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Subject: Suggestions for starting a local gaming club? rss

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Will Knight
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I've mentioned to some of my gaming friends the idea of starting a local gaming club in town. They've all responded positively to the idea, but we haven't actually done anything.

I realize that it can be as formal or informal as we'd like, but I'm hoping to get some ideas from some other gaming clubs out there. Questions like these pop into mind...

Do you have a formal membership? Does a fixed, regular schedule work better than a spontaneous, impromptu schedule? If you have a "club", do you have officers and plan functions and such? Is it better to just have a group of friends that games when and where they can?

I'm really trying to get a feel for if it's wiser to stay loose and informal - just sharing contact info basically and getting together when we can, or are there benefits to formalizing with official members, officers, dues, functions, etc.

I'm actually friends with the owner of a FLGS that has offered to let us use his store on nights they're not open so that we have plenty space/tables on which to game, so we do have that going for us.

I'd love to hear stories of what work and what doesn't from those of you experienced with it.

Thanks in advance!
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Will Green
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My suggestion is to plan a night, or weekend day, preferably one that you, (the lead organizer), can make regularly. Then start posting it on BGG, at the local game store you mentioned. Have your friends spread the word as well.

I started one along these same lines, (a good group of people who wanted to play games, but scheduling was the key issue). Then we decided to meet on the fourth Sunday of each month, and it has now become a 2nd and 4th Sunday activity. Because it is a scheduled event more people show up, as they know that they cna plan for it, and work it into their calendar on a regular basis.

We have grown from five players to 42, in about six months. Best of luck!!
 
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Gabe Alvaro
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Having the location and a time is 90% of the task. The rest is group communication. There are many Internet group organizing tools like yahoo groups, google groups, zanby.com, meetup.com. These are great if you want to open it up to being joined in by the public. If you want to keep it private, then you really don't need more than basic communication of phone and email.

I don't think it's necessary to have formal membership unless there is a compelling reason (like needing to collecting dues, limited resources, keeping track of members, etc.). My game group is informal and I think most public groups are. Certainly most private groups are informal. Games unlike other activities usually benefit from planning so that the "train doesn't leave the station" without someone who wants to play. It's always good to know who's coming and who's not so that you aren't waiting to start for someone who never intended to come. Again communication is key and Internet group tools facilitate this well.

I organize a group and here are some threads I've tagged while engaging organization topics since joining the geek:
http://boardgamegeek.com/user/blindspot/tag/game_group
 
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Alan Kaiser
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Unless you are going to end up paying for a location to play I'd say keep it as simple as possible. There's no need for anything other than a date, a place and a time. You have a place to play and people who are apparently willing to play. All you'll need to do is set a day and show up with some games.

Note that setting a day is pretty important. If you just try to get together whenever anyone has some free time it'll be hard to get people to come to your game night regularly. Set a day, a time and how often you'll play (every week, every other week etc) based on the schedules of the group you currently have and then stick with it. You can of course still get together at other times but the most important thing is to have a scheduled game night if you plan on having a game group with more than just a few friends. If you want others in your area to join in the fun you'll need to have a consisent day, time and place.
 
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John Stimson
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I suggest you set a time and place and stick to that schedule. If people know that the game will go on regardless, they will show up. If you plan an event more impromptu, they will begin to show up less and less often, then eventually move on. Also don't shoot for the stars, 4 or five regular people is perfect, more and you have to break out into two groups, and if a couple people don't show you get to play the better games.
 
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Tim K.
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Two articles:

The Care and Feeding of Your Game Group

http://www.flakmag.com/games/gamegroup.html

Nurturing a Game Group
http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/NurturingaGroup.shtm...


A good podcast on the topic by Mark Johnson:

BGTG 33 - Local game groups
http://libsyn.com/media/boardgamestogo/BGTG_33_2005-08-24.mp...
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Jeff King
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willk_1230 wrote:
I've mentioned to some of my gaming friends the idea of starting a local gaming club in town. They've all responded positively to the idea, but we haven't actually done anything.

First and foremost, congratulations. You've taken a major step already and that's communicating the interest with other gamers you know, not to mention working out a space ahead of time is a huge bonus.

Our gaming organization has been in existence (current incarnation that I got involved with) for almost a year now (June) as a 'formal' organization instead of just a few friends getting together from time to time.

