With the release of Star Wars Shatterpoint coming up very soon, I figured I'd talk a little bit about the most important part of wargaming: The Community. Community building is one of the hardest and easiest things to do. It is arguably the most important thing that needs to be done for a game to thrive. There are numerous kinds of communities that I will talk about, but the one I will focus on today is the backbone of every game out there:
The Local Community
Without a bunch of nerds gathering at their friendly local gaming store (LGS or FLGS) on weeknights after work, most games would never make it 6 months past release. There are few things more fun than gathering with a bunch of your buddies at 6 pm on a Wednesday just to roll some dice and talk some shit. Of course, all communities need to start somewhere and today I'm going to help you figure that out!
Reach Out to your friends or family to see if they or anybody they know might be interested in joining or building a community with you. This is one of the harder parts for a lot of people because sometimes it can be awkward to try and convince your Brother in Law to spend hundreds of dollars on plastic, but maybe he'll surprise you! It is a lot more fun and a lot easier to build a community if you have multiple people involved. Community growth is an exponential thing, the more people you have, the more people you can reach out to.
Once you've found a person or two to help you build the community it's important to find a place to meet/play. This is one of the most important parts. In order to play a game, you need a place to play. Consider a few different options, the ideal locale is, obviously, a gaming store, but not all cities or towns have one. Most towns do, however, have a public library or a community college. Ask them and see if you are able to rent or use a room one night a week for a few hours. Most places that have open space that goes unused past 5 pm are more than happy to let you use the space.
The next major step is Consistency. Try to be out at the same time every week for at least a month or two. It is very hard to build a community when people show up to play and there's nobody there. Even if you have to go alone and hope for a visitor, use that time for painting, studying, or writing blog articles...
- Reach Out
- Find a Place to Play
- Be Consistent
So, you've taken the three hardest and most important steps into a larger world? Where do you go from here...
Talk To Your Store: If you're lucky enough to have a local gaming store, talk to them. See if they are planning on or willing to carry the product of the game you're hoping to play, in this case, Shatterpoint. Ask them if they are willing to allow you or help you to host events and tournaments. This ties a little bit into the last part, but ask them if they have a preferred or open night for gaming. One where you will have plenty of room to grow. This is usually middle of the week nights like Monday through Thursday. Places like these tend to be very busy during the weekend and it is often hard to fit more than one or two games at a time.
This is Shatterpoint specific, ask them if they are planning on getting the Initiation Event Kit. This kit is made by AMG to help you build a community and ease into learning and playing Shatterpoint. Ask your LGS if they can talk to their Asmodee rep and get one or two of these to help you build a community.
Start a Facebook Group or Discord Server: This is a really easy way to reach out to more people a build a sense of community. Use this to organize game nights, events, or just talk. When people get comfortable enough to start sharing their ideas, paint jobs, or invite new people, you've won. There is little more fulfilling as a community builder than seeing people who would've never met become very good friends. An active online group is not 100% necessary, but it will help a ton.
Be Nice: The golden rule. Be nice. Be the person you want to attract to your community. It would be in your best interest to go against what most people see as wargamers. Dress semi-nice for the first couple of meetings, encourage others to be friendly, and, I can't believe I have to say this, but take a shower and wear deodorant. Once your group gets into the groove of things it is perfectly acceptable to show up after a hard day's work or straight from the gym. This section is mostly about first impressions.
Try your hardest to make sure your community is a friendly and fun group to be with. Dice will be dice, games will be won and lost, and people are going to get upset, but just try to move past it as a team. If someone is having a bad time and has lost a few weeks in a row, maybe take it easy on them. Play something silly against the new guys. The easiest way to get someone hooked on a game is for them to win. I'm not saying you have to throw the game, but I'm not saying you shouldn't "make a few mistakes" against a newer person. Be encouraging to your newer players, especially if they've never been a part of a wargaming community. It can be hard to put yourself out there and try to join a group of people who you don't know, so put yourself in their shoes. At one point we were all that 15-year-old kid who wanted to check out the cool-looking minis.
Be Tolerant. It's really easy to want to avoid the slightly weird dude, but if he just wants to push plastic space men then why not embrace that? The more diverse your group is the more people can feel that they have a space to be themselves. People come from all sorts of different backgrounds and it's important to remember that at the end of the day, there is a common denominator: Love of the Hobby and Love for Star Wars.