Scenario Generals: Warlords Versus Commanders

Commanding Your Way to a Win!

General Perez with his officers in a command meeting by Inspire Photography
General Perez with his officers in a command meeting by Inspire Photography

Scenario Generals: Warlords vs. Commanders

(DL) — If you play many scenarios, you’ve probably run into the two major types of Paintball Generals: the Commanders vs. the Warlords. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and places in games.  Being the right type can help you win the scenario.  Being the wrong type can just sink your whole team.

Commanders

Commanders here are defined by Generals that spend most of their time in a command base and direct their team from there.  They aren’t heading to the front line, instead of delegating heavily to their team.  They use their direct reports to gather information and have it sent back.  Commanders use that information to move their team strategically to respond and attack, coordinating their team’s movement and tactics all over the field while looking at the bigger picture.  

Commanders sometimes have questions about things like bombs by Inspire Photography
Commanders sometimes have questions about things like bombs by Inspire Photography

There are several positives to this way of acting as a General. Commanders are able to get missions as they are announced since they are in their base where missions are usually released. They can then gather forces and send them out and to the points of interest extremely quickly, placing them into areas to score points for their side or to prevent the same for the opponents.

Commanders can also use intel that their direct reports are sending back in order to stop the other side from accomplishing a goal, reaching out to assets in the field that might be nearby immediately. Commanders can see the entire chessboard and know where to push and where to reinforce.

You’ve Unlocked A New Perk

Commanders also generally use technology to know where and when to use special attacks like air strikes or where to set mines in an informed manner.  Tech can range from radios to drones, giving them a full field view in real-time of what is happening as it happens in hot areas of the field. It can help a Commander know where and when to send specialists like medics, rocket launchers, tanks, or heavy gunners into areas, what those players might be walking into, and how to approach the engagement. These maneuvers can often be the difference between a win and a loss.  

What do you need blown up? by Inspire Photography
What do you need blown up? by Inspire Photography

A quick example of how tech can affect gameplay occurred for NATO last year at Fulda Gap, when Jim Rost of Rogue Patriots, a team well-known on the East Coast among scenario players, was acting as General.  Jim used a drone to not only lock onto and follow a row of tanks to land an airstrike that took out a couple of dozen players and 3 tanks at once but used that same drone to guide a crawling player through the front line to an objective. 

Die scum! by Inspire Photography
Die scum! by Inspire Photography

He did so by telling that player over comms exactly what the players on the opposite side of a half-wall were doing while they did it, which direction they were looking, when to move, and when to stop in real time.  The player he was speaking to was crawling with literally dozens of opposing team members inches away on the other side of that half-wall, but none of them noticed him because Jim could act as his eyes using that drone and direct him. That never could have happened without the tech.

Cracks in the Armor

There are weaknesses in the Commander-style as well.  First and foremost, the Commander absolutely depends on good communication.  If the direct reports get caught up in playing without checking in with the Commander, then their general is blind.  He or she won’t know what’s going on and then has to operate on bad information.

Communication also depends on technology working. If the radios aren’t operating very well or someone’s battery dies, all of a sudden there is a blind spot that the Commander has to deal with. This can be infuriating for everyone involved.

A general, surrounded by his officers, prior to getting blown to pieces by Inspire Photography
A general, surrounded by his officers, prior to getting blown to pieces by Inspire Photography

Commanders also are only as good as their direct reports.  They depend on them to command their front lines, and that can be hard or risky.  Those direct reports need to be forcing pushes in the face of strong opposition, getting players to take risks, organizing defenses on the fly, or combating their urge to head elsewhere during lulls in the action. It can be herding cats, and cats that those officers don’t know. Some direct reports can do this. Some can’t, and it can stop a strategy dead in its tracks.  If the officer cannot force actions, they can become borderline useless.

Direct Reports under a Commander also may not know each other and may not get along or see eye-to-eye on how something should go. That can lead to issues on the field with officers either ignoring each other or stepping all over each other and giving conflicting orders. In the worst cases, I have seen really angry officers walk off the field and leave the Commander with a giant hole to try and figure out.  This is something that a Commander needs to deal with on the fly, and make sure that they get someone that they trust in that spot ASAP.

Warlords

The Warlord cares not about the worries of others. The Warlord is there for the action and leads from the front. These Generals are in the front of the line, guns-blazing, first through the breach and screaming, “Follow me!!!” They may only be in the command tent periodically to reload and grab bodies for the next assault.

There are positives to this style as well. They can lead pushes themselves and get people to follow them into areas of play, especially if they have a loud, engaging, confident personality. People see the person that they know is a General and will often pay attention rather than blowing an order off. 

General Archangel Mikel, Warlording it up for a 3rd Party Force by Inspire Photography
General Archangel Mikel, Warlording it up for a 3rd Party Force by Inspire Photography

Warlords can give their younger or less experienced teammates more confidence in what they are doing, and that can lead to more movement and better play. Warlords also may get more mission points at times, because they aren’t relying on other people to take care of it. Instead, they’re doing it themselves.

It also doesn’t pull a really good gun off the field. Often, people are asked to general because they are good players. Warlords can be players that make a difference with the markers. In some cases, that may be exactly why they were asked to act as general in the first place.  Taking that marker off the field can mean taking one of if not their best shooter off the field, and that might not always be the best option.

Take a seat, little buddy

As you would guess, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops in Warlordland either. There are negatives to this style as well. In many cases, they are the direct opposite of the strengths of the Commander.

Warlords, by definition, are seldom in their command tent. That means that they often are not there for when missions drop. This can mean either getting really late starts on missions, missing them altogether, or taking longer for puzzles to be solved or strategies implemented.

