Put It Another Way

As the comments on my post on diversity seem to be drifting this way anyway, perhaps it’s worth starting a topic about new recruits.

Gaming seems to be doing pretty well these days. The rise of English language Euro games, the ever increasing popularity of video games, plus Kickstarter’s helping hand to all and sundry have all helped. I’ve said it before: it’s a Golden Age. However, not all aspects are doing as well as each other. I’d contend that figure gaming is, perhaps, benefitting least, and historical figure gaming least of all. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not for a moment suggesting that we are about the see the death of it, far from it. I’m just wondering out loud if we could be doing even better.

The area this seems most noticeable to me is in recruiting new players. It’s always a tricky thing because miniature games don’t have the pick-up-and-playness of the latest shiny Playstation goodness. It takes more effort and dedication to be a miniatures gamer. It’s harder to make a start. For this reason, I expect it will always be one of the smaller gaming styles. Still, even if this is all true, there’s no reason to believe that we have tapped all of the possible gamers out there. I believe that many simply wait to be shown the way 🙂

So how do we do that? Well partly I think the games companies themselves can do things to recruit. Promotion (especially cross-promotion), starter box events, and store events are a few obvious things. GW is well known for this. But are games companies the ones best placed to do this recruiting? I’m not sure they are. I think the best recruiters may be you and me.

As it takes an effort to get started in a miniatures game, especially if it’s your first, having someone to show you the ropes is almost a necessity. A few hardy souls will make it on their own. Most will start because they know someone that plays already. This, I would suggest, puts the power of recruitment in the hands of every gamer.

Recruiting is something most gamers do without really thinking about it. Someone you know asks about a game and you’re only to happy to show them. After all, another opponent is always good. At other times you may evangelise the game you’ve recently been enthused by, aiming to gain a few folk to play against within your existing group – though this aspect does tend to be more within existing player groups rather than with new ones.

These days, many games companies have a group of uber fans that promote their games locally. This is great too, but again they tend to be talking to existing players rather than new ones.

So I’ve got two questions for you:

1) Do you think it’s worth the effort to seek out new recruits (and if not, why not)?

2) If you said yes to (1), how would you go about it?

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10 Responses to Put It Another Way

  1. Eric says:

    Yes, I think it is worth it. I personally play a miniature game that I like but no locally to play with. I think today with social media and websites forums, companies and individuals can get the word out and with a FLGS willing to allow you or a company run a demo day or games. New people are recruited.

    My talking up the game at my FLGS has gotten one person saying he will play a game as soon as I can demo.

    Gotta start somewhere right.

  2. heretic30k says:

    Has to be Yes if for no other reason then bigger the community then the greater chance that you can find people to play with and the larger a game ecosystem that can be supported. Now what can be done to grow it? Introductory games that scale is a good start. The reason I jumped on the DZ and DS kickstarters is that they offer an introductory quick play toe in which I think isn’t offered by GW with 40k or Fantasy like they used to offer with Space Hulk, Heroquest, etc. A pity GW dropped specialist games in favour of Hobbit movie tie ins, but you have to believe movie/comic/computer game tie in are another way of growing the community. Look at Mantic & Mars Attacks as another example. It is interesting that historical games often have better representations of different cultures, but these are often quite colonial in their perspective. It is interesting in 40k that GW developed the Tau faction to have a very Mecha Manga/Eastern flavour, but I would be curious to see how much that played out in Japanese sales figures or generally promoting their hobby in that region.

  3. Yes, it’s worth it.
    But then again I’m in a place where none of my friends play miniature games and I’m continuing a hobby I started when I was ten, back in the late eighties. So what I end up focusing on now is buying games that are multi-player (can be played with 3+ people) and where the games are small enough so that I can provide all the miniatures for each side. Deadzone fits this. Even more so does Wolsung (a recent Kickstarter skirmish game with 3-9 models a side).
    I don’t think I’m ever going to get a group of friends who are as invested as I am to collect miniatures themselves (though that might change), but I think I can get them interested in playing so that, slowly, more complex styles of games might take their fancy.

  4. Anthony says:

    Yes. Very carefully.