I definitely don't have all the answers, but I can share some of our experiences and hopefully they help.

willk_1230 wrote:
Do you have a formal membership?

We have a two-tiered membership, three if you count the board of directors as a separate tier. Our general members are simply people that enjoy games. We do not have any real formal process to become a general member. Typically everyone that participates on our forums or helps out/shows up for events are considered members. Next we have our voting members. These are the people that have paid a modest annual fee to be able to direct the organization as a whole. They vote on who resides on the board of directors and any other activities that are considered official activities, including how we spend the fees they have paid. Then there are our board of directors. The BoD consists of 5 elected members that carry out the day-to-day activities and make sure the activities that the voting members have sanctioned get carried out.

This was originally set up because we were in the process of becoming a non-profit organization, but elected to stay simply a volunteer organization at this time. We kept the structure because it works really well for us and has led to a great first year.

willk_1230 wrote:
Does a fixed, regular schedule work better than a spontaneous, impromptu schedule?

We have a mix of both (sort of). We have several members that do weekly gaming at their houses. We also have a monthly board game night at our local movie theatre. We also plan one major, public event every quarter. We advertise at our local gaming store and at the theatre we board game at, on our website, among other locations. The quarterly events are not fixed, except that they are within a quarter (so it is not always on the third month of the quarter, etc..). We also have a monthly member meeting where members can get to discuss issues with a few of the BoD members and to just meet other members they may only know from our forums.

If you want your club to grow beyond the few friends you have talked to already and into a larger organization I would strongly recommend having a few of these public events. After every public event we typically get anywhere from 1-5 new members. I think when we started we were about 5-8 people and now we have a membership of 70+. It sounds like you already have a gaming store that supports you, so that is a great place to start your advertising. I use to have business cards that I tried to set out at our store. At first they were grudgingly taking them, but now every time I walk in and they are out of cards they ask how soon I can get them some more. ;-} We have also worked with our gaming store to help coordinate some of their events and they have allowed us to run them. We did a 24+ hour gaming event with them that had a turn out of over 80 people.

willk_1230 wrote:
If you have a "club", do you have officers and plan functions and such?

I sort of answered this above, but yes we have officers. We currently have a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Public Relations Coordinator. You might not need this many people or all of these positions, but they work out well for us. Since our voting members approved the coordination of an official quarterly event, it is the BoD's responsibility to plan the event. The total membership helps by volunteering to run games, but it is the BoD that coordinates those volunteers, reserves the space, etc... Any of our members are also welcome to plan smaller, unofficial events and the BoD does their best to support these whenever possible; even if it means simply showing up to show support.

willk_1230 wrote:
Is it better to just have a group of friends that games when and where they can?

This is really a question you are going to have to answer for yourself. It is a matter of how much time and energy you are willing to put into it and what you want the final outcome to be. I think it is a good idea to start with a core group of friends and dedicated gamers. If you want something larger to grow from there, you will need to put the time and effort into it; which in my opinion includes hosting regular public gaming events.


willk_1230 wrote:
I'm really trying to get a feel for if it's wiser to stay loose and informal - just sharing contact info basically and getting together when we can, or are there benefits to formalizing with official members, officers, dues, functions, etc.

I would maybe start with a hybrid of the above. You can be semi-formal and not have to be a completely structured environment. You can also slowly build the foundation of structure if you find the club growing large enough to warrant it. If you have free gaming space that fits your needs for awhile, there might not be a need to have dues riht away, etc. Just examine the overall situation and as I said above examine what you want it to eventually become; and go from there.

willk_1230 wrote:
I'd love to hear stories of what work and what doesn't from those of you experienced with it.

As the first year president of a gaming organization that grew from a small start I can tell you that if you put the effort into it can be very rewarding. I know people I might not have otherwise met and consider many of them good friends. I can also tell you that you will have your share of frustration during the growing pains as well. Becoming larger and more of an actual organization will put you in contact with people that you might otherwise be able to avoid. ;-} You also have to remember that you cannot please everyone all the time. I have to try my best to remember what is best for the overall organization and that usually means not everyone is going to agree with it. Of course, I also have to listen to everything people say, especially our voting members, because maybe the organization truly needs a change that I was not aware of. It is a trade off. But at this point I would not trade it for much. We have grown a lot in the past year and we are currently planning our first gaming convention for 2008. So I am glad I have been here for the entire ride. ;-}
 
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Adrian
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We went through this recently and had good success.

