Hey everyone, I’m back with another interview. This time it’s with my two newest affiliates, Canberra & Riverina Dart Tag. Their the two biggest Nerf groups in Australia, and their creators Neil (of Canberra Dart Tag) and Andrew (of Riverina Dart Tag) took the time to answer some questions. We talked about a variety of topics such as HvZ, N-Strike Elite, Milsim, and the female audience.
Tell us a little bit about who your are and what you guys do personally for the Facebook pages.
Andrew – I’m Andrew Goldstraw (Goldie). I am the Chief Aministrator and Creator Of the Facebook Page Riverina Dart Tag. I am responsible for the majority of posts on the page (Including Photo’s, Events, links and comments). Though I am not the only one who does this , I also have a team of talented and skilled admins that do a brilliant job.
Neil – Well I work for the Federal Government here in Canberra. Have lived in Canberra for about 5 years. Prior to that I’ve lived in England, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and a few other places. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say I’m the driving force behind the page and the group. I’ve put a lot of work into both and I’m pretty happy with how it’s all turned out. But it’s not all me – I’ve got a very good group of Admins: Dave Beswick, Chris Wolfe, Brendon ‘Soul’ Smith, Glenn ‘Aloysius’ Fairbairn, Lachlan Horne, Joe Craddy and Carl Hendy. They all bring their own unique set of skills and ideas with them.
What exactly is Canberra & Southern NSW & Riverina Dart Tag? (What events/games do you guys do, and other information about your organizations would be good)
Neil – Our group was set up primarily to run Humans vs Zombies games, get in touch with local players and try and foster some sense of an Australian community which taps into the wider NIC.
We run HvZ, the odd ‘Nerf’ event and melee games.
Andrew – Riverina Dart Tag is a social group based in the city of Wagga Wagga N.S.W. (Australia), that was created to bring games of Humans Vs Zombies (HvZ) And Nerf wars to the members of our community and beyond. We are a free to play, non-profit group that caters to ages 12+ . We hold most of Our games In the City’s Botanical Gardens , Which has a large mixture of terrain from wide open spaces to Jungle warfare areas. Our Events are One day affairs That Usually go for about 6 hours. On These days we would typically play a mixture of HvZ and Nerf Wars.
We have also made contacts with a number of organisations in the city , Including charity groups and the local Radio station. We have participated in the local Christmas toy rally (With donations of Nerf) as well as other similar events. We have a number of plans in the organizing now for Late this year / Early next year Including ; A special Christmas Event for the childrens ward of the local hospital , Our first for Charity Zombie Walk , and a Charity movie premiere.
One of the most favourite Events that we hold is our Annual Overnight Game. This is the only time we ever imply a charge , and this is to hire secure private property where we ‘camp out’ and play almost non-stop for a 24 hr period! A lot of work goes into the Organising of this one , and we always try to improve on the previous years event.
All our Events and information are organised via our Facebook page , Though we do hope to have a Website sometime in the near future.
How did you two decide to start these groups/organizations? Besides yourselves, who helps you run your pages?
Andrew – I was origionally a player with the Group HvZ@CSU , Which played ‘Town Games’ While they were waiting for official consent to begin playing their games on campus at Charles Sturt University in Wagga. During This time I travelled to Canberra to participate in a day Event with the group HvZ@ANU. It was at this event That I met Neil Stork-Brett and Shaun Kreiger. It was Neil’s First time playing in an organised Event and we quickly became friends. We enjoyed the day so much that we started talking about the possibility of starting our own group to increase the frequency of the events , and I invited them too come to Wagga Wagga For the next HvZ@CSU Event , Which they readily accepted.
At The Wagga game Neil asked if we were still interested in going ahead with our own group , and we jumped at the idea haha. Then he let us know that he had already created the page. By that night all Three of us were admins and Canberra & Southern NSW Dart Tag was born.
The first number of games Were hosted by me in North Wagga , Being careful not to step on HvZ@CSU’s toes , and were a lot of fun. Soon enough games were being held in Canberra as well . The Time came and HvZ@CSU Received permission to play on campus. By then they had a large number of younger players who were upset that it might be the end for them, And by mutual agreement We took over the town Games.
Later down the track as both both Canberra and Wagga players grew , We found the need to seperate both groups into seperate pages , And Riverina Dart Tag was Formed. At first Riverina remained a Sub Branch Of Canberra And both Neil and Myself remained Admins for both groups , as well a taking on Some new admins locally. Both Groups Eventually seperated and became individual Entities, Though We all remain good friends and comment, help, and play in each others events when we are able to.
