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Creating/Expanding a Community - properly!

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Ok, this an honest request for assistance, guys. 


For the last couple of years, I have been attempting to increase the playerbase of basically anything by Spartan either here in Auckland, or back in Brisbane - concentrating on DW, FSA and Halo since they're the big three items Spartan has (Halo mainly because of its general exposure to rest of world).


However, over the last two years, I've gotten exactly nowhere. Actually, in Brisbane I at least got a few people playing temporarially (they eventually switched back to other systems), but in the last three months here in Auckland, I've gotten nowhere. And its not like I haven't been trying;


I buy the starter sets and even expand them slightly. I paint them up and put them out as demos. I post that I'm willing to demo the games on the various club's facebook pages. I even field questions they have, take comments and criticisim on the chin with a smile, and even try to strike up a debate rather than go on a shouting match when faced with outright derision and sneers (I'm no fanboy - I've agreed and even said that Spartan is a bit hyperactive and non-committal when it comes to releases, I know the games systems have issues, but I like them none the less).


And I'm getting absolutely nowhere. Yes, I am doing this for partially selfish reasons - an expanded community means a larger pool of opponents for me. But I'm either facing players who are so entrenched with their systems that they're either unwilling or mentally incapable of trying somthing else (eg. 40k), are playing the game only to practice for the next tournament (eg. X-wing), or take one look at my minis and sneer and dismiss me as an idiot who plays games from "a company that either kills their games off quickly or releases them half-baked and has no direct support for them after release." (That's a direct quote from a facebook post, by the way).


So, I have absolutely no idea what to do now. I've spent too much money and time on this effort. I am getting tired of disappointment, and am nearly at the point that I just want to stop and go back to painting only (with only personal targets like the "Tale of Wargamer" blog I did a couple of years back).


So, what can I do guys? We don't have any major wargaming stores here in Auckland that I know of (and I've been all over, as my odometer can testify), so I can't really it going that way, but what else can I do?

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Few thoughts:


1) Ignore the one guy still bitter about Uncharted Seas [which far as I know is the only game Spartan has killed off unless the person is going WAY back to their first game which no one even recalls] - then remind him how many games GW has killed; and put out half baked and that they are currently doing some horrific thing to fantasy that should be X rated and possibly illegal ;)

Ok so that's a little combative; but generally if you want people to start something you have to be a bit of a fanboy and focus on the good side; yes there are downsides, no system is perfect - even the mighty Warmahordes has its haters and problems. So focus on the good that's what SELLS a system to someone. Don't bother with fights; system VS system fights are either just fun jibing that no one cares about or they are battles of egos where one persons system represents their ego and they will NOT let it go till they win. 


2) Consider a few growth methods:

a) A growth campaign where players grow a fleet in one system from a small starter core of ships up to larger games at the end. This lets you start several people all off at once on the same footing and have them encouraged to grow their collections over a period of a few weeks. 


B) A tournament - yeah you might not have a competitive team yet, but a tournament might well draw in a few of the competitive people. Again you could run it as a growth system. 


c) Consider prizes; a small/modest investment in a prize might well get a few others playing to win a prize - a gift card or something from a local game store etc... 


3) Make your table the best there is - great terrain, table mats, great miniatures. X wing gets away with murder as the models are painted and a starscape rollout mat provides a great looking table in seconds and their work is done. So for Spartan games make a really great table up. Impress them with the models with the people you can play with. 


4) Advertise locally - get creative too. Ok so there's no game stores locally, but I bet there must be some book shops or computer game stores or heck a few adverts in the local supermarket (geeks do have to eat too). If you can make some neat looking printouts with a picture or two (good ones) you might well snag a few locals who don't yet realise that there is even a local gaming club (once people leave school/uni it gets very hard to get back into geeky things sometimes as organising is often a nightmare - esp if they end up in a non-geeky attracting job). 


5) Considering focusing on just one system - trying to get people into anything runs a high risk that you'll get several people into different games and suddenly - yeah - you don't have a group to play but one or two individuals with no connection. 

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One word of advice is to not focus on existing gamers. Unless you find a circle who are non 40k, WMH and possible big others fanatical. Even then they are likely to be 'spent out' and never buy anything themselves. Historical players often enjoy a sci fi dabble but suffer from issue no 2. Too many models and less money!

Look for any board gamer groups. Geek conventions etc.

