Monday, June 30, 2014

9 Years Strong!

This Thursday, the Midwest Laser Tag Association will celebrate it's 9th annual "Independence Eve Blast" event (IEB).  Kicking things off with a potluck cookout, the Laser Tag games held will occur under the cover of local fireworks going off overhead.  I say it every year.  "This is my favorite event of the year."  That's mostly because there's really no way to replicate this kind of atmosphere on any other day!

Turnout for our very first IEB in 2006
We started the IEB during our first season of Laser Tag in 2006.  Twelve players showed up in Laser Challenge gear to grill up some food and play a couple of games while neighboring homes lit off fireworks that illuminated the playing field.  The smell of gunpowder filled the air and explosions rocked our concentration as we fought through our games.  It was such a hit we decided to make it a regular event each year and it's really the only opportunity we have to play in an atmosphere like this.

You would think we could replicate this experience any time we would want, but it is only legal to light off fireworks around the 4th of July to celebrate Independence Day.  Plus, the sheer magnitude of fireworks going off during the game would be impossible to match if we were to supply the fireworks ourselves.  This is one of the unique advantages of being able to play Laser Tag in a public park... and it's something that Airsoft and Paintball games can't do.  Because these parks are surrounded by homes, and their owners are the ones displaying these firework shows, the lights and colors are just overhead instead of being viewed from afar.  The clouds of sulfur and smoke from them flood the playing field and, if it's not windy, can even obscure vision across the park making it difficult for snipers to be effective.  It feels like a warzone!

I might try to get some video this year of the action, as it is difficult to take pictures to capture the atmosphere this game has.  Either way, I'm stoked for another IEB, especially with it being at our new park!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

July is getting Demolish'd!

There may be an unusually high amount of demolishing going on during the month of July.  If you missed it, news broke of the early release of several highly-anticipated "Fall 2014 Release" blasters and, among them, was the Nerf N-Strike Elite Demolisher 2-in-1.  This being my personal favorite among the new blasters, I jumped at the chance to order one.  Well, this morning I received an e-mail from Amazon complete with a Tracking Number and ETA for my Demolisher for July 1st!

I think most of us know what to expect from the Dart-blasting part of this.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this Rocket Launcher works out.  If it ends up being a flop, I can always try to drop some Laser Tag internals in there (it'd be great for a nice big lens) and make another dual-purpose blaster... which is something I've actually been itching to build again for awhile.  I don't think I'll go the "chop it off" route, like some folks have been doing already.  While I am still slightly bummed that the rocket launcher isn't removable like I originally thought, I don't think I'd want to go Rocket-less anyways.  If you know me, you know I'll already be avoiding the "dowse it in Black" paintjob anyways, but whether it was the modified concept or this early mod done to a pre-release blaster, I think mine will retain that launcher.  What I DO with that launcher is an entirely different story ;)

Needless to say, it's going to be a LOOOOONG Monday waiting for that box to show up!  Expect a flood of pictures and a review quickly, as I probably won't keep it stock for long!  July should be full of fun with the Demolisher!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Most for The Least - Part 2

Earlier, I presented a question about what blaster you could get that offered the most for the lowest price.  Finding a balance between a reasonable price with good performance and features was difficult, so I narrowed it down to three blasters.  Below is the video that covers the comparisons between these blasters and, inevitably, which one I felt came out on top.  Admittedly, I also horse around a bit and poke fun at the range tests.  Plus, after viewing the footage and thinking more about things, there were elements to some of my tests that probably weren't the most accurate, but it was still fun to put together.

The results could easily be debated long and hard.  Part of why this took me a bit to put "Part 2" together was because I was struggling with a surefire way to narrow my search down to one blaster.  In the end, there's probably no real "right" answer to this.  The best blaster is always the one that works best for the player using it anyways, but this project really started out as a way to find a great blaster that won't kill your wallet.

The video is below!  Whether you agree, disagree, or think I'm outright crazy, I hope you enjoy it!

Hasbro ToyShop Teases! Amazon Delivers!

While I was working on preparing Part 2 of "The Most for The Least", I came across a bit of a tease.  While at, I couldn't help  but notice that the promotional picture for their "$3 off All Nerf" sale featured a white Retaliator.  Quickly, I went to see if I could PURCHASE said Retaliator only to find that it's the same old lineup with none of the new recolored blasters.

On top of that, I couldn't even find all the Nerf products I was looking for.  No RoughCut 2x4, no SledgeFire (although the spare shells can be purchased there), none of the FUN stuff, you know?

Oh wait!  Thanks to my good friends at the Nerf Reddit page, there are two highly anticipated blasters up for sale on!  The N-Strike Elite Demolisher, N-Strike Elite MEGA Thunderbow, and ZombieStrike SlingFire are available for ordering!  YAY!

