A beginner’s guide
My name is Joe and I’m a former HvZ@ANU executive and current Canberra Dart Tag administrator. I’ve been both playing and running HvZ games since it first came to Australia back in 2009 and Dave asked me to put together a quick primer for those new to the world of HvZ, so enjoy! This isn’t going to talk about in game rules or specific tactics or anything like that, but rather what I believe to be an assortment of truths that many new comers don’t immediately pick up on. By all means, take this as an encouragement to get more involved in the game but also take it for what it is, general advice from someone is probably isn’t quite as good as he thinks he is.
1. You’re not as good as you think you are.
I mostly blame FPS video games for this (now there’s a soundbite and a half), but really video games in general could probably take a fair chunk of the credit. Call it an unfair stereotype it you must but a lot of the people who play with blasters also play a decent chunk of FPS’s. That in itself isn’t a bad thing and it makes a lot of sense; play with pretend guns in a virtual world, play with toys guns in real life. Instead, the problem stems from with it does to your ego.
In most FPS’s, you’re the protagonist; in real life, you’re not. Protagonists get all sorts of super magical powers even when they’re just a “normal” dude/dudette. They can run out in front of fifty henchmen all going nuts will full-auto guns, not get hit, and still take out all fifty bad guys with only twenty shots. Conversely, you are just a “normal dude/dudette”. As a zombie, when you run out in front of even five humans, you’ll probably just get shot.
Many people, particularly newcomers, get frustrated by this. They were all psyched up for their first game. They’ve read all about the rules online, they’ve already built themselves an uber-blaster, they’ve got this really cool idea of the mad ‘jump-dive-roll-shoot-ten-zombies-backflip-shoot-ten-more-zombies’TM sick moves they’re going to pull; then they turn up and get tagged in the first thirty seconds of their first encounter. This is devastating for them. They had visions of how awesome they’d be and their reality didn’t quite match up to that. Unfortunately this then sours their experience of the whole day and hurts the chances that they’ll come back.
Instead, what people need to understand is that HvZ is quite similar to most other things on the planet; you don’t get good at it just by thinking about it, you have to practice. For HvZ this mostly means attending more and more games. Sure you’ll have skills that will transfer over from other things you’ve done before and there are some tips and tricks that you can pick up on, but unless you’re some kind of freak, you will get better the more you play.
Crux of the argument is that you’re not as good as you think you are, don’t expect to be the best person in the game on your first outing. Learn to walk before you try to run (metaphorically of course, running is quite a useful skill to have!) and you’ll be fine.
2. You’re (probably) part of a team, don’t try and be the hero.
The vast majority of games I’ve been involved in, I’ve been a part of a team. Sure there are the odd occasions where you’ll end up on your own, but they’re fairly few and far between. This then ties in fairly well with our first part in that unless you’re some kind of super human protagonist type (re-read the first point if you have to because you’re not), you will need the help of your teammates. Going it alone will only get you tagged/shot. Learn to work with the other members of your team and you’ll have a lot more fun.
3. You don’t need an uber-blaster.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say that they didn’t want to get involved because they didn’t have any really good modified blasters. Nuts to that. Turn up with what you’ve got and run with it. Sure you might not have the range or rate of fire of some of the other players, but you’ll still have fun. Take it as a learning experience; learn to play to your advantages and minimise your weaknesses. If you don’t have a massive range, learn to get up close and surprise people. Don’t have a high rate of fire, learn to make the shots you can take count. If you decide to later upgrade to a “better” blaster, all the skills you’ve picked up along the way will now be further amplified.
4. You don’t need 17 blasters.
Similar to the last point but albeit in a slightly different manner, don’t let your armoury stand in the way of you having a good time. There will be people at your games who have three of every blaster ever released; you don’t need that, you can have fun with practically anything. A single Hornet or Magstrike might cause you some problems, but any clip based blaster should be fine.
The more you play, the more you’ll get a chance to observe other players and figure out which blasters best suit your playing style. Allowing you to purchase only the things that you need.
5. Carry what you can actually use.
I’ve brought this point up with many players in the past but for some reason, lots of people immediately think that they need to carry at least a primary and a secondary. They’ll turn up with a Magstrike strapped to their back, a NiteFinder in their pocket, a Longshot in their hands, and 48 clips spread around their person. How do you expect to be able to move? HvZ is often fast paced, you will be at a disadvantage if you can’t move freely and effectively. Also, how do you plan on using all of those? The Magstrike is often a single use blaster and the other two each take two hands to reload. The answer is often something along the lines of “I have this one as a backup” but really, how often do your blasters break mid game? Use one blaster to its potential, rather than using three half-assed.
On the darts front, it can be a little harder to know what you’ll need. For a short game I’ll run with either a single 35 drum or two 18 clips taped together and not carry any spares; if it’s an all day game, maybe a few spare clips. Again, carrying extra things will just make it harder to move and slow you down. Take only what you need.
6. Don’t be afraid of the other team.
Humans – Zombies have effectively zero range, they can’t tag you from 20m away. Don’t waste your darts, wait until they get close enough that you’re all-but guaranteed to hit. Also, don’t panic, you’ve got this. When you panic, you will make mistakes and that’s when people get turned.
Zombies – You will get stunned. Repeatedly. Don’t be overly concerned about getting shot; it doesn’t hurt and you can respawn, they can’t. You can take more risks than a human can so use this to your advantage. Any human worth their salt should be able to take down 3-5 zombies charging them with little concerns, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take even one-on-one opportunities when they present themselves. I’d probably be able to attribute as many tags to just straight up running at a human and their blaster jamming, as I could to every other sneaky or horrendously outnumbered tag I’ve ever gotten. Worst case scenario is their blaster functions as it should and you have to respawn, best case is you get a tag.
7. Don’t take it all to seriously, have fun and make friends!
HvZ makes for a pretty poor competitive sport as ‘winning’ is incredibly subjective. Maybe your ego is fragile and you’ve got it in your head that surviving right to very end is winning, or maybe you want the most tags as a zombie, or even the most stuns as a human. By all means try to achieve any or all of those things, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture of having fun. I know plenty of people who have played in games, didn’t reach their pre-determined metric of whatever it was they wanted to achieve, and didn’t have fun as a result. Nuts to that! Get out there, shoot some people with toy guns, take part in a giant game of tip, and have yourself a world of fun.
More generally though, want to know how you win at HvZ? Make friends. Back in our first game at ANU, I made more friends in those four days than I had in the previous three years of my degree. Personally, HvZ@ANU was without a shadow of a doubt, the best experience of my time at university and probably the time of my life so far. I met so many people from such a wide range of backgrounds that I never would have encountered otherwise, all because we had these silly little foam dart blasters in common. I’ve since picked up blasters as a legitimate hobby and continue to play to this day, but I have many close friends who couldn’t care less about the blasters, yet still unconditionally love the game. Plenty of people met their now romantic partners through HvZ, while countless more made good honest friendships.
HvZ brings people together. It lets first year students interact with post grads, it provides a reason for Engineering students talk to Arts students, it gives ‘townies’ an excuse to get to know some of the ‘on campus’ folk; all without any form of prejudice. It instantly brakes down social barriers and certainly made my university a better place for it. So really, what are you waiting for? Get fired up for the opportunity that has landed at your university and make it awesome.
Joe is a Canberra Dart Tag admin and pretty great guy. You can read more of his stuff at his blog, Foam Dart Goodness.