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Subject: Building a better gaming group. rss

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Cardboard Hustle
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I am relatively new to The Geek, but I have been lurking for several years. I'm hoping some more seasoned players can help me out.

The scenario: Several months ago I hosted a gaming group at my house. It was an official group via my church, and people had to sign up to join. The group ran for 4 months. It was a smashing success, we capped the group at 16 people, but several nights we had 20+, due to people bringing friends. Everyone had a great time and lots of friendships were made.

What's wrong with that, nothing inherently. However, about midway through the 4 months a pattern emerged. The menfolk would go to the basement to game and the womenfolk would stay upstairs and chat/gossip/laugh uncontrollably. The first couple weeks this was no big deal but it started to bug my wife who actually wanted to game. Come to find out post-group it bugged a few other women as well (the group was 90% married couples). Several of them wanted to game, but felt the invisible social pressures, that women sense better than men, to stay with the group of women.

This issue wouldn't bother me too much except we had to cap the group due to the size of my house. 16 is cozy, 20 is getting too full. I don't want people who want to game to be turned away so some people can socialize sans gaming.

So my question is, how can I fix this the second time around? How can I get a group of people there for gaming and weed out those whose evening would be better spent at Chili's drinking margaritas and gossiping? How can I keep the gamers and cull the socialites?
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McDog
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acedaryl1 wrote:
I am relatively new to The Geek, but I have been lurking for several years. I'm hoping some more seasoned players can help me out.

The scenario: Several months ago I hosted a gaming group at my house. It was an official group via my church, and people had to sign up to join. The group ran for 4 months. It was a smashing success, we capped the group at 16 people, but several nights we had 20+, due to people bringing friends. Everyone had a great time and lots of friendships were made.

What's wrong with that, nothing inherently. However, about midway through the 4 months a pattern emerged. The menfolk would go to the basement to game and the womenfolk would stay upstairs and chat/gossip/laugh uncontrollably. The first couple weeks this was no big deal but it started to bug my wife who actually wanted to game. Come to find out post-group it bugged a few other women as well (the group was 90% married couples). Several of them wanted to game, but felt the invisible social pressures, that women sense better than men, to stay with the group of women.

This issue wouldn't bother me too much except we had to cap the group due to the size of my house. 16 is cozy, 20 is getting too full. I don't want people who want to game to be turned away so some people can socialize sans gaming.

So my question is, how can I fix this the second time around? How can I get a group of people there for gaming and weed out those whose evening would be better spent at Chili's drinking margaritas and gossiping? How can I keep the gamers and cull the socialites?


Serve margaritas down in the game room? Not sure......
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Hugh G. Rection
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You could use something like GroupSpaces (it's free) to organize and manage the group. You set up game nights as events with X number of slots available, and send out the email invitations. People who bother to RSVP get preference for that evening. I fully understand the house is too small to accommodate everyone situation, which is why I went this route.

If you can have experienced gamers plan to run specific games that night, you can list that in the event details, and have people sign up for the game(s) they are interested in playing. This avoids the more timid attendees getting shut out because they didn't speak up soon enough, or not know much about the game being suggested.

Since it's a game night, perhaps have a time set aside for dinner to socialize outside of the gaming - this totally depends on the timing of your group.
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Buz
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One of the great things about game night is the social aspect. I, however, have a motto: Less Fun, More Games.

Seriously, though, we have a tradition at our game nights: start with one huge group game that everyone can play (something like Catchphrase, Wits and Wagers, etc...10-15 minute filler) and then break into smaller groups for "real gaming." This allows for some socializing at the beginning, but then also a natural cutoff and transition into gaming via the large group game.