    Joking aside, I normally just demo the game in question. There’s always someone willing to play if you’re willing to demo in my area. (Arizona)

    Problem is that people are unwilling to budge systems due to budget, time, interest, and a variety of factors. Nevermind leapfrogging from system to system as some are keen to do. That’s my biggest hurdle and I’m not alone. A friend of mine couldn’t give away a Dreadball team. For free! But that might speak to the value of Mantic in the area and not anything else. Who knows. I could use tips. These Martians aren’t going to kill themselves.

    • Tinfish says:

      I think people see other folks playing games and might take an interest, Infinity has certainly seen a big boost in popularity, I don’t get to see these things in an FLGS where a display model, or blister might catch the eye, I tend to read about them online.

      BoW seems to help advertise things aswell, although I tend to find a picture of a model somewhere, then poke around that minies website.

      I suspect more companies need to copy from FFG and others who make their core rules freely available, so you can read them and decide what you think, something some folks are very afraid to do, and you can’t help but wonder why.
      Infinity, Mansions of Madness, X Wing and many more have rules freely available, sometimes the entire ruleset at that.

      Some companies shroud everything in secrecy, it’s an approach I dislike.

      If you know your rules are good, you don’t hide them.

      At a club I would simply play, try and set up a nice board to catch the eye and answer any questions folks ask about what it is you are playing.
      I guess an FLGS (I wish I had one) could do more by getting some nice models painted up and placed in display cases, ready to catch the eye of their customers.

      For me however, I have been at it since the back end of Rogue Trader, Space Crusade, Space Hulk. I left GW behind and won’t go back, but I am continuing to collect the other systems I enjoy, as I like to model them if nothing else and franky hope to find some poor sod to game with at some point.

      At the end of the day, you are either interested, or you aren’t and no one is going to talk you into something that doesn’t interest you, this hobby requires time and dedication and taking your face out of your mobile phone for 20 seconds. It’s not popular.
      Expense is horrendous, finding space is a chore, terrain can be bank breaking, or so poor that it’s offputting and putting the little fiddly gits together seems to be enough to put some folks off alltogethher.

      I’m really not sure what can be done, throw some freebie games at schools for the kids to play, and someone will shout ‘cinical marketing ploy!!’.
      However it’s no different to wall to wall adverts for the latest console.

      I imagine even parents could do their bit, seems building model kits, going to airshows, taking about history etc, it’s just not done anymore.

      The other thing is that we used to be able to get an amazing (well, back then I thought so) game like Heroquest for peanuts.
      I dare not think about what I spend getting started on a game these days, and these games require monumental amounts of cash to expand.

      I suspect the industry as a whole needs more affordable games like the dungeon crawler wich is currently under KS with Mantic.. Which I really ought to be able to remember the name of.. I actually think that it will be cheaper games that bundle terrain, easy to assemble models, and scope for free expansion that will help keep the industry alive.

      Not games that require £100 to get your nose in the door, and while some games try and fool you with a nice starter, most people will be wise enough to look into what expanding it to a more enjoyable and diverse level will cost.

      This is where many a ‘affordable’ game will fall down.
      Money I put into Xwing and will need to put into Dropzone Commander, you mention those kinda £ figures, and people will turn away, I guess they are the smart ones 🙂

      Now Mansions of Madness on the other hand, you can do a lot for £50, it comes with the expansions that include new models and tiles. It’s a flawed gem, but that way of selling things is smarter imo, than a cheap starter and 500 expansions.

      Most kick starters worry me now, who the heck needs an army in a dungeon crawler?
      By the time you take in 1/3rd of the models, you already wonder where it will end.

      Where is the cheap core game and the two expansions that make it more enjoyable? Does anyone make it anymore?
      Or is it all about cheap core + 100000 models to expand it, 40 Expansion books.. Scary stuff.

      Maybe someone needs to find the next Heroquest, it might not fly off the shelves, but it’s a foot in the door for new gamers, maybe, hopefully, they will then take an interest in the hobby at large.

      You give them the first hit at a low price, and hope it hooks them.

      I’m probably still gaming due to Space Hulk, Space Crusade, Heroquest, Fighting Fantasy novels (and superiour ones by other companies that I wish I could recall the names of) Dark Future.
      Comics like 2000 AD, movies, TV, war comics (you don’t see Commando comics anymore do you?)
      All the things that fired my imagination and helped me get into this hobby, seem to be gone.
      So, what fires the imagination of kids now?
      Or do they not know till some rapper tells them, till facebook tells them? Hell, can anyone read or write after leaving school now? I used to know tonnes of folks who gamed, and plenty who moaned about it.
      Seems peer pressure scares folks more than it used to. Or maybe I am too obstinate to care what others think of my nerdy hobby. I do after all read books too, not sure I met anyone under 50 in the last 10 years who reads books.