Don't mind me, just a tank by Inspire Photography
Don’t mind me, just a tank by Inspire Photography

They also may have issues with communication.  It’s not always going to be the case, but often they may not know what’s going on everywhere, as they’re involved heavily in their own area.  They may be heavily involved with whatever action is going on directly in front of them and forget to communicate with their direct reports, or their direct reports might not physically be able to find them for long stretches of a game.  This can stop any semblance of strategy dead in its tracks.

Warlords also may just not hear communications during a firefight. This can lead to large parts of their team having no direction and no idea what to do. Gunfighting is loud and can drown out someone yelling information over to you. This is where you get people just wandering around aimlessly.  

Who in the What, Now?

Warlords can also get very wrapped up with whatever is going on around them. By this I mean they lose perspective of the whole picture by just focusing on a small area, and putting too much weight in what they are personally doing versus what the team should be doing.

This can lead to playing checkers against someone playing chess, and putting the team in bad positions. It can also lead to not having enough bodies in areas to make pushes or hold them, or looking like a 6-year-old soccer team that just swarms around as one gigantic unit.

Oh no! The tank is packin' by Inspire Photography
Oh no! The tank is packin’ by Inspire Photography

What Should I Do?

Both styles have valid uses, and it can depend on your situation. If you’re a General on a small field, you very well may not need to stay lodged in a tent in the back and act as a Commander. You may be able to lead pushes, walk from one side of the field to the other, and see where problems pop up in real-time. Leading from the front can be very effective in these kinds of situations.  Warlord time, baby!  Grab that gun, sling some paint, and run around screaming like a crazy person!  Woohoo!!!

If you’re at a big field with a large scenario and try the same thing, you’ll be lucky if your own team doesn’t frag you. There is just too much going on in too many places with too many people to expect to be able to both direct hundreds of players and go ham with your bad self.  It’s just too much. 

Warlords can also be effective when there aren’t many experienced players or teams on your side. If you’re loaded with walk-ons, you may just not have enough leaders to actually act as direct reports reliably for you. In this case, you may just have to do things your damn self.

Conversely, in situations with experienced players and teams, the Warlord can be seen as acting selfishly and not giving directions to players that actually want it. In situations like this, acting like a Commander might be entirely appropriate.

General says take that out! by Your GA Photos
General says take that out! by Your GA Photos

Grab A Seat

At truly large scenarios, like Bones and Ashes at Black Ops Paintball (500+ people) or Fulda Gap (1500+ people) at Command Decisions Wargames Center (both in North Carolina), acting as a Commander is an absolute must.  They’re both massive games, and having a strong strategy and the ability to implement it in real-time is not negotiable. Games like Fulda or these are truly different than a Supergame in that way. 

A comparison would be playing checkers to playing multiple games of chess, all at once.  There isn’t ever a singular focus in the event unless something went horribly wrong. There are several, equally important things going on that all require attention and decision-making ability. Playing as a Warlord in a game like this is asking to get your ass kicked.

If you’re setting foot on the field at one of these games, that generally means that the game is over in one way or another. There are simply too many things happening and too many pushes in too many spots, all occurring at once, to deal with while being on the field. Generals at these events generally don’t need to bother bringing a gun or paint on game day, as they won’t be leaving their command post.

A lot of the direct reports won’t even be carrying much more than a walkie-talkie at Fulda because communication, troop movement, and strategy are so important.  Their weapons that weekend are their minds and their voices, not their paint. 

Acting as an officer without a marker
Acting as an officer without a marker

It is imperative that the Generals at a massive game, like Fulda, be able to see the big picture and understand what the hell they are looking at, so communication, strategy, and leadership ability are all essential. You need to act like an elite Commander with strong officers, or you and your side are toast before you ever step foot on the field.  If you don’t understand this, you’ve already lost, and probably doomed your team to a weekend of getting stomped. And if you’re the General for this, it will absolutely be your fault, as you set your team up to fail.

Conclusion

Effective scenario Generals can identify when to act as a Warlord vs. Commander based on the situation as it presents itself. Sometimes, it will be obvious.  If you try and act as a Warlord at Fulda Gap, you’ll get absolutely destroyed on the field and then by your own team after the game. And if you try to act like a Commander in a 100 person scenario, half your team will be rolling their eyes as you give commands and ask for status reports from people 30 yards away.

General Joe Perez with his Officers after a win by Inspire Photography
General Joe Perez with his Officers after a win by Inspire Photography

Being flexible as a player is a strength, and that applies here as well. Bad Generals can ruin a weekend for dozens to hundreds of players under them if they don’t know or care about what they are doing. Good Generals can act as either a Warlord or a Commander and the best know when to be in that role, guide their teams to a win, or at least a great time. Choose wisely.

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Chris has been playing paintball for over 20 years. Starting in 1995, he cut his teeth played in fields outside of Chicago. Since then, he has moved into the Washington DC area, and plays up and down the Mid-Atlantic. He plays on Team Defiance, a scenario and charity paintball team. He consistently plays in scenario and big games, and has acted as XO in dozens of events and as a Commander at Fulda Gap for NATO. Beyond that, he and his team have raised around $25,000 as of 2019 for Pathfinders for Autism and Red Devils: Horns of Hope Charities. Chris shoots Twister Reflex Autocockers heavily, alternating in a FSC for magfed events. If you're at Southern Maryland Paintball, NR Paintball, OXCC, or Fulda Gap and hear a mechanical cocker absolutely screaming at you, it may be him.