Thursday, December 30, 2010

Airsoft: The Officeblock

Back in 2008, airsoft in Ireland was still a relatively new hobby. (Airsoft is like paintball but with low-power airguns firing plastic "BB" pellets.) Most sites were - and still are - situated in rugged rural land, usually forested. Airsoft Reloaded opened a site that was completely different: an indoors site in a warehouse in Coolock. It was convenient to get to, offered an entirely different airsoft experience, and was lots of fun.

Time moved on, the site in Coolock closed, and today Airsoft Reloaded run a site in Tallaght called The Officeblock. As the name suggests, it's simply an officeblock turned into an airsoft site. Much of the interior remains true to its origins: there are still chairs, desks, working toilets, and the occasional PC. There's also a lot of debris strewn around; this is useful for cover.

The advantages of the site over traditional forest sites are the same as for the Warehouse: it's easier to get to (being close by to the Belgard LUAS stop), there are working toilets instead of portaloos, the site provides full rental packages so you don't need to own your own kit (although you can use that if you prefer), and of course most importantly the site itself is a building rather than a field/forest. In some respects its a more commercial operation than other sites and much more suitable for beginners. I don't mean than as a complaint; it's just filling a different market niche. It's the Quasar of Irish airsoft.

There are three floors, with stairways at either end of the building. Each floor has two main corridors running the length of the floor. There are of course many offices, but also lots of more interesting rooms such as the canteen on the top floor. Lighting varies: many rooms and corridors are dark, if only because players will turn lights on or off for tactical reasons. While a torch can be risky - giving away your location - it's useful to have that option to light up a room. (Gun-mounted torches are probably the best option.)

Compared to a milsim-style airsoft game full of patience, stealth and cunning, games in the officeblock tend to be fast and furious. Frequently one side (the attackers) will have unlimited lives/respawns, and the games are designed to make use of the setting. My favourite was one called 'Jail', in which players who are shot don't simply respawn but have to go to a designated room on the top floor (the "jail") and remain there until a teammate rescues them. The team that won that game didn't fight better, they just grasped the importance of winning control of the top floor. Many airsofters seem to be good at moving and shooting but have a poor awareness of how to achieve their mission objectives: winning fights in unimportant parts of the building doesn't win the game. (I was the only person on my side to rescue prisoners from the jail, and it didn't require a single shot to be fired, just a quick response to the opportunity. The freed players then... ran away from the tactically all-important jail, to fight pointless fights elsewhere. Tut tut, there were opponents to be hunted down on that top floor.)

The Airsoft Reloaded folk had kindly opened the site up for free on the day I visited - it's something of a seasonal tradition for Irish airsoft sites to offer free or special events at this time of year. Numbers were quite high, maybe around 40: the site was able to hold this many, but it was at its limit. At times player numbers caused key points on stairs and corridors to become too crowded, although in my view this is because many players didn't adjust their playing style when attacking - in an infinite lives attacking game, the attackers should, in my opinion, push aggressively. It's a bit crazy to worry about being shot when you're only a few meters from the respawn point. (I'd have many a fine WW1 general, eh?)

With so many players the site felt - in the words of another player - "a bit corridory". I suspect that's more a problem with high numbers on a free-play day than with the site. With smaller numbers the potential for stealth, tactics and flanking would be high. Even with the large numbers, I enjoyed the games.

Some experienced airsofters will love this site; others will prefer traditional outdoors venues. Either way, if you play airsoft you should give this a go: it's a different experience and there's nothing else like it in Ireland (that I know of) for indoors CQB. If you own grenades, bring them - clearing rooms without grendades is a nuisance.

For beginners, this is possibly the best and most convenient starting place for airsoft. I would just point out though that it's not particularly representative: outdoors airsoft is likely to be (at least) a little slower paced and almost certainly less painful due to the ranges involved.

Conclusion: the Officeblock is fun and very different to most sites, so whether you're a beginner or a veteran, give it a go.

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