Friday, April 29, 2011

Wargaming Clubs - "Elephant in the Room" Time

I have recently started reading a really excellent blog called “Year of Frugal Gaming” where the intent is to “Spend Less, Play More”. In a recent post the guy who writes it focused on the second part of this equation. Here are his thoughts:

As regular readers know, I like to game. I like to paint, I like to model, I like to write my silly little blog, but in the past year I have made a conscious effort to play more games. Inevitably, like many other gamers, I have now started to look around for other gaming experiences; new games systems, new armies, bigger and more spectacular battles. Of course, as a frugal gamer I fear the required expense that comes with these options.

Recently though, I have come across another option, which improves my gaming for minimal outlay; I’m not getting more games systems, I’m getting more gamers. I’ve joined an excellent gaming club.

The benefits of joining a club are well known, but can’t be overstated. Plenty of new players to face, lots of other armies to battle against, trial games of new systems, and even the ability to share lifts to tournaments and other events. Of course, going to a club does have its costs. My club costs me £2.50 per visit for entry, a couple of pounds in petrol and the cost of a couple of drinks. I visit every couple of weeks so the cost averages out quite well, and the idea of laying out my army in front of a room full of other players helps me to focus on getting figures painted and building the best army I can.

So over the last couple of months, I’ve managed to massively expand my gaming, without a huge outlay of cash. I’ve also made a few friends, and brought a new person into the hobby. Playing any existing games you own with new people, whether seasoned pros or n00bs, can be great fun and put a spark back into your gaming. Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

It got me thinking. I was President of our local club, the Wellington Warlords for 5 years finishing up a couple of years ago. Over that time we built up membership to around 120 members. That has now fallen away to 70-80 people but more worrying is that less of these members come to the Club regularly.

This has taken a lot of pleasure out of my gaming as over the past 6 months or so there have been as little as 2-3 tables at some meetings. Like the blogger above part of my premise for belonging to a club is to play a variety of people.

To fill out the background, the Warlords meet weekly alternating at two different venues. They have trestle tables, GW basecloths and terrain. There is plenty of parking and the venues are on bus and train routes. There are no table fees but the annual membership fee is $60 (USD 45; GBP 25; AUD 42) for existing members and $40 for new members. This gives you access to 50 meetings a year for the cost of a box of Space Marines/Clanrats.

Yet the membership premise doesn’t seem to work. I organise a lot of events and these are supported by the local gaming community but this doesn’t flow through to Warlords membership to the extent I would think it should.

So here’s some questions for local gamers.

• What’s your thoughts on the above?
• What is it about club gaming that puts you off?
• What is it about the Warlords specifically?

I’d love to know because it’s in my own selfish interests (greater variety of opponents) to get you along.


  1. I cant comment on Wellington but here in Palmy I think its the time we play Thurs nights and maybe the inability to definately know you have a game going, i.e., you cant just turn up with what you've got and start playing. That and people dont know about the club.

    I am very surprised u dont have a bigger turnout always assumed WN was full on club nights. Last night we had 1 WHFB table going - mine - which is about standard. 2 years ago it would have been 5-6 WHFB tables. Must be a lot of garage-hammer happening around the place.

  2. I don't get to the club as much as I'd like. One big reason is : not actually *knowing* many/any of the other people.

    It took me over 5 years to actually join the club due to shyness. The only people I know contact details of are you (Pete) and Tim N. I'd love to play against lots of other people that I see at Pete's Tournaments, but I just don't know them or how to contact them. Yes I could cold email them by mining email addresses from your emails and may now do so (feeling more confident :)

    So basically for me, Warlords = Pete's Fantasy Tournaments. You are where the community is for me.

    Another reasons is: I never know if the meeting is a saturday or a sunday.  and the times are different each day. and it's a weekend day thing, not an evening thing. i'm more an evening person. Maybe there are too many meetings - maybe once a fortnight could focus people?

    There are other reasons but they are not relevant to the club working or not (family, transport, too-many-rats)

  3. So, after 5 years of being the prez and building up the membership you don't know how to get people to come to the club?
    Hmmm... either it is harder than it looks (one of those soft squishy people problems) or you have an idea, but are too polite to start putting your oar in again.

    I quite like the prospect of club gaming, but children are far more demanding of my time, meaning that saturday/sunday gaming is limited to about an hour short of what is required for a full game.

    I think a lot of coming to the club has to do with the other people who turn up. So a declining turnout may have a certain spiral effect.

    Perhaps keeping people coming week after week requires getting them to put some personal investment into what is going on, such as an extened campaign or such like?

  4. Garage-hammer and tournaments are what I am about, there are upsides and downsides to it all, but for me the upsides >>>.

