(aka Everything you wanted to know about organising a Nerf War but were too afraid to ask)
I use the term ‘Nerf War’ to cover most of the types of events/games you can play with your foam blaster of choice e.g. large or small events, Dart Tag, a single game of Capture the Flag (CTF), the ‘Paranoia’ or ‘Assassin’ style of game etc. I’m not going to be talking about Humans Vs Zombies for the simple fact that there are people out there who know a lot more about it than me. If you’re Australian, you can’t really go past the good people of Humans Vs Zombies @ANU. There are other groups in Australia but the peeps at ANU got the ball rolling in this country and you can guarantee they’ve already answered just about every question you could come up with. And if you’re American (sucks to be you!), or a citizen of the world you really need to check the Humans Vs Zombies.org website.
I'm also not talking about the use of melee weapons at your event. I've played a couple of games with melee weapons and I'm still unsure as to the best application of them, and whether they work best in HvZ or Nerf Wars.
So, you woke up one morning and decided you want to organise a Nerf War. Firstly – congratulations. Secondly – you’re an idiot. You have no idea what you’ve just let yourself in for. But Uncle Neil is here to help, so let’s get this party started.
So did you decide to so this because you had 10 friends destroying your apartment and you wanted to take it outdoors? Or do you know there is a demand in your local area for an event of this type? Or do you really just want to organise a big kick-arse Nerf War you could attend? All good reasons for organising an event, but before you even get started, work out who you are catering for, why, and what are your likely numbers are going be. This will affect everything else you do, so get that squared away first.
Step2: Playing Area.
A good playing area – in my humble opinion – can make or break an event. Now that’s not to say everyone still wont have fun, but a good playing area adds a lot to a good Nerf War. So unless you’ve got a venue already organised start scouting out a playing area. Ideally – if you’re playing outside – you want an area with good features such as cover, shade, toilets, shops close by and away from busy roads and the public. Indoor Wars really comes down to cost, venue (and availability) and whether you know the right people or are part of a group with access to a venue. And have a back up plan for a change of venue just in case!
OK so you’re reasonably confident you can get a decent turn out if you organised an event. You even found a great place to play. Now things get hard. What missions are you going to run on the day? How are you going to moderate it? Do the players need safety equipment? Questions, questions, questions! Let’s break this puppy down:
· Missions: Your 3 basic mission/game types are Capture the Flag (CTF), Squad Deathmatch and Eliminations/Free for Alls, and there are about a million variations of these. This is the first event you’ve organised so keep it simple and stay to these 3 basic game types. The more complex you make a mission, and the more conditions you place on it, means it’s all pretty likely to descend into chaos in about 5 minutes.
· Rules: You need to work out prior to the day how your ‘tags’ are going to work. Do blaster hits count? Do you use ‘hit points’? Do only head shots count? Again, for your own sanity I’d suggest you make all tags count as a legal hit. It’s a lot easier to moderate/referee!
· Moderators: It’s important you’ve got good moderators, and ideally you should have more than one. The best moderators should really model the values that you want to see from your players. If your moderator is the guy going “it’s not fair – you sooooo didn’t get me – waaaaa! “, then you’ve got problems. And moderators don’t have to be stalking around the place like referees. You want them in the game and playing alongside everyone else.
· Playing area: This is a safety issue. Make sure everyone knows the boundaries or hazards associated with your chosen playing area. If you can produce a map prior to the day marking your ‘red zones’ (no play areas) that would be ideal.
· Equipment: This is the big one. Are you going to host a ‘stock’ event or allow modified blasters? Are you going to allow people to use modified darts/stefans? What about wearing military gear like tactical vests and helmets? Do people need to wear safety glasses? Personally, I have no problems with modified blasters. I use them myself, as do most of the people I play with. But I won’t run an event - or participate in an event – that allows the use of non-stock darts. If I have to wear safety glasses or sign an indemnity form to attend a war I’m just not interested. Most dart modifications turn something harmless into a potentially harmful and painful projectile, and if I wanted to be covered head to toe in safety equipment or in pain I’d go and play Paintball. As far as what people wear to events I’m flexible on that up to a point. However, think about where you are playing and whether a bunch of guys in military/militia gear is a good idea when you’ve just taken over a children’s playground. Most events have some form of restrictions and these are in place for good reason. One more point: paintjobs! A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into painting their blasters, but make the mistake of making them too realistic. Paintjobs are fine, but remember you are more than likely playing in public and your blaster should still look like what it is – a toy.
Step4: Marketing, Advertising and Organisation.
So we’re at the final hurdle, all the boxes are ticked and now you’re ready to advertise your event. Experience has taught me that advertising via Facebook is a cheap and easy way to get the word out there, but it’s a totally unreliable indicator of how many people will attend on the day. As a rule, the day before the event take the number of people who said they are attending and halve that. One hour before you kick off take that number you were left with and halve it again*. That’s how many people will be attending. Don’t forget a lot of the events advertised on Facebook are not actual events – they are just viral crap which everyone clicks on to attend if they like the subject matter.
So your best bet is to advertise through your own private friends’ networks on Facebook, or via the various FaceBook Nerf groups that you know and trust. Even better would be to go through your local Nerf forum. If you’re in Australia, the OzNerf forums would be your best bet. Don’t be tempted to go and put posters on the telephone pole down the street because it’s hardly likely to achieve anything other than attracting the wrong type of people!
And one final word on organisation in general: it’s a good idea if you are running a large event in a public park/area to let the local police or your local government authority know about it. That way if there are any injuries or complaints from the public etc you will have covered your arse from any complications.
Step5: Game on!
Now stop reading this dribble and get out there and play!
*Thanks to Joe Craddy (HvZ@ANU) for the magic formula!