I've also explored listing the "real games" we plan to play in advance so people can sign up in those slots. Those in favor of more casual gaming can play those titles, and those looking for heavier games can do so as well.
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Lisa Sutherland
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I think you have to focus the atmosphere more on gaming and less on socializing. Keep the food to a minimum and do not play music. Have a pile of games upstairs where the ladies congregate. When everyone is there, ask who wants to play. If a woman doesnt speak up, then it is her choice and she can't complain later. Make sure you offer to play all levels of games.
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Alex Bourne
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I agree with the sign up sheet idea. Have the games pre-picked and slots assigned. If there are no open slots people should not be bringing plus ones, and it should get people more involved in actually playing games. You could also have certain tables already set up with the games that you are going to play that night so that people have a destination when they get to your house. This might keep some of the mingling down.
 
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Alex Bourne
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oeste wrote:
The pre-chosen route may not work with all who are more excited about learning a new game they don't know about.


If our gaming group decides to learn a new game or teach a game to a couple new people that want to learn, then we just plan that in. I was more saying that you make a plan before you start the evening so that things stay more focused and organized. Create a Facebook group and have everyone pick or recommend games that they would like to play that week and then have your different tables pre-organized. That way the wives that are feeling pressure to socialize won't have to feel bad because they could have already signed up to start the night off at the "Dominion" table. Try to get everyone to sign up at a starting table before the night begins. I think with 16 people I would have some sort of online communication throughout the week with the group.

Just my two cents for what it's worth.
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Jeff Forbes

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You're starting by being fully inclusive of people of questionable gameyness.

What you need to do is start small and let it grow organically. Invite only people who will game. Don't quickly increase the size of the group. Plan a game of the evening, and involve everyone. As group size grows, then you can have 2-3 tables at once.

So you and your wife game. Invite one couple over and play some games. Six is an awkward number, so the third couple may be awkward, but if there's an individual gamer that wants to join, that would be the next step. 4/5 - then the next jump should be to 7 people, which gives you 3/4 as two groups, and isn't overwhelming. The smaller group of people will keep things from turning in to a social first event.

Don't make numbers the big goal. Games in bigger groups aren't any more fun than games in smaller groups. It is harder to manage, and more people are going to get things out of hand, particularly if you're just doing a mass invite sort of thing.

This might be better achieved also by playing less party type games. I have some friends that host game nights from time to time, but they tend to turn in to drinking and apples to apples affairs. Sometimes it's possible to get something else going, but people will literally sit there, play apples to apples, become bored of it, and continue playing it for 2 more hours. Le sigh.

So if you do more social types of games, keep it to things with a definitive end, rather than something that can just go on and on and on forever.

I game with some different people, and to some extent it is a "group", but different people may be invited to different occasions.
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Val Ruza
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Does your church have a fellowship hall? If so run the event there, this way the men can't go downstairs to play and leave the women upstairs. Also assign a greeter/usher who greets people as they come in and gets them involved in a game right away.
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David
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Well IMHO it's their own fault. If your wife want to play games than she should just stand up for herself and declare "It's nice chatting with you gals but now I'm gonna go play games."

You can help by not sneaking out to the basement but also declaring that you're going to start gaming now and explicitly invite her to tag along. You could also meet up in the basement to start with thus making it clear what the evening is about and offering no opportunity to stay in the living room. If the women don't play for as long as the men they can still go upstairs for some chatting.
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Matthew Proper-Lee
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I'm sure it's prtly a space issue, but is there a reason the gaming group goes downstairs (separating the group already) and not playing on tables in the living room or kitchen andtherefore nearby?

If it's a gaming group first, perhaps remove any chance of isolating the chatters/socializers by incorporating the couch and loose chairs to surround the coffee table and other portale tables as gaming areas that removes this separation and social pressure?

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kelsith
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It might not be a bad idea if the wife and some of the women she knows want to game kind of discuss on the sly before hand what games they would like to play. Often times I think what happens is a couple of so people start talking and kinda direct traffic towards themselves. Then once the dynamic is talking no one wants to take a step. So be a step ahead of that be starting a game with mostly women and a few spots open immediately and do it upstairs where the women congregate. Often you will be surprised how many people will start playing a game once they see how much fun other people are having. They might have wanted to play all along but just didn't want to be the one to upset the balance.

