Caylus 2004, Toulouse, France (English Version) (2004-09-02)Pour Fracais, clic ici
The French are known for great food, fine wine and a lifestyle that most would envy. Ever wondered how that would translate into how they played Airsoft? Along with Trois Pylones of France, RedWolf Airsoft was the key sponsor of this first French Airsoft national event in Caylus (about 100km outside of Toulouse). For us, it shattered any suspicions that we might have had about French airsofters being laid back. The style of play was serious, fun, and cheerful all at the same time, with a show of comradeship that I have not seen at other games around the world. With units that stick close together, medics that actually risk their "lives" to save yours, and careful tactics to safeguard the entire team, playing with the French is enjoyable and you don't ever forget for a minute that you're there to have fun and make friends. Everywhere you turned there would be a big smile or friendly wink.
Organized on the weekend of August 28-29, 2004, by AirsoftLabs, officials from France-Airsoft, and several other enthusiastic volunteers, the event was hosted over two days at a military training camp in Caylus. Caylus itself is a historic and sleepy town with buildings dating back to the 13th century - known for their beautiful white-stone construction. The town is not large and comprises a little more than a main street and a beautiful Catholic church that looks several hundred years old. The actual site is situated about 10 minutes drive from Caylus town center within restricted military land. The grounds are extremely large, covering several hundred acres of land with large fields and a series of small villages. Within the villages were multi-storey buildings purpose-built for training French soldiers (see pictures) in the art of close quarters combat. Lots of trees and rocks spotted the landscape to provide ample cover for skirmishing, and beautiful grassy fields offered glimpses of exotic wild-life including white horses (three of them in fact, prancing in formation - it was quite a surprising sight), wild boars, and the odd rabbit. On-site houses provided shelter for gamers who had traveled from afar (from Paris and other parts of France), providing electricity and shelter from the evening cold. Overall, the site was a dream for any airsofter to play on - so here's a hearty "thank you" to the French military for being so generous and lending out the site to us.
Power limit for the game was the standard 350fps for AEGs and 450fps for snipers. Each player was required to chrono their gun at the start of the event, though the limits were "bendable". The legal limit in France is the same as Hong Kong at 2 joules (approx 475 fps using 0.2g BBs) so quite a few people have upgraded rifles that shoot between 350-450fps. Minimum engagement distance was 5 meters and this was pretty much followed by most players. One of the most interesting weapons to make it to the chrono was an MP5K concealed in a briefcase (see picture). Rigged with a simple lever mechanism, the carrier can easily fire off full-auto rounds at unsuspecting victims by pulling up on a lever under the carry-handle. Simple and effective, this briefcase was a lot of fun to shoot!
Another "weapon of mass destruction" that made an appearance was the spud-launcher. Using compressed air fed into a series of pistons by a bicycle pump, the launcher can propel a potato hundreds of yards, or a handful of pop-corn harder and farther than any M203 grenade shell. The internal pressure can reach a stunning 10 BARS to generate massive propulsion. Franz from France-airsoft demonstrated the unit and I could have sworn that he took a couple birds out of the tree at which he fired his pop-corn spread! While impressive and holding huge potential, the unit is still a prototype. But there are plans to package it into a M72 Rocket launcher and shoot foam rockets for Airsoft scenarios, which is something we look forward to seeing.
The Story and The
The officials of France-Airsoft devoted many late nights designing the scenarios to provide a unique experience for the gamers. Unlike most events, this game had four distinct teams - including Commandos, Mercenaries, Civilians, and a private army hired by the Tekko Corporation. The storyline is based on the Civilians discovering a new energy source and a foreign company called Tekko wants to invade the village and steal the new technology. Fearing a massive attack, the Civilians hired the help of Mercenaries to protect their valuable invention. Meanwhile, the Tekko group understands that such an operation would require serious fire-power and has thus requested the help of Commandos from their home country. To distinguish between the teams, Civilians wore jeans and T-shirts (with some sporting shirt and tie) and Mercenaries came in all black gear with a red band over their heads. Commandos are, of course, in woodland camouflage and the Tekko group has outfitted their team in simply all-black SWAT gear. This dress-code made it extremely easy to tell the difference between the groups.
Different scenarios provided missions for each fighting team. Most of the missions revolved around protecting the "fusion unit", kidnapping the opposition's generals for information, reconnaissance, building invasion, stealing missiles, and taking out radar sites. Some of the fighting was done in the woods or knee high pine-grass (where you literally become invisible simply by kneeling down) but most of the action took place around the village buildings, which offered much shelter for very close quarters combat. Given the purpose of the camp, you could still find lots of spent shells on the ground used by the French Army for blank-fire practice. Despite being slightly understaffed, the referees did a good job of covering the buildings and fields to help call hits, although most players were quite honest and called their outs.
One of the major innovations of this game that I have not seen elsewhere is the use of life-tickets, just like in a videogame. At the beginning of the major mission, each player was given a piece of wire with seven blue paper tickets attached to it. We were instructed to attach this to our clothes or vests. This represented how many lives we had, and a ticket had to be removed each time we were healed by a medic or re-spawned. Doing away with bandages, victims would sit down when hit and call for a medic. The medic would come over a rip a single blue ticket off of you and you were back in the game. Once all your tickets had been dispensed with, you were out for the remainder of the battle. This proved to be a very efficient way of keeping track of player's status. With the generous count of seven tickets, players were not inclined to cheat. The whole concept of seven lives also instilled some sense of accountability on the players, much like a video game.
The French Way
I was assigned to play with the Commandos, which sported a host of weapons including M4's, FAMAS, MP5, P90s and M249's. Our team also had two young ladies who held their ground when it came to heavy shoot-outs! As soon as the game started, we moved out as a unit and stayed together as a unit for pretty much the entire mission. The players were serious and acted out the motions of covering each other as we moved through the wide open fields, kneeling down every ten meters with rifle raised to survey the surroundings. While probably senseless since our AEGs would have been out of range of anything anyways, it really gave the mission an authentic feel. And besides, it looked very cool! The team also made smart use of cover fire to gain positions on the enemy group, and communicated frequently by radio to team-mates. A lead commander gave most of the instructions and people seemed fine to follow orders - a setup which is hard to find in many games. One other impressive thing is how many players used out-flanking tactics to surround opposing teams for total elimination.
Another thing I also realized during my time with my unit is how hard real-life joint military operations between countries must be. Given my extremely rusty French, it made precise communication rather difficult and I often found myself running directly into the enemy when my commander was actually telling me to flank them. In fact, I later realized that many French players spoke good English and were able to give me some updates on what was going on. There was a lot of radio traffic going back and forth between the separate divisions, and with constantly changing conditions - keeping informed of the situation meant everything.
As with events everywhere across the world, French players loved to share their battle stories immediately after - sometimes acting out the event with somersaults and role-playing. Something else that I saw acted out a lot was military roadblocks - something less common in the Americas and the UK. It was really great to see the players totally engrossed in the game and having a lot of healthy fun. What impressed me the most was that there were no arguments and no fights - everyone played their best but at the end of the day, they all made sure to have fun and not let emotions ruin the event for them.
Of course, it would not have been a French event without French bread, croissants, and a healthy supply of wine and beer. The players were extremely hospitable and offered me enough strong wine to send my head spinning! To thank the players hospitality, RedWolf Airsoft raffled off a batch of caps and T-shirts, and gave away a custom M733 (worth USD 475) to a lucky winner.
Once again, I want to extend special thanks for Monsieur Didier Morandi and
the people from France-Airsoft for arranging such a spectacular event. I hope
to come back again soon to play with you all side-by-side at Caylus 2005!