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Subject: A message for the forum (Friends, Romans, Countrymen...lend me your ear!) rss

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Judd Vance
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Sorry it's long...I've had a lot on my mind.

A couple of years ago, Octavian told us something along the lines of the wargame forum having the most participation of any BGG forum. If this is still true, it is an amazing accomplishment when you consider that if you proportioned potential participants to the number of game sales, the Eurogamers outnumber us nearly 1000-to-1.

Despite that, we still have a better forum. You could try to explain it any number of ways, but I can't come up with anything to explain overcoming that 1000:1 ratio except to say that the wargame forum is more of a tight-knit community.

At the same time, I have seen a decline the last couple of years that has saddened me. There aren't too many of us wargamers, so when we lose one, we feel the effect more. Some guys like Kiraly and Usrlocal headed out to different forums. Others like Andy Cowen and and Skip Franklin have passed on. Others have just stopped participating altogether. It's easy to think "easy come, easy go" but the wargame pool isn't growing enough to replenish our losses and we all know it. That's why the median age of the wargamer is higher than the other genres. We aren't replenishing the defectors and it shows in the number of posts that go up daily and the quality of the posts.

Last month, I performed a statistical analysis of the participation on the Wargames on Your Table Geeklist over a 5 year span, analyzing each month individually and almost without exception, the trend showed a rise from 2011 to 2013 and then a decline to 5-year lows. That's only one measurement, but it confirmed what I felt in my gut.

Some of this is beyond our ability to fix: those that have left aren't coming back. But we can try to hold on to what we got, make this place better, and maybe some of the non-participants who didn't nuke their accounts might come back. If this happens and we keep everybody here, the forum only improves as we add more experience and perspective.

This is my observation.

There are two ways that we can greatly improve our part of BGG. I participate heavily here and the Game Box. I participate a little on CSW. I started dipping my toe in Grogheads and keep a minimal presence on Fortress Ameritrash. What can I say? I like talking about wargames. Based on what I have seen elsewhere, I have observed two major ways that we all can improve the BGG Forum.

The first area is the snarkiness. The snark-to-content ratio is much higher here than it is at the Game Box. When I say snark, let me make up a hypothetical example:

Poster: Hi. I just found you guys. I've taken a real interest in wargames and I just picked up Memoir 44, Twilight Struggle, Axis and Allies, and Invasion 1812. What are some games I should look into buying?

Snarky responder: I thought you said you like to play wargames.

Crap like that gets really old. If you can't tell the difference between humor and snark, maybe you should avoid both.

I could point to specific examples, but I'm not trying to embarrass anybody.

The second is the Passive-Aggressive Red-X game, and that is the bigger poison. At first I thought it was trolls (and I'm going to address this in more detail in a second), but the bigger problem is an atmosphere of antagonizing, pushing, and then Red-Xing.

The Red X brings in Octavian, who then starts handing out suspensions. This creates hard feelings and enmity is born. Eventually, people are going to get fed up with this and just leave. We have seen this and the quality of our forum has suffered for it. Just because somebody doesn't agree with you doesn't mean that person doesn't have something valuable to offer others.

We saw two really big and ugly threads this summer. These are indicative of all that is wrong in the forum that I speak of. We had the same discussion over on the Game Box and the difference in the two forums is night and day. This doesn't mean you should drop everything you are doing and head over there because it is not going to be enough to satisfy everybody here just like this place is incapable of being what some of the folks over there want. However, there are many of us, myself included, who play in both places because we have different participants, topics, and discussions and each has something to offer the wargamer. What I want to do is explain WHY some things work better over there in hopes that we can re-create those aspects over here.

The obvious one is lack of moderation. There is no Red X. I get WHY BGG feels the need to include it. I just don't think we as wargamers need it. Octavian can't be at all places at all times, and the Red X summons him. He comes in, makes a snap judgment and leaves. Without knowing the characters, inside jokes, and running gags, he makes the best call he can, but often that leaves a lot of bitterness.

