What is the most fun aspect of playing airsoft?

Is it the chance to shoot all your mates? The adrenaline rush of first going into battle? Customizing and modifying your weapons?

For me, I think the sheer number of ways to play is up there as one of the main reasons I got involved in the sport in the first place.

It’s never the same bite twice – even if you’re content to stick to one type of gameplay.

But let’s broaden your horizons a little, and let beginners know that there’s more than just a CQB skirmish on the table here.

This is our rundown of the main airsoft game modes. Which is your favorite?

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Airsoft Game Modes – Too Long, Didn’t Read

Before we begin, I would like to add a small disclaimer. This list isn’t exhaustive. There are hundreds of airsoft game types available, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to creating your own.

And many modes are interchangeable, or known by different names around the world.

This is simply a guide to the most loved games, and the ones we personally enjoy playing at Riflepal.

  • Team Deathmatch (TDM).
  • Deathmatch (DM).
  • Capture the flag/fort (CTF).
  • Assassination/President.
  • Cops and Robbers.
  • Hostage/Swat.
  • King of the Hill (KOTH).
  • Bomb drop/diffuse.
  • Medic.
  • Prison break.
  • Ambush/Run the gauntlet.
  • Zombies.
  • Close quarters battle (CQB)
  • MilSim/Reenactment.
  • Night games.

If we’ve missed your favorite, let us know in the comments. Note that most – if not all – of these games can also be easily transferred to paintball.

airsoft players holding guns amid smoke in forest

The 15 Most Popular Airsoft Game Modes

Team Deathmatch

Anyone who plays first-person shooter video games will be familiar with this hugely popular airsoft game mode – the team deathmatch (TDM).

This is where two or more teams face off against each other with the goal of eliminating the other team’s players more times than they eliminate your team’s players.

When hit, players will return to a designated spawn zone with a time penalty before they go back into the game. Or, they might be “dead” and eliminated from the match entirely.


As you might expect, deathmatch is the same as team deathmatch – but without the team. You’re on your own.

The same, or similar rules apply, but the most common scenarios involve players being eliminated until the next round after being hit.

Sometimes called ‘free-for-all,’ ‘last-man-standing,’ or ‘battle royale,’ this is an intense mode that gets the adrenaline pumping – particularly when down to the last few players.

I highly recommend a good AEG for this type of airsoft game, and you can follow that link to get you started.

Capture the Flag/Fort

CTF games have a clear objective. Rather than simply eliminating the other team (although that helps) your goal is to take over the enemy base, and/or capture their flag.

Flags might be actual flags, pennants, scarfs, rags or even just a symbolic item of clothing. They can also be represented by just about anything, depending on the theme of your game.

Capture the laptop intel, for example.

If a player manages to snag the goods, they must return the item to their own base in order to win the game.

However, if they are shot, they must drop the item where they “died,” and it can be gathered and returned by an enemy player, or snatched by a teammate to continue the run for home.

Capture the fort is similar, where you have to take over the enemy base and eliminate all the players inside.

Remember, though, in both games you need to defend your own position to prevent it falling into enemy hands. This makes for an exciting tactical battle where airsoft roles become important.


Someone volunteers to play the role of the President/Prime Minister/King/Queen/VIP, etc. In my experience, this is often the groom at a bachelor party, or whoever’s birthday it is.

One team becomes the bodyguards, the other team are the assassins.

The objective is simple – the bodyguards have to keep the VIP alive for either a set time period, or by escorting them to a designated safe zone through a hostile area.

The assassins have to kill the VIP.

Simple, exciting, and loads of fun. This is where those quality airsoft sniper rifles are going to come in very handy.

Cops and Robbers

Ahhh, many a fond memory enjoying this game in the playground, simply by using your fingers as a makeshift gun.


The airsoft version adds pistols – and sidearms are the only weapon allowed in this game mode. One team plays the cops, the other plays the robbers.

Stolen swag can be introduced to make things more interesting, and the police have to recover the goods before the thieves make it back to base.

Try this article on the best airsoft pistols to make sure you’re properly kitted out for this often hilarious type of airsoft game.

airsoft soldier with a rifle playing strikeball


Instead of being a target for assassination, in this game mode, one player volunteers to be the hostage, and is secretly stashed somewhere by the capturing team.

It’s the job of the opposing team – or SWAT – to locate and rescue the hostage, and return them to safety, unharmed.

More than one hostage adds an exciting, challenging variation.

King of the Hill

This is a very popular game mode in airsoft, largely thanks to its roots in genuine military campaigns (more on this below).

Rather than capture an enemy base, teams must take over and control an area of neutral ground – often with a tactical advantage that would enable them to win the “war.”

This can literally be a hill, or some other useful, strategic vantage point on the playing field. The only clause is that it should be an equal distance from both team’s starting positions.

Bomb Drop/Defuse

One team plays the role of the terrorist/freedom fighters (there are two sides to every story) and must carry and plant a “bomb” at a specific location.

They must then defend this position until an agreed time limit has passed, after which, the bomb “explodes” and they win the game.

The opposing players need to stop that from happening, by locating and “defusing” the device.

A great thematic method is to use a laptop with a large countdown timer on screen to represent the bomb.


This is a great airsoft game mode for adding a touch of realism to your games, particularly when playing Military Simulations (more on that below).

Each team has a designated medic player, clearly identified with a red cross armband or something similar. Commonly, they are lightly armed, as combat is not their primary objective.

