I’ve run lots of Nerf events and I’ve seen a lot of Nerf Party ideas. Believe me… I’ve counted!
Here are just 12 practical ideas and thoughts (from working with over 4000 Nerfers) which you might find useful!
1. Your Venue
Nerf is an active thing, so you need space to play! You can do quite a lot with limited space by cleverly breaking it up using movable obstacles to make a dynamic Nerf arena, but more on that later!
People often ask “How much space do I need to run my Nerf war?” – the answer depends on how many people you’re planning to invite!
Half a basketball court, or two badminton courts, is easily enough for 20 Nerfers to have space to move freely whilst being able to move out of range of another Nerfer if desired.
If you’re outside, it’s important to make boundaries of play clear so that your nerfers don’t charge out into the wilderness and stake out a bush somewhere they won’t see any of the action!
Half a full-sized football pitch is usually enough space for 30 Nerfers playing outdoors.
It’s an important part of any party, and a Nerf birthday party is no exception!
I’ve seen some amazing Nerf cake ideas, and there are lots more you’ll be able to find elsewhere.
What I would suggest, though, is that you wait until after you’ve had your Nerf war before you eat. Tummies will struggle to digest food whilst being juggled about by running to and fro!
I would also suggest that food isn’t put out until the Nerf war is over… a shower of darts can make mincemeat (pun intended!) of a plate of nachos, send plates of Wotsits flying and easily knock cups of drink over!
There are lots of great ideas out there for decorations at Nerf parties. Nerf orange is a popular colour, as is elite blue, and cammo netting of any colour can contribute to the atmosphere! I personally like to use cammo netting of different colours to mark out base areas.
Decorating a larger venue can seem daunting and be incredibly time consuming, so ask yourself this: how much will your decorations contribute to the participant’s experience at your party? In my opinion, the main event at any Nerf gun party is the Nerfing itself, and when guests get stuck into a Nerf gun game, it doesn’t matter where they are or how it looks… the most important thing in their world is the Nerf zombie chasing them or the opposition player who’s got them in their sights!
I recommend quick, easy decorations which don’t take long to put up. Baloons. Banners. That sort of thing.
4. Nerf Guns
Basically, you need them!
It’s next to impossible to have a Nerf gun party without these! Many people own their own, and it’s entirely possible to have Nerf events where everyone brings along their own blasters. We have one every month in Leeds, and it’s a blast!
Here are some blaster logistics points to ponder:
Firstly, it’s only fun to use a blaster in a Nerf war if you know how to… use it! It’s all well and good bringing the latest Mag-fed blaster to a Nerf war, but what if you don’t know how to un-jam it when it jams? What if you don’t know how to load the mag properly? Who are you going to turn to for help? The party organiser! Ask yourself this question… are you prepared to spend one and a half hours helping a line of (probably) young Nerfers unjam, reload and diagnose problems with their mag-fed blasters, whilst trying to run games, WHILST trying to do anything you need to to keep your party running?
Secondly, from experience, if you use a mag fed blaster at a Nerf event, there’s a price to pay… and that’s refilling every mag you empty! Imagine you’ve only got one mag with you (likely, since most blasters only come with one or two mags at most!) and you get involved in an intense firefight. What happens afterwards? You have to reload ten or twelve darts before you can play a part in the game again. I would say it takes about a quarter of the time to empty a mag than it does to reload it. On this basis, using a mag fed blaster, you can expect to spend quite a lot of time loading rather than playing, and your Nerf gun party has become a Nerf gun reloading party.
Because of the above, simple, but effective, front-loading blasters maximise the time you spend in play rather than reloading, and reduce the number of jams your guests (and you!) will have to deal with during the course of a Nerf war.
Part of the reason I love them are that there’s more time spent Nerfing and less loading. Remember, you can still get tagged whilst loading, so the less time you focus on that the better!
I personally use front loading (or internal mag) blasters when I participate in Nerf Wars at Grim Up Nerf for the above reason. Plus I love to travel light, and the less I have to carry the better.
Plus, less time spent on learning how the blaster works also means more time Nerfing!
