It’s that time of year when many clubs, groups, and universities are getting ready to play some blaster tag across North America. Even Luke and I just returned from a big weekend-long event hosted by Boomstick Mods and the rest of the Maryland Foam Alliance.
But what does the beginning foam-flinger need to bring to be prepared? It can take a lot of work to come up with a list from scratch. So, as we prepped for Maryland Mayhem this month, I took the time to outline what we usually bring, what we brought specifically for the games that weekend, and on the way home, I noted everything we found we were missing.
The “Every Game Carry”
Every different hobby or niche has a name for the kit you take with you. Many of you may be familiar with the concept of "Every-Day Carry" -- or "EDC" for short. As a scout in my youth, we had “The Ten Essentials” (with Duct Tape usually proclaimed as the infamous “Eleventh Essential”). Should you find yourself in the wilderness alone or in the middle of an emergency, these items would be the bare minimum to bring with you; everything else outside of that may improve your quality of life but isn’t required.
Translated to this hobby, there is a set of core items you shouldn’t attend a game without. The following is a list of what I’m going to call the Every Game Carry: Everything apart from your specific loadout that you should strongly consider taking with you (apologies to Sir Robert Baden Powell).
- Safety Gear
- First Aid Kit
- Eye Protection
- Gatorade, Hydration Multiplier (or another electrolyte beverage)
- Protein Bars
- Trail Mix
- Sandwich or salad
- Sun Protection
- Sunglasses (preferably ones that double as eye pro)
- Rain gear (like a windbreaker or a poncho)
- Spare shirt
- Spare socks & shoes
- Generic Tactical Gear
This list is a great starting place. However, depending on the scope, location, and duration of the events you’re attending, you might include more items in your Every Game Carry. Generally, if you go to four games and find yourself packing something at least three of those times, you should consider that item essential to your loadout.
For instance, at the few games I’ve attended in the Pacific Northwest, it’s customary to sign up for a potluck item instead of bringing your own meal. At Maryland Mayhem, the local contingent knew to come prepared with more sun protection because they tend to play in more open fields than we do.
Things to Consider
After packing your Every Game Carry, now is the time to consider the details of the next event you attend. If the organizers announce what games and rulesets they’re using, you can use those to plan ahead of time. We've listed a selection of questions below as food for thought. Of course, you don’t need to answer every question to prepare for a game, but answering a few will give you an excellent place to start.
- Date & Time
- When are people arriving?
- How long will this event last?
- How long does it take to travel to the location?
- Where are you meeting?
- Where are the boundaries of the play area?
- How large is the play area?
- What kind of cover is there?
- What hazards do you need to watch out for or move out of the play area?
- Who (besides you) will be attending the event?
- Who is the leader or event organizer?
- Is the event more competitive or casual?
- Does the game have a roleplay element?
- Blasters and Ammo
- Are blaster types required for specific games (pistols only, awfuls, etc)?
- What blasters aren’t allowed (HPA, AEBs, etc)?
- What are the FPS caps for blasters?
- Are there ammo restrictions for blasters?
- Do larger ammo types do something different from regular ammo?
- Is ammo provided, or do you need to bring your own?
- Are you allowed to scavenge darts?
- Are shields allowed?
- Is there a size limit?
- What types of ammo pierce or destroy shields?
Choosing Your Loadout
Considering all that we discussed above, what do you want or need to bring to this event in addition to your Every Game Carry? Here is a list of loadout items you should consider bringing depending on what you’re playing. What you choose is ultimately up to you and your playstyle, but this can serve as a great starting point.
- Alternative Blasters (AEBs, Stringers, etc)
- Batteries & Battery Accessories
- LiPo Alarm
- LiPo Charger
- Tactical Gear & Accessories
- Tool Kit
- GoPro (or other action camera)
- Micro SD card
- Headband (or other mount)
Example: Our Trip to Maryland Mayhem
Last weekend we flew to the East Coast for the Maryland Mayhem weekend of events planned by the University of Maryland Baltimore County HvZ, and the Maryland Foam Alliance. Amazingly for a first-annual event, nearly 350 people registered to attend, and there will be a variety of games to play that weekend, from a Flag Push-style 5v5 competitive tournament to Humans versus Zombies to casual super-stock and awfuls rounds. All in all, it was a great trip, and we'll have a complete recap video and blog post coming soon, so stay tuned!
Thanks to the communication of the Maryland Mayhem organizers, we knew the dates, times, and addresses for each of the games ahead of time, which we listed in our itinerary. Additionally, other frequently asked questions, like FPS caps and blaster restrictions, were posted for each game so that we could plan our loadouts accordingly. There was some confusion about blaster restrictions the day of, but ultimately those questions were few and niche.
For most of the weekend, Luke played with his Momentum brushless flywheeler, which Eli Wu recently rebuilt and updated. With some coding, Luke could dial the blaster up and down to virtually any cap.
The starting three missions during Saturday’s HvZ invitational limited the blaster type and capacity, making the Nerf Rival Kronos and Dart Zone Pro Mk-2 with a low-power spring our go-to blasters at the beginning. However, we quickly unlocked Luke’s Momentum and my low-power Nightingale, which worked flawlessly for as long as we survived.
The 11th Hour PvP battle games were much closer to what we play here at PaNNC, with a 150 FPS cap and tarp-style cover. The only consideration we needed to make outside the norm was a smaller blaster for pistol-only rounds. In the end, I focused on video because I was exhausted from HvZ the day before; for the two games I did manage to play, I used Luke’s DZP Mk-2.1.
In hindsight, there were a couple of things we should have brought. Most notably, we forgot our own bandanas for HvZ, and an XT-30 to XT-60 adapter for charging the Nightingale LiPos. We borrowed these from other attendees, so we weren’t caught without (thank you, Charles, of Containment Crew!). However, both items are already on our list to pack for the next big event.
It doesn't matter what games you go to, it's good to be prepared, and the lists above can help you get there. However, don't let planning for the next game drag you out of the primary purpose of this hobby: Having fun.
There are a lot of ways to play, and most of them don't need the most competitive or cutting-edge loadout to make for a good experience. When I attended my first-ever nerf game, which Captain Xavier hosted at his arena, I arrived with my own Nexus Pro, borrowed the rest of my gear from Luke, and still enjoyed myself. It was only until the second game I attended that I started to build my own Every Game Carry and plan more in-depth.
After the last weekend in Maryland, despite missing a few items, nothing we forgot was essential or kept us from enjoying being with all of you, and made this experience one to remember. - JPH