Starting a New Game Group

We have been working on getting a semi-regular game night event in the vicinity of Sudbury, MA.  Yesterday worked out well.  Starting a new game group is no easy task.  I wanted to share some of the things I learned in case they are helpful.

  • Get Help – John L was the person who initiated the idea by posting a message at the Yahoo Unity board, so in this case I am not sure if I was helping him or he was helping me.  But it sure helps to work together.  Furthermore, we both have gaming friends, which brings the next topic.
  • Invite a couple of Known Friends – Sure, you want to meet new people you can game with.  But you also need help making sure everyone feels comfortable in the setting were you are hosting the group.  Close gaming friends know you, and they help you help your guests feel comfortable without even asking them for help.  Also, it is a bit of insurance – at a minimum you know you will enjoy playing with your friends!
  • Suggest People Bring a Game that they feel comfortable explaining to others and excited about playing it.  That way everyone has a game they want to play in mind, making the “what to play?” decision easier.  Also, it offloads the responsibility from you on finding and teaching games – you may already have your hands full with other things.
  • Time it After a Big Board Game Event – I think it helped that some people went to Unity Games and were really excited to continue playing.  Piggyback on someone else’s event success.
  • Don’t Cannibalize other Game Groups – Try to pick a time / day that doesn’t conflict with existing game events in the vicinity.  You do not want to split a group in two by creating two events – you want the contrary – you want your group to serve as a place for other groups to find players that may enjoy participating in their games.  You also want to serve as a an alternative for those people whose schedule prevents from attending to the currently scheduled groups but not with the one you are starting to create.
  • Keep it Light and Flexible – Don’t start the group with a game of Twilight Imperium.  Try Catan or Ticket to Ride first.  It is easier to recover from a 1 hour mistake than from a game that lasts 7 hours.  Also, don’t feel the urge to set things like locations, frequency, times too early.  If the group is naturally bound to work, the group will figure it out by themselves.  Just ask questions frequently.
  • Don’t Forget About Food / Drink – I kind of overlooked that on the announcement and learned it quickly.  Different people have different expectations (eat before or during the events, bring snacks or not, beer welcomed or not, etc.).  Try to be specific about what is expected.  Everyone can adapt to most expectations.  Most people feel more comfortable when they know what to expect – and when they have a full belly.

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