How to Play CSGO, a Beginner’s Guide

by Fabio

Learning how to play CSGO takes a lot of practice. Games such as League of Legends or Dota 2 require you to remember hundreds of items, characters and abilities. In general, those titles are much more demanding of your memory than of your physical abilities. You are not required to aim your mouse with pixel-perfect precision. In Counter Strike Global Offensive, however, every shot has to sit, or else you’re going to get demolished pretty quickly. Especially for players new to the shooter genre, CSGO poses a tough challenge. 

But once you have mastered the game – even on a basic level – it is incredibly rewarding to play Counter Strike. It just feels awesome when you make the right calls or snap onto your opponent’s head within milliseconds of time. Just wait until you’ve had your first clutch and your first ace!

So if you’re new to the game and eager to learn CSGO, we’ve got the perfect beginner’s guide for you. Here, we are really only covering the basics. This will help you get going and lay a foundation for you to play with. Once you understand the core principles behind Counter Strike, you will be able to approach and adopt more advanced mechanics. 

Competitive Format

In the competitive game mode of CSGO, you will always be playing in two teams of five players. In a round-based system, the terrorist (T side) are battling against the Counter-Terrorists (CT side). For both sides, the most straightforward way to win a round is to eliminate the opposing team entirely. However, the terrorists are also in possession of a bomb and on any competitive map, there are two spots at which to plant it (A site and B site).

The gameplay of the CT side revolves around guarding these two bomb spots from the attacks of the terrorists. When the round timer runs out, the Counter-Terrorists have won. Once the bomb is planted, however, the game flips and now the terrorists must defend the bomb from being defused by the CT side. If the bomb successfully explodes, the terrorists have won the round. But should the Counter-Terrorists defuse it, they are victorious. 

Fifteen rounds are played consecutively in this format, after which the two teams switch sides. The first squad to get to 16 round wins (points) has won the match, but in CSGO matchmaking there is also the possibility of a draw. In most competitive leagues, games that land on a 15-15 score line transition into overtime. 

Map Structure

The competitive map pool for CSGO has always packed exactly seven maps. Once in a while, a map is replaced or updated, but the number stays the same. In this CSGO guide, we’re only going to show and discuss one map as an example. Otherwise we’d be here all week!

Image of the CSGO map Dust2, with call-outs for each positition
Dust2 CSGO map with call-outs (Steam Artwork)

Dust 2 is perhaps the most popular map in Counter Strike ever – and it’s for a reason! The layout is simple, yet complex enough to allow for intricate strategies. The spawn points of the two teams are on opposite sides. Long before the terrorists can arrive at any of the bomb spots, the CT side will have plenty of time to set up and prepare. Now it falls to the terrorists to decide on their target of attack. While simple and direct rushes can sometimes do the trick, it is often wiser to slowly advance and gain map control. Pushing back the CTs will reveal more angles of attack and decrease the players’ potential hiding spots. Conversely, the Counter-Terrorists might initiate pushes themselves, in order to clear out areas and corner the terrorists in. 

Weapon types

When learning how to play CSGO, the economy-game is probably one of the most important factors. At the start of every round, the players have to buy their equipment for the fight to come (unless they survived in the previous round). Weapons, armor and grenades can all be purchased through a menu. The amount of money depends on how the previous rounds went. Obviously you get more currency if you win rounds, but you are also rewarded for every kill you make in the game.

There are different types of weapons in the game, which come with different price tags as well. The pistols are cheapest, but offer a low fire rate and are mostly semi-automatic. The sub-machine guns (SGMs) are the middle segment and offer decent damage output with often lower accuracy and shooting distance. For a similar price, you can purchase shotguns, which are extremely effective in tight spaces, but useless for long distance battles. 

For the big bucks, you get automatic rifles, such as the M4A4 and the AK-47. These are guns that you want to buy most during the game, as they offer the highest damage output, armor penetration, accuracy, firing speed, you name it. More expensive still are the sniper rifles, which are a critical part of Counter Strike. Of course, you won’t be able to afford them for every round. This is where the economy-game comes into play. Our basic CSGO tutorial can only scratch the surface on this topic, but there are generally four different types of rounds. 

The Economy Game

In the first round of each half, every player starts with a mere $800. With that money, you can only get a pistol (and maybe a grenade on top), body armor, or a stack of grenades. Do you want to go for firing power, damage reduction or assist your team with utility? This so called ‘pistol round’ is crucial, as it sets a foundation for the rounds to come. Winning this round means that your team has more money to play with in the second round, and so on. Here, you can effectively start to steamroll the enemy team, as they are in a disadvantage from the start.

What happens now depends on the side you’re playing on. Utility and weapons are generally cheaper on the T side. So if you’ve just lost the pistol round as terrorists, you might want to play out an ‘eco round’ in the following one. During an ‘eco round’, normally the players only buy very basic utility or pistols, so as not to strain their budget too much. If you lose this round, you don’t lose much in terms of equipment. Along with your savings you might already be able to buy again in the third round. 

