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Setting up a CQB Site, What Should I Be Thinking About?


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Long story short when I was in secondary school I, like most people, had a 5 minute meeting with a careers advisor to decide my entire future. The two things I said I wanted to do was "make video games" and "run an airsoft site", and as expected the advisor knew nothing of both topics and said I should maybe do a business or IT course in college.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I've now been running a "successful" video game company for the past 10 years and thought, maybe it's time I take a stab at the other thing?
 

So I've found a potential location for a city centre CQB site that has good transport links and thought I'd see if I could crowd source any potential issues/questions I hadn't thought of yet. So, if you've ever ran a site ( successfully or not ) or maybe gone through this same thought process before, what sort of things should I be thinking about?

 

I've got a list of ideas that could be done to supplement the income of the occasional skirmish day and I'm not expecting to get rich off this. My games company used to have an office but for the past 5 years or so we've just worked from our homes, so I was thinking I could potentially set up a small office in the CQB site so I could work there rather than home and then get my spare room back finally.

 

As for a list of costs, this is what I have so far - 


Startup Costs

  • Rental Gear
  • First and Last Rent
  • Setting Up The Site
  • First Aid Training


Monthly Expenses

  • Rent
  • Business Rates
  • Staff Salaries / Marshall Pay
  • Insurance
  • Utilities
  • Rental Maintenance
  • Ammo / Gas / Batteries etc for Rental Gear
  • General Upkeep / Changing Layouts etc
  • Marketing
  • Business Expenses ( Accountants / Legal )
     
Edited by Graham Ranson
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Competition & demand in the area - too many cooks spoil the broth.

Parking availability - you may have a great site but if there’s no parking or it’s Uber expensive then people may think twice.

Storefront - Will you be selling goods on site ?

Food - will you be providing food ? Cooking on site or go down the vendor machine route ?

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18 minutes ago, MiK said:

Competition & demand in the area - too many cooks spoil the broth.

Parking availability - you may have a great site but if there’s no parking or it’s Uber expensive then people may think twice.

Storefront - Will you be selling goods on site ?

Food - will you be providing food ? Cooking on site or go down the vendor machine route ?

 

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

Competition - there's no other sites in the city itself, the closest other CQB sites is Strikeforce in Gloucester and then the courthouse in Bristol. I'm hoping that I can bring something different to them so all can still survive.

 

Parking - The venue has a small private parking area plus a larger shared one on the industrial estate itself.

 

Storefront - I'm thinking consumables like ammo, gas, pyros, batteries, that sort of thing rather than a full on shop.

 

Food - I was thinking simple tuck shop + vending machine rather than cooking on site, and maybe trying to find a friendly food truck that wants to pop over at lunch.

 

Just now, #blackadder said:

Im hoping its near Swindon perhaps?  

 

Relatively close, Cheltenham. About an hour by train, 45 minute drive.

 

Still early early days at present though.

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You might want to see if you can set it up as a chaaaridy, perhaps through a shell organisation.

 

This sounds dodgy, but it's how the Depot CQB site was run, as a local "sports and physical activity" charity.  Given that the building rates would have been £180K a year (!) it's the only way they stayed open as long as they did.

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That's a good idea yea, hadn't thought of that.

 

One thing I was thinking, to try to keep it interesting to regular players, is take a hint from theatre staging and game development by having small "rooms", essentially tiles, on moveable castors so that the layout can be rearranged between game days.

 

These layouts could then also be saved so if a particular layout was especially popular it could then be selected much like a game level.

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My advice before moving on anything go to as many sites as you can and have a chat with the people and the operators. Try and at least have a chat so when it comes time to open you are at least on a "hello" basis and you may be able to arrange to have games days that don't conflict and push business each others way.  Always nice to have someone to call closeish by in case your pallet of BBs is found to have an endangered species nest of voles in and cant be moved so can pop over and grab some at short notice ETC

 

Props and toys are something to invest in, for instance having a manikin (or even a very large marshal) on a stretcher can make a game feel epic and is just essentially a bog standard capture the flag game mode.