Without moderation, you may think the Game Box is out-of-control anarchy with bad attitudes, anger, and nudie pictures on every post. On the contrary, the community there is heavily invested in seeing it succeed and since we are all grown-ups, we make our own peace. There are only two guys I know over there who don't like each other and they manage to co-exist. I compare it to playing a game: I don't need a referee to play them. If you cheat, I won't play with you. If you cheat a lot of people, nobody will play with you. And that's how it is on an unmoderated forum. You play nice or you play alone.

My challenge to everybody is to leave the Red X alone. I could be wrong, but I believe all year, my Red X activity is that I red X'd Octavian a bunch of times, as well as Aldie once. In those cases, I was being a brat. The other time was when somebody came over from CSW to harass the wargame forum designer of the month. I thought the designer was being cool to answer our questions and I didn't like the stalker coming over and bugging the guy, and I didn't want future participants to think this is the treatment they will receive. I Red X'd him and then sent Octavian a Geekmail explaining the stalking and background. Had the antagonist been a regular, I would have chastised him in a Geekmail. Since he wasn't, I was hoping Octavian would bring out the extra-large ban hammer and make an example of the guy.

I had a major flare up with somebody on the monthly Geeklist this summer. I didn't Red X the guy. I think a whole lot of other people did, but I was not one. I wish they had left it alone because that brought in Octavian, who handed us both suspensions and created a lot of hard feelings. If folks had left it alone, I would have gone to the Game Box for a week to cool down and then come back and all would have been fine. Instead, there was some bad blood between us and especially with me and Octavian. That wargame dude and me made up as have Octavian and me. The wargamer in question is a good wargamer. He may have pushed my buttons once, but if he leaves, we all pay the price, and miss what he has to share.

My point is I think I can safely say that most of us are males in the 40-60 age range. That means we grew up in the old school where you didn't snitch and you didn't tell teacher. You man up and take care of things. Being older, hopefully we are mature enough to not do the internet equivalent of a "fight after school." Get on Geekmail and handle it. Hop in place of somebody else getting jumped and say, "Dude, settle down. We're talking about paper maps, dice, and cardboard squares, not international treaties."

We're all an internet family here. You don't call the cops whenever a family member leaves one square on the toilet roll or comes home from work grouchy and takes it out on everybody in sight.

My goal is that Octavian never sets foot here again. If he wants to come in and talk about Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, I'd welcome him in a second (I think I read somewhere that he likes that), but in any official capacity, I'd rather he stay away and we take care of ourselves. It can be done and I've seen it work quite well every single day.

To make sure we stay out of trouble, I asked Octavian about the subject of the word "troll" and what he looks for when he decides on doling out punishment. I knew you could not call another person or infer somebody was a troll, but I thought you could use it in a general sense (ex: "stay away from the complaints dept: too much trolling happens there.") He said if you use the word "troll", "trolled", "trolling" etc, you are probably going to get into trouble, but if you use the word "antagonize" there is a very strong chance that you will not. He said antagonize describes a behavior and troll describes a person. His words, not mine. Heed them and you stay out of the penalty box.

If you see somebody use it, just kindly remind him that he could get in trouble for that word and should edit it. Even if you are disagreeing with the person, you'll be surprised how much he'll appreciate that you are looking out for him. It's ok to disagree. Just remember that the person you disagree with has something to contribute to the forum.

And if you want to do the group a solid when you see an "antagonist" and when I say that, you know what I really mean, warn people without using the word "troll." I saw a fellow destroy a thread by inserting some Confederate Lost Cause stuff into a discussion that had nothing to do with the Civil War. He got a lot of folks in trouble and got the thread locked. There are just some really weird people out there. If you see that, just put in huge bold words a message to avoid that person because this could get people in trouble. I asked Octavian about it, and he said that part was cool. Just don't say "he's trolling." Your message will hopefully be heeded by those who miss the obvious, and the troll will give up when nobody plays his game.

