The Epic Tale of the NERF Battles of Atlanta

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n-strikeMy wife and I chose the month of October to give our kids a break from tablets and computers. We still give them a little bit of Netflix if they get their homework done, but after a few early days of withdrawal (PPPLLLLEASEEE can I have my iPad????)  they seem to be running with the program. We’ve played a LOT of boardgames, spent more time outside now that Atlanta is cooling down, and took a mini-vacation to Chattanooga recently.

The month is half over and I’m still planning more activities for them, but one event was so popular that I’ve already been asked to do another soon… REAL soon. That event was a two-hour long NERF war with 8 kids in all bringing multiple NERF models and hundreds and hundreds of darts to a friend’s (much bigger) backyard where we ran 15-minute sessions with the teams getting mixed each game and starting at different base locations. Of course, as a geek dad, I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines… so I managed to join a few games here and there, including a new one (rules below) that you might like to play with your own group.

One of the surprises for me was just how many variations of NERF blasters are being sold these days. NERF has special lines (such as its Zombie Strike series) as well as varying dart types. My youngest (age 6) got the NERF N-Strike Modulus ECS-10 Blaster last Christmas. Yeah, that’s it’s name. When he got it, it was almost as tall as he was. Since then, he’s added some components to it via the Long-Range Upgrade Kit. During one game, he winged me in the ear from over sixty feet away with a well-placed shot. The Modulus lets the user add and remove components such as scope or stock and change the configuration a bit. It’s so cool to watch him mix-and-match parts and configure the Blaster the way he likes it.


My oldest (age 9) was sporting the Modulus Tri-Strike. (Don’t you love these names?) It fires three different size darts; the largest isn’t so accurate but the other two sizes were incredibly accurate at short to medium range. My son named it “Sweetness,” and he upgraded it with a larger clip to hold more of the smallest size darts.


My choice of NERF is the Zombie Strike Doominator Blaster –  four cylinders holding six darts each. A double-finger pull rotates an empty cylinder fast. I’d prefer it to be battery driven like the N-strike, but dead batteries were a problem for two players during the event so maybe there’s something to be said for pump-action, huh?


What else were the kids bringing to the fight? Here’s what I saw pointed at me at various times in the day:

Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow Blaster — very accurate at long distance but single shot.

N-Strike Elite Mega Lightning Bow – extremely accurate at long distance with single shot of larger darts. (This one was impressive.)

N-Strike Elite HyperFire Blaster — battery driven and fast firing kept many players pinned down.

N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster — another single shooter but some kids were using two of them.

Numerous small single-shot NERF shooters that fired by pulling a plunger where a clip would go, and a few that I haven’t been able to find online… could be older or discontinued.


As for the games, the kids were constantly running and ducking and firing. One of the complaints that I often heard was that someone would get hit but not know it. It happens. Myself and another adult tried our best to referee but it just gets too crazy to even attempt. For that reason, I introduced the boys to a new game that would slow things down a bit — Terminator!

Here are the rules:

  • 1x Terminator player — the rest are Humans
  • Terminator picks his starting spot first and then Humans pick there spots but must be minimum 20-30 feet away. Preferably more.
  • Terminator goes first, then all Humans. Terminator has FIVE health points. Humans have ONE health point.
  • On Terminator turn, he MUST take one step in the direction of any Human. He may choose to fire a single shot at any Human.
  • If a Human is hit, he must kneel and is out of the game.
  • On the Humans turn, all players MUST take a step towards Terminator. After all Humans have taken a step, each Human may choose to fire a single shot at Terminator.
  • Terminator loses one health for each hit from a Human.
  • Terminator and Humans must keep feet planted but may move their upper body or duck to avoid being hit. If a Human or Terminator moves one or both feet, they lose a health point.
  • Terminator and Humans may not crouch or hide behind an obstacle.

Terminator was pretty much all the boys wanted to play once I introduced it — I was the first Terminator and that’s where my youngest got me in the ear from an incredible distance away. At one point, we had two Terminators with five health each. Another game we increased the Terminator health to 10 for a longer game. There are all sorts of variations you could apply such as limiting the number of darts each player may carry into the game (give the Terminator more, obviously)… make Humans take two steps or give Terminator ability to move three steps twice per game. Again… all sorts of crazy rules you can add to it.

Nerf Battles 1  Nerf Battles 2

NERF Battles 3  NERF Battles 4

I don’t know about your kids, but my boys love receiving achievements and badges in video games, so to celebrate this first NERF Battle, I thought it would be fun to give each of the players a badge they could attach to their bookbag to remember the event. I designed the shield in Tinkercad and converted the NERF logo to an SVG file ( that I was able to import into Tinkercad to 3D print, too. I printed the shield in orange and NERF logo in gray and glued the two together. The badges were an obvious hit, and I can already see that I’ll have to make more. (NERF Battles II is scheduled for November.)


It should go without saying that most (but not all) of the kids were wearing eye protection — I highly recommend it. You can buy a nice pair of super clear eye shields at the hardware store for about $3 that fit well and won’t slip off. Also, lots of water and snacks are a given. Don’t try to keep score… it’s almost impossible with all the darts flying left and right. Do try and get the kids to count the darts they bring to the game beforehand so you can divvy up darts at the end of the games and send kids home with most (not all) of the darts they came with; darts are going to get lost in bushes and over fences. My boys and their friends were quite friendly about making sure everyone left with enough darts to bring to the next battle.

NERF Battles II? I’m thinking a short contest for accuracy with some targets and score keeping. Maybe creating a new 3D-printed badge for sharpshooters. Lots of ideas, but I know one thing is for certain — my boys slept well that night and had big grins on their faces as we talked about the event on our ride home. I do love being a geek dad.

By the way, I’ve got to give a big shout out to the folks over at Two weekends ago at the Atlanta Maker Faire, they were showing off their 3D-printed foam dart shooters called the FDL-1 and FDL-2 (along with an FDL-1 mounted on a tripod and remote controlled for 360 firing). My boys were blown away by how fast the darts were flying out of these things!


You can purchase a fully-assembled FDL-1, the kit with plastic pieces and electronics, or just the electronics if you’ve got a 3D printer. (The 3D printable files are on for free.) They’re also taking pre-orders through the end of October for the newer, lighter FDL-2 model.


Yes, I am planning on making a few of them, but not for the kiddos! They’ll be what I use in future NERF Battles.

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