We’re going to take a wild stab in the dark and guess you’re a board game fan. You’ve got an ever-growing range of games ranging from modern classic gateway games (ahh, good old tried-and-tested Carcassonne) to the latest Kickstarter hotness involving a whole array of funky miniatures (such as Rising Sun). Problem is, you’re missing one key component… Plenty of opponents. You’re wearing what the internet cool cats refer to as a ‘#sadface’.
But you’ve decided to take matters into your own hands, and fix this ASAP. You’re going to start your own board game club. You’ve read Part One of our Guide and even done a recce or two to potential sites. You’ve found the ideal spot to host your board games club, and a time that works: Thursday evenings at The Bennet Arms pub. Now, how do you get other people to turn up?
Whether you like it or not, we’re in an internet age. The majority of our tips are going to involve social media, but you should not ignore more traditional methods of getting the word out there about your brilliant new club.
Print Out Some Posters
By all means, you can create an eye-catching poster/flyers and ask your friendly local games shop if you can put it/them up in there. In theory your exact target audience should be in this location – it’s direct advertising. Worst-case scenario is the shop says no, but we can’t see a reason why they wouldn’t allow this. If more people attend a board games club, where in theory you’ll all be introducing each other to a whole range of cool board games, chances are that this will result in the members wanting to buy more games…
It’s a positive loop. This is good business for both you and the FLGS. (Of course, remember that you can buy a whole host of excellent games on Zatu, too – your ‘Friendly Online Gaming Store!)
Consider other locations where a poster might attract the right crowd (such as the location of where you’re hosting your games night?), and ask to put one up there, too.
Remember, if you are making a poster, there are some bog-standard ground rules if you want it to be truly great. The bare minimum is to print it out rather than hand-write it. If possible, try to format it on a computer program such as Adobe InDesign or Photoshop. Maybe you know someone who could create one for you, if you’re not confident at dabbling with such programs?
On your poster design you could perhaps include an appropriate image (of popular, well-known and non-intimidating board games like Ticket To Ride, Kingdomino or Azul) or some neat graphics (maybe the dice out of Formula D, or the cool-shaped meeples/components in games such as the fantastic First Player Marker in Altiplano or the brilliant pirate ships in Jamaica).
Don’t make the poster look too busy, though – this is a fine balance! You’ll want it to look clean, and simple to digest at a glance.
This will look a lot more appealing than something you might print out in, say, Microsoft Word. Compare it to viewing a clunky looking website compared to a spiffy, clean one – which are you going to take more seriously? It’s the same with any walk of life, and that includes a poster/leaflet for a board games club.
One rule to, erm, rule them all
However, the Number One Rule (yes, worthy of capital letters) is that you spell-check it first. Same goes for factual data – if you include a postcode, or a phone number or email address for contact purposes, you’re going to feel like a prize plum if you’ve made a clanger of a typo.
Check before you print – read out everything on screen; you’ll be amazed at how clunky some things sound when you read them back to yourself out loud – and then get someone else to check it, too.
Advertise in Print Publications
Perhaps there is a local magazine or newspaper near you that is happy to take on submitted ‘press releases’. You could always drop them a friendly worded email, telling them about your club and if you could write a piece about it. Never turn down the opportunity to get some free press!
There is also well-known nationwide magazine in the board game industry called Tabletop Gaming, and in it there is a section that advertises local games clubs. One email with your group’s details is all it takes, and they’ll include your club’s info in the mag each month. Again, targeted advertising (and you haven’t paid a penny for it)!
Word on the Virtual Street
However, social media is where society spends a lot of its time, these days. You can mutter and grumble about it as much as you like, but you cannot ignore it!
If you want to appeal to the masses, social media is the way to go. The internet is where you’re more likely to attract like-minded, local board gamers – they can stumble across you by browsing, say, their smart phone or tablet in their lounge, rather than physically going to the exact place you pinned your poster.
The Juggernaut that is… Facebook
You could start by creating a (private or public) group for your board game club on Facebook. This will work a little bit like a website with a forum – it’s your club’s little corner of the internet. Making a group on Facebook is no way near as time-consuming as starting a website from scratch though – and it’s free. The formatting is essentially already built – you just need to fill in the gaps. The point of this group will be a hub of sorts for you to first and foremost display information about your games club, as well as using it to post pictures and details about possible upcoming games nights.
