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Fife Wargames: Why do people dress in camouflage and shoot each other for fun?

Fife Wargames organises airsoft in Cairngreen Wood, Cupar.
Fife Wargames organises airsoft in Cairngreen Wood, Cupar.

Coming up the single-track road into Cairngreen Wood outside Cupar, I suddenly see a group of people all in camouflage.

This Sunday, and every second Sunday, keen airsoft players are getting ready for a day of activity organised by Oli Gage-Walker at Fife Wargames.

He describes airsoft as a team game where participants use realistic-looking toy guns to fire biodegradable pellets at each other for fun.

I’m trying the game for the first time today, and as I step out of the car in my grey jacket I realise I look like a newbie.

Passing a row of seasoned players in camo and tactical vests preparing several toy guns for battle, I find Oli to get some instructions.

Owner of Fife Wargames Oli Gage-Walker says his job is to make people happy and give them a safe environment so they can spend pent-up energy and work as teams.

He was introduced to airsoft by a friend, but once he found a site to run games he turned it into a hobby that could pay for itself.

In May 2011, Oli started running airsoft and paintball games – hence the name Fife Wargames – at Crail Airfield. Now he only does airsoft.

As the land was sold at the end of last year, the players moved to Cairngreen Wood in January.

Capture the flag

In the fresh, midge-filled air, Oli hands me a gun, two magazines, two grenades and face protection.

Before I can get going, there’s a thorough safety brief for both experienced and new players.

Some have been playing for 10 years, and others like me are there for the first time.

I get a piece of blue tape wrapped around my arm, and I’m ready for action.

The first game is capture the flag, where we try to get into the red team’s base and take their flag – sounds easy enough.

Each time you’re hit, you head back to the spawn point and you’re back in the game.

I was slightly cautious at first, sneaking my way through the woodland with the entire team in front of me.

While no one hit me, I also didn’t hit anyone else or take part in the action. So I decided to be braver when our teams switched.

On our way to capture the red team’s flag.

Feeling the thrill of airsoft a bit more also meant I felt the force of the BB pellets when it hit me first on my face protection, then my hand – ouch.

I was supposed to yell “hit” when that happened, but instead I shouted something not suitable for print, as I felt a sharp pain which passed after a few seconds.

Relaxed and fun battles

After a few games we have a short break and I chat to one of the players, Charles, who has played with his 15-year-old son for 18 months.

“My son is too young to play on his own, and I discovered when I started playing with him that it’s a lot of fun and a good way to get fit,” he says.

“The best part is the atmosphere, the banter and the people that attend this club.

“Oli runs a really relaxed and friendly environment. He doesn’t skimp on safety, but he’s very relaxed about everything else.”

Every other Sunday between 20 and 40 airsoft players head out to Cairngreen Wood.

I have to agree, the games have felt way more relaxed than I expected.

Before heading out, I pictured fast-paced, intense battles and being yelled at by professional players. Thankfully I didn’t experience any of that.

The name Fife Wargames made me think the players would be highly skilled and take the games very seriously, so I asked Oli about the name.

“You probably found from playing that the players’ attitudes are not aggressive, we are here to have fun and we’re all friends.

“One criticism we have faced is that we consider war to be a game and we certainly don’t.

The players say getting exercise and the camaraderie are the most important reasons they play airsoft.

“We have serving military who play here and we respect what the military do, but we are in no way fit, strong, smart or fast enough to take part.

“It’s a very safe and controlled environment that we operate, and we don’t want to take the same risks as if we were actually in the army.”

Going out with a bang

When Fife Wargames moved to Cairngreen in January, it cleared out three full skips of rubbish, upgraded the car park and track and planted over 60 trees and bushes.

There’s now an edible walkway in the woods that will soon have rhubarb, sloe, gooseberries, raspberries and more.

I could have used some of those berries for extra motivation in the next game as I crawl up a hill to take the red team’s base.

All in all, I don’t think my debut as an airsoft player was too bad, though I have much to learn still.

When we’ve pushed the red team from base to base through the forest, we swap and it’s our turn to defend.

I feel like I’m doing an alright job lying under the trees shooting at anything I can see moving.

That’s until I can see a grenade flying towards me and go off before I’ve even managed to react.

The red team storms towards our base to win the game before coming over to apologise for making the explosion go off so close to me.

I feel very disoriented after the loud bang, but after a few minutes I’m back on track and very grateful for my face protection once again.

Before trying airsoft, I didn’t think it would be for me, but I have realised it is actually a lot of fun.

I’m still slightly afraid that if I go again just the noise of a grenade will put me out of action.

But once I forget I was scared for a few seconds and can think about it and laugh, you might find me running around Fife woodlands with a toy gun again.