Why we do it
Building a community is a daunting task. Unless you work at a FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store), no one is paying you to run somebody else’s game night. Why would you bother spending your own personal time creating a community for a game? What could you gain from convincing people to come out and play with their plastic toys?
Gaming communities have always accompanied Table Top Games. No matter how large or small, creating a dedicated group of people extends the life of your game immensely. Chance meetings grow in to entertaining game nights, and eventually big events that players look forward to each year. Communities also provide support for their members and provide a genuine sense of belonging. Building these groups is therefore not just a critical step in keeping a game alive, but also a rewarding endeavor that can lead to life long friendships.
Where to Begin
“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!” -Jyn Erso, Rogue One
Starting your community can take many forms. Many groups initially start off with small meet-ups, Facebook groups, and text message chains. There are several key ingredients you need to kick your group off:
Game of Choice
Common Meeting Location(s)
Access to Product
Core Group of Players
Game of Choice: Self explanatory, but still needs to be mentioned. Though this article will focus on FFG’s game Star Wars: Legion, but it can apply to any type of group you start. The group needs to have a single game to focus on. Although its perfectly normal to divert to other things, most people will join your community to play the game it started with. On the other side of the coin, having a new game to distract from the woes of your current one may make the return to the original that much better.
Common Meeting Location: Some gaming communities start with known friends, while others begin with people who notice they’re taking the same product off the shelf every week. No matter where you get your start, you need to decide on where and when you are going to meet. Finding a common day to play is often one of the greatest barriers to group when they start, so don’t be afraid to bounce around at first. Depending on your game, a players home can work just as fine as your FLGS. Gaming stores are recommended because they can often do some of the recruitment work for you, and will often have all the tools to play Legion (Tables, Chairs, Terrain, etc). They might be the reason why your group started to meet, and now you are trying to grow what you’ve joined. Don’t be afraid to invest in whatever your choice of meeting location is - if they need terrain, provide it!
Access to Product: Depending on your meeting location, this could be easy or this could be difficult. Most homes that I’ve been to don’t stock product on the regular, so access to a store (if your group doesn’t meet at one) is obviously preferable. Online retailers can help with this problem somewhat. That being said, meeting at a store can convince it to stock your games product if it wasn’t already - I know of several stores that started to stock Battletech again years after the game dropped out of favor, just because people started showing up to play it every week. Gaming stores are business after all, and will eventually cater to your game if it becomes popular enough.
Core Group of Players: This one might also seem self explanatory, but it helps to see a familiar face every week. Over time, players will start to make friends with each other and in turn build the group. But you need a small group of people that are willing to meet on a consistent basis, and that must start out with a core group of 2-4 people that can be counted on to play at semi-regular intervals.
“We would be honored if you would join us.” -Darth Vader, The Empire Strikes Back
Alright so you have a place, game, and warm bodies to join you. Now it’s time to build upon the solid foundation you have started. Sustaining your group can take many forms, and there are many ways to go about it. Once a sense of normalcy has been achieved, your next step should be to start to add others to what you’ve already started. What comes next?
Lets take the following as an example:
Out of convenience, you and a friend meet at your FLGS every Wednesday night to throw down. You want others to play too, but are not quite sure where to start or how to get players involved.
This is where the magic of the 21st century often comes into play. Most stores or communities have social media groups that can assist you in growing your group. Facebook, Meetup, even Whatsapp groups can all be used to coordinate your game night. The FLGS in question can even assist by creating this page or making announcements for you. I know more than one store that has a main page, as well as related 40k, Magic, and FFG sub-groups. Other existing groups like the Star Wars Legion Facebook group, Fantasy Flight Game Forums, or Legion Discord can all serve as meeting grounds for real life events.
Local stores can also help recruit with demo kits, which I recommend you help build if you want to attract new players. While store owners or staff will often take charge (because having a demo product usually helps their sales), you can help by volunteering to paint a core set or run a demo night. Demo nights are a great opportunity to spread the word about your own gaming group! Running a core set game that looks professional (Star Wars themed terrain, painted models, well versed players) leaves an impression, and will make players want to come back for more. Your group could also sponsor a core set as a giveaway prize to players that show up to your demo night. The sky is the limit here!
Depending on the popularity of your game, you could also consider running a campaign, league, or tournament. Your town or local store might not have a large community playing your game, but other players just outside your area may be desperate for a structured group or organized play. Again, this is an opportunity for your group to shine - sponsor an escalation league where the players don’t have to have an 800 point list ready to go. Make a group sign or put up league standings to generate curiosity.
The important thing to remember here is that this game is in its infancy, and it will take time to grow. Not meeting for weeks at a time is okay, as long as your meetings continue. If you continue to meet and play, others will take notice and join you.
“Do or do not - there is no try.” -Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
Believe it or not, the easiest part of all this is starting your group and building its membership. Sustaining what you’ve built often involves mistakes, testing, and creativity. Once your group is up and growing, it will be up to its members to keep things new and interesting.
Most games will naturally help with this, releasing content at regular intervals to keep their players interested. Fantasy Flight Games has several Organized Play Kits, which are a great way at giving out cool prizes without breaking the bank. Their alternate art cards are particularly awesome, and valuable even to people who don’t actively play Star Wars Legion.
Another method could be to contact businesses who make Star Wars Legion content. Custom figures, Star Wars Terrain, Gaming Mats, and other goodies can all be used as rewards for your players. Players new to Legion will certainly ask how you recreated the Battle of Endor, or where the awesome token bag came from!
There is no “right” way to sustain your community, but playing regularly is a good place to start. Even if it’s just you showing up every week to play, consistency is the key to victory and over time you will see results. Star Wars is iconic and FFG has something very special on their hands here. The title will carry some of the weight for you, but its up to the players to do the rest. The community won’t build itself!