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Boiler League of Tag Offers Stress-Relief Games for Boilermakers

Boiler League of Tag members posed for group photo

It’s a Friday night in the Purdue Armory and nerf darts are flying. Students run behind small, vinyl and pipe barriers, firing nerf blasters as classic rock blares over a portable speaker.  

A bystander might see the scene and think this might be a random night of fun organized by a residence hall club or a one-time stress relief event, but that is not the case. This weekly gathering is a staple of Boiler League of Tag, a student organization that focuses on providing opportunities for Boilermakers to participate in organized games of dart tag.

“Our mission is fun,” says William Stuckey, president of Boiler League of Tag. “We just want to provide free, stress-relief games available to any Purdue students who want to join us.”

Boiler League of Tag hosts open play sessions on Friday nights from 7 – 10 p.m. in the Purdue Armory. Open play nights feature a variety of games with different mechanics, ranging from head-to-head matchups between teams to individual free-for-alls. The club provides nerf basters and darts, though it encourages students to bring their own blasters – provided they meet certain parameters. Participants can show up and play for as long as they like. There are no dues or fees associated with the organization.

For students looking for a competitive atmosphere, the club offers a five-versus-five Capture the Flag league featuring weekly matchups between teams. Boiler League of Tag also runs several campus-wide events, including Humans versus Zombies (HvZ) and Campus Clash.

Students gather during Boiler League of Tag open play session

HvZ, which gained popularity on college campus in connection with cultural phenomena such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and the film adaptation of Max Brooks’ World War Z, arrived on Purdue’s campus in 2009 and is a week-long event that features “human” and “zombie” players. In the game, a small, designated group of players known as zombies, identified by orange bands wrapped around their head, attempt to tag as many human players, identified by orange bands wrapped around their arm, with their nerf blasters to turn them into zombie players. The game is considered in session 24 hours a day for the duration of the week. The goal is for the zombie players to tag as many human players as possible to create more zombies. The game follows an infection-style mechanic with observable exponential-growth rate in the number of zombie players. Approximately 65 Boilermakers participated in the event during fall 2021.

Participating in HvZ was Stuckey’s introduction to the club. He heard about the event prior to coming to Purdue and bought a $20 nerf blaster with HvZ in mind.

“I came to Purdue and, as luck would have it, the guy who lived across the hall also had a nerf blaster and had read about the club,” Stuckey says. “He became my closest friend and we decided we were going to go to events together. We did our first, week-long HvZ together and it was just wonderful. It really resonated with me.”

Another significant event, Campus Clash, combines elements of Risk with dart tag. Campus Clash divides the campus into zones that can be captured by different teams participating in the game. When hit with a dart, players must return to an area their team controls to re-enter the game. Players can access a live update in Google Maps to show which teams control each area. At the end of the semester, Boiler League of Tag hosts a Campus Clash event that draws participants from other colleges and universities in the Midwest. Club members have also traveled to participate in similar events at other schools.

In addition to games, Boiler League of Tag also offers a creative outlet for students who like to tinker. The club hosts mod workshops where students can bring nerf blasters to modify. To be eligible for use in Boiler League of Tag games, modifications must meet specific parameters, such as a limit on projectile speed. Modifications also cannot make the blaster look like a firearm. The organization works closely with the Purdue University Police Department and administration to set these parameters, which ensure a safe experience with room for creativity for members.

“We have a large community of engineers in our organization,” Stuckey says. “They might not like the blasters we provide or that can be bought, so they’ll show up and build their own or modify the toys. A lot of people have been working with 3D printing or CAD modeling. They learn about all of this stuff in school and they just need an outlet that maybe isn’t exclusively academic.”

A quick glance around an open play night is a glimpse into the ingenuity of club members. Many participants sport blasters featuring homebuilt accessories, upgraded batteries, modified dart feeds and other custom-built projects. Many participants also create their own, unique ways to carry extra nerf darts or balls during games. Stuckey says the organization hopes to acquire a 3D printer to make modifications easier for members.

Due to concerns with hosting events safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, many similar collegiate organizations that used to host events like HvZ no longer exist. The continued existence of Boiler League of Tag is a testament to the persistence of club leadership, which also included overcoming challenges stemming from dwindling participation and lack of follow-through by previous club leaders.

Stuckey and a close group of friends assumed leadership roles and navigated the paperwork processes necessary to keep Boiler League of Tag running. The club has seen increased interest and now has a Discord server with more than 600 members. Navigating bureaucracy can be a challenge for many student organizations, but Stuckey says he received valuable assistance from the Student Activities and Organizations office – even if he didn’t always want to ask for help.

“That’s something I struggled with personally as a freshman and sophomore because I didn’t want to bother people,” Stuckey says. “I didn’t want to admit I needed people. Now, I just walk in, ask for help and people will be there.”

As a student organization that doesn’t charge fees for membership, Boiler League of Tag had previously struggled with providing members with equipment to use during events. That all changed when the club applied for and was awarded a Purdue Student Organization Allocation Grant. The funds were used to purchase nerf blasters that anyone can use during club events.

If other student organizations are encountering struggles, Stuckey advises that they work closely with Student Activities and Organizations and consider the strengths of participating members.

“It’s important that the people who do the work are also in charge,” Stuckey says. “At the end of the day, the people who are putting in the hours to come to every single event, getting there early to set up and stay late are the people you want to be in charge of an organization in order for it to thrive because those are the people who know what needs to be done.”

Boiler League of Tag invites any students in need of stress relief to participate in open play or campus-wide events and mod workshops. Students interested in Boiler League of Tag can connect with the organization on Discord and Instagram, visit its website or simply attend an open play event.