Also be careful not to be rude with it but if one of the gossipers wants to try to interrupt the game basically say something like. "I am sorry I am trying to concentrate I don't get a chance to game often and I have been really looking forward to this."


or if you want a little more conflict you could always try "I prefer to make myself feel good by my own small accomplishments than by making fun of others who are not here to defend themselves so winning this game is far more important than what Mrs Smith wore to church on Sunday." Admittedly this is probably not a good suggestion but my wife always complains about whenever she used to get invited to a ladies night it always devolves to gossip about who isn't here night. Then people wonder why after a few months no one wants to do it anymore and some people aren't talking to each other.


 
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Cardboard Hustle
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Rastak wrote:

Serve margaritas down in the game room? Not sure......


Best idea ever, I have always wanted to play Shadows Over Camelot with a round table of hammered knights.
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Cardboard Hustle
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Hugh_G_Rection wrote:
You could use something like GroupSpaces (it's free) to organize and manage the group. You set up game nights as events with X number of slots available, and send out the email invitations. People who bother to RSVP get preference for that evening. I fully understand the house is too small to accommodate everyone situation, which is why I went this route.


I like this idea, I have three tables in the house and if every table has a plan before the night begins that helps avoid the group playing our #1 game: "what do you wanna play?"

Belz wrote:
Does your church have a fellowship hall? If so run the event there, this way the men can't go downstairs to play and leave the women upstairs. Also assign a greeter/usher who greets people as they come in and gets them involved in a game right away.


Unfortunately no, we meet in a movie theater ATM.

klz_fc wrote:
I'm sure it's prtly a space issue, but is there a reason the gaming group goes downstairs (separating the group already) and not playing on tables in the living room or kitchen andtherefore nearby?


It is a space issue, the dining room table is used but I have 2-3 tables in the basement.

To clarify, I do game outside of this group with people who are pretty great gamers. This particular group is an official offering through my church. Once a quarter the church puts out a list of groups to join and this one appears on the list. So growing it organically isn't an option.
 
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Mr. Blue
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acedaryl1 wrote:
Unfortunately no, we meet in a movie theater ATM.


Not a lot of space to play, but everyone comes out richer from the experience!

(Sorry, couldn't resist... gulp)
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McDog
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acedaryl1 wrote:
Rastak wrote:

Serve margaritas down in the game room? Not sure......


Best idea ever, I have always wanted to play Shadows Over Camelot with a round table of hammered knights.



For a change of pace it'd be cool. For the record, I wasn't suggesting you give everyone 10 of 'em.
 
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Ted Groth
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Kempeth wrote:
Well IMHO it's their own fault. If your wife want to play games than she should just stand up for herself and declare "It's nice chatting with you gals but now I'm gonna go play games."
Good point but perhaps a bit harsh. Still, as co-host she does bear some responsibility for directing the evenining activities, so if she did encourage the ladies to participate in the games they might do so.

Quote:
You can help by not sneaking out to the basement but also declaring that you're going to start gaming now and explicitly invite her to tag along. You could also meet up in the basement to start with thus making it clear what the evening is about and offering no opportunity to stay in the living room. If the women don't play for as long as the men they can still go upstairs for some chatting.
Yes, explicitly invite her, and each of the others. Then as I said above, she can make it her responsibility to also invite the others.

Make certain that the game room really does have enough space for everyone to be comfortable, including a few people who aren't at one of the game tables, whether because they want to just socialize, or because they are between games. If you can keep the group together (although split between game tables) then getting everyone to participate at some point in the evening is a lot easier. (DON'T complain about the distraction of people chatting nearby while you game either!)
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Matt Drown
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Perhaps you need to define "Gaming" here.

You have 20 people in your house, it's going to be social. You mention you already play games outside this group, so just expect this to be a different experience.

If you want to try to migrate people, try larger group games.

Pit is 6+ last I knew, and a lot of raucous fun.

Try PitchCar, I've done an 8 player game with this, and things worked out well.

If you want different games, then you need to take charge of the situation a little more. Just announce that you are playing games both upstairs and downstairs, and help facilitate (perhaps not playing) a couple different tables setup.

