Wednesday, December 23, 2020

"I remember when this show was about community college" - Building Your Community

So ages ago, I promised a way to build a Rebel fleet that was just like Community, Dan Harmon's original show with intense fans who got way into a well-written, hilarious series that rewarded frequent watching and was unfairly canceled before its time.
And now I get Pickle Rick t-shirts from edgelord teenagers, but I'm NOT BITTER!
Well, we're not doing that today.  Today we're talking about how to build your very own Armada Community.
The very preliminary thing I will say is that this article is designed for people without a current community.  If you have the option, joining an already existing community is much easier to handle and much less work on you, as likely you won't be the guy running the community you end up joining.
No one is gonna put Buddy in charge.  And yeah, it's going to be a LOT of Community-based jokes today.
But if you DO need to run a community, well, here's a few suggestions on how to do it.
Most importantly, don't be Pierce. Or Chevy Chase, for that matter.
First, find a meeting space.  The usual plan here is "your local game store" because they tend to have table space and it's a nice neutral ground for you and your fellow bros.  Armada needs 3x6 tables for playspace, and that's not something most people have lying around their homes.  Combine that with the fact that you're trying to build a community, so you want to be meeting new people.  That means public spaces, no matter how swanky your man-cave is.
Everyone can come in and have fun together! Hooray!
Relatedly, let's be that guy and talk hygiene.  Yeah, we're going there.
We need clean intelligence, Abed.  No references, no callbacks.
If you want to build a community and get new players, you need to be inviting.  And there's nothing less inviting than poor hygiene.  I'm not trying to bodyshame (heck, I know I could stand to lose some more weight myself) nor am I telling you that suits and ties are mandatory.
They look dang good, though.  And yes, that is me on Christmas Eve.
But I AM telling you that you need to at least have a presentable appearance.  I'm sure you have at least one "nicer" tee-shirt or a polo or something.  Something without holes in it, something that you could wear to your parent's house or brunch or whatever.  And you need to bathe.  Again, I don't want to be THAT GUY, but nothing makes people NOT want to hang out like nerd funk.  From personal experience, I work in a magnesium foundry.  After the second question of "What's that burning smell?" I started showering twice a day, once before and once after work.  If you're trying to make friends, stinking ain't the way to do it.  And stinking in public is extra not good.

Second, you need consistency.
Check it against your list and see.
If you want to grow a community, you need to talk to your local game store and schedule a time that you will be there, week in and week out.  Eric and I try to have at least one of us there every Thursday at 6, to ensure a steady presence and steady attendance.  We won't shove people out of the way, but we will get there a bit early to make sure our tables are cleared and ready for our regulars.

Related to THAT, ensuring a clean area that's ready for players gets people in there and keeps them there.  You have a good idea of how much space you're going to need, you can make sure the table is ready for your players to come in and play a game at.  If you ask nicely, you can probably move anyone playing a game on that table to somewhere else (make sure to ask nicely! Flies, vinegar, honey, etc).  By trying to build a community, you basically have to become bartender (keep the place clean), kids soccer team manager (organizing games/tournaments/passing out orange slices), and judge (for any rules disputes).
My Dad is NOT Judge Judy and Executioner!
So, know the rules well.  We're not all perfect, but having a good foundation (read the Rules Reference Guide! It comes in the starter box and you probably ignored it!) will help both you AND your players grow and continue showing up when confusion happens.  But consistency is the most important part of this.  Eric and I had started trying to get a community growing of Dropzone Commander and Infinity at the same time as another game or two on a Thursday night, and we just couldn't get enough people to come weekly and commit.  Don't demand from your locals that you get the only game that night, but do try to make sure that whatever night you get you're going to get a decent turnout from it.

Third, be friendly!  It's not just about looking nice and having a good play area; you need to BE NICE too.
Crazy for Swayze.  And let's all ignore the rest of that quote...
If people walk up to your table and see Star Destroyers on the table, they're going to comment on it (and some might say that's why Wave 7 is built around big ships from the movies).  TALK TO THEM! Engage, talk a little about the game (without getting super crazy into it and overdoing it; you may want to talk to a neutral friend about HOW you say this first so you come off as "friendly" but not "so enthusiastic you're frightening people"), mention when you play every week (see point 2 above).  If you're looking for good things you can talk about, here's some quick bonuses of playing Armada:
  • Cheap start up cost as compared to other miniatures games!
  • No need to paint, unless you WANT to!
  • Easy to understand, fire then move!  The rules aren't super complicated, I swear!
  • Play whatever Star Wars ships and characters you want!
  • No auto-win, it's a matter of what you bring and how you play it!
Fourth, advertising!  You've got a space, you've got a time, now you need to get the word out.
I suggest Newsies costumes when passing these out
Social media is a great way to advertise.  If you're in a city of decent size, there may already be an Armada group (Chicago Armada! San Francisco Armada! Northwest Ohio Armada!) or you may have to create one (Derry Armada - All spaceships float down here! Gravity Falls Armada! Bring your own spaceship to play with!).  You're going to want to post OFTEN but don't go spamming the list.  No one wants to re-read your thoughts over and over, so post when you're playing and post when it's important.  There's a post I could write about knowing your audience and knowing your humor, but that's for another day (and I'm going to listen to my own advice from a sentence ago about not overdoing it, haha).

