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Subject: The Invitational Gaming Group - Can it help you? rss

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Gil Hova
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I've had a gaming group meet at my apartment on two or three Sundays every month since January. In forming this gaming group, I blundered into a kind of system I haven't seen anyone else do. I wanted to share it with you folks because I feel it matches my lifestyle the way no other kind of gaming group does.

What makes my group different is that I invite only three or four people over for any given session. So we never go more than one table wide. This simplifies my duties as a host, and we don't have any "table races" in which we have to worry about waiting around for the other table to finish their game.

There's about 40 people in my gaming group, despite the fact that only a few people are invited at a time. Every month, I send out an invite with a scheduling poll attached. Each invitee fills in his or her availability in the poll, checking off which Sundays he or she will be available (I use http://doodle.com for these polls, but http://whenisgood.net would probably work just as well).

I close the poll after a week, and I go through the poll, inviting 3-4 people each day based on their responses. Most of the time, I'm able to fit all the responders into at least one game day in the month. Occasionally, I can't squeeze one or two people in. I try to make sure those are people who played in the previous month, and I try to fit them in the following month. At this point, the responders know that if they don't make it in, that makes it highly likely they'll be playing next month. But this has only happened a couple of times since January; much less than I expected!

Why do I like this system so much?

* Like I said above, because there's only one table of games, I don't need to worry about anyone else. Group dynamics are simplified, logistics regarding food and drink are easy, cleanup at the end of the day is quick, and we can all focus on playing our game.
* Because the list is invite-only, I'm able to curate the folks I play with. We never really have to deal with "that guy," because "that guy" doesn't get an invite. Sure, I've had personalities rub each other the wrong way - that's to be expected - but I don't experience the dread of having to tolerate a known fun-killer in the group, or having to kick him out of the group because he's already scared off a bunch of people.
* I have a huge appetite for games. I love playing them every week. But my friends don't necessarily feel the same way. Some do, some don't. By rotating the invite list, I don't ever tire anyone out of my long gaming days, but I still get to play a bunch of games myself.
* I don't have to lug games to and from another location. My collection is large enough that my friends don't usually feel the need to, unless they have a hot new game I haven't tried yet.
* Playing in my apartment is much more comfortable than playing in a loud food court, a cramped restaurant, or a grimy game store. Speaking of game stores, there are no adolescent boys shouting pubescent insults in the background, making folks feel unwelcome.
* This is a little solipsistic, but playing at my place means that I usually enjoy the games we play; in fact, they're usually my choice. People are free to bring their own games, but my friends tend to know my gaming preferences, and avoid bringing games that they know I probably won't like.

What are downsides to this system?

* If I invite 20 people to a game day and three people cancel, no big deal. If I invite 4 people to a game day and three people cancel, I'll probably have to call off the game day. I haven't had a problem with any one person canceling an excessive number of times, nor have I had to cancel a game day at the last moment, but I've had to find pinch-hitters some days, and I've had to cut other days short because a few people had to leave early.
* I don't meet as many new gamers as I used to. This is the dark side of not having to deal with "that guy". I try to get out and go to other game groups occasionally, and I've been able to keep the invite list growing; it's doubled in size since I started. This is vital to keep the group healthy, as there are always people who move away, get new jobs, have children, or lose interest.
* The group doesn't grow as quickly as a public gaming group, since I don't invite anyone who I haven't met before. It's my home; I'm not going to give my address out to a stranger. But this means that I have to take advantage of any chance I get to grow the group.
* Some people have laughed about a "velvet rope" feel to the invite system. I'm aware that it can feel a little clique-y and pretentious to only allow specific people on each day. I don't think it's been a problem yet, but it's something I'm keeping my antennae tuned to. If the group ever gets significantly bigger, then I'll have to routinely not schedule available players, and I worry that they will take it personally.

What are some reasons I've had success with my system?