Long story short... You can't get the White Retaliator yet, but you CAN get two of the most anticipated blasters of 2014 earlier than their "Fall 2014" release!  And you can also get the Thunderbow.  I always forget about this blaster...

Also, the Nerf Cam ECS-12 will be available August 15th and is available for Pre-Order now.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Season 9: Rollin right along!

The Midwest Laser Tag Association's 9th Summer Season kicked off  on May 30th and, ever since, we've had great turnout and awesome games at our new park!  There's also a lot of new players coming more regularly, so the group is still growing.  Even in the face of a severe thunderstorm at last week's game, 20 players showed up eager to squeeze a few games in before storms dropped 5 inches of rain on the area.

This park has been working quite well for our games too, as it's design lends itself well to quick games that cater to close, mid, and long range combat pretty easily.  There's plenty of usable cover that can allow players to bolt right through the middle but there are also places for snipers to make those long-range shots across the field.  It doesn't really matter what kind of blaster you have at this park if you know how to use it.  We've had several players be incredibly effective with LTARs right off the store shelf.

Of course, having modified gear can be useful too.  One of our veteran players has made good use of his "Ultimate LTX", which combines a Lazer Bait sniper lens (good for 1,100 ft) and a Shotblast that's been recased into the TV Module below the main barrel.  This devastating combination means pinpoint accuracy from anywhere in the field with the close-range security of the wide spread 3-round Shotblast burst.  He's outfitted it with a collapsible aluminium shoulder stock for added stability that is integrated into the back of the blaster.  Just one of the many  modified blasters running around that have been built to suit each players specific play styles.

In general, more players are getting involved with modifications to their own personal blasters, so it's always exciting to see what they come up with.  It's been fun for me to watch the group grow like this, as I have been limited with my spare time to work on my own blasters as of late.  There is plenty of interest among our players who have been exploring with their own modifications.  I've been behind with getting our LTAR accessories into production and more design tweaks are on the way, but it's good to see people still eager to take mods into their own hands!

Coming up soon is our annual "Independence Eve BLAST", which will actually occur on July 3rd (a Thursday).  Year after year, this is my favorite event as it has all the makings of a great time.  Cookout, laser tag, Fireworks.  It's an awesome combination that has made for memorable games each year!  I'm also compiling some footage of our games to put a video together to show folks what our games are like!  Stay tuned for that!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is the Cam ECS-12 Worth It? Build it!!

It's been a question on the minds of Nerfers since enGadget released photos of this nifty blaster: is the Cam ECS-12 going to be worth the pricetag?  At the time, the cost was up in the air but we weren't expecting anything cheap.  Well, sites in the US are starting to show a $79.99 Pricetag on the video camera-embedded Flywheel Blaster which has folks wondering "is it worth the money?"

To find out, let's break down what exactly you're getting with this blaster and compare it to alternative setups.

First, let's consider it's size.  This is a rifle-style blaster, roughly the size of a RapidStrike with a fixed-length shoulder stock.  There are N-Strike Tactical Rails on the top and underneath the main barrel.  It also comes with a 12-round Magazine with Elite Darts.  For our purposes, let's put a value on just the dart blaster itself between the RapidStrike and a Stryfe, so about $27.  The blaster is powered by 8 AA Batteries, and a pack of Energizers is about $10.  A 4GB SD Memory Card, which stores the photos and video captured by the Cam ECS-12, are about $5 online.  So we're up to $42 with what we've got so far.

Now comes the camera equipment.  This is a little tricker, since there's really no way to BUILD a camera into your Stryfe or RapidStrike like the Cam ECS-12 has already set up.  However, if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can buy a $15 Nerf Tactical Mission App thing that will attach to the rail on top and capture video.  You can even skip the cost of an SD card and have a $35 Dollar "Cam" Stryfe with your phone recording the action!  However, that iOS Device probably cost you quite a bit of money... so that blasts this comparison in the eyeball.  You could also argue that not everyone HAS an iPhone, so the Cam ECS is still a better setup... but let's do the math.

Because we've added batteries to the cost of our Build-A-Cam-Blaster project, we'll be fair and add it to the cost of the other one.  That $42 dollar blaster we've built up versus the $90 Cam ECS-12 (that price includes the batteries now) has a $48 gap to fund our camera addition.  On, you can pick up a Kodak Mini Handheld Video Camera for $40.  It has a bigger screen than the Cam ECS-12 at 1.8 inches (the Nerf one is 1.77) and That even includes a 2GB SD Card.  With this camera, we have $8 budget left until we're equal with the cost of Nerf's blaster, which isn't too bad.  But we're forgetting something!