Give the group an appealing, logical name. While it might be tempting to get creative with a name such as, say, ‘The Norwich Necromancers’, this doesn’t immediately suggest you are a board game club. Many people might find out about your club via Facebook’s search features, so you’ll want them to gauge them straight away. After all, we’re assuming you’re looking to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
Talking of searching… Make sure to add some tags to the group – things such as ‘board games’ and the name of your town/area. This will help you become discoverable if people type those things into the Facebook search menu.
A lot of people use social media as a means to discovering local events, so Facebook is ideal for this – you can invite everyone within the Group to your regular Event at, say, the Dog & Duck. You can include the time, date, and location in the Event itself, so it’s kind of like direct mailing to all of your members, as a reminder that ‘Hey! Don’t forget: this Thursday is board games night… Want to come along?’
Oh, and don’t forget to add an enticing image with the Event – something board game related; perhaps of some wonderful box art, perhaps a well-lit shot of some impressive components. Maybe people playing said games? Basically, this picture is a quick ‘hook’, an attempt to entice people to think, “Actually, you know what? I will check out this board game night. It looks like it could be fun…”
The Morning after the Night Before
Try to keep your group populated with posts on a semi-regular basis. Think of it like a blog, of sorts. If you check out a blog and there haven’t been any posts in a while, the content might not be relevant any more.
Think about letting people know about what happened at your recent gaming nights. What you played, were the games good, or new to you? There is no need to go overly heavy on just written posts – take pictures, too! Consider things like snaps of your game nights in progress, pictures of the cool games you’re playing, or a shot of your shelfie, with questions like: ‘Anyone fancy playing any of these at the pub this weekend?’ or ‘Can I tempt anyone with a game of Mysterium/X-Wing/[insert your favourite board game here!] tomorrow?’
Posts of this nature will encourage people to join in and chat, and you’ll soon have the makings of a friendly community on your hands.
If, on the other hand, newcomers arrive at the group to see it has been inactive for a period of time, they might (incorrectly) assume that this club isn’t running at all. Work with whatever suits you. Perhaps that’s one post a week, maybe more, maybe less. With these kind of things, you’ll often find the more you put into them, the more you’ll get out.
A Thousand Words
Facebook isn’t the only social media network that people use – you could appeal to potential gamers using Twitter and Instagram, too. Same rules apply with the name or ‘handle’ (the name you decide to attribute towards your group after the @ symbol). If it’s logical then there is a greater chance of it being found if people search for it in comparison to something weird and wacky (and, unfortunately, specific).
If you’re using Twitter or Instagram, think carefully about using hashtags to connect yourself in among certain ‘buzz’ topics. This could well make you more discoverable, especially if you use ones that are geographically appropriate to you (such as the name of your town, local area, and so on).
Instagram is, of course, a visual medium. First and foremost, it’s about the images you’re posting that might appeal to people. However, if you add a mini blurb about the image itself that you’re posting, it makes the post itself feel that little bit more human. The reader will have a reference point.
Also, do not make the mistake in assuming that everyone will know what the game is that you’ve just snapped. Yes, of course it’s Five Tribes to you (‘how could people mistake it; the bright pink minaret gives it away?’), but some people might be just discovering board games, and might not have heard of it. In fact, they might not be familiar with any Days of Wonder games, for that matter. You don’t want to alienate people from the off – you want potential newcomers to feel welcome to join your games club, right?
Word of mouth is always going to a powerful tool in your arsenal. It only takes one person to recommend (or trash talk) your board game club to make (or break) it. We’re going to assume you’re all awesome, friendly people, in which case you’ll have no problem with this at all. But if you’re not friendly or approachable at your games nights or online, then your board games group is going to struggle to grow…
Starting your Board Game Club - Next time…
Starting a board games club is one thing. Getting it off the ground and actually running on a regular basis is another trick, entirely. Join us for Part Three where we’ll look into this and other factors in greater detail, in which we consider what it takes to actually run a club to make it success…