Besides Myself, My current Riverina Dart Tag Administrators are; Terri McCrowe , Chris Thomas , Keith Beard , Stacey (Hazmat) McCrowe and Aaron (Ace) Oakes. Many Veteran players often also help to moderate games.
Neil – Goldie has pretty much covered this. I certainly didn’t set all this up because I like organizing things. It was always about being able to play more games. Life has taught me if you want something, you’ve got to make it happen (and hide the bodies well).
Photo from one of their HvZ games.
Why is Australia safety laws so strict, and would you say that this is actually helping the Nerf cause down under?
Andrew – To The average Australian Nerfer probably isn’t even aware that safety laws exist. They simply go to the local store, purchase a Nerf blaster and join in the Fun, but in essence The safety laws are aimed at child protection. Nerf is after all a toy (Though one that all ages can love) and is marketed at children. With todays Violent stigma placed around guns of any nature The government simply goes to extremes to ensure fun stays fun, not pain.
As stated above , Most probably aren’t even aware of any restrictions on the safety of Nerf Blasters impoted to Australia, so in my opinion It doesn’t affect Nerf’s sales Down Under. In fact Since the formation of Riverina Dart Tag I have Noticed Sales of Nerf in the city, and stock on shelves has Increased 200% in the last 2 years.
Those players that are bothered by the safety restrictions usually are older players who will simply bypass them by purchasing a blaster from overseas online.
Neil – I have no idea why the laws here are as they are. Personally it doesn’t bother me. Someone once said to me at a game that if Airsoft was legal here we wouldn’t be standing there playing with Nerf blasters. That might apply to some people but not me. Nerf is not a substitute to me for playing with replica weapons and dressing up like GI Joe. If you’re into that, knock yourself out.
How often do you guys host games?
Andrew – At Riverina Dart Tag We Host games Twice a month in Summer And Once a Month In Winter. We slow down during Winter Simply because It is too hard to judge the weather. Though it must be said, we have never yet Cancelled of post-poned an event. Though We have played in light rain a few times.
We will sometime also host Special Events , such as our Overnight Game, or last minute games .
Neil – We’ve messed around with the frequency of games as we’ve seen numbers go up and down. We’ve settled on once a month for the big events, with the odd afternoon/evening game once a fortnight in summer.
A photo from one of Canberra latest games.
From what I’ve seen through your Facebook page, it seems like it’s a high amount. Do you ever worry about burning out or your players getting tired?
Andrew – At times it is a lot of pressure and it can be quite hard to juggle work and family life at the same time. But this is where my fellow administrators come into play. They help too take a lot of the pressure off , not only on the page but at Events as well. This combined with my passion for the Game and the enjoyment I get out of bringing it too others keeps me keeping on
As for our players , For some it is not enough ! Some actually organise their own private Nerf Wars on the weekends that we have off. For others It is just Enough. Some players don’t attend every Event , and this helps them too enjoy it even more when they can make it. We find that with our local following alone we always have enough players , and every event we host brings new players too the group.
Neil – Yeah it’s a concern. I know that if I didn’t have my other Admins to help me out there would be a lot less games. The player numbers and interest are a good gauge of whether we’ve got event fatigue happening. On an individual game level we make sure our rounds are fairly short – an hour to an hour and a half – and we get a few rounds in then move to scenario games which require a bit less running. People are usually pretty tired at the end of the day and getting your zombies moving can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.
How do you keep your games fresh?
Andrew – The answer to this one is simple and also relates a little to the previous question. The answer is Variety! We are always coming up with new game variants to try and often host Themed games where we will invent new games to cater to the theme. Dressing in costume for themes is always encouraged and helps to keep things interesting. We will often , at no notice , do prize giveaways (Remember these come from our own wallets we are non profit) and try to use these as encouragement awards for those that excell on the day. ‘Keeping it fresh’ is of great importance to us, as it keeps our players interested and coming back too us.
Neil – Innovation! New venues, new game types, new scenarios. I’ve played a lot of HvZ, so as a game organizer and player I’m always looking for new challenges and experiences. To that effect I spend a lot of time coming up with new ideas, which we then play test and see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes even just a new venue can completely change a game dynamic. We’ve also moved into ‘melee’ style games just recently, but that’s another story.
