Hi everyone! Today is a bit of a different take. Seems like we’ve been doing a lot of different takes lately huh? Well this one is for the aspiring community leader looking to grow their local guild ball scene.
A question I hear pop up from time to time is “How do I start/grow a Guild Ball community?” or “how do I generate interest in the game?” No, become a pundit, is not the best answer. Sure it’s a good thing to do down the line, but there is so much more you can do from the get go!
Personally, I’ve helped to grow a fairly healthy Guild Ball community in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Players come and players go, but the game has been running strong now in our community for about 3 years. I am blessed to work with a couple of really great game stores, but there are things you can do personally to kick things off. Here we go!
Tip #1 Be Consistently Present.
80% of success is showing up.
Speak with your local play space and figure out which day of the week works best for them. Think about what works best for your personal schedule. I find it is best to try to avoid a night which draws a lot of another war game. Fridays can also be rough at most stores because of Magic. The biggest thing is to find a day which you can make happen every single week and stick to it! We all have busy lives, but if you yourself cannot make time to grow the community, don’t expect anyone to do it for you, especially not your local store.
There will be times, especially in the beginning, where you are all alone in the shop. Even if no one is there to play with you make sure your pitch is rolled out on the table and models set up. This brings me to my next point –
Tip #2 Be Professional and Welcoming.
Have two fully painted teams, a pitch, and all the necessary items and instruments to play the game. You don’t need to be Michelangelo but your models need to look presentable. Place terrain on the pitch along with your models. A nice scene draws eyes which draws interest. If at all possible try to recruit a friend who is also interested in a game. Actually playing the game will draw more attention than a pretty set up table. In the early days just remember you’ll always want to be willing to stop the game to answer questions for passersby.
Be prepared to answer questions. A lot of times folks will ask you “what game is this?” or “what are you playing?” More often than not these folks are not war gamers. Don’t use war gamer lingo. Honestly most times when a new face asks me this question I say “it’s called Guild Ball. Imagine soccer with swords. We’re trying to score goals while killing each other!” after this if they want to know more I will offer them a demo. If an individual turns down a demo that’s fine. Shake their hand, ask them their name, and let them know you’re here if they have any questions at all. Think of yourself as the dude at the grocery store doing the wine tastings. Not everyone is going to be interested and certainly not everyone is going to want to buy something. You’ll have to overcome any social anxieties and honestly be a bit of a salesman at times.
Finally, know the game. You don’t need to be our Will Wijnveld. In fact it’s probably better that you have more of a translative understanding than a mechanical one. You need to understand how to teach folks the basics in a way they will understand. You’re not looking to teach them hot strats. You’ll want to think about how you would explain the aspects of the game to someone who has played a handful of euro board games, not a mini gamer. The Warmachine guy will catch on quickly. The Settlers of Catan kid might not. You want to attract both.
Tip #3 Partner with your store.
This one seems like a no brainer but you’d be amazed how many folks I see get this wrong. Yes some stores are easier to deal with than others, but if you show genuine interest and *gasp* spend money most stores are going to want to accommodate you. Even if the store does not sell Guild Ball product it is likely they have a distributor who can special order it. Buy something. Whenever you want something new buy it from the store even if it means it’s a little more expensive or delays your gratification. Generally, a store needs to know there is interest before they will blindly stock a product which requires a decent chunk of shelf space. Generally a store will also be willing to grant more space to a game which sells well.
Communication with your store is key. Make sure they know you are ultimately there as not only an ambassador for the game, but as a representative for them as well. Game night drives business and gets traffic in the store.
Use their communication platform. Does the store have a facebook? A meetup? Use that page to announce demos and weekly game night. Heck, even if all they have is a bulletin board at least throw a flier up there with your name, phone number, and planned game night. You’ll reach a broader audience than what you’d be able to hit on your own.
Finally, Don’t fight with a store. If you give it a solid effort and they just aren’t into carrying the game, don’t pressure them to do so. If they’ll allow you to use their space that’s great. If not cut your losses. I introduced guild ball to at least 6 stores locally. Really only 1 had the enthusiasm to match my needs. I grew out of that store and then eventually gained another late adopter.
Tip #4 ABD. Always be Demoing.
Guild Ball Pundits all seem to have their own way of running a demo. Many swear by the kick off, others let folks bring whatever. Personally, I’ve never seen anything I like more than the good ol season one 3v3 Demo.
Ultimately figure out what works best for you. Personally I am such a big fan of the 3v3 demo because it is very short, quick, and easy to walk through. You can get through the rules of the game in about 10 minutes, then execute the demo in about 20. Have this stuff printed out ahead of time and make sure you read it a couple times. Understand you’re not going to be teaching the entire rule set. Just the appetizer portion. Yes, the cards are weird and in the terrible season 1 format.
Walk the individual through the rules. I find it is helpful to have a model or two physically handy to demonstrate things like a successful pass, scatter, or melee attack. Gauge the individual’s understanding and then tailor the game accordingly. If they’re a war gamer you might want to give them a bit more agency in the match. Always let them choose what team they want to play. Prepare the 2’x2’ pitch and deploy the three models in the demo book. You’re playing to 8 points.
Don’t aim to win or lose, just let them experiment inside the system. Coach them through decisions, but the decisions don’t have to be right. If they decide to do something silly, let them do something silly. You should also do silly things. Making mistakes is learning. I try to make sure the following things happen at some point during the game:
- Several passes, some are used to ‘pass and move’
- A handful of character plays.
- The ball is tackled.
- Push and Dodge results are selected.
- A model is taken out.
- Goals are scored. (I like to literally yell goal in the Hispanic soccer style when this happens. Builds hype. I know it’s not everyone’s style to be so bombastic, but I’ve had people come up to the table to ask about the game, and eventually buy in, because of this)
- Bonus time is used.
If you hit all of those items the individual will get a taste of the core concepts of the game. If time (and their attention) allows I like to offer a second demo with the team’s swapped. The second time around I coach much less.
After this if an individual really took the game and seems excited I will generally walk them over to the product shelf or bring up my Guild Ball app and show them a few examples of different teams. This helps to get their juices flowing about what aesthetic they like or what style they might like to play.
Tip #5 Run ‘for fun’ events.
Once you’ve got a small hand full of players, throw together something organized, but simple. Something like a slow growth league where you move from 3 models up to the full 6 is great. Keep um engaged and keep um learning. At the end of the day they’re here to have fun. Yes playing the game weekly is fun, but doing something a little more memorable is as well. If you can afford to have a small prize do so. Even if it is something as small as a $10 store credit or single model these things help build bonding, memories, and especially bragging rights!
I’m sure I could write tons more on this topic, but I think that will do it today. If you want to know more, or need extra ideas please feel free to reach out! I am all about fostering new seedling communities. Take it easy guys!