Fighting Uphill

I have nightmares. Lots. Many reasons. Usually cheese. In airsoft though, one of the worst situations any player can find themselves in is trying to assault a position uphill. Worse if it’s fortified. It tends to be a game of attrition, the defending team usually with limited lives, the attackers simply throwing themselves at the task under withering fire until the defenders run out of, well, defenders. And to really shit on your cornflakes, you’re a sniper with a bolt action, so simply launching an aimless wall of plastic in the direction of the enemy isn’t an option.

I don’t think there’s a site I’ve been to that doesn’t have some element of an incline, with airsoft usually inhabiting land unsuitable for anything else, and forts at the top are an unwritten rule. That nobody likes. Defending these positions is as much fun as the target range, but with squishy moving targets that swear at you when you hit them. However, there will come a time when you know you have to climb up that hill yourself when the game is reversed. Without too many Obi Wan references, here’s a few ideas on getting to the top in one piece for the airsoft sniper.

The approach you take, invariably upwards either way, will depend on what the objective is. Most sites will choose a full assault as an easy game, with the defending team holding out for the longest time possible which requires very little effort from the marshals. The other scenario is where an attack uphill is part of a larger game, and is either a point to capture as one of several, or simply a route through to somewhere you as the sniper, or your team as a whole needs to take out in order to get past.

In the first scenario, a full assault on a (usually) fortified position is a fun game for some with lots of shooting to help keep the on-site shop in business. There are three challenges here.

  • Attacking up a hill – It’s hard work trying to climb up a hill, depending how steep it is, and more so if the ground is wet. Having to carry kit and with hands attached to the gun rather than the terrain just add to the fun. And that’s before the shooting starts. Defenders will be able to see you struggle clearly all the way up, and will have a bit of extra range on weapons as the bb falls/accelerates downhill. In the face of this, you’ll be having to shoot uphill while moving with perhaps less range than you might be used to, as your bb has to fight gravity a little more. If defenders are deployed at the crest of the hill, most of their bodies will be out of sight so you’ll be aiming at heads, which are much smaller targets.
  • Attacking a prepared defensive position – As well as the crest of the hill, any purely defensive team can take a prone position to reduce their profile, or set up in some sor of cover which will either serve to camouflage them or provide a shield against incoming fire. As the attacker, you will have to keep moving to assault the position anyway and won’t have such luxuries. Your movement creates an easy target for the defenders, whereas their lack of movement will leave you struggling to identify where shots are coming from.
  • Attacking a fortification – Worst case scenario, the defending team will have hard cover. At a few sites I’ve been to, there are walled defences with very small firing holes that make it very difficult to hit any targets behind, but let the attackers shoot out without any worries. In some ways, it’s like trying to attack a tank…

In any situation, the sniper has to box clever, even more so when you’ve got the odds heavily stacked against you. Now, the simplistic mind here will simply think “well, I’ve got sUpErIoR rAnGe” and will expect to hang back and use that extra few metres to their advantage.

The expectation here is that the enemy are sitting nicely at the far end of your range while you sit outside of their maximum. And they’ll willingly sit there still for you. It’s also assuming they have no sniper rifles, DMR platforms or anything that has been cheating the chrono.

The reality is that they’re everywhere and you have no idea what their capabilities are. Dug into defensive positions, they won’t be giving much away with movement, or presenting any large easy targets. And they’re shooting downhill, whereas you’re trying to lift your shots uphill. This makes any tactics based on range advantage useless, and is why I will always advise snipers to focus on accuracy and consistency above range, and not to try to bump fps up on the rifle. You don’t have a range advantage, and you don’t have a rate of fire advantage. The only shooting advantage you will ever have is the ability to put crosshairs on a target patiently, and pull the trigger knowing it’s a hit first time, every time.

The ideal tactics for any hill assault is for the sniper to do what they do best – going solo and going through terrain nobody else will, in order to flank the defenders to hit them from the sides. It’s probably the only time I’d advocate the use of a sling, to allow you to use both hands to help climb or get through thick vegetation without making too much noise. A good, grippy set of boots here will serve you much better than those ninja Tabi boots, with their linear indoor grip pattern. Watch your footing, make sure you have something stable to put your foot on and look for any secure branches to hold onto but avoid grabbing anything that might move, like a thin branch or trunk, which could make trees and bushes move and give your position away. I’ve often wanted to carry a large knife for situations like this, to dig into the ground and hold onto but it’s a grey area with knife laws…

Flanking like this may feel like a long, laborious task while everyone else is enjoying trigger time, but once in position the sniper can get behind defences and start picking defenders off (go for enemy snipers first if you have a choice, or any support weapons). Good concealment here will be vital, as you don’t want to have to crawl back to respawn to take that long route around again, and they’ll be expecting you a second time anyway. The goal isn’t to single-handedly take the enemy position, but to draw some of the enemy resources away from your teams’ main attack, to cause confusion, and allow your team an opportunity to move forward. After all, they’re much better equipped for the grunt work and for assaulting a position than you are, and it’s a team game.

If you do have to hit things head on, usually because there is no option to attack from the side or rear, use those grunts to go first. As a sniper you don’t ever want to be leading the line. Look up and down the line and see where the enemy team have your guys pinned down, and look to take accurate shots to remove those threats to allow your team to move forward. It’s more of a DMR role which is limiting, but in some games you’ve just got to do it for the sake of the team.

What about games where you don’t have to assault a hill as part of the game objectives, but part of the enemy team have taken the position? As above, it’s a difficult position to get up towards, so the first assessment will be;

  • Is it a threat to your team?
  • Are there enough enemy in it that you could keep a good portion of their team busy in one place allowing your team more freedom and resources to take objectives?
  • Is there a small number of enemy players there such that you could attempt to clear it out and give you the sniper an advantageous position? Perhaps it overlooks an important route or an objective?

If it’s a yes to any of these, go for it because engaging that elevated terrain is going to do something for your team and your objectives. It’s still the high ground, Anakin, and it does have its advantages if you can take it. If not, it may well be worth sparing the time and effort and concentrating your strengths elsewhere on the field. It may be out of the way of any action, or an irrelevant position that the enemy have taken just because they can but without any thought to the overall strategy. Always think strategy first, then tactics second. No point getting stuck into a problem that doesn’t need solved…

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