We still need to mount this somewhere ON the blaster, which still gives the Cam ECS-12 the upper hand.  Sure you could Duct Tape the Kodak on the side of your Stryfe, but to actually get some kind of hardware that will hold the camera, it's a little trickier.  You could modify that Nerf Tactical Mission App cradle, but that piece alone will put you over budget.  So... in the end, it appears Nerf may have actually priced the Cam ECS-12 right.

Add in the fact that Nerf has somehow increased the range on this blaster up to 85-90 feet and it's either a close race or a tough call.  Clearly, to justify shelling out $80 for the Cam ECS-12, you need to have a NEED for a battle-camera blaster.  Just purchasing it for the range and performance won't make the money worth it, so already this blaster has a limited audience.  But if you're that guy who wants to post his epic Nerf kills on FaceTube or YouBook, this is cheaper and smarter than any equivalent I can think of.

Honestly, I was expecting for the math to kill the Cam blaster.  After taking a look at cost, performance, and convenience, this blaster actually hits the mark.  Let's not rule out that it actually looks like a cool blaster, so I'm happily surprised to report that, despite my initial thoughts, the Nerf N-Strike Cam ECS-12 is worth that pricetag as long as you NEED a battle-cam rifle of whiteout-looking goodness.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Old Ranges for New Longshot?

Yesterday evening I watched a review by about the "ZombieStrike Clear Shot", which is yet another recolored Nerf Blaster from the days of yore.  It's a Dart Tag Stormfire with that nifty ACOG-looking scope that we got with the Super Soaker Shotblast, also from the days of yore.  I liked the Stormfire when it came out, as it was essentially a NiteFinder in a cooler shell.  However, it's 2014 now... and most N-Strike Blasters are stepping up to the plate with 75 ft ranges.  However, according to the review did, this Clear Shot is getting the same ranges it did when it was released under the Dart Tag lineup, Pre-Elite ranges.

This is sort of a bummer for the Clear Shot, but even moreso for speculation about the highly anticipated return of the Longshot.  I had previously theorized that, with the Longshot's return, we would also get revamped internals that would reflect the new "75 Ft Range" standard that nearly every lineup for Nerf has been getting.  However, with this new information about the Clear Shot, that hope is in jeopardy.  Sure, it's not the end of the world if we get nothing more than a repainted Longshot that's missing the bipod, but it kind of diminishes some of the hype about that blaster's re-release.

I suppose it could go either way now, but I was less excited about a repainted Longshot and more looking forward to retooled internals that could be even better!  Which way do you suspect it'll go?

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Most for The Least: Part 1

Someone brought up an excellent question that got my thinker thinking.  When it comes to Nerf Blasters, which one gives you the most bang for the cheapest cost?  Most blasters are performing pretty decent these days anyways, so to me it's a bit of a tougher call.  In order to attempt to answer this, we need to nail down what "The Most" really is.  And, to do THAT, I shall refer to Nerf's latest commercial as our criteria for getting "The Most".

Speed, Power, Distance, and Accuracy.  Most of the blasters used in the commercial for this highlighted one of each of these... but for our purposes, we'll be exploring a blaster that maximizes most of that while still keeping cost down.

Additionally, this search will look at modifications to the blaster.  However, the modifications won't include adding parts on to increase performance, but more simple mods like removing the Air Restrictor and such.  That goes for suped-up battery packs to increase RoF or the speed of Flywheels, too.  Standard AAs in a Stryfe, for instance.  No Trustfires or Ultimate Lithium batteries.  No spring upgrade from ACE Hardware.  No Brass Barrels or Angel Breeches.  Things that don't cost anything so that way this truly IS "The Most for The Least".

The whole idea behind this is to discover a blaster that you can walk into a store, go to the Nerf aisle, and pick up a blaster to go kick butt as much as possible for the cheapest price, so we won't be considering discontinued blasters of the past, unfortunately.  Keep that in mind as we explore the options for this blaster.

To tackle things logically, it's probably best to work our way from the cheapest cost Nerf blaster on the market today.  It's the Jolt, whether in it's orange format or the "Elite" colors they have more recently recolored it with.  As far as "Speed" goes, it's a front-loading single-fire blaster, which already means any other kind of blaster (magazine-fed, rotating barrel, etc) is going to have a leg up.  That's okay, it's only one category.  Next up is "Power", and the Jolt certainly packs a punch given it's size, but again... there are stock blasters that can beat it here.  Even with the Air Restrictor out, there's not a ton left for the Jolt to give.  "Distance", well it's pretty good for it's size again, but this is Pre-Elite schtuff so it's outshot there.  "Accuracy" isn't bad with this one though, as most single-fire front-loading blasters are quite accurate.  However, as we take a step back, the Jolt is the cheapest but only really hits on 1 out of 4 for our selection.