 

Rentals make the money, try and have a marshal to look after just the rentals and give them the best day possible. Future players and future private parties will come of it.

 

Good luck in the venture, always nice to hear of another possible site opening up.

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That vole story is just way too specific to be made up and I'd love to hear it in full.

 

What are people's thoughts on things like corporate "team building" and stag/hen/sten dos? Do they get done much in Airsoft?

 

Training days with ex-special forces types brought in etc?

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I would also suggest making sure that you have the building for a long term lease, don't want developers ripping it out from under you

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Yea that's a good idea, don't want a Mall situation. 

 

Estimating costs so was thinking 30-40 rental guns and mid-caps, maybe G&G Raider, G&G Firehawk, or a Cyma MP5 ?

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Do you mean sell more than just game day consumables i.e. an actual retail store?

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Have you an idea of the actual rental cost for the potential place you've found?  What type of contract?  Will you get locked in, what happens if another lockdown etc

Edited by ak2m4
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4 minutes ago, ak2m4 said:

what happens if another lockdown

 

If indoor activities don't get shut down again round about October, I'll eat my hat, including the fan and wiring.

 

I very much hope to be wrong about that, but I wouldn't like to bet against it.

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Rental price yes, not sure about rates yet which as mentioned is the real killer ( and it's what eventually took down a non-airsoft thing my dad did so the charity option as mentioned by Rogerborg above could be a good shout. )

 

This would be quite a few months out from now if I actually do it so hopefully we'll know by then if "normal" is ever something we can go back to. But yea, it's certainly something I need to think about but it may not be until next year before I can do this anyway.

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Further down the line.... desired customer base.

 

No point in running a site with planned out complex multi-objective games if 3/4 of your customers just want to play capture the flag and vice versa. I remember a few years back showing up to what was supposed to be a milsimesque skirmish at Longmoor (£50 game fee) to find that the company had had a brainfart and literally expected the clientele to be happy with "flag in the middle of the street needs to get to your base and not the opposing teams" type games. Suffice to say that pretty much everyone thought this was a waste of the sites possibilities and a damn shame given the games the operators in question normally ran.

 

Game flow....... as an example nothing more tedious and game killy than someone sat on a choke point with a chest full of hicaps or a drum mag. 

Edited by hunter511
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I think potentially trying to separate gamestyles to different days could work maybe?

 

One skirmish day would be aimed at quicker/simpler/casualer games and another at the milsims and the a separate day for speedsofters.

 

This of course requires there to be enough of each type to support that though.

 

 

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Not had any experience running a business,  but you may need to check if you are allowed to use pyro, and let any neigbors on the industrial estate and the landlord know EXACTLY what you are planning to do on site, that any issues can be sorted beforehand.

 

I booked in to a CQB site, (i forget where it was now) on what was to be their first public game day, but they had to shut down for months because they ran a private game the weekend before, and one of the neigboring businesses complained to the landlord because a few grenades got let off. (Bear in mind that this game was run on a weekend, and was within a large warehouse they had built props/walls/barricades inside of)

 

 

I agree that an insite shop should sell a bit more than just game day essentials,  but only if you have dedicated space. 

Alternatively, if you dont want the hasstle of stocking lots of gear for only the odd game day, then you could ask your local airsoft retailer if they would be willing to provide a pop up shop, and work out an agreement between the two of you. (I regularly play at RIFT airsoft sites, and Onlyairsoft in stevenage provide an onsite shop selling RIFs, mags, eyepro, batteries, accessories etc, while RIFT supply gameday essentials such as gas, bbs and pyro)

 

18 hours ago, Graham Ranson said:

Training days with ex-special forces types brought in etc?

That would definately be a good thing to organise,  and i for one would be up for such a training day

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14 hours ago, Spartan09 said:

you may need to check if you are allowed to use pyro, and let any neigbors on the industrial estate and the landlord know EXACTLY what you are planning to do on site, that any issues can be sorted beforehand.

 

That's a very good point yea, will make sure it's all fully explained and agreed upon, in writing, what can and can't be done.

