Games clubs / nights come in all shapes and sizes, from outwardly facing communities like Herefordshire Board Gamers who work hard to be inclusive and give back to the community to clubs which focus on just meeting and playing games.
Games clubs meeting in pubs, churches, scout huts and universities. They may focus on one kind of game only for example wargames, Warhammer, Role play games or magic the gathering.
I personally prefer expanding and sharing our hobby, providing free social activities and building a community, so to help with this I’ve created a number of suggestions of things you may want to implement or review to make your club what you want it to be.
That said please do not feel judged/ insufficient or inferior if you don’t want to implement these or if you are happy with how your current club is, as long as you have fun and helping others that’s great.
This guide will overlap with a previous guide which focuses on accessibility and inclusivity as there is a huge overlap.
Planning and advertising
- Clear Event details: When where, how much does it cost, where do you meet, what do you play, what do you need to know / bring. This is the same for online events.
- Venue details: Photos of the gaming space, clear address, availability and cost of the food / drink including if you can or can’t bring your own. Accessibility notes, disabled toilets etc
- Advertise on multiple channels, Facebook, discord and meet up. Ideally a website too.
- Actually advertise! Reach out on Facebook and local communities. Ask your players to spread the word
The games night
- Dedicated greeter: to welcome new arrivals and help them find a game to play. (For larger events a players wanted flag is a great idea)
- Dedicated games teachers: players happy and skilled at teaching. These folks may end up teaching a lot of beginner or gateway games.
- Identifiable ‘staff’: ensuring new and old players can see who is in charge if they need help
- Games library: Games for people to play who don’t yet or can’t afford to bring their own.
- Flexible start time: Not starting big games bang on start time, i.e. play a round of social games like codenames which can support players jumping in. Arriving 5 minutes late to find everyone in prearrange games or locked into 2 hour games is not pleasant.
- Event Signage: Clear signage to where you are playing, ideally outside the building signage near the players to invite others to join and interaction. We play in a pub and have a few signs to show players and passers by they are welcome to come and chat and join in. Seeing people deep in a game can be intimidating
- Variety: Play and support a range of games, and other activities
- Accessibility and inclusion measures: Make the space as accessibility as you can, from wheel chair access, good lighting, low background noise to card holders and large print games
- At the end of the games night publish a list of what was played, this is great for advertising and for players to remember the names of games they played
- Free entry / donations. Price is a barrier to entry particular if you have to drive, pay for parking and buy drinks at the venue.
- Games lending library: Games for people to take home and play, try before they buy (This is a large admin overhead and comes with substantial risk)
- Friendly culture, where every is happy and empowered to help each other and give back
- Give back to the community or charity
- Empower and support your regulars: Create an admin team or committee people like to help and be involved, listen to their idea let them run and organise things……
- Cliques and in jokes: These are unavoidable but keep an eye on them, they can be alienating and excluding to new players.
- Governance and controls: Keep an eye on your standards, call out bad behaviour.
- Publish guides and articles
- Photos of the game and events.
- Listen to feedback!
- Play online or on other nights as well.
What is this list missing?
What else do you think your club should do?
What do you wish your club did?
What are the costs? How will they be covered? As an organiser how much are you willing to subsidize especially initially.
Suggestions from https://www.facebook.com/groups/FortWorthGameNight/
You might have great success, challenges, or your group my struggle to stay together. You have to work hard to keep your game group alive and thriving. Having 10-15 “core” members who share the vision of the group, are willing to host, and are consistent participants are all essential for a successful game group.
A. Try to think of ways to make people feel welcome.Who are you trying to reach and have join? This might be an introduction thread on your social media of choice. We do this 1-2 times a month on Facebook welcoming new members. At game nights introduce yourself and have others introduce themselves to new people. Bring shorter/filler games in case there are less experienced gamers. Be willing to teach games.
B. Consider which type of communication is best for your game group.Text messages or email may work great for your group. But as a group grows texting may no longer be efficient. Email can seem a bit antiquated and impersonal. Facebook, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, or Meetup may be good alternatives. We have Facebook Messenger group chats to facilitate members communicating with those in the same game night and/or geographical location.
C. Start a Facebook group and/or page.Link your Facebook page back to your Facebook group. Post different content to both. Get a logo to build your brand with a name that makes sense for your area. Post a variety of content: discussion questions, pictures of game nights, board game memes, have a monthly Trade Post where people can buy/sell/trade games, etc. Or a Meetup group is another option although I’ve seen those seem to be less efficient and participation in discussions seems limited. Facebook is typically good for those over 30 years old. Millennials seem to connect a lot through Instagram, Snap Chat, and other forms of social media.
D. Host events locally in public areas so other board gamers can find you.This can be in local bars/pubs, restaurants, libraries, churches, or other venues. For about 2 years we hosted game days at our local mall – Hulen Mall. It grew from 8 people the first time to 200+ the last (6th time) time at the Arlington Public Library prior to Covid. That’s how many people found us. Now most people find us because of our Fb group location, name (we used our city in our name), and page.E. Network with other board game groups.This may be counter-intuitive at first but it has worked well for us. We partner with 3-4 game groups that are about 30-45 minutes away from us. We added a chess club that meets at a restaurant, a monthly game night at a library, and we’re now cross promoting a game event for another group that meets at a game store. What other game groups are in your area? If they have game nights on weekends maybe try to have your game nights on the weekdays to create synergy.F. Network with your friendly local game stores (FLGS).This allows you to host events at the FLGS and/or meet new gamers. How many game stores or game café’s in your area?
G. Find ways to attract new members or participants.Think outside the box. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. Host events at public places locally. We also tried having picnics , Friendsgiving , secret Santa , and New Years parties.
H. Be consistent in your Game Nights – same time, place, etc.Giving multiple options is good. We had game nights every other Tuesday at my place for 5 years. We now have game nights the first Tuesday of the month down south. We have game nights every Friday at a friend’s place in Arlington. This may be moving to Saturday. We also have every Friday game nights in one of two hosts houses up north. We also partner with another group to promote a Sunday game afternoon at Generation X Comics and Games.
I. Anticipate on any given game night at least 1-3 people cancelling the day before or day of.So if you want 8-9 people to show up make room for 10-12 spots. Have tables and chairs set up. Make policies and clear expectations about phone usage, no calls/no shows, leaving games early, food at game tables, etc.
J. Expect people to leave the group.This can include moving to another location, change of job, change of schedule, loss of interest in gaming, life event that keeps them from gaming as much, differences with others in the group, etc. This is a natural process and occurrence. People may also break off into smaller groups no longer officially associated with your group which is natural.
K. Share the leadership and responsibility. We have a team of 6-7 moderators/administrators in our Facebook group. This helps with decision making and any issues that might arise in the group. Additionally, having multiple hosts helps alleviate the pressure on any one family. We have a chat for FWGN admins and another one for hosts to communicate about any issues that may arise. We also encourage members to bring their own snacks, drinks, and games to our events in order not to burden the hosts.