Monday, October 12, 2015

Return to Championing a Game

I have an event coming up this Saturday. If everyone reading this would kindly engage some type of transportation to wander over to Ashburn VA and attend it I would really appreciate it!!! Come one, Come all, check out the new game Bill is passionate about!!!

The written word is not always clear, so I'll clarify and say that the above is somewhat sarcastic. (but only somewhat). I find myself feeling like a carnival barker from time to time when it comes to the "Game Champion" aspect of my gaming hobby. After a nearly 2 year break I'm back out there working to run events for a specific game system and build up a "community" to play a single game.

How did I get here?

It seems like I've had this urge to build up a gaming group in me since I started gaming. In high school I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons by my best friend. He lived in a different town and had been introduced by a group in his school and thought it was a cool game. He ran me on a couple adventures to show me the game and I absolutely loved it. Unfortunately this was in the 80's, a period where parents and society was convinced D&D would literally brain wash you into worshiping the devil and commit suicide. My parent's adamantly refused to allow me to play the game, which resulted in me playing it anyway and hiding it from my parents. I ended up gathering together a group of friends at school and running elaborate adventures as the party DM.

Fast forward 15 years to when I had a full time job, a house, a family, and lots of adult responsibilities. I find myself reinvigorating my love for coordinating groups and now the internet let's me reach out and pull together an extensive D&D group and start playing. At this point I'm not only planning and executing on full day adventures for my small group, but also coordinating a small variety of outings that we can all enjoy, things like the local Renaissance fair and such. Out of this group I had friends who introduced me to Games Workshop miniature games and started the transition to tabletop mini-wargaming.

My miniature fixation started slow, edging into Warhammer 40K and putting together armies. I started building and learning about the game and just playing here and there with my D&D friends. This expanded slowly into the other mini-gamers they knew, and short forays to the local GW stores. At some point along the line I realized I wanted a bit more and I started to search out local gaming clubs. This search led to me beginning to coordinate small events, then spending time in both GW stores and local non-GW game stores building up a "community". I ran demo's, championed the game to people playing other games, coordinated painting events, and even helped coordinate tournaments. Through this time I expanded into Warhammer Fantasy Battles and even dipped my toes into War of the Ring. I even started a podcast during this time, expanding my reach of community broadly. I did this even though I was constantly frustrated by the fact I could not get support from GW in building these communities and coordinating events.

Eventually I fell out of love with GW backed games and moved to skirmish games. My first skirmish game was Malifaux, which for a while became an all-encompassing passion from a gaming standpoint. Malifaux and Wyrd Miniatures provided a vehicle to push my love of building communities via their henchman program. Here was a way for me to do what I was already doing but also gain some benefits for myself in terms of free product. I found myself in a situation where there was already a small group of people in my area playing Malifaux, but it was not a mainstream game by any imagining. There was already a henchman in the area but he was not very active and the game was very new and had not really made dent yet. I grabbed the reigns and started driving toward building a major center of players within the US for Malifaux. I believe that many of the parts that composed the first edition of the game represented some of the best and most innovative game design up to that point. This made it easy to be passionate about the game, and that passion helped in expanding the player base and growing a full community.

I delved deeper into community building and championing a game during my Malifaux Classic era than with any game previously. Wyrd changing to M2E, my dislike for many of the M2E design decisions, and the personal conflict that arose at the same time set me thinking that level of involvement with a game, game community, and game company was a bad choice. Perhaps if I build my own game that level of passion and commitment will pay off but investing that heavily in something I'm not directly part of driving the direction of is never going to pay off. It will just end up badly.

Here we are

OVer the past 2 years I've wandered through a number of new games, waiting for something to catch my attention. I always thought, in the back of my mind,  I was looking for "that game". I truly thought "that game" was just a primary game I would be passionate about playing. I discovered that game with Guild Ball, a mini-wargame that's edging out Wrath of Kings (my other current mini-wargame) for a couple reasons. Although I was excited to play Guild Ball, and recording a podcast dedicated to it, I did not expect I would end up championing the game. Then I was asked to demo the game for some of the members of my old Malifaux group.

Demo'ing the game lit up a portion of my brain which had been dormant for a fair while. There is something exciting about delivering a good demo that is exciting. Not only did I watch 2 new players (the demo ended up being for 2 new folk) learn and get excited for the game, but I also felt how passionate I was for the game. My own excitement comes through in the demo and becomes infectious, helping to energize the people receiving the demo and getting them excited as well.

I was resistant for a little bit longer to become a Guild Ball Pundit, the name they assign to their game champions. In the end I decided it made sense, as I would get access to additional support for expanding the game in my local area. Now I'm starting to mull over ideas for growing a new group centered around a new game. Here is where my current frustration comes in.

During my time as the local champion of Malifaux a friend opened a local gaming store. I was excited for him and encouraged him to bring Malifaux into the store as one of the game lines he carried. I spent time building the community and Malifaux was one of the primary games played in the store until I stopped championing it. Even with my departure from the Malifaux scene, it has persisted in a largely scaled down presence, continuing to sell small amounts despite no one playing it publicly. Over the past 2 years this local store has brought in some other games (Relic Knights, Infinity, etc) which have not done well in the store. I even coordinated a couple play days for Wild West Exodus at the store, where the owner was able to get a couple orders although he never chose to carry the line. Over this time I chose not to step behind building a community around other games. War Machines and Hordes had a community champion and it has grown tremendously.

So, here I am deciding to step behind a new game as the game champion and begin to build out a community. Guild Ball does not have US distribution, which is a challenge, but it appears (from looking at other stores) that the Guild Ball guys are pretty reasonable about working with US stores at this time. I have an event coming up this Saturday but it's not on the store calendars. I'm frustrated because I would have thought my local store would give me more support. I decided to start out "small", not jumping straight into a tournament or league but instead focusing on Demo's and casual play for the first event. We've been bumped once for another event (no hard feelings there, Star Wars Armada is a big deal in our store), and then bumped to the "back room" because of a 40K event on the same day. Amusingly, we have as many people commited to the Guild Ball event as showed up for the last 40K RTT at the store. If even half of the "maybe's" show up we'll double the turn-out for the last 40K event.

Overall I'm just a bit grumpy about how things have gone so far. I am excited for this game and excited to put my energy into building a gaming community around it. I am nervous that I won't have support from my local game store. This frustrates me because I want to support my friend and my local game store. I need to remember I'm not running the store and it's not my game, so I need to pull back a bit and not get overly invested here.

Anyway, if you've made it this far and want to join us this Saturday, please do. I'll be at Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn VA doing demo's of Guild Ball and coordinating Guild Ball games all day.

Here's the facebook invite:
Here's the player pack:

Huzzah Fall Scrimmage
11am - 6pm
44927 George Washington Blvd, Ste. 135
Ashburn VA 20147

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