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How to Survive Your First Archery Tag Game

BY: Stephanie McDaniel | Oct 2, 2015

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With rules similar to dodgeball, but with all the projectile action of paintball, archery tag is the extreme sibling of range archery. But instead of aiming at paper, two teams with foam-tipped arrows shoot at one another in an attempt to earn victory. But hitting your targets—and surviving the onslaught—takes a little practice. To find out the best ways to earn glory on the field, we asked Ron England from the Skytop Lodge and its  Adventure Center to give us the lowdown on how to aim and how teamwork will help you clinch a win.

Don’t Worry About Getting Hit

What does a foam-tipped arrow in the arm feel like? According to England, it’s “a lot like getting hit with a Nerf football. You feel it, but doesn’t really hurt or sting much.” Archery tag bows also have a lower draw weight than traditional bows, which means they don’t fly as far or with as much power. That translates into a game that’s fun and appropriate for ages 8 and older.

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Change the Way You Aim

Because of the arrow’s design, you do need to aim differently than you would with a standard arrow. England explains that foam-tipped arrows drop faster and “travel slower, so arcing shots are normal.” Your best bet? Don’t aim directly at targets, but above them. Gravity will do the aiming from there.

Take Your Time Shooting

Though a paper target will stay still until you hit it, your best friend won’t. So one good strategy is to catch an opposing player while you have the element of surprise. If you do need to chase someone down, stop before taking aim to increase chances. It isn’t impossible to aim while you’re in motion, but England doesn’t believe that’s the best approach: “It happens. Mostly luck, but it happens.”

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Two-on-One Is More Fun

To get the hang of hitting a moving target, England recommends an advanced field strategy: “Have two people at different angles aim for one person.” Not only are two people more likely to succeed than one, but your opponent will have fewer routes to escape that way.

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Go on the Offensive

Have a strategy in mind. “Usually, the more offensive or aggressive a team is, the more likely they are to win quickly,” he explains. “A mixed strategy works the best: run out, gather arrows, have a couple of team members provide cover fire, and move from bunker to bunker distributing arrows.”

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Think Dodgeball

One of archery tag’s more unique and dodgeball-like rules, England explains, is “if you catch an arrow from mid-air, you can bring back one of your players who has been tagged out. Another is that you can enter the safe zone in the middle [of the play field] to retrieve arrows, but you cannot shoot or be shot while in that zone.” Then it’s just a matter of safely getting back to your team.

Use Your Imagination

Now that you’re shooting, dodging, and strategizing like a pro, you can make the game even more extreme. “Any game that can be played with paintball can be played with archery tag,” he says, so mix it up by adding themes. Skytop Lodge sets up an Old West town, but you can play zombies versus humans or go all out and cosplay as Lord of the Rings or Walking Dead characters. Like most great games, the possibilities are almost endless.

Photos courtesy of Regina Nicolardi