I have received several queries recently about people interested in, or curious about, WW2MAR and what it stands for. What do you do, why do you dress up like that, isn’t the kit very heavy – and then my favourite: are you a Nazi?

The aim of this article is to create some clarity about WW2MAR. I will start with the name, which breaks down as follows:

– WW2 = World War 2, the period of global conflict that ran from 1939 to 1945
– M = Milsim, or military simulation
– A = Airsoft (somewhat self-explanatory)
– R = Re-enactment

What MAR – Milsim Airsoft Re-enactment – is about, in a nutshell, is to take the sport of airsoft and combine it with the hobby of re-enactment, in order to create a game where both the VISUAL and the OPERATIONAL aspects are as close as possible to the period being recreated. At a WW2MAR game, you will see a player dressed as a British Commando or a German Heer soldier – and not only will they LOOK the part 100% (barring the safety goggles), they will also ACT the part.

Looking at each component of the group’s name, we start with the M – Milsim. Now, milsim in airsoft terms, is a tricky subject. Some people believe that milsim is when you host a game at a military base, or when you do not use coloured armbands to split teams, or when you force players to use death rags. In actuality, the definition of milsim – as applied in the MAR groups – is more along the following lines:

– You will use only a limited amount of ammo, as per the real life load that a soldier would have available.
– There will be a medic system in place to treat wounded players, with varying degrees of complexity.
– You will only use the weapons that were available to a soldier from your military background (so the Germans use German weapons, the Brits use British weapons, and so forth).
– All possible steps will be taken to ensure that the player’s experience in the field is as close as possible to the “real deal”, including the use of vehicles, pyro, proper military protocol, issuing of rations, etc.

In that regard, the MAR group prides itself on having a strong milsim focus, which is enforced at all times. When a player joins MAR, his chosen role in the squad – rifleman, medic, support gunner, or whatever it might be – will dictate his weapon; linked to this weapon, will be an amount of ammo which that player will be allowed to use during an event. The use of mid-cap magazines (which feed BB’s without requiring winding) is also encouraged, and high-cap magazines (which require winding) are only allowed on support weapons and other weapons for which there are no mid-cap magazines available. In this regard, the MAR player will quickly learn the value of controlling his fire, as well as using every possible opportunity to reload and replenish his magazines – which is perfectly in keeping with the milsim element. Our medic rules also allow players to experience the sensation of receiving medical treatment in a combat zone, with hits to different body locations being treated in different ways, and over different periods of time – a ricochet to the arm will require only light treatment, while a wound to the stomach or chest will take more time and resources to treat properly.

The second component, Airsoft, is something which is often misunderstood. Airsoft has been labelled a sport, a hobby, a lifestyle, an addiction… but in the MAR group, airsoft is seen as something we all do to RELAX and to have FUN. “Call your hits!” is something that we have all heard, at most games. Whether it is coming from new players who do not yet understand the limitations of a flying BB, or from less-new players who have unrealistic expectations about all those thousands of dollars they have spent on upgrades to their AEG, it is an ugly and unfortunate element of any form of airsoft where the RELAX and FUN elements are missing. In the MAR group, these incidents of “cheating” are at a minimum. Occasionally, there are moments when players do not feel hits through thick woollen uniforms or while on the run – but as a whole, in a game where players are there to have fun and to relax, and not to prove anything to themselves (or anyone else), this ugliness does not arise. Do we get cheaters at MAR games? Yes, from time to time – but they generally do not stay long. We have in the past asked players to please stop attending our games due to poor behaviour, and have managed to keep the game quality clean as a result. To respond to violence and cheating with more violence and cheating is something that we firmly do NOT believe in – or allow at our events. Whenever you attend a MAR game, you can thus be almost guaranteed to have a good time: you will laugh, you will make good friends, and you will be surrounded by likeminded people who also share your same interests and attitudes towards airsoft.