The strength of the BGG Wargame forum is that is the best hope of finding new wargamers: either those who tried a light game and want to know more (the wargame curious) or the ones, who like many of us, found BGG after a long wargame layoff (returning grogs). Those folks aren't going to find the Game Box or CSW. They are going to find BGG. It's up to us to keep this place accommodating, but that's only going to happen if we realize what we have. If we don't see the problems and think everything is fine, then we will lose more contributors. The choice is ours.

No need to make a public pledge or anything like that. I'd rather nobody even respond to this, but instead take the words to heart and consider them.
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airjudden wrote:
Last month, I performed a statistical analysis of the participation on the Wargames on Your Table Geeklist over a 5 year span, analyzing each month individually and almost without exception, the trend showed a rise from 2011 to 2013 and then a decline to 5-year lows.

(Holy cow, that is interesting data.)
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Robert Fox
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As part of your analysis of the monthly lists, did you also analyze (if it's possible) posts per user and new users?

I know I don't participate in those threads as much as I used to. It's not that I'm not gaming as much, it's that posting there doesn't generate too much discussion beyond, "Hey, I played this!".

I've been posting less, but trying to include more interesting information in the posts I do generate; however, the "mini review" post doesn't really generate any discussion either.
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mark Hodgkinson
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Well said. most of my wargamer mates are grumpy old buggers, but we all love them. Most don't post anything anywhere. ( let's face it posters are only about 10% of the wargamer population)

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Chief_Chemist wrote:
Most don't post anything anywhere. ( let's face it posters are only about 10% of the wargamer population)


Not even that.

Churchill : 252 recorded plays this month - and only mentioned a couple of times in that thread. And that's not even taking into account that only a minority of wargamers are on BGG and of those only a minority record their plays.
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Do we (you) know how well BGG as a site is doing, regarding the drop in posting?

Any ideas on how to encourage posting?
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Brandon
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Nice post. Just to give one data point, I got into wargames almost entirely because I started lurking on this sub-forum. It is a very friendly (most of the time) and active sub-forum, so it works well to drum up interest even in people who hitherto had not been even remotely interested in military history. At the time, I took any scuffles and snark with a grain of salt. That's just me though; I could see how they would repel other people. But nevertheless, again, nice post.
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Eddy Sterckx
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Mycroft Stout wrote:
Do we (you) know how well BGG as a site is doing,


BGG registered users - running totals/year

2000 16
2001 596
2002 6,572
2003 18,973
2004 42,991
2005 80,189
2006 117,966
2007 167,512
2008 225,591
2009 288,224
2010 359,197
2011 434,364
2012 586,988
2013 780,537
2014 971,276
2015 ...
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airjudden wrote:
The strength of the BGG Wargame forum is that is the best hope of finding new wargamers: either those who tried a light game and want to know more (the wargame curious) or the ones, who like many of us, found BGG after a long wargame layoff (returning grogs). Those folks aren't going to find the Game Box or CSW. They are going to find BGG. It's up to us to keep this place accommodating, but that's only going to happen if we realize what we have. If we don't see the problems and think everything is fine, then we will lose more contributors. The choice is ours.


Yep, that's exactly how I got here. I started browsing on BGG in 2011 as I got into gaming, mostly Euros. This forum made me aware of wargames, which is now my major gaming interest. Never saw the need to Red X someone, but I am surprised about the vitriol in some, but thankfully few of the threads. I can see that some might be put off by that. Not enough to turn me away from the hobby though, now that I found it.
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I discovered wargames and "grew up" here and I rarely post in this forum anymore. Here's my two cents.

The BGG Wargame forum can be snarky as hell and it's very off putting to new players. I've seen people come here asking a question about Memoir '44 and the thread quickly turns into an argument between "the cool kids" about Combat Commander,the same argument by the same users I've read three times already this year. I understand elitism and some of you have earned the right to be an elitist twat but your elitism does more damage than good sometimes and maybe it's best if you just skip the "Hey guys I'm new to wargames" threads all together.

