I don’t know how you spent the holiday weekend, but I spent mine playing Electro Chase 2000 with 14 of my friends in Dutchess County. I now have about 5,000 mosquito and ant bites, one nasty horsefly bite (now healing, thank you), and a huge sense of camaraderie and accomplishment.
If you aren’t familiar with EC2K (which you aren’t, since we invented it ourselves earlier this year), it’s kind of like paintball for people who (1) like to play at night, (2) prefer the “playing” part over the “winning” part, and (3) don’t really like getting sprayed with paint. I’ve never been much of a running-around group gamer, and I sat out the previous rounds on the sidelines, but this just goes to show that if you throw me in with the right crowd and cajole me enough, I can enjoy myself playing along with anything.
Here’s what you need:
- Somewhere between six (6) and twenty (20) fun-loving and group-oriented friends, who don’t mind running around in the dark on potentially treacherous terrain;
- Grounds to play on, with some acreage and varied land features;
- Dark outfits for everyone, to help make the game harder;
- A supply of glow bracelets in various colors;
- A golf cart and some flashlights;
- Additional adventure accoutrements to taste (robot breastplates, face makeup, etc.).
It’s worth noting that most of the supplies we needed (aside from the golf cart) were available at the Dollar Tree a few miles away on Route 22.
The rules, which are still evolving, are straightforward. Imagine yourself in a dystopian future, with whatever backstory you choose. For starters, just to calibrate your brain, imagine a gigantic game of “Logan’s Run” played in the dark, between a small group of Seekers and a larger band of Runners. The object of the game is for the Runners to find all the energeon rings (we used glow bracelets) that were previously hidden by the Seekers, and return the rings to base, before the Seekers can find and apprehend all the Runners. The Runners must wear the energeon rings visibly (that’s part of the game), so what you see at the height of a round is flashes of luminescent blue and green in the distance, pursued at intervals by furious flashlight-waving lunatics in a golf cart. In the dark. Loads of fun!
We had two Seekers in a golf cart chasing between six and ten Runners, which was about right for the size of playing field we had. We also had one or two Jailers, who kept time and score and looked after the detainees. In the two largest rounds, we added a third Seeker on foot; the Foot Seeker was required to wear a ridiculous flashing necklace to make him visible to Runners, but in both rounds, despite that handicap, the Foot Seeker did an able job of apprehending Runners, who need to put their eyes in every direction at once and can’t possibly do it.
We played about 15 rounds over the course of the weekend, tinkering with the rules, and experimented with various things: what are the rules of engagement for apprehending Runners, what is the proper ratio of energeon rings to runners, how may flashlights be employed, how must Seekers on foot identify themselves, should there be a time limit, where and how is it permissible for the Seekers to hide energeon rings, how must rings be displayed by Runners once found, how may jailed Runners be broken out of jail to rejoin the game, etc.
In a group of our size, playing on our field with our rules, rounds typically take about 15 to 20 minutes (down from 30 minutes when we first started, before we got good); and with adept Seekers, the odds of winning the round are roughly even between Runners and Seekers.
The game definitely goes better if everyone stays in character; we had a lot of “Run, Runner, Run!” and “You can’t hide forever!” from the Seekers, which kept us all focused.
Below is a satellite map of our playing field in daylight (remember, we played by moonlight, so everyone had to commit the map to memory). We ruled certain parts of the property nearest the house out of bounds (so as not to disturb our kind and generous hosts, who were already in bed), but otherwise we had the run of the place, and we took full advantage.
Note the maze at right, which is a set of winding paths cut into a field of tall grasses (where yours truly got his nasty horsefly bite, when he dove into a patch of native wildflowers to avoid the oncoming Seekers); the pond with dock and rowboat at upper right; the woods at the top; and the large tree-studded lawns elsewhere. Most of these areas were in play. Each part of the field involved its own strategy and had its own dangers — like the tree full of ants I hid behind at one point.
I’m proud to say that, during my one round as Seeker, I was responsible for three of the best ring hides of the weekend: in the left rear wheel well of my VW New Beetle, nine feet up in the crook of an oak tree, and tied to the boat rope hanging from the dock into the pond. Our rules say that the rings had to be visible from somewhere on the field, but it didn’t say from where, so all these hides were legit. Someone else wrapped a ring around the flagpole (ingenious!), and yet another sneak placed one right under the lights at the front gate, making it impossible to retrieve without being fully illuminated for the benefit of the Seekers.
Here’s our merry band just before going out for the first round of night 3:
It’s important to note that, despite possible appearances to the contrary, this is not a game to be played under the influence, of alcohol or otherwise. Not only do you need your reflexes to stay in the game (it’s surprising how quickly your primal reactions take over when you’re being chased by two lunatics in a golf cart yelling “Run, Runner, Run!” in the dark), but remember we’re all running around on hilly terrain in the dark and being chased across that terrain by a golf cart with no headlights. We did have one accident on night 2 involving a face and a low-hanging tree limb (which was subsequently tagged with a “caution” glow ring), whose victim jumped right back into the game on night 3 (good sport!), but it could easily have been worse: golf cart in the pond, player run over in the maze, etc.
So play with your friends, look out for each other, stay alert, and keep the game fun. I’m looking forward to the next round, later in the summer.
(Photos courtesy Keren Form)