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Leadership in Wargaming

Building a Community

Are you ready for a long term commitment? That’s what it will take to build a Warhammer community. For most of us, the game has become big enough that there will be some Games Workshop presence in your area, either 40k specific or another game system. But whether there are some players and a local game store that already exist, or you are literally the first person in your hometown that plays the game, it’s going to take some perseverance to get a healthy community underway. Today, we will break down the steps that can get a gaming community thriving.

 1. Being a Role Model

If you are going to get the ball rolling, it will have to start with your own attitude and actions. You can be as enthusiastic as you want, but if the games you play and the way you act are viewed negatively, the community goes nowhere. If you are inviting people to come out and play, offering up your time to teach and trying to lend a hand, you’ll need to be respectful of everyone that comes through the door. Typically, if you are trying to build a community based upon a hobby you love, it’s likely that you will be the most experienced player. There are a lot of responsibilities that come with this. You need to be sure to play lists that will teach your new community, rather than discouraging them, and you’ll need to be playing squeaky clean and giving tons of allowance for mistakes. Your goal shouldn’t be to win any of these games. People will be drawn in by having fun, not by seeing the most ruthless tactics available.

You’ll also start to understand what types of players are coming through the door on game nights. If you can, try to be diligent in determining who plays each other by selecting opponents with compatible personalities, skill levels, or drive to win. This may seem like babysitting, and in a way, it is, but paying attention to the needs of the players is important. The critical thing in doing this is to be laid back in your approach. Cheerfully suggesting that two like-minded players should square off is much different than telling people who to play. Of course, these are all quality actions to take, but it still will be most vital that you are giving the community a reason to respect what you are doing. Being a role model will mean serving the people around you. If you put the needs of the community first, it is almost certain to grow. It might seem strange or even fake, but you almost need to be a brand or put on a face at times. The persona is larger than life, and it draws in curious people. Maybe some will call you out for being overly nice, but it’s far better than the alternative.


2. Networking

This will most likely be getting in touch with your local game store and its owner. There are lots of shops out there that sell hobby equipment and maybe even Warhammer product that aren’t a Games Workshop store. A local game store (LGS) is an excellent resource and hub to get things going and keep them stable. Regular game nights keep people engaged and reaching out to friends to expand the group. However, if you are kick-starting things, it’s essential to discuss with the store owner about expectations and rules. The game night needs to be profitable for them. They may need to keep a paid employee late and, of course, keep the lights and heat on. You don’t need to become a salesman, but it’s good to remind the group to support the store. Most times, this happens naturally, but it is good to bring it up and keep a store owner happy. 

Warhammer is a game for all ages, and it’s also good to have internal rules within the group. Take the time to remind older members that having a drink in front of minors may displease parents that drive them in. Younger members may need to be reminded to keep the rowdiness to a minimum. More so than supporting the store with your own purchases, you’ll be out of the store in a heartbeat if your group is disrespectful enough to drive other patrons away. As a group grows, it’s obvious which members may need a gentle reminder and who will be best left to their own means.


3. Recognizing Talents

Once the community is up and running, it’s time to find sustainability. The best place to start is to find others that are like-minded and driven to help. It’s impossible to do it all yourself past a certain size, and it’s best to grab a core of friendly players that you trust. Beyond that, though, it’s also essential to start seeing players’ value in all aspects of the game. Keep in mind this may have nothing to do with playing the game. The hobbyist is equally valuable and many times utterly irreplaceable in building a community. Someone who likes to make terrain and is good at it is an asset most gaming communities would commit crimes for to keep around. 

Regular hobby nights are a huge draw for many players and non-players alike. They are coming out to learn new techniques or simply having a social place to paint to kill the drudgery of painting 120 guardsmen. Some want to play three games a week, and some are satisfied with a game once every three months. Putting talents and the goals of the players first will allow everyone to gel and enjoy the hobby how they see fit. It’s important to remember that not everyone wants the same things from the game as you. Remember to ask what the people around you want. 

When I was younger, I knew I wanted to help people within the game, but I was sometimes tactless in how I gave that help. I boldly assumed that my skill in the game was the resource that people wanted. “Everyone must want to be able to take a shot at the top table!” It confused me when people would say they didn’t care to get any better. They just wanted to have fun, and dammit, that’s what we all want in the game. The conversation with the community at large should mirror the conversation at the beginning of any game of 40k. What are your wants and expectations from this interaction? Allowing people to voice what they want will let you know how to utilize their natural abilities and have them actually enjoy it.


4. Find Yourself an Extrovert

This isn’t a big point, but for some, it may be necessary. You want the community to grow, but a natural shyness or fear of public speaking may hold you back from getting things rolling. It’s time to go extrovert hunting. They’re usually found talking above everyone else and getting people laughing. Then, the mark is made, and you get them to agree to help. If you have scouted well, it’s usually pretty easy to get them on board, but of course, remember to get the right person for the job. A charismatic but poorly viewed leader is absolute poison for your scene. If their reputation has gone sour at all, it’s best to pick someone else.

5. Events and Travel

This is where the community really comes together and makes the peak of 40k gaming come to life. Whether it’s a local event you put on, regardless of size, or traveling to an event, this will show how strong your community has become. It’s all about the road trip, the late-night eats, talking about each other’s games, meeting new people, and watching communities interact. If this is a community that you have brought together, though, the responsibility isn’t over for you yet. It’s always someone’s first tournament experience, and it’s time to be there for them, especially if the first day goes poorly. Words of encouragement can keep the fire going for a discouraged player. You can tell a lot about the group at an event. Who naturally starts supporting the people around them, and who is offering to help others? There are many responsibilities when a group travels, and it’s rewarding to see the community come together and offer to drive and book hotels and buy drinks for each other. It’s great to have a team on the road. It’s the peak of the community. Matching shirts, matching rally cries, and matching spirits.


6. Suck Out the Poison

So, I have saved the most problematic and negative for last. Everything above has been challenging and rewarding work, but almost everything has also been very upbeat. Now we have to talk about dealing with people that are unhealthy for the community. This is the number one way to watch a player group dissolve, and it’s tough to handle. Dealing with it is stressful and typically feels horrible, but sometimes it needs to be done. In no particular order, here are the problems I have dealt with in the past. 

Some people have issues with the game itself. Some players cheat or play at full tilt into new players or players that really aren’t interested in that style of game. Some are rude or verbally abusive at the tabletop, which can range anywhere from a bit of arrogance to yelling and swearing at opponents. And sometimes it’s just someone with a really negative attitude or a very unpleasant personality. Now I realize that some of these are more extreme than others, but it is up to the community leaders to start to look into issues. Someone that is verbally abusive probably gets booted out very quickly if not immediately. Someone who cheats might see the door fairly quickly too, but someone with just a bad attitude may take some time to be left out. Some of these examples don’t seem so serious, but over time can completely undermine a healthy player base. It seems harsh, and that’s why any of these issues should be dealt with diligently and kindly, but at the same time, it is happening to protect a group. One person might not get to play at the store anymore, but it might save the 20 people they would drive away. A bit of a bummer note to end on but hugely important, and I think it needed to be said. Too often, community leaders can let things slide for too long and then suddenly look around and find game night is a wasteland, and it seems awful to let a great thing go to waste. 

In closing, I hope that this lays out a general enough framework to get the ball rolling for even one person out there. Having a gaming club and community is one of the most amazing things out there, and it can seem daunting even to get four people together sometimes. Just remember it takes time, caring, and diligence. Soon enough, you’ll be hosting your own paint nights or GT’s!

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