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Laser Maxx Laser Trooper in Kansas

When I learned that the only site in North America to play Laser Maxx Laser Trooper was in Topeka, Kansas I knew I had to plan a visit with my friends Miranda and Elaine and go try this out! Fortunately they live right in town, so we got to visit over a nice lunch before heading over to the West Ridge Mall to meet up with site owner Kip Walker and his family and learn about this system that I have never before had an opportunity to play.

Upon arrival I learned just how few places currently have this system, but hopefully Kip will be a part of expanding Laser Trooper’s presence in the U.S. For now, these are the sites identified on their poster.

Although I do not play a lot of tactical laser tag, I learned very quickly that this was more of a hybrid between tactical and traditional. There is no vest or headband with Laser Trooper. The entire game is contained within the phaser unit itself.

Unlike most tactical I have played where a reload station is the busiest spot in the arena, there was none here. For each game a player would get 50 mags of 20 shots equal to 1000 shots total. You had to be aware that shots did not stack, so if you shot three and then reloaded you would have wasted 17…and as Kip told us “once you run out you’re playing a new game…hide and seek” because you can’t shoot any more once you run out. But if you knew that and played accordingly you were not likely to use that many shots anyway.

To reload you would push the teardrop shaped button on the side.

There are sensors on both sides of the phaser and the front of the barrel. When you are shot you are down for 6 seconds, HOWEVER you are able to shoot again in only 5 seconds, so there is a moment where you can shoot, but not be shot, which is a valuable thing to know. Another useful tidbit is how to hold the phaser. There is a red button in the front that must be pressed down to shoot, however if you hold that down and turn the phaser on its side you can better protect the side sensors from being hit.

Although the phaser is intended to be held with two hands Kip was able to adjust the settings so Miranda’s would work with only one hand. Her arm is currently in a sling from having dislocated her shoulder. However this flexibility was really great because it meant she was able to play a light game after all. I’m told they have had customers literally from two years old to 100 years old try this out and they can adjust the settings accordingly.

If someone wanted to bring their own optics/site to attach they could. Thanks to Kip’s son Mitchell for loaning me his.

Although as a traditional tag player I haven’t really a clue about using these (as anyone at Baltigeddon can attest to!) it was still cool to see the possibilities if you were inclined to use a site. If not, you could just select your phaser from the wall.

They say necessity is the mother of invention and in the case of this arena I am really impressed with the ingenuity. This location is much larger than you might expect from the outside. It’s about 4000 square feet in what used to be a DEB clothing store (and if you can believe it, this is the third arena that I’ve played which was formerly a clothing store!) so there are some unique challenges to building in there. They have figured out a really unique way to have a temporary and movable arena design…walls made of coroplast.

If you had told me this first I might have been skeptical. However, this really works. From an aesthetic standpoint with the all white walls and the lighting effects inside (not to mention the atmospheric music recorded locally) it really has a cool vibe. There are mirrors inside as well (which I assume were already there in the storefront) so you have some extra reflective areas where your sensor can be targeted. But what was especially interesting from a practical/competitive vantage point is the flexibility of being able to change the arena map at any time. In fact in Kip changed it on us so quickly between games while we were out checking out the scoreboard that we would not have even realized until going in and finding that the walls were suddenly not in the same place they were before. I am constantly noticing and commenting on the artistry I see in various arenas, but I don’t comment as much (as I probably should) on the maps. In this case I was totally cool with the lack of art on the walls as a trade off for an ever-changing arena structure.

So how did this system play? Beautifully. I quickly adapted to managing reloads (even if I was a bit clunky with it at first) and because I was not constantly running back and forth to a reload station it felt a lot more like a traditional tag game where all my focus was on being stealth and targeting. It was also interesting that without any lights on a vest I found myself more reliant on my ears than on looking for colorful reflections on the walls as I am accustomed to doing.

They have a scoreboard projected on the screen that alternates between the current game scores and the top score of the day. We discovered that I was tied for the top score with Player 21…that was Kip’s son Mitchell.

I think you know what I’m going to say. We had to break that tie, so Mitchell and I went in for a one on one game. This was a great time getting to play against an experienced player. And it felt even better when…

Thanks Mitchell for a good game! And another good game was stacking up outside. A group of players had arrived in the meantime ready for a partners game. We went in with four teams of two (color coded by a light at the back of the phaser) and things got interesting! There were a few experienced players in the mix. My friends sat out of this game and cheered me on. I came out of that round in second place just behind the guy in the Army t-shirt (my friends said that as they watched they could tell we had a similar playing style and that perhaps I missed my true calling). I’m proud to say my partner and I were the only team to come out of there without having points for friendly fire.

We spent a couple of hours enjoying this game before I had to move on. Kip, Paula, Mitchell and Alyssa (and also a shout out to staffer Lane) have a great family business started here and I would have really loved to keep playing. I hope I have another opportunity to experience this system because I am now genuinely a fan of Laser Trooper.

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