Well since East Wind was brought up here I figure I’ll hop in and say a few words since I am the guy who came up with East Wind.
Brian basically nailed it, the big thing with “serious” Milsim has more to do with providing an outlet for guys who are looking for more than what is available in the basic weekend game or “normal” OP.
Depth of experience
By the time attendees get to the point where they are interested in serious milsim events they have all had their airsoft weapons for a while and have gotten to the point where shooting them is not really the number one goal at an event. They are looking for a chance to put into use some of the other skills they have picked up in an environment where it actually matters.
Non-milsim example: You get told “go take hill 123” and haul butt off to do it quickly since it’s the start of the game and you know that right now there is a guy just like you but with a tan hat being told “go take hill 123”
Milsim example: You sit in on the Company opord so you can hear your piece of the puzzle then figure out how you need to accomplish your part of it. You KNOW why hill 123 needs to be taken, you know what happens if you fail, you know what success looks like, and you have a personal investment in the outcome.
Less focus on balance
Contrary to what most people (who have not attended reenactment style milsim events) might say, there is a LOT less scripting generally going on and equally as important there is a lot less interest in “making it fun”. This means that you are actually free to completely succeed at your mission without having to worry about game balance.
Non-milsim example: You have your act together, your enemy does not. You manage to slip into a key spot and are really making a nuisance of yourselves inflicting horrid casualties and totally disrupting enemy operations. So the admins kill your team with an “air strike”. He’s not being a jerk, he needs to keep the game balances out so that everyone is having fun. Sad fact is, to people who are not very good at our sport getting pantsed is not regarded as having fun.
Milsim example: You made a mistake and now you are paying for it in spades. The enemy has almost all of their objectives, your forces are in disarray but you have a plan to turn the tables. Since the admins are not going to hand you an even playing field on a silver platter, when you turn the tables on the enemy, it will be your success and you’ll walk away with your heads held high. If you fail, then you’ll know it and will come back next time prepared to do better.
Less focus on attrition, more focus on leadership and management
Ever been to a game where you shoot the fat kid with the Multicam boonie cap then 10 minutes later you shoot the fat kid with the Multicam boonie cap then 10 minutes later you shoot the fat kid with the Multicam boonie cap then 10 minutes later he finally gets you? Does it matter that you had your act together? Does it matter that you took your objective quickly with minimal losses and dug in fast and well? Does it matter that you have interlocking fields of fire, good comms, claymores in place and a plan? Not if the enemy’s respawn point is 200 meters away and they have an endless supply of fat kids with Multicam boonie caps…
Non-milsim example: Look at any event map, the closer you get to the enemies spawn points, the shorter your stay time… Simple as that. It’s part of the game. (for better or worse)
Milsim example: In 6 years of East Wind events, we have never had a full time player able to spawn back into the same gun battle. You deal a telling blow to the enemy and they will feel every bit of it
Consequences for your actions
Players like to pull off something that has serious ramifications that ACTUALLY have a tangible effect on both the event and their quality of life as well.
Non-milsim example “You must deliver these barrels to point X” Why? So your team gets points and can win etc. You do it, you get some satisfaction from it etc but it’s not quite the same thing as…
Milsim example: At East Wind 5 a contingent of Canadian Forces troops spent an entire night working from place to place behind enemy lines planting seismic intrusion devices that for the next 5 days sent out radio signals alerting NATO of every single Warpac patrol transiting their own rear areas.
[b]Ability to use specialized equipment, ability to NEED specialized equipment.
Ever been shopping for goodies and seen that one really cool thing that you’d just love to have but in all reality, you’ll never get to use it…
Non-milsim example: You spend the better part of 2 months building a super nice mortar out of steel in your shop. Weigh is right, balance is right, it comes apart into 3 pieces and can be manpacked, you have a working T&E, you have marker posts, you can do legit indirect fire (albeit short ranged) etc. Then… Well what then? It’s cool as the other side of the pillow but it not that useful at a normal event, at an “OP” it will just be another 80 pounds of something for your team to deal with so at best it becomes a prop.
Milsim example: You know the feeling you get when you hear a armored vehicle bearing down on your unit that has no anti-armor weapon so you spend months creating an answer to that problem knowing that next time you are in that spot it’s the other guy who’s going to have a reason to worry.
Anyhow, I’ll cut this off here rather than drowning everyone in text…