Re: training days, still deciding on how that might work best and think two versions could work well, days targeted at Joe Public that want an adrenaline experience like a red letter day where all equipment would be provided and another that is aimed at airsofters who have their own equipment.

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On 20/06/2021 at 08:01, Graham Ranson said:

 

Estimating costs so was thinking 30-40 rental guns and mid-caps, maybe G&G Raider, G&G Firehawk, or a Cyma MP5 ?

Is this just to make sure you have spares for gun failures, as site that can support 30 to 40 rentals will have to be massive. So that's a thing is the site large enough to support enough players to actually make it profitable? I don't think the mall ever had more than 80 players and most CQB sites I have played any more than 40 it's too crowded to play.

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Posted (edited)

Yea it was more just for spares and just ballparking prices, figured it's best to err on the side of caution just when I'm in early stages now thinking about things, and then if after a little more time of thinking about it it looks like something I can actually do I'll get more specific with estimations.

But also, I'm thinking for private events etc when everyone on the site at the same time will require a rental and there won't be any normal skirmishers. 

- Edit -

 

Maybe 25 rental aegs, with 30 mags/batteries/masks so there's spares to go around. More than enough for rentals on a regular skirmish day but also enough to host 20 person private events with a few spare.

Edited by Graham Ranson
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I’d like to see a site that I can run around in the dark, have entry points that can be “breached” in controlled games, over multiple levels that’s not just some cheap plywood mock-up of a call of duty map.

 

Paint it, add props that make sense, deck it out to make the rooms look like they’re in use, lived in, worked in etc. Add some depth…

 

In essence, make a kill house but nail that feeling of waking through somthing “real” not just artificial rooms with some tires and the occasional pallet inside.

 

Might give you the edge over lesser CQB sites, especially if you the Instagram “goons” pile in…also on that, training days, have some mid week slots for drills? Bit of range work with some targets, somewhere to work on transitions, getting kit squared away?

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Yea more realistic rooms is exactly what I'm thinking. In my day job I make first person adventure / room escape games and half of that is just dressing the games to look interesting and fit the narrative, so I'm hoping I can take some of that knowledge and bring it to set design in real life.

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41 minutes ago, Graham Ranson said:

But also, I'm thinking for private events etc when everyone on the site at the same time will require a rental and there won't be any normal skirmishers. 

 

[Shudders]

 

I guess that raises the issue of marshalling.  If you're intending to run days like that, you'll want a head marshal who is prepared to turn up at every game day and be the biggest voice on site. They should set a fun, friendly tone at the brief, but be uncompromising in the game zone, ready to punt anyone back to the safe zone or off-site, up to and including halting games or pulling the plug on the whole day if it turns into a aggro fuelled chavvy shit-show.

 

Finding someone who's approachable and easy going and doesn't have an ego problem, but is also prepared to run towards an escalating tantrum or face down a toxic player and tell them to sling their hook, that's a tricky task.  Harder still to find someone who will actually do it all day without drifting off into chatting or checking their phone.

 

I've seen very few marshals who can tick all those boxes

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Some random comments:

 

 

As well as potential charity status, look into any local business intiatives such as those under BID schemes etc with partnerships between councils and local business organisations etc

These may have subsidies or waivers on rent & rates for the first year etc

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_improvement_district

 

Moveable ‘walls’ are always a good idea. A fairly basic is Heras fencing which can be moved with a covering, a better solution is a framework with either movable wall panels (quite a bit of work), fixed wall panels with a door in every room but hangable panels that block doors, or a framework with panels forming long wide corridors and a mix of wall panels that can be relocated with some effort and doors/panels that can be moved between games

 

Ensure that game areas are not designed with either attack or defend but a combination of attack & defend -  it must be possible for one person to have a last stand, but also that one person doesn’t end up dominating a whole game

 

Stags/companies/parties:

For rental groups they mostly don’t care if they are sound paintball/.50” paintball/airsoft/laser/nerf.

