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1 300 Blue Players

We were massing on the lower hill when the barrage came in-green grenades, blue balls, arcing through the overcast morning and exploding all around us. The ground was slick with mud. Our markers were slick with paint. It was an uphill battle, and they held the high ground…
Text and photography by James Dawson
…and the Castle-Castle Aaarrgh, an acre and a half of two-story ramparts, three-story towers, a courtyard littered with bunkers, and enclosed walls alive with players. The outer walls bristled with marker barrels, like hair standing up on the back of your neck. Players popped up hither and yon, bouncing over the ramparts and past the open shooting ports like human whack-a-mole with paintballs…only we couldn’t whack the moles-they whacked us.
There is a good reason that few great battles have ever been won uphill, and it has everything to do with the angles. Paintball is a game of angles, more so than pool or chess, or at least it hurts more when you botch an angle in paintball. With paint coming down, it can go just a little bit farther-its drop corresponds with the curvature of the land, and so bleeds less energy and travels farther than ours as we shot uphill. Our balls had to gain on the Castle, and gain altitude, shooting the hypotenuse of the triangle rather than a flat angle; and the hypotenuse is always longer than the base. The balls broke on the wall, and broke on the ramparts, and bounced off the players.
Occasionally one caught the corner of hard goggles, or expended its energy in a brilliant blue explosion on a hopper; but mostly our balls landed low and rumbled the wood harmlessly.
Uphill battles-that’s an art. And that’s why players come here, to EMR Paintball in New Milford, PA, every year: to attack, or defend, the hilly terrain and this amazing castle.
In an hour’s worth of reinsertions we were to the wall. Occasionally a marker burst out from between ramparts and pointed down at us, but at such close range we made quick work of them-quick work of their hands and hoppers and markers, turning each a slimy blue.
They didn’t repeat that mistake too often.
The defenders knew what they were doing; so did we, and the odds were stacked in our favor. Yet wave after wave was repelled from the 11:00 starting horn clear through our eventual emplacement right against their walls. Pub Crawling held Wall 2, the one we pushed against up this hill, and laid on their triggers like their very lives depended on it-which they didn’t, of course, but the effect was the same. Two Pub Crawling players manned each window, with a strong deployment on the ramparts above. By shooting out of both sides of the windows and working angles from the ramparts, they had lanes of fire that protected the hillcrest for far longer than anyone expected.
But it fell, in time; then it was a battle at their gate.
Enemy at the Gate

Castle Aaarrgh’s walls are hollow, with protected corridors all through them. Where the first-floor wall breaks for a gateway, the corridor stops with a doorway and resumes on the other side-making natural defensive positions for working side angles within the gateway itself. Players stacked two and three deep in these doorways, shooting over each other’s shoulders and taking their turns at the front when one got dropped.
Penetrating their lanes of fire is tough; but they made it even harder. There had been considerable rain before the event, and many of the barrels used for ancillary fortification were full of rainwater. As part of their strategy, defense-leaders Joint Fury consolidated the rainwater into a number of rather full barrels. These were placed defensively around the doorways, and with the water’s weight and the paint’s slipperiness, proved nearly impossible to move.
Every ten minutes the defenders refreshed their ranks with a new reinsertion, strengthening their manpower behind these immobile fortifications. They brought fresh pods, fresh compressed air tanks, and fresh resolve. Overhead, players had cases of paint-full cases-opened and at the ready, waiting to pour through hoppers and fly out of markers. We had pods in our packs and paintgrenades dangling from gear loops, and did our best to keep up.
The odds for this siege: 4 to 1. 260 players defended ten props inside these walls. 1,040 of us attacked, trying to remove four props by 2:00pm. If we did that, the game would go as long as it has to, until we removed all ten from the courtyard. We were more than an hour into the game before getting to the wall; and the other attackers were in similar straights.

Blue’s Crew
«I tried to lead charges over here a number of times,» Blue-field owner and leader of Blue’s Crew-said, while covered in paint. «Then over there…all different angles. We are just trying to stir up the teams, get them moving.» Backed by principle home team Blue’s Crew, Blue charged down the dirt road bisecting the field and led the push against the turret on the corner of Walls 4 and 1. Unincorporated players and a few cohesive teams followed, flooding the road and filling the air with paint.
They inspired teams on the hill above Wall 4 to open up, and the air turned into a maelstrom of paint and wind. The forward-most players threw paintgrenades at the windows and over the walls. The midrange players trained their muzzles on the parapet and turret. The rearmost players pointed their markers in the general direction of the commotion, their paintballs landing short and repeatedly hitting their own forward players. It was pure paintball insanity-as advertised-and they weren’t even through the walls.
Repelled, Blue and blue-splattered teammates returned to the reinsertion zone.
The attackers have a historically unfair advantage: four to one manpower. Blue explained that this is historic, as most successful military sieges employed at least four attackers for every defender-the manpower overcomes the inherent benefit of being protected by a castle or fort.
But the defenders have their own unfair advantage: reinsertions twice as frequently, and one third as far away, as the attackers. While Blue’s Crew and company have to march down the sloping field to the International Paintball Museum, the defenders only have to dash a few yards across the courtyard or through the walls to reach their own reinsertion zone. And, they rejoin the game every ten minutes, to the attackers’ twenty.
On the whole, these unfair advantages rather fairly balance out.
And on the whole, the attackers usually breach the walls some time shortly after one o’clock. They have a number of props in their control by two o’clock, and the game keeps rolling until, usually around three o’clock, they have the props and physical control of the castle.

