Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Lesson About Farming and Formats

Last night I let another player get under my skin and I decided to teach a little lesson. The names will be changed here to protect the guilty. Let's just call him The Unnamed Player...and you'll understand that to be a much more clever pseudonym if you happen to be from our site. :)


My agitation with a situation actually started building last week as I watched multiple times where this player did nothing but go all try-hard in some very tame public games by farming huge easy points off kids and inexperienced players (I know, you're saying "it's laser tag, nothing new there") and additionally by staking out the newest addition to our arena, a third tablet beacon. This third beacon is great in that it opens up the possibility of more games (like Domination, which I'll talk about shortly), but it also has been programmed in such a way that it can (and does) artificially inflate player averages. Where before the tablets were installed if a player got a 15,000 average it would be honorably earned with skill and strategy, it now takes little more than staking out that beacon for an extra 1000 points here, 750 there or 3x score multiplier. I might sound hypocritical in saying this (as for two weeks I have deliberately been using this strategy myself to make a point), but it irritates me that this can be abused for creating artificially high scores. Couple that with farming points on kids and I just had a moment where I wanted to even things out a bit. So here's what happened...


The Unnamed Player entered the arena first and I hung back in the vesting room. I had my card out ready to sign in properly, then I looked first to the computer and then over to Justin and I told him "we're going to have some fun this round." I changed cards and pulled out a different one (technically I have seven Laserforce membership cards...they are not all from Syracuse) and I scanned in using a special card I rarely pull out because awhile back I had it locked at level one. Why? Oh, for just such an occasion. :)


This game I could not have cared less about my own points or about tagging any public players. I just wanted to show him what farming points feels like when the shoe is on the other foot. So I staked out that beacon and defended it as if it were a base. I kept The Unnamed PIayer from getting any extra points at the beacon and kept his pack down every time we crossed paths. He asked if I was signed in. I said yes (because technically I was). He said it should not take that many shots to deactivate for a level three (are you telling me you were playing down as a level three or that you thought I was?). In any case I agreed (the statement was not untrue). It was not a truly fair match, but was probably a lot more fair to the kids in that game. He knew what I was doing before too hope is that he also understood WHY I was doing it.


I know, I know...I wasn't a model of maturity that round. Neither was The Unnamed Player who rage quit before the end of the game and had his pack turned off so that my little stunt would not disrupt his average. Hmmm... couldn't we all get a 15,000 average if we got to pick and choose which games we let count and just leave out the ones we don't like? I didn't like a couple last week myself, but a true average is made up of both the highs and the lows. :)


Before I had even left the arena this player was mollified by having figured out the status of my card at the front desk. That's fine, it was a one game stunt. I walked out and gave a cheeky, over-exaggerated shrug. In the end my point was made. And if he's reading this now I'll just leave it with my favorite make-it-all-better quote from Ally McBeal..."bygones?" :)


Well, a few games later The Unnamed Player left early, which is a shame because later in the night we finally got to play some Domination! 


I have been looking forward to playing this game as it's been a relatively new format here (since the addition of the aforementioned third beacon), but I have not had an opportunity to play until now. I have played Domination with iCombat, but the Laserforce version is quite different (although similar in premise).


I'm not sure I caught all the rules (and we were apparently playing a variation for the public games anyway), but in short the goal is to shoot all three beacons a fixed number of times (I believe the number is 8) and if your team captures all three beacons you get points and perks for every five seconds that they stay within your team's control. Keeping it vague because I need to review the details again. By the time we got to this game Jerome and I were the only members there, each going in with a team of two other public players. Not sure how much they were focused on the beacons (although my team focused on a zone defense at each one) so it was pretty much just Jerome and I following each other around from beacon to beacon trying to undo what the other had just done. 


I took my phone out to snap a pic while the green team was in control for an extra long time, but as you can see by the icon in the top right I didn't click fast enough before he was back at another beacon. With eight shots to neutralize and another eight to control this takes a bit of time to do. Although we played three on three I believe this game would definitely be more fun with a larger group. All in all, tag was enjoyable for a myriad of reasons this night. However, it was also a big night for streaming pageant finals (also a big priority in my life), so I left early declaring "no more tag until someone is wearing a crown." Next weekend we'll see whether the home state pageant or a night of tag wins about a tough choice! :)



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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hometown Tag in the Mobile Laser Tag Arena

Normally when I play tag locally I still have to drive an hour and a half to get to the nearest arena, but this past weekend the arena came to me! The Fun Warehouse brought their mobile laser tag arena to a local festival that was happening very close to where I live. Perfect, since I was already planning to be at the festival! This hometown event was an ideal opportunity for the tag guys to come out to my neck of the woods.