Secondly, the fighting. Though this hasn't been as bad lately as it once was and that's because some users no longer participate here but for awhile this forum was filled with people fighting. Not friendly disagreements but name calling and personal attacks. Some people are a little too passionate about their boxes of paper and cardboard. I would browse the forums and get fed up with the vitriol and leave. I imagine this led to a lot of red Xing. I stopped paying attention to the forum before things hit rock bottom so I wasn't around for the big payout.

This was just my experience and I have a lot more to say but I gotta get ready for work. Like a grade A complainer I offer no solutions. Maybe calm the fuck down and you might need to grow some thicker skin if you want to play on the internet. In the end the forum is supposed to be about games and design not the users and their personality problems.
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Well done!
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Hatepig wrote:
The BGG Wargame forum can be snarky as hell and it's very off putting to new players. I understand elitism and some of you have earned the right to be an elitist twat but your elitism does more damage than good sometimes ...


The exact same thing happens in the 18xx community (one poster in particular comes to mind). Year-in-and-year-out it's the same rhetoric and off-putting behavior.

If our hobby niches (wargames and 18xx) are going to thrive as new players enter the field, we need the presence of ambassadors and not elitist dictators.
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Well said Judd - all of it - you have a passion for our hobby and I hope folks do take these words to heart.
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kuhrusty wrote:
airjudden wrote:
Last month, I performed a statistical analysis of the participation on the Wargames on Your Table Geeklist over a 5 year span, analyzing each month individually and almost without exception, the trend showed a rise from 2011 to 2013 and then a decline to 5-year lows.

(Holy cow, that is interesting data.)


Interesting. That fits perfectly a recent hunch that I had: A pretty fast decline in the last few years, not only in this forum, but in other Wargame web sites too. Ouch. soblue
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I wish they would bring back the thumbs down button. It's a nice outlet on the reasonable side of a flaming response or the Red X, and makes you feel like you can register dislike without getting into a back and forth.
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Will dig into this data deeper later, but consider me an outlier - though I've been gaming for decades and can talk about this stuff for years, I am but a noob here at the Geek. Have only been geeking for a few months now; no idea why I never came over before. So there may be a decline, but at least one new eager wargamer has popped up.
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licinius wrote:
kuhrusty wrote:
airjudden wrote:
Last month, I performed a statistical analysis of the participation on the Wargames on Your Table Geeklist over a 5 year span, analyzing each month individually and almost without exception, the trend showed a rise from 2011 to 2013 and then a decline to 5-year lows.

(Holy cow, that is interesting data.)


Interesting. That fits perfectly a recent hunch that I had: A pretty fast decline in the last few years, not only in this forum, but in other Wargame web sites too. Ouch. soblue


Over the same period, the wargaming presence on Facebook has gone from nonexistent to thriving. It's not a doom and gloom thing, it's people moving around to new fora as they appear. The Wargames on Your Table geeklist is fun to follow but I'm sure people got distracted by something else along the way. I think I posted maybe twice on that list toward the beginning, but I certainly haven't stopped wargaming since then.

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Judd Vance
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Mycroft Stout wrote:
Do we (you) know how well BGG as a site is doing, regarding the drop in posting?

Any ideas on how to encourage posting?


The first way I can think of is to go over to moujamou's monthly geeklist and make a post. Most of us are playing games, so let folks know what you are playing and see if there are games in there to chat about.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/196080/wargames-your-...

Be sure to click his subscription link in the header to stay on top of it.

There are also monthly posts for rulebooks you are reading and wargames that you purchased. Those are two things most people are doing, so post on those.

I know a lot of folks don't peruse the Geeklists, so I'd like to keep a post going here where wargame Geeklists or wargame-heavy Geeklists are linked. I don't know about everybody else, but my wargame forum box is set to show "active." That way, if somebody adds a Geeklist to the post, it bumps to the top.