    Pro's - I play 1-2 games a week, in a friendly and secure against excellent players I trust implicitly to not be an ass, play as hard as they can to beat me, no waiting, no confusion, no wasted trips, no agendas, no misunderstandings, no conflicts, no fees, and complete solidarity. We work to help each other, and each defeat or mistake is just an opportunity to learn for next time.

    Cons - Variety of armies to practice against. I've been surprised on occasion at tournaments because I just had no idea.

    I'm not lacking for tables or terrain, some of us have invested heavily in making sure we lack for nothing and I have never thought I was missing out on something by not being in an established club. Although, I suppose in essence we are our own small club, but aside from a varied diet of enemy and tricks to combat, I couldn't be happier.

    As to how that improves your Warlords turnouts I'm not sure, but you have an insight into someone who isn't going (aside from the drive from Hamilton).

  5. If I lived in Wellington I would sure attend Warlords but as I'm in Levin an hour up the line its not overly viable. I however get 1-2 games a week of 40k and/or fantasy plus every monday night D&D with people I have gamed with for 10+ years. Numbers have changed over the years for my group as well as careers change and people move away but I have made an effort to hold onto my little gaming coterie. I also host all the games for my friends whether I play myself or not.

    I host 4-6 player game days every couple of months for out of town friends and looks like I'm hosting an 8 player day end of May.

    I will be making an appearance at the Palmerston North gaming club as John(top post) was my team mate at Runefang and he has invited myself and co up for some games which we will make good on.

    I think someONE needs to maintain enthusiasm for a system/campaign and that will keep things going. I have been a member of a couple clubs over the years and a good leader or rep for the group definitely makes a difference.

  6. For me, it's the weekend timing that's the problem. My wife stays at home with small kids all week, and come the weekend wants a break, so I spend time with the family (plus, it's actually a nice thing to do). So the only time I can reliably play is when the kids are in bed, during the week. Tim and Pete are very kind to give me regular games at those times, otherwise I'd be averaging a game every 4-6 months.....

    When the kids are older, I can see myself coming to the regular Warlords meetings, but that's a few years off. I'm looking forward to it.

    Yimmij, send me an e-mail if you'd like, maybe we can work something out as well.

  7. Down here at the CWC we have around half a dozen or so tables most Sundays of varying types of games.
    A lot of our members are older guys with families or other commitments that compete for weekend gaming time.
    Since you game at 2 different venues have you considered making one of them run on the weekend and another during the week after work?

  8. I also belong to the Warlords and share Pete's concerns.

    My reasons for joining the warlords or any wargames club is to play a variety of different and new people on a regular basis. To learn the games and to have fun and to go to tournaments.

    What’s your thoughts on the above?

    For me with small children, weekend gaming is particular difficult and when I get a leave pass and organise a game, it is a bit disappointing to find only a couple of other games at the club.

    In regards to attendance at club- you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. The only way to get increased attendance is if people want to come and play and that means something to encourage people to come along.

    • What is it about club gaming that puts you off?

    At the moment it is just inconvenience and finding the time.

    • What is it about the Warlords specifically?

    I am an historical gamer and Warlords favours the GW brands and FOW (not historical IMHO), it becomes difficult to find a variety of people to play against. My concern is that as the Membership shrinks the pool of historical players shrinks to an unsustainable number.

  9. See, I'm seeing exactly the opposite. The GW games are pretty much the poor cousin at the club bar 4-5 people and the real representation is in the historical games.

  10. I guess for me it is the inconvenience thing. Getting out to Khandallah with my army and no car + not knowing if I'll get a good days gaming in (woot, should have brought my orks/start playing warmachine etc).

    vs at home with bad curry, beer, no time pressure, and knowing that I'm going to have a game or 3 + get to use all the terrain I've spent way too much time on

    Then again, getting to play vs other armies/play styles would be great to get in more frequently than the events that I keenly patron.

    So nothing against Warlords, just more of the same problem-dont know anyone who goes, so hesitant to go, though if someone wants to challenge the mighty Empire hordes of valiant halberds and their very sub-par artillery (the crew are atheists so Sigmar does not bless their gunpowder), I'd be keen to meet at warlords for a dual...

  11. I am treasurer of the Tauranga club, we have experienced a drop off in numbers this year. My time has been cut with two young kids and priorities having to change. Most people I have talked to say it is the time factor. I find I get more games on the lead up to tournaments than normal. but also money is an issue, with some guys working more hours to boost paychecks, cutting into family time.

    on the plus side, I run a cub at my work (school) and had students coming in the holidays to play... they wanted more time than I could give..

    so desire is there I think, but circumstances have changed for a lot, be it kids or the global economy...

  12. I wonder if a yearly survey of members familes dependants ages vs attendance numbers would be an interesting value to plot over the years.

  13. Well down tomorrow re-birthing my Deathguard and also kicking stunty butt with 3000 points of Skaven.