This festival arranged to cover the cost of the tag so that it was free for the public to enjoy at the event. Needless to say I played my fill and enjoyed a beautiful day out on the field in between games, some of which included a few highlights. One of my favorite rounds included playing with a group of students (including some members of the football team) and showing them how it’s done. :)

There were plenty of games to be enjoyed with the event-goers who showed up, some out of curiosity just to explore the giant inflatable arena and see what laser tag is about. They ran five minute games and because it was such a hot, sunny day the arena was roasting, so smart players paced themselves a bit.

The inside of the mobile arena has nylon walls, barriers and windows. It’s tough to properly showcase it in photos, but it really is a cool setup.

When you exited the arena it felt like you were walking out into air conditioning.

Now, towards the end of the day a couple of police officers showed up. Not because of any trouble, but rather because they wanted to play some laser tag too! They got in line and when I noticed I thought this would be a fun round to get into. Zac and Lenny had been working the whole time, but Sanch gave Zac the go ahead to join in this game too. That’s was a little extra motivation for me to I want to take on this game.

Initially I thought it would be more interesting to see how my skills stacked up against the officers. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way comparing a game of laser tag to the actual training that they go through. But still, I anticipated a good challenge. In actuality, the challenge played out between Zac and me. We both really wanted the win this time around (probably for the same reason). Neither of us was able to sign in, so we just had random pack names. Before going in he announced to the crowd that Dragon (his pack) would be the winner. I was wearing Ultra. And if anyone is keeping track, the officers were on Phoenix and Warrior. There were a few other public players as well.

The game was Color Rank Supercharge. Zac and I swapped the lead back and forth a couple of times throughout the game. Now, every weekend Tom sums up this game rather succinctly by saying “If your pack is red you are winning, if it’s any other color then try harder.” I especially appreciated that sentiment in the final second of the game as I saw my pack go red and Zac’s turn yellow. Before we even got out to check the scoreboard I heard Sanch shout out “Holy cow, Tivia beat Zac!” 

Well, technically we tied, but since my score was the one in red I will refer you back to Tom’s saying. :) Just kidding. Good game Zac! You can also tell by our scores (again, this was a five minute round) that this was no longer about playing against the officers or the public…it had turned into a competitive grudge match between the two of us try-hards. But it was the best game of the day and I am so glad I got to enjoy the sunshine, the festival and some laser tag to top off an awesome day!

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Northern Air in North Dakota

The final stop on my journey was to play some tag in North Dakota, checking that off as my 49th state played. There were two was an oversized entertainment park where the tag option would have been Lazer Runner (I was going to call this my backup option if timing didn’t work out for my first choice) or driving an hour beyond that (and over three hours from my last stop) to Northern Air Family Fun Center in Grand Forks, ND. By some miracle the timing all worked. I called ahead from South Dakota and Elena told me if I got there by 6:30 I would still be able to play the last game before closing. It looked like I would just make it! So I hit the road again. Remember I actually started this same day leaving early in the morning from Omaha...I put 877 miles on my rental car in one day! But I got there just in time and it was totally worth it. :)

I arrived and Elena greeted me, recognizing right away saying “I bet you’re here to play laser tag.” Yes, indeed. It was just before their closing time on a Sunday night, so she said staff member Jacob would play against me (this was fine, I anticipated this when I called ahead). So we went up the stairs to the laser tag arena and I got a surprise…Delta Strike! I’m not sure why, but for some reason I thought this was a Zone arena. No prob, Delta Strike offered a chance to mix things up a bit. I’ve really only played standard games on this system in the past, so when Jacob asked what I wanted to play I was pleased to learn about some formats I had not previously had an opportunity to try.

We decided on a game called Agents. It’s a little like Capture the Flag only without bases. If you are “holding the flag” your vest turns red and you earn 50 points for every five seconds that you keep it (note – that’s not 10 points per second, that’s a total for a full five second increment). I can imagine this is interesting with a larger group, but honestly this might have been the BEST way to play with only two players. It was really a fantastic game and I genuinely had no idea how the scores would shake out.

Jacob kept the flag for a good stretch in the beginning of the game (frankly I just couldn’t find him in the arena for quite awhile) so I knew he had a good lead with points from that alone. Then once I found him and took the flag things got a little more interesting. We went back and forth with it a couple times, but I know I took more shots deactivating him while I kept it in my control. This was a very stealth kind of game. He certainly knew this arena better than me, but I know how to “read” where I think someone is going to move, so it really did keep things moving and this was a much better game than almost any other I’ve played in a similar situation. It was an excellent game choice for having only two players, but I would also love to experience this game with a larger group.