The last component, Re-enactment, is just as badly misunderstood as the Airsoft component. What re-enactment boils down to, is to recreate – as accurately as possible – a specific period in time, using reference books and research from the period. Whether you want to live the life of a Viking from 700 AD, or an English Archer from Agincourt, or a Yankee soldier from the American Civil War – all of them involve doing the proper research, and then ensuring that you look the part. In terms of clothing, weapons, accessories, and even facial hair. Grow a beard, practice your archery, read up on US literature from the 1860’s and form an opinion on slavery and abolition – those are what re-enactors do, and which we – as members of the WW2MAR group – also do. Our focus, as stated before, is the Second World War, and all our events are tailored around recreating this period as far as possible. When our players are issued with rations at an event, they will get the same type of canned meat, cheese and crackers that German and Allied soldiers lived on 70 years ago. When they go into battle, they will use airsoft weapons which look like the weapons from the war; when they get dressed, it will be in the correct uniforms from the period (albeit reproduction models, not originals). Their ranks will parallel their experience and that of the unit in which they operate, and the awards which they earn – for bravery, for tenacity in combat, for exemplary medic work – will be based on the real awards which were issued in the war. Basically, they will look like someone who has walked off the set of “Band of Brothers” or “Saving Private Ryan” or “Fury”, in terms of authenticity of appearance. THAT is our goal.

The re-enactment component of MAR is also what many people see as an entry barrier to the group – an opinion which, I hasten to add, is easily formed, yet not very correct. Refer to the point above on what Airsoft means in the MAR group – we have some of the friendliest members of the community in our group, and they are always ready to assist with answering questions, and offering advice (although some do have a very quirky sense of humour – I apologise in advance for any confusion that might create!). If you do not have the correct WW2 model airsoft gun, our members will be quick to advise on which modern guns – like the M14 – are allowed as substitutes, or where the correct WW2 guns may be bought; if you do not have the correct uniform, our forum – at www.ww2mar.boards.net – is FILLED with guides and tutorials on how to create a basic impression on a budget, as well as where to shop when buying the proper reproduction gear.

Something which we also often hear is along the lines of “But the uniforms are so expensive!” – But that same player will then have no qualms about spend R5k+ on an AEG, and another R2k+ on upgrades to improve* (never noticeably) the performance of this AEG. A decent WW2 uniform, for both the Germans and the Brits, can be put together for about R1-1.5k – which is very similar to what a Tru-Spec set of modern camo, along with webbing, will cost you. As stated before: once you start doing the research, the real picture will reveal itself very quickly. Do not be the ignoramus!

Taking all of the points above, one begins to get an idea of what it means to be a part of the MAR group – and why our group has been growing steadily since our launch, and first event, in June 2012. While we are serious about our history, and about the research that goes into the events, we are very relaxed when it comes to the airsoft element itself. I have lost track of the number of times when, after a particularly brutal fight for a piece of territory, our players would take a quick, 60-second break to just congratulate their victims – or conquerors – on the skill they displayed, as well as the excellent sportsmanship, before continuing the game. No hard feelings for losing – and no cockiness for winning. And as unusual as it might sound to someone used to the chaos of an open game, THAT is the spirit of the MAR group: we fight hard, and we do a good job, but we do it like gentlemen. Whether you are the poor sod who dies first in the ambush, or the last survivor who walks away with an adrenaline rush, the feeling in the group is always the same: have fun, learn from your mistakes and from the people around you, and try to do better next time.

Some of the questions that are frequently asked, are given below:

Q: How do I become a member of MAR?

A: Very easy – join our FB group (www.facebook.com/groups/ww2mar) or our forum (www.ww2mar.boards.net), and ask questions. Someone will point you in the right direction, in terms of kit and guns, and you are welcome to attend any game once you meeting the minimum requirements – in terms of kit and guns – for that game. Rental packages are also available on a limited basis for the shorter events, and can be booked in advance.

Q: Why can’t I use a modern gun like my M4 at a MAR game?

