We Grew Our Gaming Group

By 22/02/2017Games & Life

I posted this as a reply to /u/game_doctor’s question on /r/boardgames:

“When introducing games to non – gamers, what’s the thought on throwing the game to get them to come back?”

This is a very situational discussion, but I’m curious what group policy is, or if this comes up? How does an established play group deal with a new player?

My reply:

It’s not a situational discussion, it’s essential to expanding or whittling away at your gaming group.

I’ve thrown a couple of games.

That being said, I do not recommend it. In the same way I also wouldn’t recommend being a complete hardass. I’d rather like to focus on the last part of your question to give you some personal insight.

“… to get them to come back?”

The age-old question. Because it’s not that hard to get someone to try something. At least once. What’s really hard is to get them to want to come back. So why were they willing to try it at all in the first place? I mean, yeah, pure insistence on your part can accomplish wonders. But if sheer insistence is all you’ve got, it doesn’t matter if you throw the game or not, because they won’t come back. You’ve depleted your chips for a while.

On the other hand, if they agreed to sit at the table and try something they’ve never done before thanks to even the smallest sense of curiosity on their part, you have a chance. You just have to make their curiosity worth their while.

To begin with, it might be a good idea to gauge the person. Is he/she your SO? Is he/she a nephew or son? Is he/she a best friend? A brother-in-law? These are very different relationships to have and they establish very different ground rules about a gaming experience. Why did they say “yes”? What are they looking to get out of this? Is it a new activity to share? Is it a fun time? Is it a challenge?

Think about it in boxing terms. Your best friend invites you to spar with him/her. He/she’s been bugging you about it for quite a while, too. You agree, only to get your ass handed to you. How would you feel if he/she drags you to an area outside of your comfort zone only to come back the colour of a blueberry? My guess is that “…thanks, I’ll pass!” will quickly become the default answer. You might once in a while get that rare acquaintance who’d rather learn the ropes the hard way, but he/she’s usually more the exception than the rule.

So first, gauge intentions! Nine times out of ten, your first-timers will want to have a good time and explore something new safely. So don’t play **Battlestar Galactica**. Avoid **Space Hulk: Death Angel**. Give them something nice, simple and relaxing that they can sink their teeth into. Try **Carcassonne**. Too simple? Ramp up complexity and go with **Takenoko**. Needs a bit of spice? Try **Sheriff of Nottingham**. There’s a reason these are considered light gateway games. They’re very good at what they’re intended to do.

Second: do yourself a favour and check if your regular gaming group is newcomer-friendly. I have friends who know how to measure their punches and are just a blast to have at the table when fresh blood hits the table. Others, not so much. I don’t mix my gaming buddies if they can’t play at a similar wavelength. I play like a damn shark with some, and I don’t mind letting my guard down every now and then with others if you know what I mean. Whatever the case, I do make a point of keeping competitive play and just-for-fun play separate.

And third? Don’t sweat it. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. What’s important is that you approach the opportunity from an empathic mindset. They are coming to your turf. Allow them to sniff around. Let them try dumb shit. Have a good time. That’s what it’s all about, in the end.

I don’t have much to back my statements with, except for the following. Somewhere in 2013 my wife, a complete non-gamer, gifted me **A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition**. It was something done on a complete whim during a trip. Although a hardcore gamer, I hadn’t played board games beyond **Monopoly**, a local variant of **RISK** and I think **Catan** that one time. And although at the time I had a fairly large gaming group, nobody had ever played any board games as well.

… fast-forward to 2017. I play board games several times a week with my wife. **Takenoko** is still one of her favourites. She’s also digging **Agricola** and **Pandemic** to an insane degree. My nephews have just gotten into the hobby and are loving **King of Tokyo**. Board gaming as a hobby has proved to be so successful with my friends that, by and large, it has replaced LAN nights. We broke ground in 2013 with **A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition**. Then **Avalon**. Now it’s **Battlestar Galactica**, **Dead of Winter**, **Twilight Struggle** and the rest usually split between two or three simultaneous games. We’ve spun off a separate Whatsapp group to avoid spamming the main one. We’re 14 strong. Maybe, hopefully, we’ll get even bigger. I’m happy as I’ll ever be.

TL;DR: know your audience

Wish you all the best!

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