Thursday, 23 June 2011

Airsoft: Tour of Duty - The Grange

On Saturday I took a trip over to Balsall Common, somewhere in between Solihull and Warwick, to take part in an open skirmish at The Grange, Gunman Airsoft's site in the Midlands and home of the AAF

If you've attended any of the AAFs then you will be familiar with the site, but in case you haven't I thought I'd post a little review of the day's gaming here

I've been there once before for gaming purposes and that was a good while ago when they were just getting the site off the ground and it was still quite open, with very little in the way of dense woodland cover. For someone used to playing regularly at Fireball, which is most definitely and unmistakably a woodland site, this felt a bit unusual and disconcerting at first

By comparison with the likes of the Fireball site, the field of play remains quite open but, as you can see from the picture below, the huge number of trees Jim and the others have planted are starting to come on now, and at this time of year there's masses of quite dense grassland dotted with barricades made from wooden crates, woven twigs and the like, which creates opportunities for some interesting game play

Some way to go yet before it becomes a wood, but you've got to start somewhere!
In addition to the fairly large expanses of relatively open ground there are a number of interesting and challenging areas on the site including; two towers and four buildings constructed within a compound of concrete walls, a fuel depot area with a couple of vehicles inside it, one or two slightly elevated bunker positions, a tree-lined trench with bunker positions on either side of it, an area of more mature trees with another trench and one or two wooden bridges nicknamed 'the nam' and a large built up area at the bottom of the site known as Chuffington village

So, did I miss my beloved Rhododendron woodland? Not a bit of it. I had a fantastic time, made all the better, as a matter of fact, because I didn't have to spend half an hour shaking a million tons of detritus out of every conceivable nook, cranny and crevice of my kit! Pictures of some of the above mentioned features can be seen on the company's website

The walk on fee was £25, no more expensive than many other sites, and cheaper than some. There was tea and coffee available throughout the day, as well as soft drinks from a fully functioning fridge, and water from fully functioning cold water taps! I'm not trying to be facetious here. Many airsoft sites provide players with little but the bare minimum of facilities and in this respect The Grange offers something a bit different

The tea, coffee and cold soft drinks had to be paid for, of course, [cold water was free and plentiful], as did lunch, but the prices were very reasonable and the selection was much better than at many sites I could mention. I had about three large mugs of coffee at 60p a time and a delicious bacon bap for lunch which cost me £1.70, cooked in a proper kitchen which is part of the site's original farmhouse, now serving as the office and centre of operations, and which I enjoyed in the relaxed atmosphere of the seating area pictured below

In addition, the safe zone area is a purpose built facility with tables and chairs, two showers, two flushing toilets like you would find at home, and three wash basins with soap dispensers, all of which, without wishing to sound too much like a girl, I thoroughly approve of! There is also a shop on site selling all sorts of stuff from BBs to AEGs [The Shop at The Grange] and a repair shop [Gunmunki]

So, your every need is more than adequately catered for, and I like that. Did I like the gaming? Hell yes! If I sound a little too enthusiastic, allow me to explain

The game was attended by just under 40 players ranging in age from about 12 to 50 plus. As it was Father's day, there were a handful of players taking advantage of the site's special offer for the day which was that if father and child both came along then dad got to play for free! Sadly, neither of my two children is old enough to enjoy spending the day at an airsoft site

The site organisers chrono all guns before each and every game, and then tag them with a small piece of electrical tape

You're then free to test them on the firing range!
We were all duly briefed in the purpose built safe zone, divided up into two teams, one wearing arm bands and the other not, and then thrown into a series of games, many of which were turn around affairs and all of which had very clear objectives and time limits, which in turn meant that at the end of every single game there was a clear winner and loser

We started gaming at just after 10.00, there was a break for lunch at about 1.15 which lasted for 45 minutes, and the gaming resumed at just after 2.00, finally finishing at gone 6.00, although I left at 5.30 so I could see the aforementioned kiddy winks before bed time! During that time we played five different types of game and, I'm delighted to say, the team I played with won all but one encounter

Players assembled just outside the safe zone before the start of play

The little guy in the full face skull mask was a real bundle of energy and played the game with great gusto and enthusiasm. What's more, he played for the whole day with a Hexagon PPSH 41. Mine is still in the Gunmunki workshop having its spring cut down! I was a bit jealous

The first game involved one team trying to place two satchel charges under each of the two wooden towers whilst the other team tried to stop them. The game lasted for 20 minutes and was then turned around. We successfully defended the towers, both of them, and when it was our turn to place the satchels and destroy the towers we managed to do that as well, with time to spare

Another of the games involved finding four objects placed at four different locations around the site and returning them to base. This game lasted 40 minutes and was again turned around at the end. The tagged team found two objects in 40 minutes whilst the team I was on found all four and returned them successfully to base in 13 minutes! By the way, the precise locations of the objects were changed during the change over!

Of course, winning isn't everything, and I can honestly say I reckon I would have enjoyed myself just as much had I been on the 'losing' side. What really made the day for me was firstly, the enthusiasm and fair play exhibited by all of the players taking part and secondly, the way the games were designed which meant that everyone knew exactly what they had to achieve and how long they had to achieve it

Thanks guys for a great day out. I'll be returning in a few days to collect my downgraded PPSH 41, and I'll certainly be back again soon for some more gaming

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