People are going to socialize, no matter what you do, it sounds like you really just need to split the group into socializers/gamers. To do that, force a game upstairs, and force the group downstairs to split up. As host you should be able to push certain games choices without too many issues.

Serve drinks, perhaps that will get the socializers to ignore peer pressure and just play games...

Anyways, good luck, and I wouldn't complain too heavily if you've got a group of 20 showing up and not trashing the house, and still having fun.

Don't forget to report back.


 
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Lori
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oeste wrote:
one method that could accommodate for uncertain participation would be to have an individual person name a game to start off the night at each table. You can say "I'll be playing X on the coffee table." Your wife can say "I'll be playing Y at the dining room table." Another member names a game they will play in the basement, etc. This way, you aren't futilely trying to lock in who is playing what, but you still have a direction the night will go.


Preplanning tables was my first thought, and I like this idea. If you can recruit as many serious people (including you and your wife) as there are tables, then you're set. The other key to this is that you have to bat cleanup. You don't start gaming till everyone else is. When you go off to game and leave your wife with the nongamer women, she gets sucked into the hostessy zone and it doesn't work. Let her round up enough people to play her chosen game and take them to a table and get after it. The other leaders do the same. Maybe you end up with the four least gaming-oriented women in your social circle, but if you're standing there prodding them about what game to play and let's get started, they won't likely just utterly ignore you and sink into chitchat.
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Alex Bourne
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oeste wrote:
bournizzle wrote:
If our gaming group decides to learn a new game or teach a game to a couple new people that want to learn, then we just plan that in. I was more saying that you make a plan before you start the evening so that things stay more focused and organized.
I can generally get along with a plan like that just fine, however statistically speaking, about half the people in the world have the inherent temperament to prefer the spontaneous decision of the moment format for making plans.


Kick them to the curb!

It really depends on your group. When our group gets together I'm all about GPH's (games per hour) and I don't mind doing a back to back Arkham Horror play through. However I understand that not everyone is going to be as enthusiastic as me. It may just be that the other wives are not that interested in gaming in which case there may not be anything you can really do about the situation. Many times one spouse may enjoy gaming while the other one doesn't really care all that much about it. Unfortunately they still come in pairs.
 
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Jon Simpson
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Sounds like you have created a scenario where everybody is having fun, people naturally doing what they enjoy. Not everybody enjoys boardgames, as long as neither party is disturbing the other.

Happens at my house all the time gamers get together to do their thing other people doing something else.

If everybody is having fun,I would let it run and see what it happens, something really good could develop. Try to arrange an additional and separate gaming session at a different time for the die hard gamers in your group. You might feel your needs are being met more while still giving others an occasion they enjoy.

 
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redeye wrote:
Sounds like you have created a scenario where everybody is having fun, people naturally doing what they enjoy. Not everybody enjoys boardgames, as long as neither party is disturbing the other.

Happens at my house all the time gamers get together to do their thing other people doing something else.

If everybody is having fun,I would let it run and see what it happens, something really good could develop. Try to arrange an additional and separate gaming session at a different time for the die hard gamers in your group. You might feel your needs are being met more while still giving others an occasion they enjoy.


Ultimately I think you are correct, the group will be what it will be. But that doesn't mean I won't try to guide it in a gaming direction.
 
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David
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redeye wrote:
Sounds like you have created a scenario where everybody is having fun, people naturally doing what they enjoy.

Actually they aren't. He mentioned that his wife was disappointed that she couldn't game because she felt pressured into staying with the chatter group.

IMO if they want to meet up to chat they should just make another group for that. His group is about playing boardgames. They've got the whole year for chatting. I'm not saying there can't be any chatting. But it shouldn't interfere with the purpose of the evening.
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I think you should have been harsher as in: If they don't come to play, don't invite them.
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General_Norris wrote:
I think you should have been harsher as in: If they don't come to play, don't invite them.


If you un-invite all the non-playing spouses I have a feeling the OP will be playing a 2 player game with the wife.
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