Nerf has an advantage over paintball and airsoft in that Nerf darts can be reused. It’s still nice to have a surplus supply, though, so that there’s enough to go around. Assuming you use front-loading blasters, I find that 20 darts per participant is more than enough to have in your dart pool.
These darts will end up all over the floor, but that’s the best place for them… it’s much easier to scavenge a dart from the arena rather than running back to your base whenever you need to reload (besides, if you’re in your base, you’re not contributing to your team effort! Get out there and play!)
The floor is also much better for your darts than pockets, which will squish your darts and then they won’t fire properly from your blasters. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
It’s also worth buying darts with softer tips to reduce the risk of injury and the effect of being stung with Nerf darts. This brings me on to my next point…
6. Eye protection is essential
The only way you can really injure yourself in a Nerf war is being shot in the eye. Falling over doesn’t count, because you can do that putting shoes on. Your eyes are the only thing Nerf darts can really hurt.
For this reason, I insist on eye protection for the events I run. Regular prescription glasses are fine, but everyone else needs something else between the dart and their eyes.
We have a range of eye protection from official Nerf glasses to special small sized eye-pro for smaller faces, like those in the video below.
… movable obstacles help to break up an empty space.
They provide cover for movement, somewhere to hunker down under fire and to add atmosphere. Whilst paintball bunkers are great, they’re expensive, cumbersome and tough to repair and most people can’t afford them!
Cardboard boxes make a great alternative, and there are lots of fantastic ideas about how to utilise them as cover and how to get them.
The important thing is that any mobstacles you provide are soft enough to not cause injury if someone falls on them. Chairs and tables seem like a great idea, but they always come off better in a collision involving a person!
I prefer pop up mobstacles which are safe, transportable and easy to store.
8. Games with rules
Free for all (FFA) is a fun game mode, and I include it as part of my game repertoire to allow Nerfers a chance to get to know their blasters and talk to me if they’re not sure how to use them.
That said, there’s a reason that football and soccer pitches have lines, goals and boundaries… it’s fun to playing with a purpose! I use several tried and tested game modes which I know the rules to inside and out, and which I know are great fun to play.
Before running your event, you should do some research and find some fun Nerf gun game ideas to use. Here’s my list to get you started!
9. Someone in charge
Once you’ve got some game ideas, you need someone to run them for you! This person will need to explain how blasters work at the beginning (to cut down on time doing that during the event), explain game rules, referee the games, resolve disputes and generally be master of ceremony for the Nerf battle part of your Nerf party.
Whilst you don’t have to have the level of experience our Gamesmaster has, it helps if you’re patient, authoritative and used to handling large groups. Sports coaches and teachers often make good Gamesmasters!
They also have another important role, which is delivering the…
10. Safety briefing
It’s important that all of your participants know what’s expected of them in terms of behaviour and what they can or can’t do. In preparing for this, you need to consider hazards in your Nerf arena, arena boundaries, how to stop play in an emergency, the importance of eye protection, Nerf etiquette and establishing that they have the final say in all disputes on the field, as a referee would in a sports game.
11. Dart sweeps
In between games, there’s usually no need to collect darts off the floor. In fact, I’d recommend NOT completing any darts sweeps until you’re completely done Nerfing, which maximises your time actually playing.
At the conclusion of play, though, it’s time for the darts to get picked up and it’s best if everyone can help with this. It’s effective to make it clear that this will happen at the safety briefing and not to serve any food or start new activities until this is done.
I’ve heard lots of creative ideas to get participants to do this, but really, having them understand that it’s a team effort and to get used to cleaning up after themelves is best (I am saying this as someone with over 100 Nerf events worth of experience, as a parent of two under 5 year olds and as a teacher with 8 years experience in schools by the way…)
Now you just need some Nerfers! Make sure you invite them in plenty of time if it’s a formal party. Invitations like these can be fun, but If you’re just having a casual Nerf war, knocking on a neighbour’s door is fine too.
There are lots more Nerf party ideas out there, but hopefully you should have enough to get you started.