Fifth, tolerance.  Yeah, we're hitting a lot of things today.
So, Armada is a Star Wars game where (in essence) you push around plastic space ships to feel big about your space pants.  I'm a nerd, Eric's a nerd, and we hang out with nerds.  So, you're going to get nerds playing your game.  What you need to do (nicely) is ensure that you're getting GOOD nerds.  I don't mean good PLAYERS, I specifically mean good PEOPLE.  Eric wrote his article about tilting, and we haven't had many issues with that.  My above point about hygiene, again, we haven't had an issue at our local with that either.

You can't and shouldn't kick people out for being weird/slightly off.  Nerds, as a general rule, are a little eccentric to begin with.  You SHOULD talk to your players and inform them if legitimate issues start to arise.  If someone in your community starts becoming toxic, you need to NICELY talk to that player and let him know his behavior is affecting the game play of everyone else in the community.  Remember my Dolton quote above? "Be nice!" But be Dolton, the bouncer.  You're in charge of this community, you need to keep the peace for EVERYONE.

If the behavior of the player in question is just starting to be toxic, work with him and let him know ways he can improve that aspect of his personality (so that it stops affecting the community as a whole).  If he persists on acting that way, let him know that it won't be tolerated for much longer before something more drastic gets done about it.  This may be as simple as you and the rest of the community giving him the silent treatment and not playing him unless he becomes less of a problem, or you may even need to escalate things to have the game store's owner inform the individual that he's not welcome there any more.

Don't jump for banning immediately, don't start banning people after one incident or whatever.  Banning someone is a FINAL STEP that should be taken only after that person has exhausted all other attempts and options you've given them to clean up their behavior.  Banning should mainly be reserved for INCREDIBLY terrible people, racists/bigots/cheaters/ACTUAL bullies, people who have been given every chance you've given them and they've rejected them all.
Seriously, don't be Pierce or Chevy Chase
I realize that it's REALLY not easy to confront some about their behavior, but Eric and I have seen gaming communities we've played in disintegrate because of ONE toxic individual.  You need to nip that in the bud or else it'll destroy whatever fledgling community you're starting to make.  You want friendly players that you want to play against, you don't want jerks.  You're building a tolerant community where all good people will be accepted for who they are and can all play together as friends.
I'm calling dibs on the Han Solo role before Jeff slouches into it by default
 And with that, you've got a community going.
RIP Starburns


  1. I have a problem with Xwing. When people see me playing with somebody and show interest in the game, I always have to confront opinions like Xwing is cheaper. Xwing is faster. Xwing is blah blah blah from other guys that are playing that. Many say that they can't afford both games at the same time and Armada kind of seems more expensive (Xwing core costs 40 and Armada's core costs 100 for example). Any piece of advice?

    1. I have similar conversations with folks at our FLGS looking to get in. I don't talk poorly about X-Wing I simply present it as differences in scale as well as type of play. X-Wing is more tactical/immediate. It cares a lot about what is happening RIGHT NOW. It plays more quickly. The game scale (snubfighters) and size (only one mat) and time (one hour or less) are all smaller-scale. Armada is more strategic. It rewards thinking several turns ahead more than most games. The scale is larger. There's no wrong answer, just a game that jives more with you than the other.

      Regarding price, Armada is more expensive to TRY but X-Wing and Armada costs for dedicated gamers quickly become equivalent once you start seriously buying in. If the start-up cost is a big concern, I recommend asking your FLGS to offer the core set at a cheaper price (it's what mine does and it's been a great success) to encourage purchases from people who are curious. Failing that, there's always online vendors, loathe as I am to recommend them over your FLGS. Still, a potential Armada player who buys the core set elsewhere and then buys follow-up ships and squadrons from the store is a far better customer than one who never buys any Armada anything at all due to the core set sticker shock.

    2. We think very similar because that is exactly what I say and I know what I'm saying since I have everything published for Xwing and Armada. Fact is that there is a large pool of players for Xwing and finding yourself always playing with the two or three same guys can be repetitive. Well, I must resign myself to consider Armada a niche game.

      Thanks a lot for you advice!