Firstly, our lead organiser posted here on BGG with a general call for interest.

We don't have a formal committee but have one lead organiser and a few others volunteering time to help get things running. We didn't have the advantage of having a free venue so we chose to hire a community centre that was centrally located and each person pays $5 each meeting to cover the costs. We meet on the second Saturday of the month from 11am to 6pm.

Here is the thread that goes through the whole creation of our club:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/148425

It is important to have a regular time and to have one person look after the emailing list. We started with the thread above but moved to another site once we got organised to keep people informed.

Good luck.
 
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Eric Franklin
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willk_1230 wrote:
Do you have a formal membership?

Yes and no. The game group I'm a member of grew out of a weekly gathering we had at my apartment. We currently game at my FLGS, but it's not 100% open to the public - the store owner treats us as a private club that rents the space.

Quote:
Does a fixed, regular schedule work better than a spontaneous, impromptu schedule?

Again, yes and no. We meet every Wednesday to play games. Sometimes, we'll schedule other games - Long games get played on Saturdays. My "games played" is a pretty good mirror of what gets played when.

Quote:
If you have a "club", do you have officers and plan functions and such? Is it better to just have a group of friends that games when and where they can?

We haven't really formalized much. I'd like more formality so that we can present ourselves to publishers as a good group for playtests and the like - we've made progress and inroads in that direction, but nothing solid.

Quote:
I'm really trying to get a feel for if it's wiser to stay loose and informal - just sharing contact info basically and getting together when we can, or are there benefits to formalizing with official members, officers, dues, functions, etc.

We keep it light, and it works for us. It doesn't work for everyone. I've been involved with more formal groups who swear by it.

Quote:
I'm actually friends with the owner of a FLGS that has offered to let us use his store on nights they're not open so that we have plenty space/tables on which to game, so we do have that going for us.

My caution here is this:

Make sure your group can clean up after themselves. And be respectful of other people's property. This is extra-important in a store environment, and becomes even more important after-hours. Make sure you're gaming with people you trust - nothing shuts you down faster than someone stealing a game or two from the FLGS without any sort of record of who was there. Even if you're friends with the owner, you still want to make sure he's covered.

Eric
 
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David Levin
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For what it's worth, this is how I did it.

I had it in mind that I wanted to start a game group. I asked at my local Barnes & Noble if they allowed that sort of thing in their cafe. They have a Consumer Relations person who was great, very helpful, and said no problem.

I figured that I would start out slow, once a month, and if people showed an interest I could change it to 2 times a month or more. I decided to have it on a weeknight and that was fine with Barnes & Noble.

So, once I had decided on the day of the week (2nd Monday of each month) I informed Barnes & Noble. With a months notice, they were able to put it into their monthly Calendar of Events and they also were able to make a big sign for the store, all at no cost to me. Edit: They also set out two big tables with tablecloths on the day and put reserved signs on them with the name of the group.

I also made some flyers and put them up on bulletin boards of other local coffee and sandwich shops and I placed a listing in my local weekly newspaper's bulletin board section. I also posted a listing here in the forums for my area of the country.

I don't charge anything for people to participate and as of yet, the meetings haven't cost me anything. I usually bring a bag full of 15 or so games and some of the people who come also bring a few games, so there is always something to play.

I try to bring some games that can handle a larger number of people and also a few 2-player games, since people come and go at different times.

Membership isn't anything official, I just keep an email mailing list and I send out reminders one week before, on the day, and then a report a day or two after detailing how many people came and what games were played.

We have only had 3 meetings, but the numbers have increased each time. By having it in a public place like Barnes & Noble, a lot of people just happen upon us and join in. And I like teaching games and introducing new people to the hobby, so I have a really good time.

It's not the kind of game group where we're going to sit down and play Twilight Imperium, but we play a lot of fun games and as more people get more experience with those types of games, some heavier stuff will hit the table, as long as they are games that take 45-60 minutes (maybe as much as 90).

I don't know if that is in line with the type of game group you are looking to start, but that is how it has gone for me so far.
 