* My home is a good place to play games. I have a fancy game table, a pretty good collection of games, and two adorable pets. My apartment is in a safe neighborhood within Jersey City, with ample street parking and access to a subway line that goes straight to Manhattan. The New Yorkers who get over the Hudson River Hex are usually stunned to find out that I live closer to downtown Manhattan than they do.
* I know a lot of gamers. I was able to build a decently-sized invite list that allowed for the kind of rotation that this group needs, and yet the list isn't so large that I have to decline people very often.
* I provide food and drinks. We order pizza from a mindblowingly-good pizza margherita place down the street. I'm not much of a drinker myself, but I try to keep the fridge stocked with beer. I ask for a voluntary $5-10 donation for dinner, but I don't keep track of who pays; truth be told, I'm repaid with good company and a fantastic time.

I'm curious if anyone employs a system like this, or if something like this would help them out.
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Gil Hova
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Oh, and if you have played with me, live close to me, and haven't received an invite, message me!
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Mc Jarvis
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I prefer to keep a private mailing list of people to invite over, but I let them add on rsvp's if they want to. In theory, this means the only way "that guy" gets to my table is if he's a friend of a friend. And if he's a friend of a friend, maybe he's not so bad as I think.

To control crowd size, I use Pingg invitations and set a cap on the number of rsvp's available.
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Russ Williams
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My current paradigm is "invitational".

I used to live in a house with a lot of space and found that "open gaming" (each Wednesday, any of my gaming friends were welcome to come) with multiple games in parallel worked great. But if space is limited, then indeed "invitational" seems good.

Also, these days I enjoy a lot of 2-player games, so inviting one friend over suffices for that.
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Joe Gola
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It sounds like a good system. Keeps things fresh, keeps things manageable.
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Nathan
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I would say this arrangement seems to suit you, but maybe it might not suit some who only get to game with you.

Why not have the best of both worlds? Your gaming group is 40 people, so probably a public meet would work quite well. Someone else could run it and that way you could invite new gamers to it also.

Then you could continue your game nights in your home with those that you like.

I enjoy a great public game group but there are some people I prefer not to play with and plenty of people I am happy to game with but would not necessarily feel comfortable inviting into my home. Your home is your home, and we are very selective about inviting people over that we don't know. There are many who I just need to get to know better before inviting them over (for the majority, this is the reason I would not invite them over) and when we do have a gae day at our home i does take careful planning as you don't want to end up with no one but if we had a whole day with 7 or 8 it would be too many because I don't want to spend the whole day playing party games (well, sometimes this is fun but we have lots of part time gamers to play party games with).

So yeah, I reckon your system is great, but maybe your group could find somewhere public to meet and bring in new gamers etc. You would not have to go often either, but could go sometimes and meet new gamers and friends etc. It might be what some of the others in your group want if they cannot come round enough due to scheduling or numbers.
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Gil Hova
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Lobotnik wrote:
I would say this arrangement seems to suit you, but maybe it might not suit some who only get to game with you.

Why not have the best of both worlds? Your gaming group is 40 people, so probably a public meet would work quite well. Someone else could run it and that way you could invite new gamers to it also.

Then you could continue your game nights in your home with those that you like.

I enjoy a great public game group but there are some people I prefer not to play with and plenty of people I am happy to game with but would not necessarily feel comfortable inviting into my home. Your home is your home, and we are very selective about inviting people over that we don't know. There are many who I just need to get to know better before inviting them over (for the majority, this is the reason I would not invite them over) and when we do have a gae day at our home i does take careful planning as you don't want to end up with no one but if we had a whole day with 7 or 8 it would be too many because I don't want to spend the whole day playing party games (well, sometimes this is fun but we have lots of part time gamers to play party games with).

So yeah, I reckon your system is great, but maybe your group could find somewhere public to meet and bring in new gamers etc. You would not have to go often either, but could go sometimes and meet new gamers and friends etc. It might be what some of the others in your group want if they cannot come round enough due to scheduling or numbers.