But as yet another advance was beaten back-this time from Wall 3-the attackers had only a skeleton crew alongside the walls by one o’clock. And at that, they lacked most of the footholds necessary to advance players from their burgeoning rear echelon to the front, where they were needed.
The defenders held all the cards-and all the props.
Then, fresh with the manpower of another reinsertion, Blue, the Crew, and company swooped down the dirt trail leading away from Wall 3, and charged the longer of two gangplanks up the wall. As the ground sloped down away from the plank the players charged up onto the ramparts, Blue in the lead. He got cut down by withering fire from inside the courtyard, balls coming unimpeded by the last gap-toothed section of old wall.
The player behind him in a red and black shirt got cut down as well, and crouched with Blue out of the way to keep from getting hit like bunkers in the NPPL. Then a shirtless berserker charged up the gangplank, flopped to his belly and crawled-nay, swam-through the blue slime covering the rampart. Though as low as he could go, he was still exposed to sharpshooters below, and took his day’s allotment of lumps and bumps and broken balls all over his bare skin. You can’t wipe the red marks.
And so the clock ticked down steadily towards the end, victory in sight-for the defenders, for once! A mad attacker dashed into the castle, evaded several paint-hurricanes, and grabbed the Royal Platter. He made it back outside, where the prop entered his team’s custody; it constituted exactly one quarter of the props they needed to extend the game beyond 2pm; and at that, the Royal Platter was but ten percent of the props they needed to win the game. Keeping up that rate of capture, the game would have lasted twenty-five hours.
1:55 came and went and ushered in 1:56, every passing moment marked with hundreds of shots from inside, and dwindling fire from outside. A detachment of attackers made it up the second gangplank on Wall 3, near the edge of Wall 4, but were viciously repelled. Stacks of attackers lined up against the walls, yearning for an opportunity to burst into the courtyard, but stood their ground in vain. The barrels were unmovable between the weight, the paint, and the lanes of fire that cut down attackers like wheat chaff.
At 2:00, the game was called-victory for the defenders, the first time in years!
In Defense of Castle Aaarrgh
This was the season for Joint Fury, a team comprised of members of other teams that band together for the common cause: viciously repelling Blue’s Crew. And playing other games too, of course. They were joined in victory this year by Delta Paintball, PA Brew Crew, SF Wicked Wombats, Shadow Company, and others, as well as a few celebrity guests-Dennis Tippmann among them-and random players. By far the ideal role to play, the defenders were decided by splitting the EMR home teams down the middle and inviting certain other players and teams. Once their ranks filled, that was it-waitlist time for everyone else who wanted to defend.
They were met upon the field of honor by Blue’s Crew, Ambush Alpha, Binary Specter, Black Sheep Squad, Fox 4, Ferrmen, Hell’s Henchmen, and many others. In the fall, EMR will host another Castle Conquest-XXIV-to close their Big 4 season for 2007. Then, the defenders and attackers will be switched up, while everything else remains the same.
After Game

The Castle Conquest events are about more than just paintball-they’re about a sense of community between the participants. The weekend warriors go home after the game; some went home even before sides were redrawn and the second Castle Conquest played out that afternoon. But the home teams, their friends, and the stalwarts stay for the evening. That’s when the other side of EMR comes out.
Boneheads, Ferrymen, and company threw their regular joint feast, and invited the neighbors in. Folks brought food of their own to add to something of a potluck feel, and players gathered under tent tops to eat and relive the day’s adventures.
Delta Paintball Team threw a Pirates of the Caribbean theme party, with all sorts of games and fun. Eric Engler and Wedge dressed to the nines, complete with swords and sashes. A good time was had by all, and very, very few players were awake in time for the 10am games on Sunday.
The game attracts the players; the camping and festivities attract the families; and everyone enjoys a full weekend of paintball and camaraderie at Castle Conquest. This is why there have been twenty-three of them, and this is why there will be many, many more.


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