For the CT side, things look a bit different. Their best weapons cost slightly more and their fire grenade is also more expensive. They should consider buying a defuse kit on top, which halves the time that it takes to defuse a bomb. Here, you might be required to play out two eco rounds before finally committing to a full buy.

During a full buy, your team will finally able to show up in full force. With the best weapons, full armor and plenty of grenades, there is nothing stopping you (short of being the inferior team, of course!). Somewhere in the middle of this, there is also the force-buy. For instance, consider being in the last round of the first half. The money gets reset after the round concludes, so there is no reason for saving money. In force-buys, you purchase as much as you can muster with the limited amount of money that you have. Some teams like doing this to surprise the enemy team after losing the pistol round. 

Of course, what you decide for depends on you. Our guide on how to play CSGO can only give you a few ideas to choose from. Some players and teams feel confident in their abilities even with a weak buy. Others might want to play it safe and wait until they have acquired enough resources to put up an even fight. The trick here is to keep the enemy team’s finances low, while also not committing too much of your resources. If you’ve already lost three of your players early on in a round, you might want to save your weapons for the next round instead of committing to a battle already lost. 

What Should I Aim For?

Aiming in CSGO is a particularly difficult topic. First off, the gun is almost never shooting in the exact direction of your crosshair. Movement will result in bullets shooting everywhere apart from your target. Even when you’re standing still and firing off a whole magazine, the bullets will deviate from the crosshair, which is due to recoil.

This obviously means that you can’t run and gun in most situations. In short-distance fights with an SMG you can move quite a lot, as these weapons tend to have better running accuracy. But with rifles like the AK-47, any kind of movement will give you a hard time hitting even remotely close to your target. Every weapon has a unique and fixed recoil pattern. This means that you can learn how to control your weapon’s spray. The more you practice, the more accurate you will be able to fire in CSGO.

The damage you deal depends on which part of the body you hit. There are exact numbers for every weapon and distance, but generally you want to aim for the upper half of your opponent’s player model. The AWP sniper rifle, for instance, will deal a fatal blow when hitting the head or upper body, but not the legs. Kevlar armor reduces your damage intake and all weapons grant a headshot kill when the player isn’t wearing head armor. This is why the full kevlar and helmet combo is so incredibly useful, as it prevents most weapons from making these one-shot kills. Be aware, the AK and the sniper rifles will still deal enough damage to eliminate a player with one headshot!

One last thing on dealing damage in CSGO. Some objects are penetrable, which means that you can shoot through them with certain weapons. Especially for higher-skilled players this is quite useful, as they often anticipate where an enemy player might be standing behind a wall. Don’t freak out if you’re suddenly getting shot from behind some wooden barricade. With time, you will learn which walls you can shoot through and whether there might be someone behind them.


In this tutorial on how to play CSGO, we want to briefly touch on grenades. At a high level, they become an essential part of the game. But even when starting off, a well-placed smoke grenade or a flash around the corner can help you out a lot.

Smoke grenades will obscure vision completely for around 15 seconds. If you want to sneak around an open space and not be seen by your enemy, that’s the way to go. With flashes you can temporarily blind players and give yourself some time to peak without having a crosshair trained on your head. Molotovs or fire grenades can force players off of positions and clear areas for you. Frag grenades deal direct damage (more so if the enemy is unarmored) and decoy grenades can mislead the opposing players into focusing on the wrong angles or spots.

Where Can I Go to Practice?

Of course, our theoretical guide on how to play CS:GO is not enough to prepare you in the practical aspect of the game. There are lots of useful resources in and around Counter Strike. For instance, there are community servers with 1-versus-1 arenas. Here, you can practice your aiming and reaction skills against real players in quick and competitive scenarios. In the Steam Workshop, you’ll also find aim and reaction maps, which can help you further improve on your mechanical skills. 

Read this: s1mple CSGO, an Overview of the Legend Himself

What Do I Do Next?

At first, you’ll be better off if you stick to the casual game modes for a short time. There, you can get a basic feel of the game. After that, you can try out the scrimmage game mode, which works under the same competitive settings as matchmaking, but without any ranks.

In competitive matchmaking, you’ll enter into matches will players of similar skill. Of course, this system takes a few matches to assign you a proper and adequate rank. Now you can slowly get more used to and comfortable in the game, all while slowly climbing the ranks!

If after that you’re still not satisfied with what CSGO has to offer, you might want to consider playing in amateur and semi-professional tournaments. For that, Bitspawn offers an incredibly uncomplicated tournament platform. Here, you can present your skill to sponsors and advertisers and earn yourself a name in the esports industry. Just register on our site, join tournaments and start winning real money and reputation!

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