A: Because M4’s were not around in WW2. Both the Milsim and Re-enactment components of MAR require that one has to get the VISUAL element of the game as accurate as possible – and an M4 unfortunately looks nothing like any of the weapons used during the war. There are a small number of modern weapons that DO fit in with the MAR games – e.g. the long-barrelled M14 can work as an American M1 Garand, a German G43 or a Russian SVT-40, as long as it does not carry any modern accessories or rails – and those will usually be clearly listed under the event requirements. If you already have one of these weapons, you only need the uniform to join; otherwise, if you have the money and want to get a MAR-suitable weapon, rather buy the correct weapon from the start (if available and affordable – some of the WW2 guns go for eye-watering prices, unfortunately).

Q: If I dress up as a German, will people think I am a Nazi?

A: Unfortunately – yes. Ignorance is rife in our modern society, and the number of people who cannot be bothered to pick up a history book and read about the war, is mind-boggling. However, this is where the Re-enactment component of MAR becomes important: if you are going to dress up and portray a character from any given period, you need to understand the history behind that character, AND be able to explain it to other people. If you want to be a German soldier – do you know the difference between the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS? Do you know the difference between the Heer and the Luftwaffe – what made them different, and what did they have in common? If you are doing an American paratrooper, do you know the difference between the 82nd and the 101st Airborne? If you are doing the US Marine Corps, can you explain every element of your outfit to a curious bystander – or to a hostile bystander who takes offense at some part of the outfit? Research is critical in getting this element of MAR correct, and – if done properly – will soon turn you into an expert on the field. In my personal capacity, if I had to compare what I currently know about the German military, versus what I knew about them in 2012 when we started… The difference is VAST. All of that knowledge – available on the internet, in books, and in the stories told by veterans. Know your history, and you will fit right in with MAR.

Q: How often does MAR host events, and where?

A: While 2014 has been a slow year to date, we usually aim to host an event once every month, with larger events – including 24h events – held bi-annually (weather permitting). Our venues range all over Gauteng, and most can be found on the www.airsoftgames.co.za site: Black Ops just north of Centurion, Hobby Park (previously World At War) in Krugersdorp, Syringa just off the N14, Grutte in Springs, and – hopefully – our first inter-province game in East London in 2015, with the East London WW2MAR battalion. Game announcements will also usually be done on our own forums, on our FB group, and sometimes even on the airsoftgames.co.za page (although that has led to some confusion in the past).

Q: What will a WW2MAR game cost me?

A: This depends on the game type, which can generally be classed into three types. The first event type is the 24h scenario, where we sleep over on the venue and make a day of the business. These scenario games will cost you R200, and will include a collectible WW2MAR scenario ribbon that you can wear on your tunic (in proper military style), your rations for the scenario, as well as the possibility to be awarded a medal for exceptional battlefield behaviour (only one medal per team). The second event type is the one-day mission, which runs from morning to afternoon. These missions will cost you R100, and will include a scenario ribbon (as described above), with the rest of the money going towards the venue rental and consumable supplies like smoke grenades and fireworks. The third event type is the “casual game” or training day, which will be around R60 – R30 for venue rental, and R20-30 towards the MAR fund pool, from which all props, military awards and promotion badges/flashes are bought. Whatever the event type, a clear breakdown of the ticket costs will be given in advance – the MAR group prides itself in the transparency of its finances, with no hidden costs or “donations” involved.

Q: How difficult is it to get a WW2MAR group started in my area?

A: You can work with as little as 4v4 – that is how small the Gauteng group started out, and it was enough to get everyone hooked and craving more. Keep the missions simple and the players moving, and the game will write itself. Also, do not hesitate to ask questions or advice from the more experience MAR players – we are here to help!

After reading this, I hope that you – the reader – have learned something new about our group. I also look forward to seeing the new faces at our games in the coming months, and sharing the camaraderie of being part of a true band of brothers.

– Murray, J.E., Unterfeldwebel

  1. Komp. / I. Batt. / 314. Jaeger Regt
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