A Cover photo from Riverina Dart Tag
From photos and comments that I’ve seen on both of your guys’ pages, you seen to have a solid female audience. How do you attract them to your Nerf events?
Andrew – For us it has never been a problem, The girls have always been there. It probably helps us that We have two female organisers. This would help parents being a little more trusting in letting them play. Facebook and word of mouth has also helped a lot. As we usually take many photo’s at our events , Once players are tagged they have been asked “what are you doing?” . Then its all wow , that look like fun ! , Next thing you know they come along and give it a go and their hooked ! Most once they play once usually enjoy it so much that they come back to us again and again.
For other players and older players some are girlfriends , who in turn bring their friends and its just rolls on.
We dont do anything special to attract them, but , We make very sure that we don’t do anything to discourage them either.
Neil – My main aim behind every game is that it should be inclusive. If you’ve got a bunch of spotty smelly teenage boys with uber-modified blasters shooting you in the face with stefans with hard plastic tips……….well why would girls want to play? The beauty of HvZ is that you can turn up and play with a stock blaster you bought that morning. In fact one of our Admins – Dave – only ever runs with stock gear.
What are Nerf Wars like over in Australia? In the USA a lot of Nerf Wars from online communities feature homemades and highly modded blasters, allowing players to get slow to decent rates of fire and at least 100 feet of range. Singapore players have a little bit of that, but mostly modded blasters that you can get in the store and fix up with some effort and time. Is the Australian Nerf environment more like the USA, or Singapore?
Andrew – In Australia We get both types of communities , depending upon where they are based and the skills of their members.
In Riverina Dart Tag I’d say that in the Majority , we are more like the Singapore Nerfers. This is due to that we have a very large number of young players who either don’t have the modding skills as of yet , or the money to purchase parts. We do have some players with very highly modded blasters (Including myself) but the majority are either stock or simple mods. We allow most modded blasters in our games , but we do not allow any modded darts or stefans. Eye protection is mandatory in all our games .
Every now and then we also run Stock blaster only games to keep every one on their toes.
Neil – You’ve got two very distinct groups in Australia, and the split is pretty much based on whether you play HvZ or not. That’s probably a generalization, but it’s the easiest way I can explain it. Some groups in Australia play with highly modified blasters and use stefans/performance darts. And that’s fine if that’s what you’re into, and we sometimes accommodate that crowd. But one of the main tenets of our group is only stock darts can be used, which then makes most of the extreme modifications pointless. First and foremost it’s a safety issue. HvZ is a game where the majority of the action goes down at close range. Even our Nerf games (CTF etc etc) are stock darts only.
I’m going to a day long HvZ game on July 20, with my previous exposure only being a game from the same location last summer and online research. Theres 82 people “going” and 70 “Maybes” on the Facebook page. I’m bringing around 15-20 of my friends, with most of them being new. Can you give us some tips for the game?
Andrew – Always listen to and follow all instructions from the moderators and be sure to follow their directives and rules! They are there for your safety.
Ammo, and plenty of it. Dart will not always be found or able to be retrieved if under attack.
Always have a backup. Blasters jam, usually right at that life and death moment.
Never give up, fight till the last dart and go out in gory glory!
If you are turned, Go get em! The game needs zombies to work so go and make some!
Have fun! Always remember, It is just a game after all so make sure its a good one , after all it’s why your there.
Neil -Be interesting to see what numbers you get on the day. We have a formula that’s proven to work: on game day halve the numbers of ‘going’ and ‘maybes’ and then add 10. That’ll be your attendance.
Tips? Don’t carry too much gear. You need to be able run and move freely. Doesn’t matter what blaster/s you use, just as long as they’re reliable. If I had a dollar for every time I ‘died’ because of a jam…..
Another thing you’ll need – and this is the hardest things for new players – is a constant 360 degree situational awareness. And don’t rely on others to have your back – they may be under pressure themselves/reloading/clearing a jam. As a zombie I always look to attack from the rear if the humans are engaging targets to the front.
And finally – keep moving! If you decide to take up a defensive position and remain static it’s not a question of IF you’ll die, but WHEN.
Andrew and his favorite blaster combination. Photo credits here.
What are your current favorite blasters and why?
