Nerf Wars: Annual senior assassins competition tests players’ aim and friendship


Moises Dominguez

FRIEND OR FOE: Seniors questioned their friendships with classmates once the games commenced. Students have lied to each other for the chance to win a portion of the pot at the end of the games.

Sam Weinheimer, Feature Editor


It was a brisk and mellow night when senior John Landry bolted out of theater rehearsal to pursue senior Shea Pauley, his target. He drove to Pauley’s friend’s house and waited in his car. After Landry saw figures move outside from his car, he got out and raced toward them.

With Nerf N-Strike Elite Triad blaster in hand, he bombarded one of the figures with foam darts. Landry stopped when he realized none of the individuals was Pauley, but rather her friends. Landry retreated, hopped back into his car, drove down the block, and awaited his next opportunity.

Four years ago marked the DGN birth of an off-campus game that has intrigued the senior class. Known as senior assassin, this game has sparked creativity and ambition.

The game four years ago differed. Instead of Nerf toys, participants were armed with Sharpies. Their goal was to swipe the target’s neck with the marker. Those terms changed to Nerf blasters in recent years.

The current rules are simple: eliminate your assigned target before the time runs out. This needs to be completed while avoiding another competitor ready to knock you out of the game as well.

“It’s a big circle,” senior Nick Miller said. “Everyone is assigned someone to take out, and someone different is assigned to take them out. You have a little over a week to do it.”

Miller is game commissioner and organized the event. He made an Instagram account and website prior to the start of the game. The senior assassin Instagram contains pictures of the eliminated players, while the website includes past history, information about him, and rumors surrounding the game.

“Contrary to popular belief, the commissioner is not dirty and will not be accepting bribes,” Miller states.

155 players signed up this year, which is up 32% from last year. In the 2017-2018 school year, just 117 people participated.

Battles commenced on Monday, Feb. 11, and straight from the get-go participants were eliminated. Among those taken out on the first day was senior Davis Johnson, who was betrayed by a close friend.

“Being the first one out hurts emotionally,” Johnson said. “I felt better after my mom gave me a kiss.”

Johnson was one of ten individuals eliminated in the first two days. Since then, betrayals, set-ups, and dishonesty have become common as participants attempt to claim victory.

On Sunday, Feb. 17, another setup occurred. Senior Noah May went to pick up doughnuts from Krispy Kreme when his assassin, Marty Kline, appeared from nowhere and attempted to sneak up on him while May was inside his car.

“I rolled down my window to get my doughnuts, but they held them in the window so I couldn’t close it. Marty tried to shoot me with the window down, but I rolled it up in time and it bounced off,” May said.

Another senior was on the scene and said she saw the bullet hit May, but the accusation later turned out to be false.

“I pulled out my phone camera and asked her again if she lied. I recorded her response saying, ‘Yeah the bullet definitely just hit the window. I’m such a good liar.’ That night in the group chat, controversy came about and we decided the best way to decide a winner is a duel,” May said.

“I said screw it and made them have a duel in the Main St. parking lot, a place that otherwise would have been a safe zone so others could come and watch risk free,” Miller said.

The duel occurred the day after. The rules were simple: May and Kline stood 15 feet apart from each other with their Nerf toys on the ground. They would pick up the items and attempt to eliminate one another after a countdown of three.

After two misses from both May and Kline, May declared triumph in the third attempt, taking out his assassin and restoring balance to the complex game.

As the game entered the final days of round one, commissioner Miller incorporated “mystery boxes”, a concept from the previous year where a player, eliminated or not, has a chance to obtain another life.

Senior Molly Bohan and her friends searched for the mystery boxes using clues sent out by Miller on the Senior Assassin website, containing coordinates to different parts of town.

“Our first stop was Panda Express where we found nothing, sadly. We then put in the next set of coordinates to [Los Burritos Tapatios], where we did find a mystery box, but it was not the right one,” Bohan said.

There was a total of five mystery boxes. The one that contained an extra life was snatched at the Downers Grove Golf Club before Bohan and her friends arrived.

On the other side of town, Landry waited for his target to leave the house. Fifteen minutes passed before he saw his target leave the house. He dashed from his car, and hit Pauley. After a few glorious moments of victory, something had happened with Pauley. She had been hit in the eye.

“It was actually much more painful than I felt it should have been considering it was a Nerf bullet, though he was extremely apologetic and it was clear he felt very bad,” Pauley said.

Pauley’s eye was swollen the next day, but after three days had resumed regular daily activity.

“I can’t stress enough how awful I felt about that. I apologized to her probably a dozen times since it happened. While getting my target [in round two], I made sure to aim much lower to avoid another incident like this,” Landry said.

With recent events that have occurred in the game of senior assassin (such as waiting outside a person’s house or spending a tremendous amount of time plotting to knock out your target), it is pretty concrete how deliberate and persistent students become to win the final prize.

“Some people are taking the game too seriously. Though, it is also hard to label certain individuals as taking the game too seriously, since because it is a game where pretty much anything goes and those who agree to play understand what they are signing up for,” Pauley said.

At the end of round one, only sixty-four participants remained. Round two began on Monday, March 4.