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How to Play Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ)

Updated on May 1, 2016
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Dreamhowl has played Dungeons and Dragons since 2007, and has roleplayed on forums for longer! She loves making new characters come to life.

What is Humans vs. Zombies?

“Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) is a game of moderated tag played at schools, camps, neighborhoods, military bases, and conventions across the world. Human players must remain vigilant and defend themselves with socks and dart blasters to avoid being tagged by a growing zombie horde.”


Dreamhowl was a participant in Humans vs. Zombies while attending college at Alfred University. She played one round on campus before the game was banned. She still remembers being tackled to the ground by a hungry horde of zombies.

Humans vs. Zombies was created in 2005 at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. News of the game spread across the internet like wildfire, leading to immense popularity. Today, over 650 colleges and universities are home to the game, along with high schools, military bases, camps and even public libraries. The premise is simple: there are two groups of players, the humans and the zombies. The goal of the zombies is to tag the humans and survive, while the goal of the humans is to kill and outlive the zombies.

Humans vs. Zombies is played all over the world by various people.
Humans vs. Zombies is played all over the world by various people. | Source

Anyone can play Humans vs. Zombies; currently, the game is played across the world on almost every continent. People of any age, gender, race and background can play the game as long as they have fun in the process. Local moderators host the game and recruit new and returning players where they live. Best of all, it costs nothing to play Humans vs. Zombies; the rules and resources for the game are provided for free, and the company Gnarwhal Studios promises that it will stay that way. All you need is a computer and access to the internet!

Gnarwhal Studios has the official rules of the game available on the Humans vs. Zombies website for free viewing. Links are also shared to alternate fan-made rules and forums for discussion. To make it easier to find active games of Humans vs. Zombies near you, Gnarwhal Studios has developed free software to organize games around the world. The program, called HvZ Source, is free to use and only requires the user to register an account. Because Humans vs. Zombies is a game played in person with real people, HvZ Source requires the player’s real name, email and real picture. Be honest - you might even make some new friends!

How to Play Humans vs. Zombies

At its roots, Humans vs. Zombies is a game of tag: the players begin as humans, except that one person is chosen to be the “Original Zombie”. By tagging human players, the Original Zombie turns them into zombies. Tagging a human is equivalent to feeding: a zombie must tag at least one human every 48 hours, or they starve and are removed from the game. There are two possible endings to a game of Humans vs. Zombies:

  • The zombies win after tagging and turning all of the humans
  • The humans win after outliving the starving zombies

Human players do not simply run from zombies; humans can stun zombies for fifteen minutes. This is done with either a dart blaster or chucking a sock at the zombie. Stunned zombies are not allowed to play the game in any way for their fifteen minutes. This means that the zombie cannot shield a fellow zombie or continue to chase humans. Each side has their own rules they must follow to remain a player of Humans vs. Zombies. If you are playing a human, you must:

  • sleep or remain on campus
  • have I.D. number at all times
  • stun zombies with socks or dart blaster
  • give I.D. card up when tagged by a zombie
  • wear a bandana around an arm or leg

This six-shot Nerf gun is a popular choice for HvZ players.
This six-shot Nerf gun is a popular choice for HvZ players. | Source

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Essentially, being off campus for more than 24 hours will have a human removed from the game. To be recognized as a human by other players, wearing a bandana or headband around an arm or leg is required; this bandana is removed when tagged by a zombie, and tied around the human’s head an hour later to signify being turned into a zombie. When a human is tagged by a zombie, they must give the zombie their unique identification number, usually written on an index card. Zombies need this card to prove they have fed. If you’ve become a zombie in Humans vs. Zombies, you must:

  • feed at least once every 48 hours
  • wear bandana around the head
  • tag humans and retrieve I.D. tags
  • remain stunned for 15 minutes after being shot

A zombie reports their feeding by reporting their victim’s tag on the game’s website. After tagging a human - defined as a firm touch to any part of the body - the zombie must take their identification card to accomplish this. Zombies are recognized by the headband or bandana around their head, which must remain on at all times. More importantly, zombies cannot interact with the game while stunned. After 48 hours without tagging a human, a zombie starves to death and is removed from the game.

Whether you are a human or zombie player, there are general rules you must follow. For example, humans cannot shoot non-players. Non-players cannot interact with the game; this means no supplying your human friends with food or spying for either side. Zombies cannot use shields of any sort, or tag humans inside a safe zone. Academic and athletic events are considered safe while in attendance, but not en route.

HvZ Player Equipment
(1) Bandana or Headband
(1) Foam Dart Blaster
(x) Balled up Socks
(1) 3x5 Index Card with I.D.

There are clearly defined “no play” zones while playing a game of Humans vs. Zombies. These zones are places where the game cannot be played in any way, shape or form. All dart blasters need to be hidden, and neither team can be stunned or tagged. Some examples of no play zones include:

  • academic buildings
  • libraries
  • health centers
  • bathrooms

Aside from no play zones, there are safe zones within the game area; as opposed to no play zones, gameplay continues in safe zones, but no humans can be tagged. The only exception is if a zombie has both feet outside of the safe zone when doing the tagging. Some examples of campus safe zones are:

  • dorm rooms
  • dining halls

Academic buildings are among those that are off limits to the game.
Academic buildings are among those that are off limits to the game. | Source

Safety is important when participating in Humans vs. Zombies, and not just when it comes to safe zones. Disrupting normal academic practices can get you banned from the game, as well as get every player in trouble. Essential safety rules include:

  • no realistic looking weapons
  • no blasters visible in no play zones
  • no using cars or playing in traffic
  • no painful darts

The official rules state that blasters must be brightly colored and have orange tips; painting your dart gun black is bannable. Furthermore, your blaster should not be visible in academic buildings - these are “safe” zones and it is unnecessary. As you might have guessed, using cars or playing the game near traffic is dangerous, and the game is meant to be fun. That means no dangerous situations or darts that hurt on impact.

How to Join a Game of Humans vs. Zombies

Gnarwhal Studios has created a program called HvZ Source. With this free-to-use service, Humans vs. Zombies players can create and organize games around the world. Registering for the site is simple, though it does require your real name, email and a profile picture showing your face. However, playing Humans vs. Zombies involves playing with real people you will see your face and learn your name; there is no real privacy issue here. Once you’ve registered, you can browse the service for games in your area. For example, if you attend a school or university, you can search to see if a game exists.

Signing up for HvZ Source is quick and simple, as well as useful.
Signing up for HvZ Source is quick and simple, as well as useful. | Source

If you can’t find a game with HvZ Source, don’t fret; you can always ask around to see if anyone is planning anything! If you are on a campus, ask friends or classmates if they know anything. On another note, the HvZ Source website hosts a forum where you can search further for games in your area. If you have a large enough friend group, there’s nothing wrong with simply playing amongst yourselves!

Members of HvZ Source can search for active games in their area.
Members of HvZ Source can search for active games in their area. | Source

If you’ve searching the website and asking around and still found no games nearby, why not start your own? If you prefer using the HvZ Source website, there is an option to request a new game in your area. The form requires the name of your school or organization, estimated start date and end date, timezone, zip code and more, but makes creating your own game more simple. You can visit the forums on the site for help and recruitment, or drag your friends into it instead. Once you explain what Humans vs. Zombies is all about, its likely they’ll want to join your game!

HvZ Source offers the option to create your own local game!
HvZ Source offers the option to create your own local game! | Source

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