  5. I am still waiting for technology to bridge the gap. The popularity of Skylanders, Disney infinity and now Nintendo’s new mini game means that it’s getting close. When 3d printing comes up then the pickup and play factor gets better.
    For now, prepaints like Star Trek attack wing and Star Wars are also good entry points as is the new Imperial Assault from Fantasy flight. But I think that acceptance of prepaints by gamers goes a long way. AT 43 was a great game but was hampered by miniature wargaming snobbery IMHO . I think that emphasizing the social aspects of gaming is what sells ttwg as worth the time and commitment . It is something that computer gaming lacks and fun games like Mars Attacks and Zombicide can be good gateways for new players. But we should also get them when they’re young and Lego’s dungeon crawler game series is also a good gate way to mini gaming.
    Wow. I sound like a drug dealer! 😉

  6. Danny says:

    I don’t think it is worth gamer’s themselves “actively” going on recruiting drives (except for the companies and company representatives, like Pathfinders etc, more on this further down)…but if people show interest, I would bend (and have bent) over backwards to give as best a showing as I can. Other than my 3 children and my wife (the latter does board games only and my daughter does board games and has a mild interest in wargaming, which I think will completely disappear as she gets older), I’ve successfully introduced gaming to a couple of work colleagues by way of talking about it at work and then when more interest was shown, inviting them over for games…and then just continuing to provide info like websites so they could then do their own research…never pushy.

    One of these guys is my main gaming dude now and we regularly go to each others houses for games. The other dude plays occasionally still. I’ve also introduced a couple of my sons friends to gaming, through a similar set of circumstances, except it was my sons talking about it at school and asking to invite their friends over for games…I see that more as passive recruitment rather than active recruitment.

    I think companies should definitely market their products very actively. Especially so with things like Dungeon Saga. One of the things that made Heroquest so popular was that it was advertised on TV and was plastered in Toy catalogs and was available through “normal” toy stores. I’m perfectly familiar with the principle of never judge a book by its cover, but when I walk into a toy shop I look at all the covers of the game boxes on the shelf for something that looks interesting. If Dungeon Saga was advertised on TV, shoved into toy catalogs and distributed through normal toy stores, to be seen sitting on the shelf by every parent and kid that walks into the shop or watches TV…sales would go nuts. Sadly though, companies can’t do this because its too expensive, its left up to reviews or adverts on social media which I really don’t feel reaches the same audience. Only people who are already gamers will be watching games reviews on youtube.

    Yeah definitely, having Pathfinders (or whatever term a company likes to use for its volunteer reps) turn up at events to show off the war games etc is a great idea…but again, you are only reaching a population of gamers, not really reaching a population of non gamers and enticing them.

    I’d describe myself like this;

    Games;
    50% miniature boardgamer (this includes mostly things Space Hulk, WHQ, SDE etc, etc…but others as well)
    50% tabletop wargamer

    Gaming Versus Modelling
    40% gaming
    60% modelling

    This is mostly because its harder these days for me to organise a game (3 kids, shift workers etc), although I can easily sit down at night when everyone is in bed and paint mini’s and make terrain.

    In regards to miniature games, I think most people would fall into these broad categories, although the percentages will of course vary from person to person. So any attempt to entice new players will likely be more successful if you include or present all aspects of miniature gaming than simply focusing on the game play side of things, for instance.

    Another thing that I’ve often wonder at, which this blog post has made me think about again. Is that, if asked quite a few years ago, I would have predicted that miniature wargaming and boardgames would go the way of the Do Do in the not too distant future, simply because of how popular PC and Console gaming was becoming and the huge potential future it had (still has). I would have thought that the only games to remain would be simple kids game like Snakes and Ladders etc, games to entertain children who were not really yet old enough to play PC/Console games.

