodie and a few stragglers that we'd picked up were in the back. We could here someone coming up the field, and make out a shadow. When they were literally on top of Dawn, a light came on and they asked what team she was on. "Blue". There was a pause. Then the forest opened up on all of us. The light went out, and we heard "I'm hit" from dawn and one other player that was up front. The light came on again, and a player sprinted to the right. This time a hail of paintballs came back from us. The player with the light bugged out, and I got the guy on the right. Unfortunately, I also got Dawn in the back, and everyone else from the front half of our squad was taken out by friendly fire. As we sat still, a few shots still came in on us, but curiously it was to the right of where we were. I could pop my head up or wave my arm, and quite reliably a dozen paintballs would hit 2 feet to my right. I suspect what was happening was one player had night vision or an IR detector, and it wasn't aligned properly. He was spotting for the rest.
We mumbled about what to do. We couldn't effectively move forward, and we couldn't easily retreat. If we did retreat, where would we go? It was time to go out in a blaze of glory. I fumbled through my harness and found a smoke grenade that Tim Christian had given me early in the day. I figured it at least might cause a little confusion. I lit it, and sent it flying in the area the shots had come from. Sure enough, when the smoke started billowing we heard movement, they weren't expecting it, and weren't sure what it was. With that, all of us that had flashlights turned them on, and ran forward in a hail of paint. I don't know what percentage of the blues we took out of the area, but we did some damage, and were taken out in the process.
As we headed off the field, we realized just how cold it had become. The paint that was splattered on us was starting to freeze. Minutes later (around 12:30 am), Ben Toricelli announced that the game would close for the night. The temperature was in the low 20s, and player safety was a concern.
We warmed up with coffee and hot cocoa around the campfire. Once again, Dawn swayed some defectors. It seems that the guys from Rex Moving were not all that happy with how things were going on the blue team. During the day, the blue general was eliminated a number of times by spies who had snuck into the blue base. Needless to say this made him a little paranoid. According to some blue players, too paranoid. At night, when the Rex Moving guys hit the field, the weren't allowed anywhere near the blue base, or given missions to go on, that was considered too risky. Fed up with their command, Dawn arranged a little plot for them the next morning.
The morning came, and we awoke to a winter wonderland. Frost had grown on everything. We were told that we were experiencing Florida's 2 days of winter (since I'm actually hot right now in a t-shirt and shorts, I believe it). Surprise of surprises, CCDef (of TechTalk fame) who we had met the night before showed up with a bag full of breakfast muffins from Burger King. Truly he raised himself to hero status.
I was quickly whisked away on a special mission by Red instigator Mike Turcotte (played by Patrick "PacMan" McKinnon), a former Area 51 security officer who felt it was time for the public and the president to know the truth. Since I had my video gear with me, I followed Turcotte and a band of escorts behind enemy lines to video tape an interview in front of a crashed bouncer (you'll see this on PigTV in the Area 51 episode). This tape was later used as evidence presented to the President of the United States, gaining valuable points for the CIN.
I then got to see the excitement as the Rex Moving guys hit the field. They went out to the blue base, and similar to the night before, weren't allowed in, they were told just to wait around or go out and attack the reds without a specific mission. Well, they did wait around, about 30 meters from the base. As they waited, more players entering the field gathered around them. Eventually these 5 guys where in the middle of a mass of 40 or so blue players.
At the same moment, they raised their paintguns and started firing. This caused mass confusion. None of the blues outside the base new what was happening, only that blue players were shooting at them, so they of course fired back. Only they didn't know who was who, so they started shooting at each other, not just the guys from Rex Moving. To top it off, the guards inside the base thought they were being fired at, so they shot at the blues outside. As it all sorted out, at least 3/4 of the blues outside the base were eliminated, and those who weren't ended up taking cover and staying in a fire fight with the base security. Once off the field, the guys from Rex Moving did a little more damage, they told blues who were going onto the field, that red spies with blue armbands had taken over the base, and they'd better hurry to help take it over again. This added new blue players attacking their own base, and a lot of eliminations, made by a small handful of blues who switched to red.
As things drew to a close, with the game ending at noon, the scores were tallied, and it was finally announced that the Blue team had won, by a very narrow margin. Thanks went out to the many sponsors who made the event possible, and to the outstanding referees and players for each team.
Then the raffles.... They went on and on, there was so much being given away it was amazing. Literally seeing a couple of dozen paintguns go one after another out into the crowd. Patrick "PacMan" McKinnon of Team Blitzkreig was one of the recipients of a 97 Autococker from WGP. PacMan announced that since his team already owned and used Autocockers, he decided to award his to the shortest player in the game, on behalf of himself, his team, and WGP. That act really typified a lot of the attitudes that were at the game.
The sponsors involved were:
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