In the majority of water fights, most of the fighting occurs between individuals relatively close to one another. The typical maximum range for the average present day soaker is 35 to 40 feet (10 to 12m). However, this translates into a general effective soaker range of around 20 to 30 feet (7 to 9m), meaning one tends to get even more up-close and personal when engaging the enemy. Engagements within the 20 to 30 foot range, for sake of argument, can be considered as Close Quarters Combat situations (CQC situations). For the untrained, such combat typically results in a tit-for-tat result: every drop dispensed on the enemy is matched by drops the enemy gets to unleash in return. This is fine for all-out-soak fests and general water parties, but is unacceptable in more organized water war games or in one-hit-kills games.
What now? The following section will look in more depth on tactics to keep you dry even when the ground about you lays drenched with enemy water-fire.
Circle of Fire
(Side note: Actually, it is more appropriate to describe it as a semi-circle of water, but I digress.) The circle of fire refers to the firing arc that a typical water blaster user has at their disposal without needing to move their feet. For most, this represents a half-circle extending from direct left to the front to direct right of the user when facing forward. The radius of the circle is equivalent to the effective range of the soaker used. Of course, this loose definition of the circle of fire does not cover every user. Some more experienced users will have a greater circle of fire (due to flexibility and comfort using their blaster or due to the blaster they are using) while others will have a smaller circle of fire (typically inexperienced or novice users who are still learning the ropes of water combat).
The importance of this region is that for effective soaks, one wants to get the enemy into one's circle of fire while staying out of or minimizing the time one is in the enemy's circle of fire. The concept is simple to think about but a little trickier to accomplish, especially when dealing in CQC situations.
Mobility refers to the ease and speed at which one can move (go fig'). When dealing with CQC situations, mobility will determine whether one can effectively soak before getting soaked in return. There are many factors that affect a person's mobility. First, there is the person's natural agility and reflex response abilities. From there, the clothing one wears will affect one's mobility. Bulky clothes and tight denim jeans (especially when wet) can significantly slow one down. Lighter, fast-drying clothing is more suitable for those engaging in water wars. Finally, the equipment one is carrying also affects mobility. To more one is carrying, the more weighed down one will be, undoubtedly slowing one down in the process.
While many people will not mind wearing bulky clothes or carrying lots of equipment in the long haul, during CQC situations, mobility is one of the keys to dryness. If you can move quickly, you can get the enemy into one's circle of fire when you are ready to unleash your stream of water and escape their circle of fire before they can properly retaliate!
How do you determine whether you are carrying too much? Do the following experiment. Wearing what you'd usually wear during a water fight, run once around your house at top speed. (If you don't live in a house or live in a huge house, try running around a small section at a local park.) Time yourself at how long it takes. Then, gear up in everything you plan to carry during a water fight (i.e. your fully loaded soaker, back-up blasters, other equipment, etc.) and follow the same course, timing yourself. Calculate both times in seconds, then divide the first time by the second. If the number you get is less than 0.8, the gear you are carrying is significantly affecting your mobility on the field. Depending on the type of operation you are typically in, it may not matter. However, for CQC situations, you are at a disadvantage.
For those who have no mobility hinderance due to their clothing or gear, this subsection will not greatly improve one's battlefield performance so feel free to read ahead to the next subsection. However, for those whose gear or blaster is actually weighing one down, keep on reading. While you may not always want to give up your preferred blaster for a lighter one even if it is weighing you down, there are exercises that are recommendable in order to improve one's field performance.
The thing to do is to always train using full gear. While the choice of full gear weighs you down, since you consider it what you want to be able to have access to on the field, you better be more accustomed to the additional weight and movement restrictions.
Run-Stop-Turn-N-Shoot: The idea here is to get used to turning quickly and firing accurately while in full gear. Basically, one should start by finding a straight stretch of sidewalk, ashphalt, or some other open hard surface to practice on. One begins by running at about 70% speed in a straight line. Once about 10 steps have been taken, one should stop, turn around a full 180 degrees, and fire one burst of water as quickly as possible. This process can be timed to challenge oneself to beat the time and the accuracy of the direction of the shot fired should be noted. The faster this exercise is completed and the closer to a full 180 degree burst is accomplished will determine how well one is improving their ability to turn quickly and aim accurately while in full gear.
Run-N-Strafe: A short linear course should be marked off prior to this exercise. The course should be roughly 20 to 30 feet long with a few targets placed at varying distances away from the running path (typically about 5 to 10 feet away from the path). The object of this exercise is to have one run at an even pace along the designated running path as quickly as possible while firing at the targets. The better one is can be determined by how quickly the course is completed and how many targets were successfully hit. At first, targets should be placed only along one side of the course (Targets should be at least 6 inches in diameter. Do not use too many targets in such a short course. Three targets is quite sufficient.) Once the beginner course can be completed quickly, mix things up by placing targets on either side of the designated running area (Do not set up more than 5 targets for this training method, otherwise it loses is efficacy in mobility training.)
So you have done your mobility training, practiced using your equipment and soaking inanimate objects, and now you feel ready for real water combat. Is there anything else to consider? Of course...
i) The first rule of C.Q.C. is to minimize the time in the enemy's circle of fire unless your blaster is ready to return fire. Of course, this is not always possible, but optimally, at the very least, one should be able to counter-fire if being attacked. The other catch to this rule is when the enemy's soaker has greater range than one's own. At worst, if you cannot return fire, you should try to keep to the edge of the enemy's circle of fire to give you the greatest chance of avoiding being soaked;
ii) Charge them when you have a shot and the enemy is still charging. The idea here is to observe the enemy's pump and shoot pattern and make the most of times if the enemy has their guard down or is unable to return fire. This, however, only works well against inexperienced Soakers. More experienced Soakers will always have a few reserve shots in their firing chamber;
iii) When in the enemy's circle of fire, vary your speed. Most forget that it is easier to soak someone if they are moving at a constant speed than if they are moving at a variable speed. Those running at a constant speed can have their movements predicted, thus enabling the Soaker to lead the stream into where the other is running. Varying speed will prevent this;
iv) Attack using strafing runs and not as a head on charge. Strafing runs allows you more flexibility on where to run when engaging the enemy. As well, it gives you more area to move in event the enemy returns some shots your way than if you chose to charge face on. There are times when a full frontal charge can be more intimidating, but in most cases, strafing runs work best;
v) Avoid full-bursts from your soaker. When doing strafing runs, fire strafing shots by quickly pulling and releasing your soaker's trigger. This not only helps you conserve water, but also gives you more time to adjust shots without needing to pump too much should the fist shots miss the intended target. It also lowers the chance of leaving you defenseless and out of pressurized water.