Using this same process, I'll be considering other blasters moving up the pay-grade.  Triad, Firestrike, Strongarm, and so on.  I invite you to do the same, as we'll reconvene with Part 2 after everyone has had enough time to explore the possibilities here.  We'll narrow our search after that and start picking the top contenders apart!  Sound like fun?  YOU BET!

I look forward to reading what you have to say about this, as I am only one person.  Getting more perspective from fellow fans is a big part of finding The Most for The Least, so weigh in!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nerf! The Sloganizer!!

So remember when I was worried about "Nerf or Nothin" going the way of the Dodo?  Turns out they're just using the "Accept No Substitutes" bit that I feared would replace the age-old slogan and just put it alongside instead.  Nerf or Nothin is apparently the following:
  • Speed
  • Power
  • Distance
  • Accuracy
The commercial goes on to use 4 blasters as examples of these staples that make Nerf what it is.  The Rapidstrike is their example of "speed", which I would agree with.  The "undeniable power" is from the Crossfire Bow... which I could argue against, although I think they just wanted to plug the ZombieStrike lineup.  The "Distance" is achieved by the Mega Centurion, despite it's fail-tacular fail-ness.  The "Accuracy" is headed up by the Mega Magnus, which I suppose works.Then it tags that "Accept No Substitutes" bit at the end of the commercial, just before they tell you about getting some free darts.

Long story short?  Crisis averted.  Just looks like Nerf is starting to accumulate more slogans.  After seeing what all the fuss was about the "Accept No Substitutes" bit... I can't actually understand why Nerf bothered using this slogan if they're just going to keep the "Nerf or Nothin" tag anyways.  Even with more trademarks, copyrights, and other legal jargon aside, it really hasn't changed the blasters or anything!  What a relief!

According to "BlasterLabs", who has a degree in advertising and 15 years experience, it sounds like the new tag could be a transitional point between new and old.  
"I would argue a "tag line" is just that--it's whatever is used at the end of an ad to "tag" that communication. In this video, "Nerf or Nothin'" has been used as body copy, but "Accept no Substitutes" is clearly the tag. This makes sense as a transitionary tactic. They don't want to lose the equity they have in "Nerf or Nothin,'" so they could simply be using both in the short-term to transfer that equity to the new line and to explain its meaning."
Either way, it's curious to watch, and will be interesting to see how they use both (or perhaps just the new one) going forward.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Roy's Masterkey Retaliator

I think it's safe to say that, for most Nerf Modders who like the N-Strike lineup, that the Masterkey mod is either something they've already done or something that's DEFINITELY on their "To-do" list.  Well, Roy's Masterkey Retaliator just makes me wanna take the plunge and mount a RoughCut to the underside of a Retaliator Barrel and have at it!  Most Masterkey mods I've seen utilize a Stryfe at the core with a Retaliator barrel, mostly due to the way that the RoughCut seems to fit into that space underneath, making use of the Stryfe's overhang ahead of the magazine, but Roy has stuck with a Retaliator for the core and lengthened the front barrel of the Retaliator to even things out.  

Leopard print background aside, there are some unique bits about Roy's Masterkey that make it stand out.  Right off the bat, the Whiteout-esque paintjob reminds me of Andu's Masterkey Longstrike, which I love.  However, Roy's gets a little more tactical with his external hardware.  There's a Red Dot sight fixed to the top, thanks to a side-mounted priming handle (cleverly fashioned from a plunger rod cover) as well as a Laser Pointer and Flashlight mounted just above the RoughCut.  Both of those are wired to run off of 2 AA batteries.  The Laser Pointer can be activated with a pressure switch running to the main trigger grip.  For power and performance, there's an Orange Mod Works Stage 1 & 2 kit for the Retaliator.  He also modified the RoughCut to have interchangeable barrels so he can outfit it to perform as a 2x4, 4x2, or all at once.

Other than that, it's still a pretty standard layout for this popular modification, but it got the gears turning in my head about doing something similar to this again.  Perhaps, as I work on the Elite Longshot Version 2, I should integrate something into that project to modify the Longshot Front Gun to be less like a pea-shooter single shot and more like a proper masterkey!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

800k Pageviews in 800 Posts!

Wanted to thank you all for pushing this blog over another milestone!  This is Tactical Tag's 800th Post and, as if on cue, today we surpassed 800,000 Pageviews!  I'd once again like to thank all of you, especially those who have seen this through since the beginning, for your support of Tactical Tag!  Whether it was a simple comment on a post or sending me neat stuff to review, I'm so very thankful for the hundreds of reasons why I keep doing what I do here.  It's all those things that propel me.

Wanted to give a special thanks to recent help from My Last Dart and the Nerf Reddit page, who have been instrumental in a steady climb in exposure on the interwebs.  It may not be the biggest Nerf blog out there or the most popular Laser Tag site, but Tactical Tag continues to forge on thanks to your gracious support!