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And I'm getting absolutely nowhere. Yes, I am doing this for partially selfish reasons - an expanded community means a larger pool of opponents for me. But I'm either facing players who are so entrenched with their systems that they're either unwilling or mentally incapable of trying somthing else (eg. 40k), are playing the game only to practice for the next tournament (eg. X-wing), or take one look at my minis and sneer and dismiss me as an idiot who plays games from "a company that either kills their games off quickly or releases them half-baked and has no direct support for them after release." (That's a direct quote from a facebook post, by the way).

Why are you trying to get people to play games they clearly aren't interested in? 40k is entrenched, learning how to work with that is surely something someone who wants to promote a new system has to always to keep in mind. As an X-Wing player I'll tell you that contempt for tournament players will get you nowhere, organised play events are fun and challenging for a well-written,fast and reasonably balanced system- if a game can't support them the problem is with the game. Half baked games with poor and inconsistent support is a commonly expressed criticism of Spartan in many corners of the internet, I think its just one of those things you have to take on the chin and hope the company as a whole works to improve its image. As someone who's tried pushing other systems I'll tell you this, if you come in as an outsider with something that has been poorly received or represented online its going to be a massive uphill struggle. If you are already playing a couple of the popular games and have buddies who are burning out on them its incredibly easy to find people who want to start something else. That solves the "this system is dead on my area, no point wasting my money" problem. Its only at that point that there is any point running demo's, actively trying to recruit strangers, etc. For there to be growth you need to make sure you have the soil sorted before you grow a plant.

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Honestly? Give up and go back to painting. You sound miserable and if painting brings you joy then go back to that. If opinion is that strong thats not something you can change, that takes Spartan changing their ways.

Failing that if you have space to game in your own home and share interests with your friends then possibly you could convince them to indulge you every so often.

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Well if you tried hobbymaster in Takapuna I'd imagine you would've had a hard time there. Mostly 40k gamers and can be an odd bunch at that. Still think cityguard is probably the best option. There's all sorts there so youre more likely to find someone I'd think. Or someone at least who would consider it. Theres also redzeed in whangaparaoa, never tried halo there but again, its a different group of people and the owners are pretty cool.

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Hopefully what I have to say will help you.


3 months ago, nobody at my local gaming club played Planetfall. As of yesterday we have 5 people with armies, with a following 3 other people lined up for demo games, 2 of which said they are very likely to buy a core box after the demo.


The club itself has around 70 members, it runs every Thursday and every second Monday, with an average attendance of 40-50 people (record is 65 in one night). 40k is obviously the biggest game there, however in the past few months there has been a sharp shift in game systems played. It used to average over 80% of games played each Thursday but now has less than 50% of games played at the club.


I feel there are a number of factors that combined to cause this, each factor attracted at least one person, but the effect of that one person accelerated the uptake of Planetfall.


The interest in Planetfall started with myself. I wanted a 10mm scale sci-fi game and Planetfall had the best looking models to me. I messaged a couple of friends with links to different Planetfall pictures to guage interest. As is the case with a lot of games people say they are interested but never follow through. I dove head first and managed to get one other person to do the same.


When everything arrived roughly 2 months ago, we played our first game. The club officials are keen to get people into other games so we were given a table next to the bar so that if people wanted a drink, they had to walk past our table. They had to see Planetfall to get a drink, there was no avoiding it. A number of people stopped by during the game to spectate and see what it was about. When we were talking to spectators we were keen to get more people into it, so we hammered home the fact that:

  1. The rules are free.
  2. With a 20% discount it only costs £32 to start playing.
  3. You will always use the models from that first purchase (no wasted purchase).

Following that game I managed to get the first demo game arranged with another friend. I split my core into the 2 equal halves and we played a game, next to the bar yet again. The friend that bought Planetfall and myself decided to split the cost of a core box and buy the friend I demoed to for his birthday. Unknown to us, he had also ordered a core box. He now had a full core.


Now that we had 3 players with full cores, the types of people that now know they can get a game of Planetfall easily with us showed interest. Another demo game was lined up followed by another core box purchase. Someone else who hadn't played a demo game had taken the plunge and bought a core box as well.


The original friend I played with had expanded their army as well as myself. Last night we decided to try and attract a lot of attention with our game, we played a 6k point game on the center table of the club. My Directorate consisted of full core, 2 full aerial ground assault and 2 full ground assault helices.


During the game there were a large number of people interested in what was going on. In particular the cool looking models such as the leviathan models and fliers. There are now more poeple lined up for demo games.


