Paintball or airsoft anyone?
Whether you’re harbouring some distant childhood military fantasy or just in need of some fun outdoor action, Rung Thong Xanh Paintball Club (RTX) has got you covered, with entry at a mere VND50,000 per player.
Despite the name, it’s not exclusively for paintball enthusiasts, as they also maintain a substantial arsenal of airsoft weaponry. For the uninitiated, airsoft guns more closely resemble real weapons and fire small plastic pellets, usually propelled by either spring, motor or green gas (propane and silicon oil). They’re frequently used in military training exercises or by recreation enthusiasts, and can sting a bit if you take one to the flesh from a reasonable distance.
The RTX venue is in Minh Phu, around 30km north of Hanoi just beyond the airport. The route there is simple enough to plan in advance, using the main airport highway for most of the journey. It boasts a large, all-natural forest arena fully outfitted with oil drums, trenches and barricades. The nearby buildings consist of a picturesque house and gardens, presumably belonging to the owner, as well as a large double garage — this part is for the players.
The garage is the starting point for the activities ahead, and acts as storage facility, briefing room and photo opportunity. Piles of camouflaged fatigues await the players who either want to greatly enhance the jungle-combat atmosphere or simply want to keep their favourite H&M shirt free of mud or paint. There are even padded camo jackets for added protection, although from experience I can testify they are mostly useful for storing your smartphone and keys in the reinforced pockets. The airsoft pellets or paintball rounds are not painful enough to warrant the use of serious armour.
Welcome to the Suck
For our morning of military exercises, we opted for the airsoft option. The M16 and AK-47 replicas were just too cool to ignore, eliciting an intense nostalgia of a childhood saturated with video games in which I saved Europe from Nazi Germany on more than one occasion (difficulty setting).
Some of the equipment is a bit dated, and we have to learn a few quick-fix techniques to overcome jamming issues. We each get a starting pack of 200 pellets (VND100,000), more than enough for a few games of Team Deathmatch. The health and safety brief is more an exercise in common sense; wear eye protection, no point-blank executions and don’t shoot anyone who is showing their surrender or defeat by holding their gun above their head. The games are all overseen by a staff member who does their best to make sure rules are abided by, but who seemed to spend most of their time trying not to get shot.
Team Deathmatch, in which each team simply must eliminate every member of the opposing team first, is just one style of gameplay the RTX overseer suggests. The others read like an instruction manual to multiplayer mode in Call of Duty. Capture the Flag involves each team trying to capture the flag (or other prop) from the opposing team HQ, and then bring it safely back to their own base. Free-for-All is as chaotic as it sounds, and sees the last-person-standing declared the winner — a perfect opportunity for temporary alliances to end in betrayal. King of the Hill sees one team defending a location for a fixed amount of time, with the attacking team victorious only if they can overthrow the defended position before time runs out.
We only played airsoft at RTX, but I can definitely see the potential for paintball here, too. Paintball is more expensive, however, as the ammo must be imported — a whopping VND650,000 for 250 paintballs. The main downside of airsoft is that it relies on an ‘honour system’ whereby players are relied upon to surrender once they have been shot. With paintball, this issue is neutralised by the massive splats of paint that appear on your camos after taking a hit.
As a concept, neither is particularly popular in Hanoi, with one other prominent paintball centre recently closing as a result of too few players. With the huge popularity of both games that I’ve seen in other countries, I’m confident that things will soon change, and people will see the potential joy of spending a morning trying to shoot your friends and colleagues in the face.
Rung Thong Xanh Paintball Club is located in Minh Phu, around 30km north of Hanoi. It is on the left of Road 35, about half way up the length of Cau Ca Lake. Group reservations can be made on 0962 851111 (in Vietnamese and English)