Saturday, February 28, 2015

So You Want to Start A Game Club?



In March, 2013, Geek and Sundry, through their popular YouTube show Tabletop hosted the very first International Tabletop Day.   A full day of celebrating board games, card games, role-playing games, and pretty much anything tabletop gaming related, thousands of gamers all around the world gathered in their friendly local game stores, libraries, and homes to share their love of gaming.  For so many people around the world, it was an incredible day to be out and about with their fellow gamers!  

Here in the Walls residence, it was a bit more low-key, but still a lot of fun.


International Tabletop Day 2013

My wife, mother-in-law, and two daughters ages nine and six, spent the evening playing our brand new copy of Settlers of Catan.  We thought the game looked pretty intriguing, having watched +Wil Wheaton and his pals on Tabletop trade sheep, build settlements, and compete for longest road.  At the time, we only had a few board games, and most of them were pretty traditional:  Monopoly, Life, Jenga, what you typically find in an average American household.  Sure, there was role-playing stuff in our house, but save for the occasional game, we didn't have a regular family campaign running.  

Looking back it's crazy to think about how much has changed since International Tabletop Day 2013.  This was before my first Gen Con, #GetOutAndGame, Disney Numenera, and the Living 4 Crits blog.  But it was the event that started our drive to create the Norwin Game Knights.  

While we sat around the table playing Settlers of Catan, my wife and I talked a little about how much fun it would be to have a larger event in 2014.  Given the turnout around the world, we believed that International Tabletop Day would become an annual event.  While playing games with our family was very satisfying, we really wanted to share the love that we had for gaming with others.  


First event!


It took a while for the concept to brew, but by August of 2013, we decided to create a group with the following simple parameters:


  • The group had to be family friendly
  • The group would be inclusive of all players
  • The group would represent all tabletop games
  • The group would be free


Using the local community Facebook group All About the Norwin Area, I wrote a post gauging interest in a community based gaming group.  Much to my surprise, several dozen people replied to the first post, and I quickly threw together a Facebook Group.  The Norwin Game Knights were born!  

We held our first monthly event at the Norwin Public Library in September, 2013.  My wife and I brought our two daughters, and a few Thirty-One bags full of games.  While we knew that a couple of our close gamer-friends would show, we kept our fingers crossed that some new folks would come.  Including my family, about a dozen people showed up to play Hero Quest, Risk, Settlers of Catan, Zombie Dice, and some traditional card games.  


In our new game-home!

It took a lot of promoting on Facebook, and several dozen flyers to get the word out for our October event.  We kept most of our original gamers, and even had a few new faces!  We also found our "home", in the basement of the Circleville United Methodist Church!


Numenera Night!


Given the popularity of Hero Quest, I decided to break out a "real" role-playing game that November, and ran a one-shot session of Numenera.  It was my first time playing the Cypher System, and for half of our players it was their very first time trying an RPG!  We converted a lot of new RPG aficionados that night!


International Tabletop Day 2014

Each event brought new families, new friends, and most importantly new players!  On International Tabletop Day 2014, the anniversary of our "idea seed", over thirty gamers came out to the Norwin Public Library to play, laugh, eat, share stories, and create new tales.  Most of the new attendees would become club regulars!  When the event ended, a lot of our members went home and continued to play until late into the evening.  

We haven't stopped since.  


Celebrating Irwin's 150th Anniversary Parade

Creating Your Own Game Club


Maybe you already belong to a local game club, or you have a friendly local game store that hosts events.  Terrific!  What a great way to get together all throughout the year and try new games!  But if you don't have a group like this, it may be easier than you think to create a club to share your favorite hobby!

Want to give it a shot?  Just a few tips:


  • Determine a Niche:  If you already have a few locations nearby where gamers gather, what will set your group apart?  For us, we believe the "Family Friendly" nature of the Norwin Game Knights works great.
  • Get the Word Out:  Use social media, community Facebook groups, coffee shop bulletin boards, any means necessary to let people know you are starting a game club.
  • Find an Inexpensive Location:  After a while you may get some folks who will chip in for a better site, but when you start don't put yourself in a hole financially.  We initially looked at some pretty expensive places, such as fire halls and community centers, but decided to keep things modest.  Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for suggestions… and maybe some favors… to find a good site.  That's how we came upon our location.  In the end, if you do get a good deal on a location, be sure to treat it with respect and take care of your new gaming home.
  • Lower Your Expectations:  Unless you have a significant "in" with a lot of gamers in your community, it will take time for your group to grow.  The Norwin Game Knights' goals are simple: at least one fresh face per event.  Word will get our eventually.
  • Don't Expect to Play the Games You Want to Play:  If you create your own game club, you are taking on the responsibility of being host (unless you con someone else into doing it!)  This means that YOU need to make sure your new gamers are having a good time, which may mean playing games that you typically wouldn't.
  • Make Sure Everyone Has a Good Time:  See that family in the corner that came to your first event, just sitting there by themselves?  You are the host, dangit!  Go get them into a game!  At the Norwin Game Knights we try to tell our veteran players to include new gamers whenever possible.  
If you are already in a successful game club, please let us know and share your stories!  We'd love to hear from you!  

Also, as a reminder, International Tabletop Day 2015 is soon approaching!  If you happen to live in the Pittsburgh Area, the Norwin Game Knights will be hosting an 11am-5pm event at Circleville United Methodist Church in North Huntingdon, PA on April 11, 2015!  

We'd love to see you at our big event!  

Last night's Open Game Night drew more players than last year's Tabletop Day.  Boo yah!