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ɹǝsɐɹɟ
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As has been said before a regular schedule is very important. People will come if they know it is every X. If they have to do investigative work themselves they are much less likely to bother.
 
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Neil Carr
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As has been said several times, having a consistent time and place is far more effective over the long run than ad hoc scheduling. With our group we are mostly 30 somethings, many of who have families and so they can't make it every week, or sometimes even every month, or even half year... and so knowing that the games are going on every week at the same place and same time makes it far easier for someone with a busy schedule to make time for it.

I send out a weekly email to what is now a rather sizable number of people, detailing what we played the previous week. This is a great reminder for busy people and also lets them rsvp when they think they can make it. Sometimes the weekly email is also used to highlight upcoming geeky things, such as setting up a longer weekend session to play a longer game. It works pretty well.

I think at a genetic level I'm adverse to formality, so I can't imagine setting up any real structure beyond what we have. We play at my house, we tried a public space awhile ago, and my house is just easier and more comfortable. There is always the risk of getting some crazy-lacking-any-social-graces type of gamer to come into your home, but so far that hasn't happened, and if it did then they just wouldn't be invited back.

Our group also is dominated by a bunch of laid back people, so there aren't a lot of complicated politics, with fussy gamers advocating this or that game constantly. I could see how a different social mix might need more structure, but thankfully for us there isn't any fuss.

In terms of building it together. If you already have that core group of gamers then that is great. Having some "core" regulars is really helpful to keep momentum going. Beyond that you just need to keep promoting, via the internet, your FLGS, and even flyers around town or at the local college. Just keep plugging it and eventually you'll have enough of a base of players that on any given week you'll have plenty of people to play with.
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Brian Morris
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The prime importance for any game club is location, location, location. If you have a nice place to play with proper tables, chairs and elbow room then your club will thrive. If you don't have a good location with nice facilities then you will struggle to keep people coming. It's literally that simple.
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Gregor McNish
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Ditto on the regular schedule/location. You're probably getting that message by now...

Our group is extremely informal. We do have membership cards though -- because local game stores will give us a 10% discount iff we can show them a membership card.

Other than that, one person is responsible for collecting money ($2 a night) brings coffee/tea/biscuits and makes sure the rent for the space gets paid on time.

Most contact has been by word of mouth or the website.

One of the differences between a club and a group of friends, is that people may come to the club who you really don't like that much, or who have some quirk that makes you mental, and you have to work out how to play nicely together.
 
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Chris
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You ask a lot of good questions. As one who started small, grew big (and did a lot of the things you ask about), and then, contracted again - I'll weigh in.

willk_1230 wrote:
Do you have a formal membership?


We do, and always have. Basically, we play in people's homes, so we're limited by space. We can handle, about, 18 full-time regular members. So, once we get to that many, we'll stop recruiting. Being a "formal member" means you're "in." -- until then, you're taking a chance that you may not be in, once we get to 18 members. We base membership on 2-3 factors: (1) how frequently the person attends (i.e., it makes no sense to keep someone in the group that comes to maybe 20% of the meetings (especially if it means keeping someone else out)), and (2) personality (we have a VERY social group...to me, that dynamic is the most important thing, and needs to be preserved).

The only costs, now, are for food - we meet once a month from 11am - whenever (as well as other, shorter events). On that larger GameDay, though, we'll normally serve lunch and order out for dinner. The host buys the lunch stuff, and then, everyone contributes (usually $4-7 - but this includes lunch, snacks, dessert and beverages throughout the day), plus whatever they order for dinner.


Quote:
Does a fixed, regular schedule work better than a spontaneous, impromptu schedule?


Absolutely. With kids, wives, work functions, etc. - you HAVE to plan dates. We plan four months at a time, with people marking dates that they don't currently have plans -- whichever dates get the most 'thumbs-up', are the dates of our events.


Quote:
If you have a "club", do you have officers and plan functions and such?


Yes and No - we started with no officers, then elected officers (aka, "The Great Mistake") and then, dropped them again. If you elect officers to make decisions for the group, then the group (as a whole) will resent those officers (even though they elected them).

In LIBO, we now have one "officer" (me), but there are definitely tiers of members. When we were publishing INDEPTH (our magazine), certain members wrote more than others...when we attended the NY Toy Fair, earlier this year, those were the members I invited to attend with me. But, there's no "official" title to them.

