By Calder Phillips-Grafflin
It’s that time of year again. Time for pitched battles between the living and the undead and a healthy does of paranoia for those (lucky) few remaining humans. And, just like years past, it’s also time for Sci/Tech to take a quick look at the technical developments in the world of HvZ.
As those of you who participated in HvZ in the fall noticed, the latest generation of electric Nerf guns has threatened to upset the balance between humans and zombies. Until very recently, Nerf guns had some but not all of the following characteristics: light weight, high dart capacity, and automatic firing.
In past years, if you wanted a fully-automatic Nerf gun, you would have to accept using the “Vulcan”, a large belt-fed gun that takes six “D” batteries and redefines the idea of a “cumbersome” weapon. Fine for missions, but not so good if you need to run to class or get anywhere in a hurry. While you’re at it, you’ll also need to find a bunch of willing ammunition carriers, since the belts aren’t exactly lightweight.
Similarly, if you wanted something nice and light, you’d have to sacrifice capacity or ease of use and settle for something like the “Raider”, which requires a lot of manual operation but offers a massive 35-round drum, or the classic “Maverick” which leaves you with only 6 shots.
New guns, however, have changed this. Nerf’s new “Stampede” combines the easy-to-use clips and drums of the “Raider” with the automatic electric action of the “Vulcan”, while their new “Swarmfire” eschews clips for direct muzzle-loading. These guns aren’t as light as their manual cousins, since (unmodified) they take 6 “D” batteries like the “Vulcan”, but they are considerably more compact and easy to use than past automatic Nerf weaponry.
These guns have made it much easier for humans to fend off massed zombie charges; those of you who watched Tuesday’s mission in front of West saw just how powerful even manual guns can be when provided with high-capacity drums.
Automatic guns make this easy; too easy, from the perspective of the HvZ organizers. Thus, high-capacity drums have been banned from use with “Stampede” guns. In the interest of fairness, you’ll have to pick between automatic and lots of ammo.
Interestingly, they haven’t banned the “Swarmfire”, probably because the manual effort of reloading each barrel cancels out the advantage of automatic fire.
Aside from Nerf weaponry, this is the first year that “melee weapons” have been allowed, allowing participants to bop people with foam clubs and swords. Melee weapons have functionally unlimited ammo, but they don’t stun very long (seconds, not minutes), so you have to choose wisely.
For those few surviving humans, remember to be careful, and for you zombies, happy hunting!