    Clearly I would have been wrong and I’m very happy for it. PC/Console gaming is by far the most profitable (I don’t actually do any console gaming but do play the occasional PC game once in a blue moon), I think a couple/few years ago I read an article that said PC/Console gaming had exceeded the movie entertainment industry in its profits….but despite all of this, not only has wargaming and boardgaming clung on, it has gone from strength to strength itself and seems to have a very bright future indeed. Parents getting kids (the potential long term future gamers) involved in games and gaming and modelling is the best avenue to secure more current and future gamers, in my opinion.

  7. eriochrome says:

    This is a very complicated topic. I think that you are right that most “recruitment” is really just getting people who are already involved to play “your” game. With how big “nerd” culture is right now with super hero movies and some of the top tv shows being about Dragons and Zombies you would think now would be the time for the companies to experiment more with some mass market style releases. Video games are big but they also do tons of advertising and often big budgets and big risks involved. Looking at kickstarters you can get a game off the ground for less than the production cost of the normal 1 dollar App game.

    There need to be more value minded products at the interface between miniature and boardgames. I have only seen one miniatures game in a mass market store recently and that was just X-wing starters in Target but the price point on these products is very high. 3 ships for 40 dollars does not jump out at you as a good buy. I know that these did not sell that well as I found them on clearence for 50% off various times (buying 2 sets this way got me over the price hump and into the game).

    X-wing is probably the only game I have right now that I would try to recruit with but the 15 dollars per little ship is a turn off for people not really experienced with the hobby. I see that I get an OK painted minature with cards and tokens and rules and understand that they have to pay the Lucas (Now Disney) Tax and understand the pricing but most people see a few plastic toy that should be a few dollars. Blood Bowl would be good but since it is out of print, a new player has to find/make all the various required components. 40K no way not a chance, Space Hulk out of print (or will be again soon), Chainmail (out of Print), Epic (out of print), etc. See a theme there, maybe just GW but to many of these games lose support and strand the player base. I could train new players but they having nothing to buy if they really want to get in. The companies have to help us out.

    Dungeon Saga sort of is possible entry point. Fast simple rules for multiple people with room for more advanced stuff or extended play. They kept the contents down which could allow for a aggressive price point. Looking at the Green Menace and Project Pandora box sizes vs retail price point they would not have floated very well in a mass market type of segment and would probably struggle against higher production value products in specialist shops. You almost want something that is inexpensive enough that your middle class target component can buy it without real concern and get playing right away. Brand new video games go for like 60 dollars now but there is generally a broad range of games available in the 30 dollar range. Somewhere in there is probably the point that you can get enough whatever sales after playing with friends. I think if you ask a lot of people how much a boardgame should cost you will not get many people not already playing major boardgames that will answer more than like 40 dollars.

  8. obsidian3d says:

    I think, for the most part, existing gamers have always been the recruiters for new gamers. Speaking for myself, I sought out the hobby, but since learning I’ve very often been the person doing the recruiting. When I want to get people interested in a game (because I’m selfishly looking for people to play a game I like with) I’ll learn the rules, prepare at least two forces and then take it out to a local club or shop.

  9. I personally take the approach of having at least two playable factions in games I play for the demoing purpose, in one case I have painted a demo force for my LGS for pickup games when someone hasn’t brought a force.
    My preferred LGS is quite away away, and so I am lucky to get down there more than once a month. My preferred game is usually infinity, but I may take other games dependant on how long I plan on being there/my mode of transport.
    While 50-70% of the time I can get a game in whichever system I desire by providing a demo force I am still only gaining existing gamers to a new game. With friends at home I am much more likely to succeed in board game style game particularly where the rules are minimal season 1 zombicide was great for this season 2 added too many rules to be as effective.). But even there particular focus interests win out, one friend is a Star Wars fanatic, and another couple I anticipate being able to rope in for dungeon saga. This is one of only 2 ways I see of truly attracting new gamers, having friendship groups seeing games/miniatures around the house and being curious.

    The other way is actual marketing campaigns such as TV advertising where you can reach people who are not actively part of the gameworld already. TV shows or cartoons on similar themes can attract interest, and some of the newer pre-paint games in popular themes (fantasy flight games star wars etc.) help offer a more immediate satisfaction for new gamers and can often introduce them to broader gaming. (Oddly contrary to others experience I know quite a few female gamers who aren’t there due to having a partners, though they have typically come from RPGs or medieval enactment societies) but as always it’s just my 2 cents

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