Some guys have been making Geeklists of games they got this year. Some track the games they are playing.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/188132/legioxixs-2015...

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/181346/tracking-raven...

I've done a bunch of specific topics. They are kind of fun to do. I always said these are for the benefit of about 20 wargamers. I'm certainly not thumb-farming with these list. The idea is to spur discussion. Here is an example:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/190474/my-kickstarter...

I also wouldn't mind making one where people could post wargame reviews. I don't subscribe to many pages and will miss them, but I'll read about any review out there out of curiosity and support for the genre if I know when they go up.

I figure those areas are a start.
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jrtracy wrote:

Over the same period, the wargaming presence on Facebook has gone from nonexistent to thriving. It's not a doom and gloom thing, it's people moving around to new fora as they appear. The Wargames on Your Table geeklist is fun to follow but I'm sure people got distracted by something else along the way. I think I posted maybe twice on that list toward the beginning, but I certainly haven't stopped wargaming since then.


Oh Good to know! I rarely use Facebook. Will check this. IMHO BGG is much better. meeple
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licinius wrote:
kuhrusty wrote:
airjudden wrote:
Last month, I performed a statistical analysis of the participation on the Wargames on Your Table Geeklist over a 5 year span, analyzing each month individually and almost without exception, the trend showed a rise from 2011 to 2013 and then a decline to 5-year lows.

(Holy cow, that is interesting data.)


Interesting. That fits perfectly a recent hunch that I had: A pretty fast decline in the last few years, not only in this forum, but in other Wargame web sites too. Ouch. soblue


Forums are so 1990.

Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, ...even Reddit

I'm sure the horse & buggy magazine had a steep decline too after cars were invented - that didn't mean that people didn't move around anymore.

You know what ? I'm going to Spiel where wargamers congregate around the UGG booth and I'm going to take lots of pictures there of all the people buying wargames and you guys can then discuss to your heart's content if this hobby is dying (or not)

Same thing with the local wargame convention where they had to move to a bigger location a couple of years ago - and not because wargamers were getting fatter.

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licinius wrote:

Oh Good to know! I rarely use Facebook. Will check this. IMHO BGG is much better. meeple


Totally agree with you on that, which makes the Facebook activity all the more remarkable. It's a hideous format in terms of searchability and has nothing in the way of a database, yet scads of posts appear daily in a number of wargame related topics.
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airjudden wrote:
There are just some really weird people out there. ...


You know, there was a thread about Shirers' Rise and Fall of the Third Reich last year (maybe older..) anyway it was interesting up to a point then it devolved into a serial 'you know nothing about it' sort of rant - and I quickly lost interest. Some people thrive by comparing themselves, their accomplishments, hell - their library, to others in hopes of proving their ascendency.

I agree with your premise Jud, nobody likes to see an interesting thread go AWOL because of nitwits. 'Antagonistic' threads generally become self limiting to those who enjoy the back & forth. Red X's serve those who feel the need to mark their opponents.

BGG is a great resource, I found my way here by way of Web-Grognards. Web-Grognards was originally (I think) Skip Franklins' baby and came d*mn close to extinction about a year ago. (R.I.P. Skip- always be missed). We're old, but we are resourceful. Losing one e-forum for our 'niche' hobby will only birth another.

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Nice post, Judd. Thanks.
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jrtracy wrote:
licinius wrote:

Oh Good to know! I rarely use Facebook. Will check this. IMHO BGG is much better. meeple


Totally agree with you on that, which makes the Facebook activity all the more remarkable. It's a hideous format in terms of searchability and has nothing in the way of a database, yet scads of posts appear daily in a number of wargame related topics.


Just another example of the fact that new and hot don't always mean better. I'm a member of two warfare groups on Facebook but still come here to get most of my war gaming fix. It's just so much easier to find that discussion you saw last month here vs Facebook.
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