Andrew – Easy one, My all time favourite blaster (Since it’s release) is the Alpha Trooper. Combined with The Raider Drum magazine It has always proven itself to be the most reliable blaster in my arsenal. Its weight and design is jsut perfect for my style of play. Second favorite, and my usual back up blaster is the Recon. Tough and durable, in its pistol form makes a light secondary (I normally use the gear-up recon for this) that is easily carried/ holstered. Often complete this combination with a simple Nite Finder, for a cheap reliable blaster you can’t go past them, though lately I have found my self taking a Jolt instead. Its small size, and that it can fire all types of darts without being modded makes it a handy little blaster, very powerful for its size as well.
Neil – I go through phases. The Alpha Trooper was my blaster of choice there for a while, but these days I find myself using a Stampede and Barricades. I find them both to be pretty reliable once you take into account their individual quirks.
I like the Praxis as well. It’s a lot of fun indoors, and I’ve even used it for HvZ. Can’t hit a moving target outside with it unless its point blank though. Makes for an interesting day…..
What do you think about Nerf innovating their products every year?
Andrew – To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of yearly releases. I’d much prefer every second or third year. Nerf can cost a lot, especially to the younger players. I’d prefer to see accesories for blasters released (clips , attachments etc) being a yearly release and the blasters spread out a bit more. This would also give them time to ‘Build a better blaster, instead of having mistakes and having to release new versions.
Neil -Innovation is good, but at the end of the day Hasbro is running a business so that means you’re going to new releases and repaints whether they’re any good or even needed. To me, things like the Clear and Sonic series have no appeal. But a completely new blaster is always going to be something to look forward to. I’ve got Pyragon and Snapfire 8 on my shopping list.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming N-Strike Elite line?
Andrew – I am very much looking forward too this one. I am hoping that with the promised extra distance it will help to put all players on an even field and reduce the number of modded blasters. I would love to see an elite version of the Alpha Trooper come out , but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
What I am not looking forward to is the availability. Toys R Us is only located in the Major cities here , so for many of us , some will be hard to obtain. We also only have Target Country which doesnt stock Nerf on a regular basis. We have K-Mart and Big W (like Wallmart), and to get to the larger stores we will have to go on a 3 hour road trip to Canberra. We’ll just have to make sure we do it on a weekend that Neil’s holding a game.
Neil – Well I picked up a Retaliator from the States just recently in fact. Not a bad piece of kit, but what does excite me is the new darts. I think we’ll all be using Elite darts by the end of the year and streamlines will become a thing of the past.
Have you two ever tried Paintball or Airsoft? If Australia ever laxed up on it’s safety laws, would you guys switch to these sports? Do you think your players would?
Andrew – We have 2 paintball groups locally, Though I have only played at one, Project Paintball. Airsoft is not available and for paintball you need to be above 16 to play. I love playing paintball and would do it more often if I could. But unlike our Riverina Dart Tag, which is free, Paintball costs a lot to play regularly. For this simple reason alone I think that while most of our players would enjoy paintball every now and then, They’ll still come back to us.
Neil – A lot of people Paintball over here. I’ve played a couple of times but it’s not really my thing. You can Nerf anywhere and other than buying your blaster and darts there’s no more expense. I’ve touched on Airsoft in one of my other answers. My issue with Airsoft is that it’s just a bit…..sad. Let me explain that. It isn’t common knowledge even here in Canberra but I’m ex-Australian Regular Army. A parachute-qualified infantryman to be exact. I’ve qualified on every infantry weapon right up to short range anti amour weapons.
When I see guys turn up at Nerf/HvZ events fully kitted out in tactical gear with their black painted modded blasters I just shake my head. Nerf/HvZ is so far removed from anything even remotely military based. It’s apples and oranges – we’re playing with toys boys and girls. It makes me cringe when I see Nerfers talk about ‘milsim’ (military simulation) games, or the correct way to hold a pistol, or fire discipline etc etc. These feelings apply to Airsoft as well. I just see a bunch of guys playing ‘armies’ like we all used to when we were 5 years old. Like I often say: “All the gear, no idea”.
If someone were to go to Australia, whats one big thing that he/she should do?
Andrew – Come to Wagga!! And join us at Riverina Dart Tag for a game!! If I had a choice , I’d say come too our annaul overnight game! Either way come for a visit , you’ll have a blast!!
Neil – Don’t go to Sydney! Everyone does that. Get off the tourist trail and see the real Australia.
Basic Nerf thanks Canberra & Riverina Dart Tag for their time and effort. Keep Nerfing you guys!