As far as functions - yeah, we do that. We have two "celebration" days a year, where spouses and children can attend (one this weekend, in fact), and we do a Mini-Golf tournament every summer. We also have a slew of other events that we plan, but they tend to "pop up" more often.


Quote:
Is it better to just have a group of friends that games when and where they can?


Only if you don't mind being disappointed...

Seriously, if you leave it too "loose," it's too easy for people to simply blow it off. When I first started, we charged dues (which we then used to pay for plaques at the end of each year). I thought (correctly) that if people paid for something, they'd be more likely to attend more frequently -- that proved to be true. However, it's MOST important that there be a schedule that people can access.

In our group, we even go so far as to plan the games that will be played on each day...that takes a little more work (ensuring that, when there's 3-4 tables of games, they all end ~around~ the same time, so people can swap tables and/or play with different people.

My $.03.

Chris
 
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Jacco Versteeg
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I got started via Meetup.com, and I'm still going with them. It was pretty easy that way, since there was quite a long list of people who had signed up waiting to hear about a new group starting. Funny enough, I only just found the whole wide world of boardgaming and wanted to join a group, but since I couldn't find one easily, I just started one.
There are still new people joining up almost weekly, and my official membership is at 111, although I think the number of people that actually have shown up more than once is about 30.

I have a few rules, which are mostly common sense. Since Meetup works with an RSVP system, I request that people RSVP for events, and that they stick to it. Lots of RSVP's saying 'Yes' and then not coming will result in an automatic exit from the group. I also request that they show an active interest, so someone who hasn't logged in to the site for 6 months or longer will be asked to reconsider their membership (I'm very flexible). If they don't respond to that, they're out.

I also worked out from the number of people who come regularly how much it would cost to pay for a full year of Meetup usage. So I've recently set a membership fee of £2.50 a year, which would cover a year's cost of Meetup. I tell people to pay at their second attendance (I've had lots of people who've been once and then never again).

The schedule I run is pretty steady, alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays, although I'm thinking of shifting to the Tuesday as a regular gaming night, with the occasional special evening (where we play just one big game and everybody is expected to have read the rules) on Wednesdays. I used to have a monthly Sunday afternoon event as well, but with my current location that doesn't really work out.

I don't have officers of any sort, but I do have Assistant Organisers. They have nearly as much rights on the site as I have, and they're basically my sounding board. They're also the hard core of the group, the people that will show up at almost every event. But in the end, my word is law in the group and that makes things a lot easier.

Most of the games played depend on what I bring, although very, very slowly other people start bringing in their own games, which is good. That bag is damn heavy every time, and it would be nice if I could just bring one or two games, and everybody else to do the same. From experience I know have some idea what people like to play, and one game that will always come along and is much loved in the group is Family Business. It's a great opener and closer of the evenings.
 
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carl huber
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See also Matthew Baldwin's excellent "The Care and Feeding of Your Game Group"

 
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Donald Dennis
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It just so happens the latest episode of On Board Games talks about starting game groups and things to consider.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/166645
 
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Donald Dennis
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I'm working on a presentation about game spaces at libraries. If you can't find a good time at your local game store, check with your library. Then please let me know what your experience is doing so.

Thanks!

 
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Chris
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We use Yahoo Groups to find members (that is how I found my group when I moved to a new city) You can also use Google Groups. We have around 30 something members but only the same 8 or so show at events with 1 or 2 different ones every once in awhile.

We tend to not have a set schedule in our group only that one of us tries to host a game day at his house once a week. We try not to host on the same nights as each other but you know how that can happen sometimes.

I don't officially host on Thursday nights but there is an open invention for Thursdays for a bit of gaming for a couple of hours. We tend to meet officially once or twice a week and it is getting more common.

It takes some time to get on a rotation but it is well worth it. Our group has an in with the local library (he works there) so we know when the games are available. We find that the library tends to be a bad place to meet on weeknights as the games tend to run later then they are open.

We have a new FLGS in the area that caters to of course miniature gaming but he has a rather nice collection of FFG and DoW games there. We have played there one night but it is in a bad part of town and leaving there at 2am was a bit late.

I wish you luck and hope that your group pulls together. What it takes is for you to take control and start planing events once people start playing they will want to host a game event at their house (unless they can't).
 
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