We took a few pics and then checked out the scoreboard.

Turns out I won the game, but props to Jacob because it could have easily gone either way based on how long he kept the “flag” in the early part of the game. Agents was a really fun game and a first for me on the Delta Strike system.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the arena itself was a typical CW space theme.

I will add another pic next to this center structure to my collection.

There were base areas in the corners that were not in use for this game. There is also a window against the far left wall that you have to watch for reflections. Other than that it was a typical maze. However, what was less typical came later when I went to purchase some tag swag. They had t-shirts, so of course I picked one up. But they also had the most unusual tag swag I’ve come across yet…

SOCKS! And if you look closely at the red grips on the bottom you can even see their logo incorporated. To be honest, I probably won’t be wearing these out of the house, but I thought they were definitely unique enough to bring a few pairs back. Nice job with thinking out of the box!

I left Northern Air feeling great. I got in a really fun final game at the end of a long day and I had accomplished something pretty big by getting to these final four states, ending with North Dakota. I say “final four” even though I know this only brings me to 49, but playing Texas as number 50 will be a whole other adventure dependent on my getting to all the other states first. So this completes a big part of my journey…and I celebrated with sushi!

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Speed Laser Tag

When I rushed through the door at Univerzal Lazer in Watertown, SD I knew I was playing a game of beat the clock in order to get back on the road in time to make the three hour drive to the arena in North Dakota in time to play. But I couldn’t pass by without trying to get a game in at this site too. So I burst through the door in a hurried state, no doubt startling the laid back group of guys inside playing Magic The Gathering at the tables inside. One of them, Adam, got up from his table and came over to greet me. I asked if I could play a game of laser tag and he told me there was a group scheduled in a little while. I told him I was really pressed for time and didn’t have the time to wait. I wondered if I could do a quick round now? He said sure, he’d go in with me. The games are usually 15 minutes. As I pulled out my credit card I said I really didn’t even have 15 minutes, so could I just play a quick five minute game instead. He was happy to accommodate, even as I laughed and commented that he probably doesn’t see too many people frantically requesting to pay for a game and then wanting LESS time in the arena. But the clock was ticking…

We went into the next room to pick up the Laser Tag Pro gear with phaser and headband (no vest with this system). I told him I had previously used this tactical brand and may just need a really quick refresher. Instead he gave me a full briefing…sigh. Ready? Let’s go!

The arena was spacious. Lots of open area, but also plenty of cover. There was a car in the center of the arena. Is this a staple of tactical to have cars inside the playing area? It’s not the first time I’ve encountered this.

Unlike the last time I played with Laser Tag Pro (playing “captains” I believe) with reload stations this was all contained within the phaser, no external reloads. I like this. If I had been in a better mindset to focus on the game I would have appreciated that and gotten into it a bit more. But to be perfectly honest I was not into this game through absolutely no fault of Adam or the facility. The whole time I was worried about whether or not I had allowed myself enough time to get to my 49th state and play in North Dakota. So I played marginally at best…but with tactical that might have been the most I could ask for anyhow. We’ve already covered that this is NOT my forte. So I thanked Adam for the game, took a quick pic and headed back out to hit the road.

I thank them for accommodating a crazy, quick game just so I could report back about my experience. And when I called ahead to the ND arena I was told that if I got there by 6:30 I would still be able to get a game in before closing (this was on Sunday). So, with just enough time to make it all work I got back into my car and started driving north to Grand Forks. I’ll note that technically there was an alternative choice to play in ND if I had missed my timeline, but thankfully my first choice worked out. Four states in three days? Piece of cake! Thank you for keeping my trip on track Univerzal Lazer!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Galaxy Gaming

My next stop in South Dakota was to Galaxy Gaming in Sioux Falls. 

I had a great time here, but unfortunately I have no idea what brand of tactical laser tag I was playing. They refer to it as Laser Combat, but I’m not certain (and neither were the employees) whether this was a manufacturer’s name I am unfamiliar with or an internal branding, so forgive my lack of specifics and please email me if you recognize this gear.

I was given the option of two phasers, one longer…

…and one shorter.

With a digital screen for game info and a red reload button.

I selected the shorter one because it seemed closer to the traditional phasers I am most comfortable with. Hailey gave me some instruction on how to play. Three circles of light are visible when you shoot and the goal is to triangulate your target point.

If you shoot an opponent five times they will be out of the game. Rather than having specific game times you can purchase the amount of time you wish to play and the teams change sides each time all opponents are tagged out. In this case I went up against Hailey and won the first round (we’ll focus on this small victory for a moment)…then I proceeded to lose the next three. More proof that tactical is just not my format. However, I did enjoy learning about the game and experiencing something different.