When players are hit, they stay in position until their team medic can reach them and get them back in the game. This can be as detailed as you like, or it can simply be a “tag” touch system.

Play continues in this manner until the medics are eliminated. After that, once you’re dead, you’re dead – which can make for a very exciting and tense endgame, particularly if there is still a medic in play.

Prison Break

A similar variation to cops and robbers, prison break sees one team carrying single-shot pistols, or perhaps rubber knives.

The other team represents the guards, who are naturally armed to the teeth.

The prisoner’s task is to break out of a designated area, and make it back to a safe zone without being shot or apprehended. The guards need to prevent them from doing that.

Exciting variants include unarmed prisoners, and they have to “kill” a guard to acquire a weapon.

man playing sniper role in airsoft game

Ambush/Run the Gauntlet

I remember playing this airsoft variant when I was a kid – only substituting the guns for buckets of water.

Best played along a designated, lengthy route, one team takes up a hidden position, while the other team has to get from A to B with as many players alive as possible.

Loadouts are often restricted for this game, with the ambush team running single-shot rifles, and the convoy packing whatever they choose – just to even the odds.

Furthermore, the ambushing team often has fewer players than the convoy, given the fact that they have the initial advantage of surprise.


Now, this has got to be one of my all-time favorite airsoft and paintball game modes. A variant that is becoming so popular, dedicated zombie apocalypse fields are cropping up all over the place.

Rules vary, but the basics are as follows.

Zombie players should outnumber human players, and the undead are obviously unarmed. They “kill” human players by touching them, or by coming close and saying “BRAINS! BRAINS!” in a suitable zombie-like moan.

Undead players can get back up after being hit, often with a three-strikes-and-you’re-out system.

Human players just have to survive!

Perfect for playing around Halloween, this game excels when everyone gets into the “spirit”, and the zombie players dress for the part. Games that involve zombie actors are particularly exciting, realistic, and intense.

I will warn you now – you WILL shit your pants – particularly if you play this at night.


CQB simply stands for Close Quarter Battle. This is a more overarching game mode played anywhere the field is relatively compact.

Indoor games are commonly CQB engagements, leading to fast, adrenaline-fueled gameplay with little downtime. Speedsoft is an intense variant of this, although some will say that it stands on its own.

Airsoft shotguns are ideal for use in a CQB match, or anything that has a high rate of fire with a lot of ammo. Snipers, as you might expect, are obsolete here.


MilSim stands for Military Simulation, and it’s another over-arching airsoft game mode that can be adhered to while running almost any other type of game.

It basically means players are running loadouts, clothing, and gear as close to real steel versions as possible.

Reenacting historical engagements, campaigns, and theaters is also a popular aspect of MilSim play.

This makes for highly accurate, realistic combat, where players might well be ex-military, SWAT, or other professional armed forces.

The only difference is, nobody actually dies if they get shot, or suffers from PTSD.

For more information, take a look at this article on airsoft vs real military gear, and discover that many players love getting their hands on genuine military apparel.

Night Games

Just about all the games above can be played at night, and if you really want to take your airsoft experience to the next level, then wait until darkness falls.

This is particularly true of zombie games, as well as ambush, prison break, and hostage play. Modes that just lend themselves to the thrill of playing at night.

Pick up one of these awesome tactical flashlights to give yourself the edge, but some players will go all-in with a set of night vision goggles. Good luck against that!

sniper wearing night-vision and headlamp on helmet and holding rifle

Final Thoughts and Extra Tips

Just writing this article gets my blood pumping for the next airsoft match – but in order for these games to be successful, there are a number of caveats that should be adhered to.

First and foremost, players need to be on the same page. They need to be invested, and prepared to play the role they’ve been given.

The more you get involved and into the character, the more you’ll get out of the experience.

Rules should always be arranged beforehand – particularly when it comes to calling hits, respawning, time-frames, and elimination.

Dressing up is highly encouraged. Wearing a suit as the President, for example, is a great way to boost value and enjoyment for all players. Just don’t forget those airsoft goggles, whatever you decide to wear.

A word of caution, however, when it comes to bomb games. I’ve seen some poor-quality airsoft websites actually encouraging Arab and Middle-Eastern dress to represent “evil terrorists.”

Not only is this racist, it’s also highly unethical and xenophobic. Please, refrain from doing this at your field. When in doubt, stick to the basics on what to wear for airsoft.

Where relevant, guards should try to remain passive, and not actively searching for prisoners or on high alert for threats. The same can be said for the convoy team in the ambush game.

While it’s hard to replicate such real-life experiences, initially you would not be aware that an attack is coming. Make a go at riffing off that feeling, and all players will enjoy a more thrilling game as a result.

Take time to learn about the different types of airsoft guns. Choosing the right one for the scenario could be the difference between victory and defeat.

Part of the thrill is coming up with your own types of airsoft games, particularly if you play with a regular, dedicated group. The video below on airsoft game design is a very useful resource, so check it out.

Above all – remember to have fun and play safe. At the end of the day, this is a game, and it should be treated as such. Players taking things too seriously can spoil it for everyone.


As you can see, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible when it comes to airsoft games modes.

There’s no reason you couldn’t do a zombie-bomb-assasination-hostage-Milsim, for example!

Let us know the type of games you like to play, or if we’ve missed something that you feel should be included. Perhaps it’s something we’ve never heard of?

Stay safe out there, call those hits, and happy airsofting!