They are after a fun day out, but they might be looking for a particular one

 

Utilities:

Particularly when indoors AEG users will be interested in charging facilities - this is an extra cost to your bill but it’s a value added feature. 
 

Neighbours:

Keep everyone happy, ensure they are aware of the activities - banging and shooting noises, and lots of people driving around & parking. (Plus potential smokers/vapers stood around)

 

Catering:

Vending machines are beaten by having a caterer, but there is a balance between ensuring it’s worth their while to turn up.

If you provide catering then you have to comply with all food prep & storage, if you have a caterer then you only provide a suitable area (clean etc)

 

 

 

Experience training days:

You dont need a true super special ex SAS instructor.  You need someone credible who can give an ‘experience’ suitable for the people.

There are many ex forces businesses that will come down and run custom sessions.

Once established or depending on who your staff are then this can be done in house.  
Ive attended events with experience sessions by training companies, by trade staff, by teams and we have run them with our ex military’s members (one is a former instructor) …. and also without our ex military.  We’ve done some ‘real tactics’ but aimed at the context of ‘playing games’ - death is not a consequence, so you can change tactics when the worst case scenario is that you have to respawn 

 

 

Rental equipment:

You need a minimal number to cover the largest party you will have at one time plus spares for failures.


 

Diversify:

Your goal may be airsoft, but the more choices you have the better chance of customers:

Airsoft - easy to sweep up

 

Low impact .50” paintball  (springer pump action)

Attracts kids birthday parties.  Fairly easy to sweep up, and low level of cleaning - power wash or gardening style backpack pump sprayer 

 

Full .50” paintball 

True paintball in the lower .50” calibre

You will need a compressed air system (greater expense) but it’s available for HPA airsofters

This will need more cleaning than the .50” springers

 

 

Note that indoors you have the added risk of slips and falls on a hard surface.  Paintball residue can be easily washed away with pressure washers etc as long as you don’t have excessive firing going on. 
But think about how slippery the floor may be.  We’ve gone for sawdust on some indoor games (after testing it for flammability with pyro)

Sawdust adds some slipability by itself, but you should have rules against running to make people step properly 

 

…. Which brings to another safety issue of CQB - oversight 

 

Rooms are very hard to Marshall, both for rules & safety 
If you have an overhead platform you can mix ground level and above level - someone to see what’s going on and someone to deal with the emergency 

 

 

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Few things I can think of after way to many yrs playing ;

Movable obstacles or easily changeable layout , stops games stagnating due to ‘local knowledge’ of the site .

pro active marshals AND they must be above reproach themselves , nothing will destroy a sites reputation quicker than crooked marshals that favour the regulars , if the regulars are good honest players then yes the marshals should listen to them even ask there opinion/advice on what ever but do not favour them over others .

Following on from this set rules that are stuck too , with no bending or flexing of them .

I’ve always liked the idea if possible of above ground OP for the marshals went to a site once that was a big wharehouse space that had an ‘observation’ tower in the very centre that the head marshal would use to keep an eye on things .

Heres one that’ll cause some discord , rates of fire . If you’ve got a ‘first time haven’t a clue what there doing’ rental with a bog standard G&G combat machine being stalked by an experienced speedsofter who has a gun set to a ridiculous rate of fire with a flappy trigger set so delicate the air from the wings of a bumblebee will set it off and it’s supposedly a single shot game but they pump half a dozen ’single’ shots in the blink of an eye in to them they rapidly give up , I’ve seen it happen . Now I known it’s a small majority that do it but it happens . No ones says you can’t be fast on the trigger but reasonable rates of fire shouldn’t be a problem for anyone to manage .

Battery charging facilities .

consumables for sale .

Free tea/coffee or water .

plenty of seating and table space .

good time keeping , if you say game starts in 10min then it starts in 10mins not 12/13/14min/etc , your not ready ? Tuff your playing catch up NOT everyone else waiting for you .

Good visible team markings .

Keep the mood and atmosphere positive and fun as much as you can , when people are happy there less likely to break the rules .

But the MOST important thing you can do is K.I.S.S. !😉

Good lunch and I really hope it works out for you .👍

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