The arena was dimly lit with netting draped throughout and several wooden structures to use for cover.

It’s a very different experience to play in a tactical setting as opposed to a brighter, more colorful traditional arena. It feels like you’re stepping into a battle atmosphere. And the gear including headband and vest contribute to the whole vibe as well.

So even though I was playing more tactical tag this experience was completely different from my last one. I had a great time and took home a t-shirt that definitely looks like some serious gaming happened here. :) I thoroughly enjoyed playing at Galaxy Gaming!

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Laser Tag at the Laser Barn

I really love finding interesting and unusual ways to play laser tag, so I was very interested to visit the Laser Barn in Yankton, South Dakota. My original schedule did not allow enough time for a visit so I want to express big thanks to owners Kim and Peggy who were kind enough to open up early so that I could get a game in at the start of my day driving northbound.

The Laser Barn runs Adventure Sports HQ tactical laser tag gear which was a first for me.

Peggy gave me some history and told me that this equipment was designed in part for kids who wanted to have a paintball experience, but were unable to do so (such as children in the Make-A-Wish program)…this laser tag equipment made it possible for some to have that kind of experience. It takes ten shots to deactivate a player and cause the red lights on the headband to go on.

For them as business owners this equipment was versatile enough to work for a mobile game or on any of their three fields. They have two outdoor fields…

…and also an indoor field.

Their indoor, multi-level arena has been recently remodeled following some unfortunate water damage to the bottom level. I saw photos of what the water did over the winter, but I can tell you the place looks like new! I suppose this is one of the benefits of them also owning a saw mill, so plenty of wood was used to create the aesthetic for the three levels inside the Laser Barn.

There’s also a nice use of wood d├ęcor and design in their dining area where they host parties and groups and offer a food menu including…

…a 52 inch pizza!

I’m told that in October they transform their laser tag space into a haunted house, so for anyone looking for something a little different in their laser tag experience the Laser Barn can certainly accommodate. For me it was a different game than I am accustomed to and I can’t say I played very well (but perhaps as well as I ever do at tactical), but it was still a lot of fun! I’m so glad I had the chance to stop by while in South Dakota. :)

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A Little Tivia Magic at Power Play

When I visited the Power Play Entertainment Center in Shawnee, Kansas I bought a pass for laser tag and was told where to go wait in line for the next game. Even though there were plenty of people at this entertainment center enjoying the arcade and other attractions my timing was bad and I appeared to be the only one there for tag at the moment. So I approached a teenage employee and asked if there was any chance that a staff member might do a one on one game with me. Holding the company line, he replied exactly as he was taught and told me that unfortunately employees were not allowed to play against the public. I understood he was just following the policy rules of the site and I encounter this every now and again. So I nodded and asked if there was a manager I could speak to. That poor employee (Charlie) had a look on his face like he thought there was about to be a complaint. He quietly walked me across the arcade area and pointed to the manager, then quickly turned around and returned back to the laser tag area. Well, he was about to get an unexpected surprise.

I smiled and introduced myself to the manager, Jamie, and explained that I am a blogger from NY only passing through for a short time (as I had to return to Omaha at the end of this night). With a little charm and my unexpected story about what brought me there Jamie was more than happy to make an exception. So he walked with me back over to the laser tag area and right over to Charlie who looked a little unsure of what was about to happen. Jamie asked Charlie if he would play a game of laser tag with me. Charlie’s jaw dropped with total surprise as he said “yes, if you are giving me permission to”. Clearly he thought this was a thoroughly unexpected outcome for this young man who was not normally permitted to play against the public while he’s working.

He looked a little perplexed as we suited up. I asked if he wanted to know what just happened and he said yes, because this was normally not allowed. Just call it a little bit of Tivia magic. :) I told him what I said to Jamie and he seemed both a little relieved and really enthusiastic to be able to play against me. It was fun to see his reaction to all this and even more fun to get into the arena for a game of Laserforce. We entered the arena through this overhead door entrance.

There was an Aztec themed arena with a raised section (not quite what I’d call a second level) in the center of the map.

There were a few interesting touches including a walkway on one side and a cool waterfall effect. I scoped out the bases and the reactor pretty quickly during this game of cat and mouse.

Charlie gave a good chase and I enjoyed the game. I was surprised at the end that this was yet another round where I took all the available bases and the staffer took none, especially when the rest of the game was on point.

But regardless, it was an enjoyable game for me and most certainly so for this staff member who unexpectedly go the ok to play tag during his work day. Thanks for allowing me the chance to enjoy a game at Power Play!

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