Throughout the 2 months I've been asking what actually grabbed their attention and what sounds good about Planetfall.

The main points are:

  1. Low cost barrier of entry.
  2. Updates are free, no having to fork out £50 for a new set of rules.
  3. Models look cool.
  4. Easy to remember rules (The quick reference sheet made it very easy).
  5. Easy to remember stats (Everything hits of 4+ and defensive MARs).
  6. Not 40k.

There was another point I feel also roped people in, nobody outside of the person asking for a demo was told it was a demo game.

To everyone watching it was yet another person playing Planetfall. There are 2 Talon's for Hawk games at the club and there is always a demo game for Dropzone there (the game I see as Planetfall's rival), but outside of their demo games I don't see any uptake happening following the demos.


I'm not a Vanguard for Spartan Games, but I feel it's fairly easy to sell people on the idea of Planetfall where I am. Part of what makes it easy is that I'm not trying to sell every Spartan Games system at once. People want to know that there will be a playerbase that isn't just passing through. People don't have a lot of time. In my example, there are only 6 game nights a month, which means you only have time to play 6 games a month at the club. Say you were looking to get into a new game, you probably want to continue to play your current system for at least half of those games to begin with. So said person only really has 3 nights a month to play alternate systems, but obviously real life comes into play and they can only manage 4 games a month. Now they only have 2 games a month to look at other game systems. If someone is trying to sell 6 different Spartan Games systems at once, you'll be put off. You only have time for probably one of those if you want to invest yourself in it. But the people interested in something not 40k are potentially split between 6 systems, further diluting the playerbase.


The plan I have with my friend, is that once we have a sizable playerbase of Planetfall players, Armada will be introduced as a way in breathing new life into Planetfall and to supplement that hobby. We're taking everything in steps. When the Halo ground game comes out, I feel that will be easy to sell as those that have expressed a big interest in it here haven't shown too much interest in Firestorm, it's unlikely to split the playerbase and instead siphon more 40k players.


I hope any of this has helped, a lot of it is very specific to the mentality around here.

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Just a thought;


Sometimes you gotta go with them to make them come with you.


That is to say that sometimes you gotta be playing warhammer with a person to convince them to come play something else with you. Whilst that guy in the corner who only ever talks about their alternative game system is often ignored.



It's all partly down to groupings but also risk. 

1) People are packminded in general; if you're outside of the "group" for whatever reason its a lot harder to get people established within a group to join your team or come do your thing. Meanwhile if you are already part of the group, part of the friends circle its a bit easier.


2) If people play with you they get a feel of who you are; how you are to play against and what you like etc.... So then if you turn around and say there's a really cool game they could try they are more likely to be interested as they've already got a measure of you; they already play with you and know that if you like the game chances are they might too - because you get on well etc....


3) Games cost and whilst we can argue about fair or unfair prices and all other stuff; at the end of the day a new game means money, time, paint and learning. So the more into the group you are the more others will be willing to make that investment into a new system - even if it doesn't pan out for them long term. 




So consider that an alternate way is to play Warhammer with the warhammer mob (assuming you enjoy warhammer or Xwing or any other game played their). Join in and be part of the group and leave the Firestorm/Planetfall for a little while and then build up to it again.

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OK, seeing as I may have to do this myself in a little while (I'm not sure how may players are in my area, and I may need to "create" some), I have some advice for forming a community for any game:


  1. Team with a store - stores like gaming communities as much as you do, as it generates sales and enthusiasm, so talk to your FLGS and ask for a time that you can demo the game. Get some graphics from the media section of the Spartan website and make some fliers. The store can also promote on their website.
  2. Life is a beauty pageant - nothing attracts gamers like nicely painted figures and terrain. I demo a game that uses LEGO for both figures and terrain, and I never have an empty table. If you have no painting talent at all, have a painting service do a couple forces to tabletop quality for you.
  3. Keep it simple - nothing deters a new player like something that's frustratingly difficult to understand. Play your games with the absolute minimum of rules and emphasize the fun, not the complexity (that will come with time).
  4. The social network - get emails and/or phone numbers of people who try things out, and get them on a network/mailing list/forum of some sort. Keep them informed and engaged. Make it easy for them to come back.

Good luck!

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I've been having similar problems with my area, plus I also have to add travel distance and work schedules to the list of difficulties. Since relocation to Mission Beach, I've had a couple of extra people show "interest" by joining the Dystopian Wars NQ facebook page, but arranging games is difficult when the journey to Cairns is about 2hrs

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