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Subject: Extra Life: Running a Board Gaming Marathon rss

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Andrew Finazzo
United States
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This Sunday will be my third year as captain of an Extra Life team dedicated to playing board games. Each year we've put on a 25 hour marathon and we've raised over $12,000 so far. I'm going to share some of my events' details, hopefully it will help out anyone thinking about putting on a similar event. If you've taken part in a board gaming marathon I'd love to hear about it and compare notes!

What is Extra Life?

It is a fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals put on around the world by people who love games. Players have raised over 22 million dollars since the it's inception in 2008. You can find out more information here: About Extra Life.

Summary of Marathons I've Captained

2014: 5 team members with a drop in period in the afternoon where friends could join us for party games. We were hosted by a local inn and I brought well over 50 games to the event. We had no schedule. I streamed on Twitch using the PS4 camera. We ordered out for most of our food.

2015: 12 team members and an open invite afternoon/evening party game section. The inn hosted again, I brought 30-40 games and other players brought another 30 games. We had a strict schedule in the morning (heavier strategy games) and a few scheduled tournaments later in the day. Otherwise it was a free for all (and more than a bit messy). I streamed using a single webcam - but we lost multiple hours as nobody was assigned to make sure the camera was actually pointing at anything. Other times the camera was just pointing towards the whole room which resulted in a jumbled mess of a video showing up to 4 groups of people playing different games. Everyone brought crock pots of food but they were scattered in various places.

2016: 4 team members with a scheduled time for drop in party gaming. We're playing at my house so no games will need to be transported. I'll be streaming with two cameras - one hovering over the board for table top games and an inset camera showing the players. We'll have one player assigned to check the Twitch stream every 15 minutes to relay comments/questions and to verify the camera angles are set up correctly. Crock pot food for the most part, consolidated in an area just away from where we'll be playing.

How I Run Things

Overall Schedule: We play a variety of games (heavy strategy, party games, dexterity games, light strategy, and even children's games very late at night). Leaving things up to chance causes downtime in between games and when players get tired they struggle with decisions. Set a schedule with blocks: 0800-1600: heavy strategy; 1600-0000: party games; 0000-0900: variety that starts with medium strategy and gets easier as the night goes on, eventually we play primarily dexterity games and very simple strategy games.

Specific Games: I survey team members in advance to find out what games they want to play, then I'm in charge of doing my best to fit those in. You'll realistically fit in 20 - 30 games at most (less if you are playing all heavy strategy games). I make an estimated schedule and publish it for both the players and viewers (link at the bottom). Schedule a few extra games since your group may choose to skip something for a variety of reasons, especially late at night.

Overall Prizes: We track each participants placement in the games they play and they score points throughout the day (one player is assigned to this task). I have pre-printed scoring sheets with the team members' names and spots to mark their ranking. We assign points based on number of players, length of game (based on Boardgamegeeks estimated playtime, actual playtime is not tracked), and have separate scales for team games and moderated games. I've given away gift certificates and games, this year each player can win a donation (up to $100 for first place).

White Elephant: Every team member brings at least 5 wrapped presents. When you win a game you get to pick a prize or steal a prize from one of your opponents in that game. These can be hilarious and have included things like near empty bottles of bourbon, awards from the local Chamber of Commerce, old video games, and other kitschy stuff. This lets a person have something to compete for even if they are out of the running for the overall prizes.

Food: All food MUST be fork/spoon friendly. The first year we thought "we'll just order pizza and sandwiches and eat quick". Ugh. You can't play games at all while ordering or eating this type of food and it means huge downtime. By having food always available someone can grab a bowl of food in between games (or even turns) and keep up the gameplay.

Alcohol: We do our best to keep our stream family friendly until about midnight. We have learned that (other than maybe one drink at lunch) starting imbibing even that early can be catastrophic. It is quite horrible to have a couple drinks, sober up, then have a mini hangover while still having multiple hours of the marathon left. I highly recommend, at the very least, encouraging participants to not drink until the final 3-4 hours.

Stream: This has been our biggest struggle, I'm hoping to nail it this year. Donors love watching and commenting but previously we've been very sporadic about checking to see what people are saying. There have been huge periods with cameras pointed at.... nothing. If I could hand off one task completely this would be it.

I am hyped about our close up board-camera this year.

Playing Games: For big strategy games we've instituted a requirement that players at least learn the basics of how to play. Nobody wants to watch an hour long rules explanation. Our first year I spent over 1/2 an hour setting up and explaining Cosmic Encounter only to have it run into our group party game time and get boxed up (and never played).

Party Game Time: In the late afternoon we invite people to join us for party games. This tends to be stream viewers favorite bit AND we get a lot of donations from the people that drop in. The biggest struggle with this is to focus on limiting the downtime as people come and go. To keep things smooth I try to start this block with team games which allow for people to easily join in partway through.

Donor incentives: I haven't figured out the best options for this - but here is what I'm doing this year:

$10: get a commemorative photo mailed to you.
$25: For every $25 you get one entry into a raffle for 4 party games.
$50: I'll wear your choice of funny hat for half an hour of the stream.
$75: I'll wear your choice of full body costume for 1/2 an hour (giant corn is the favorite).
$100: You get a costume or hat pick & I mail you a homemade batch of Spritz cookies.
Corporate: You get recognition for your business on the stream and links to your website in the comments if I post any videos on youtube. I am also open to wearing t shirts and hats advertising your company if the donation amount is high enough.

Fundraising: My fundraising has been Facebook focused. I have a page set up for the team and before the event each participant is featured for one day with an image and a short write up based on questions I come up with. They can choose to pay and "boost" their post using Facebook's advertising setup. Boosting doesn't help get many random donations but it does ensure that your friends will be forced to look at your link.

I make lots of calls to friends and relatives and my workplace is great about letting us solicit donations (every member of my team is a coworker this year).

Point System
2016 Schedule
My Fundraising Page

Disclaimer: I'm crossposting this from Neogaf where it fizzled.
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