War games were big when we were small.

I don’t mean those tame cowboys and Indians games with cap guns popping or even today’s fancy computerized versions of W.W.II. Oooh noooo, these were fierce medieval-style battles on recess grounds inspired by those old films they’d screen in St. Philip’s chapel every Saturday night. There were also our brief, violent skirmishes in the residential school playroom where we would plop the tables and chairs on their sides, divide up the warriors and hurl our wooden building blocks at each other until someone drew blood or the supervisor, alerted by the sound of wood against wood or wood against bone, sued for peace.

Today, older, wiser and not having lost our violent tendencies, we would not have a supervisor to play peacemaker when my colleagues and I headed towards a go-kart, bingo and paintball emporium in East End Montreal a while back.

On the metro heading to the battlefield supplementary equipment was checked and rechecked, rules of war and battle plans were devised, ranks and their duties delegated, and Che Guevara’s guerrilla technique reviewed. Not surprisingly, these plans, rules, techniques, rank and duties were the first to fall in battle. All was chaos on the three sandy, paint-splattered battlefields separated by giant curtains with a shot-up school bus, concrete blocks, buildings, steel cylinders, gasoline drums, trenches and other obstacles.

The first game was short and sweet with our squad finishing off and forcing a surrender from our inexperienced foe within minutes. Even with a lone Cree on their side. After a short adrenaline-charged break it was back to the field for a longer, more intense battle in the more elaborate middle field with the yellow school bus.

One of the rules of paintball states that if you surprise and come in close contact with the opponent, you hold your fire and scream, “Freeze!!!” to spare the pain a speeding paintball (250 feet per second) can inflict. Ignore that rule. I did and paid the price. One of my team had just been “killed” in front of me. I figured whoever had killed him would relax and drop his guard, so I charged. There he was with his back to me. I screamed, “FREEZE!, FREEZE!!, FREEEZE!!!!” Startled, he turned, hesitated and fired a volley into my chest. An argument ensued and the referee was called up. He gave us three seconds to retreat and continue play.

Later, I made the same mistake. I spotted the enemy sniping from one of the cylinders unaware I was just feet away. I jumped into the cylinder, shot him in the back and then yelled, “FREEZE!!!!!!!” He turned without hesitation and shot me. Bastard! We argued. “I didn’t feel it man,” he said. “I got you,” I countered. “I’ll give you five seconds…,” he threatened. He turned his head to look at the battle raging outside and I, with visions of Crazy Horse on horseback and Che storming Santa Clara in my head, ran forward into enemy territory, and leapt onto a high platform. No retreat, no surrender. And then my rifle jammed.

A young Québécois paintball fanatic had joined our group and instantly turned into General George Armstrong Custer barking out orders. “Someone follow me up here! And another one stay here!” he commanded. “Kiss my ass!” someone answered back, but most ignored him.

Paintball is great excercise when you don’t want it to feel like a chore. It’s relatively inexpensive and time flies quickly. Especially when you’re running around for over three hours trying to avoid paintballs that sting like hell and can draw blood at short range.
For information and to reserve your group call Action Commando at (514) 254-4245 or Tombstone at (514) 595-1300. For an outdoor game call Paintball Mirabel at 1-800-551-JEUX.