17 November 2014

Community Spotlight- South Jersey X-Wing Alliance


Ok, remember in the Fletcher Hills article how I said I'd hoped to run more articles about successful X-Wing communitites? Well, Brian Theurer of the South Jersey/ Philly Area X-Wing Miniatures Game Alliance took the bait and did an awesome write-up not only about his club, but also the steps he took to build it into what it is today. 

Also, Brian and the gang are organizing a charity tournament he asked if I would promote on here. Being the charitable sort, I predictably agreed. For those of y'all without the Facebooks, the skinny is this: it's a tournament on Saturday, 29 November 2014 at 11:00am at All the King's Men in Pitman, New Jersey. The entry fee is a new, unwrapped toy which will be donated to the Gloucester County Toys For Tots.  That's it! As if you needed any more reasons to participate, there's going to be some pretty sweet prizes too- one of those metal edged KR Multicase cases, X-Wing related tokens form Applied Perspective, and some stuff from Loot Crate, as well as some other good stuff. Not bad, huh? For the full lowdown, click on that link above. 

Wish you had a club that could organize cool events like this? Take it away Brian and tell us how it's done! 

Greetings!

Allow me to first give some background about my X-Wing career. I bought into the game shortly after Wave 1 was released. Unfortunately, my life was incredibly busy at the time and I never even had time to crack those bad boys open from their plastic clam-shell prisons. Despite that, I followed the online community closely and continued to buy ships as Wave 2 was released.

A few months before the release of Wave 3, life became less crazy and I decided it was time to start playing. I conned my best friend into going through a couple of demo games with me, and I was instantly hooked. Although gaming with my best buddy was great, we live just far enough away that it’s not really convenient to play regularly. I knew I had to find some other people to regularly get my pew-pew on.

I live in Southern New Jersey, roughly thirty minutes outside of Philadelphia. We have an excellent area for gaming, as we easily have a half dozen game stores in the immediate area. As I started asking around, I found out that X-Wing had spiked in popularity in the local area, but fizzled out shortly after the release of Wave 2.

As I spoke with store owners and players, it became apparent that there were relatively few attempts to network players across different venues. Everyone mostly kept to their own venue. I’ve seen local communities for other games fizzle out and die from this, as players shifted their focus to different games or moved away from the area.

I began to take steps to build a strong, networked X-Wing player base in the area. From my experience managing a karate school in my younger days, I knew it would be key to build a sense of community amongst the members. We seem to have stumbled into a formula that worked. Here are a few of the steps and strategies that have served our local group well.

1. Speak to local game store owners. If they don’t currently have an X-Wing game night, talk them into hosting one. Establish a consistent night/time and ensure that SOMEONE (preferably at least two people) will be there EVERY week. Be ready to offer demo games, and be willing to sit out to allow other people to play or try a demo game.

If at all possible, try to play in a highly visible part of the store. X-Wing is an extremely impressive game when you see it on the table. As you play, you WILL have people coming over to ask about it. Be ready and willing to let them jump in for a turn or two, especially when you’re still building up your player base.

2. Be ready to “sell” the game to potential players. A lot of people have the perception that “miniatures game” means “expensive, complicated, and time consuming.” Stress the facts that you can started fairly cheaply, the rules are easy to learn (but have a lot of nuances as you start to master them), and that games are typically done in about an hour. Above all, tell them that the ships come pre-painted and look amazing out of the package.

3. Use social networking, especially Facebook, to your advantage. Create a Facebook Group for your community to interact and arrange games. To maximize the chances of new players finding you, include the words “X-Wing,” “Miniatures,” and the name of your region. For example, the name of our group is “South Jersey/Philly Area X-Wing Miniatures Game Alliance.” We’ve had a number of our players tell us the found us by typing “X-Wing South Jersey” or “X-Wing Philly” into the Facebook search bar.

There may also be general tabletop gaming Facebook Groups active in your local area. Seek them out and start posting about your game night. As much as possible, try to include pictures of games in action. When people see that you have an active group that is meeting consistently, they will want to take part.

Meetup is another spectacular resource for recruiting new players. If you live in a populated area, there’s a strong chance that there is a local group of gamers organizing meetups. It does cost money to create a new Meetup group, but it’s likely that an existing one will suit your purposes. Start creating event pages for your weekly gamining night. You WILL have a lot of people flake out on you and not show up, but we’ve found some of our strongest members by pulling them in from Meetup.

There may also be local “Geek” Facebook Groups or Meetups in your area that aren’t specifically focused on gaming. X-Wing has a low barrier to entry, and tabletop gaming is becoming more popular and well-known, so you might pick up a few players in those avenues as well.

4. Promote your group and gaming nights using online forums, including:

The X-Wing FFG Organized Play board:
http://community.fantasyflightgames.com/index.php?/forum/292-x-wing-organized-play/

The AFewManeuvers Tournaments and Other Get-Togethers board:
http://www.afewmaneuvers.com/forum/12-x-wing-tournaments-and-other-get-togethers/

The Organized Play forum on BoardGameGeek:
http://boardgamegeek.com/forum/1444767/star-wars-x-wing-miniatures-game/organized-play

Try to post updates every few weeks to bump the thread up to the top, to increase the chances of people finding it. You can do this by posting pictures or game reports.

5. Always encourage players or potential players to join your local X-Wing group. The more people you have active there, the larger audience you’ll have when posting about game nights or tournaments.

6. As much as possible, try to have your game nights and tournaments be player-led, rather than led by a store owner/manager. First of all, X-Wing is not going to be their primary money maker. Games like Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh will be what keep their doors open. Offer to handle organizing game nights and events so that store employees can focus their attention on the other games.

The benefit for the store is that you’re bringing potential players in the door who might not have otherwise decided to visit. Even if they only buy a soda or some snacks, those are sales that wouldn’t have happened without X-Wing bringing new people in the doors. Every little bit helps.

The more important benefit is that it will give you some degree of control over scheduling. If you have multiple stores in the area, you don’t want them running game nights and tournaments over top of each other. Unlike the other active game systems in the area, our X-Wing players freely travel across to different game nights and tournaments. We don’t have that almost-tribal mentality that has led to the communities for other games to fizzle out and die over the years.

The main tenets to remember are:
1. Always be promoting. Using social media and the forums frequently will increase the chances of someone finding your group. Every person that joins your group brings potential connections that did not exist before they joined.

2. Be consistent. If you schedule a game night, make sure someone is there EVERY week. You’ll have people who see you play for months, but won’t decide to make the plunge until the dozenth time.

If you’d like to see our local community, you can join our Facebook Group here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/sjxwingalliance

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or toss me a message at mightyspacepopeATgmailDOTcom.

Good luck and may the Force be with you!

Thanks again, Brian! And hey, for those of y'all who are new to the game or are just looking for a club to join, a little reading between the lines ought to generate some leads for you. 

Peace!