My younger brother and I share the same birthday nine years apart, so we rent out some space, invite a bunch of people, and have a big bash game day. Other than that extravaganza, I'm very happy with this setup. I don't want to have to deal with the logistics and occasional drama that goes with organizing a big gaming group. I've been there, done that.

That's why I wrote this post; I'm happier with this arrangement than I've been with previous arrangement, and I wanted to know if others had similar setups.
 
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Nathan
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IngredientX wrote:
Lobotnik wrote:
I would say this arrangement seems to suit you, but maybe it might not suit some who only get to game with you.

Why not have the best of both worlds? Your gaming group is 40 people, so probably a public meet would work quite well. Someone else could run it and that way you could invite new gamers to it also.

Then you could continue your game nights in your home with those that you like.

I enjoy a great public game group but there are some people I prefer not to play with and plenty of people I am happy to game with but would not necessarily feel comfortable inviting into my home. Your home is your home, and we are very selective about inviting people over that we don't know. There are many who I just need to get to know better before inviting them over (for the majority, this is the reason I would not invite them over) and when we do have a gae day at our home i does take careful planning as you don't want to end up with no one but if we had a whole day with 7 or 8 it would be too many because I don't want to spend the whole day playing party games (well, sometimes this is fun but we have lots of part time gamers to play party games with).

So yeah, I reckon your system is great, but maybe your group could find somewhere public to meet and bring in new gamers etc. You would not have to go often either, but could go sometimes and meet new gamers and friends etc. It might be what some of the others in your group want if they cannot come round enough due to scheduling or numbers.


My younger brother and I share the same birthday nine years apart, so we rent out some space, invite a bunch of people, and have a big bash game day. Other than that extravaganza, I'm very happy with this setup. I don't want to have to deal with the logistics and occasional drama that goes with organizing a big gaming group. I've been there, done that.

That's why I wrote this post; I'm happier with this arrangement than I've been with previous arrangement, and I wanted to know if others had similar setups.


Hehe, for some reason I missed the last sentence on your first post
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Agent J
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Sounds great. I'm not so organized, but that's what I'm trying to get to - I have game days at my house sometimes and only invite until I have a table of gamers. After that, no more invites. But a lot of the time it's last minute and it's just whoever I can get over who likes that kind of game.

Maybe I should get organized.
 
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Doug Faust
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IngredientX wrote:
Oh, and if you have played with me, live close to me, and haven't received an invite, message me!


Hey Gil- Any chance Anni and I could get on your invite list? We probably wouldn't be able to make it very often, but it'd be nice to stop by and game with you every once in a while.
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Gil Hova
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GM sent!
 
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Jessica
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I do a mix of individual invitations and large group invitations at my house. For the group invitation, I'll invite everybody and try to give at least a week or two of notice, but we'll only do these once a month, at most. We have a list of about 20-30 people that we send emails or G+ invites to. Sometimes it doesn't work for a lot of people and we'll max out at 6. Other times, we'll have 10+ and need to spread out, but we have space for everybody. Actually, between the holidays and weather, we haven't done one of these since November.

For the individual invitations, I'm not nearly as organized as you. Normally, I'll give about 2-3 days of notice. I'll kind of go down a mental list of people I think would be interested. After I get the amount of people I want (4-5 total), I don't ask anybody else. It works pretty well for us. We do this several times a month - Fridays or Saturdays. People know that if I haven't heard from them in a while, they get pushed down on the list. If it's been a while, some of them will start asking when we want to game again and sometimes let us know their availability. So, we'll schedule a night around them and ask another person or two to join. Luckily, as you indicated as a con, nobody has taken offense so far, if they aren't invited. I think it helps having the one monthly game night for everybody so nobody is truly left out.

I hadn't heard of Doodle.com before. I'll check it out to see if this might be helpful for me.
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