Zen and the Art of Wargame Club Building, Pt. 1

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Need a  project for the  new  year?  Why not  start  a  proper gaming club?  Here’s how:

The Why

There are  many reasons to form/join a gaming  club, and  just as  many kinds  of  people who’d  become  members of  one given the chance.  Miniature gaming costs  a fair deal of time and cash, so having a  place dedicated to storing  materials and hosting games  is a way  of  actually getting the  most  out  of your  investment; having three armies gathering dust  in drawers because you  never get to play them is  usually a sup-optimal use of your efforts.

Even people who mostly enjoy  painting and collecting models can find  good reasons to join a club. It’s a place to do the social part  of the hobby, talk, speak ill of the  gaming company you despise and sing the praises of that  other company that is totally burying the first  one, make friends, host  or attend painting/conversion workshops with other  members, or even  just  have a  place to store their creations when there’s no room at  home (or spouses start getting antsy because you own more models than the combined net weight of the family).

And  of  course, it  makes having  events and tournaments much more feasible, and that is a great way get  in touch with hobbyists from different places and get  invited to events  in return.

How we did it: In  our case, we  already had  a  strong core  of  players centered around a  local online forum. Having to hop between the homes  (or the recreation rooms  of apartment  buildings) of different  players, each time  lugging around  tables, scenarios, armies, snacks and more was quickly becoming a  logistical bother. So we did a quick headcount  of those who wanted to be a tad  more engaged about  it, determined how  much of a budget we could realistically get for  it, and started  looking for a headquarter and drawing up rules.

The Place: 

Location, location, location. The three rules of real estate. The main thing you want is for  it to be affordable.  This hobby is expensive enough as it is, so tacking on another financial groin kick to the obstacles  is something  you really, really want to avoid. If your group is composed  mostly  of wealthier people, you can be a bit  more careless here, but remember that a club is also a way to bring new  people into your circle of friends and into the hobby, so try to set the costs a  bit below the  median disposable  income level to give the place some wiggle room and avoid pricing  newcomers  out.

The second consideration? Accessibility.  If your HQ is so far removed from where most  members  hang  out, fewer  people will bother to show up or see the  point  of the enterprise. For those who live away from urban centers, places will usually be cheap, with plenty of  parking space, but  perhaps not very accessible (I’ve always been a bit awed at the amount of driving most Americans do to buy a  loaf  of bread. No wonder things go crazy when the gas prices rise!).

In  larger cities, the challenge  is a bit tougher, but at least things are  usually closer to each other. Trying for a  place close to bus  lines  or the subway is a big help, but  only  if you  have a storage area; riding the bus carrying a backpack and 2 suitcases with your armies is not a fun experience in  most burgs.

And always, always  comb your friends, relatives and such for  opportunities. You  never  know who might  have an old apartment, shed or back room that could be  just what you  need, and willing to make a  better deal because he  knows you  or would rather enable some amusing geeks than risk a  possibly annoying/dangerous  new tenant.

How we did  it: Hoo boy. That’s a tale. Real estate is  hideously overpriced in our city, and traffic  is  often abysmal. So we took a bit  of a…corageous step. We rented an office space  in a dilapidated building in the  old central part  of town. The  price was alright, the premises were worn but  roomy, and the only real issue was being surrounded  by seedy dive  bars, strip joints, brothels, street  yakisoba carts and the ubiquitous passed-out drunks all over the sidewalks. Whenever we stay there  late and come  out at 2-3a.m, it’s  pretty much like stepping  out  into Gotham City, or the movie Warriors.

Wargaming nerds….come out and playyy-aayyyyy!!

So far, we  never  had a  problem. Maybe the  locals are wary of  messing with people going  back and forth loaded with what looks suspiciously  like gun cases. And  here’s the funny thing; the  whole area  is cleaning up fast now. Too fast. Hipsters are flocking ironically to the dirty bars (they’re so authentic), developers are homing  in on the real estate for  modern office buildings and nightclubs. Soon we may well be  priced  out  of the  region we took the first steps to gentrify! Now that, my friends, is irony.

The Structure:

This part is mostly easy, because a proper club doesn’t need that  much to work. There are a  lot  of extra things that help, but the core equipment you will need are tables, shelves, a restroom that  is not dedicated to Nurgle, and a door with a  lock on  it.  Depending  on where your club  is  located, some  other things are basic: fans  or an AC in hot  locations, and a heater/AC  in cold climates.

Budget permitting, a  modest eating area can also be included.

(Personal anecdote  parenthesis: My first 40K apocalypse game was at a club  located  in the countryside, and their tables were all out  in the  open. Around noon, the merciless brazilian sun was  blazing  on top of some 30 thousand points worth of models, which slowly got so hot you could smell all the acrylic paint beginning to melt. Cue all of  us  panicking geeks  improvising a roof  of some sort and fanning the cooking  models.)

From those humble beginnings, you can expand  in many different ways: a  mini-fridge to keep drinks, actual lockers for  members to store their stuff and cut back on ferrying huger armies  back and forth, a wi-fi connection so people can log  online and check rules and such (especially nice  in  places where  cell phone internet  is  unreliable  or expensive).

How we did it: We started with the  barest  minimum. Our tables were flat wood panels resting  on top of flimsy supports, and a couple  of  portable folding tables  one  of  our members  had built a  long time ago, which were great but showing their age. Since  our  building  has no elevators, having to carry even that up the stairs was a huge  pain.  As we got settled, the same friend built far  more durable tables (Having architects  or engineers around  is  so very handy), we brought in lockers and fans, the works.

The  members also donated a ton of scenery, dice, templates, and even a  small library of fluff  books for  people to borrow, and posters to decorate the walls. A whole painting station with movable  lights was added to a corner, for those who didn’t feel like just gaming, again with more donates drawers, paints,  cutting  knives, files and brushes.

What makes or breaks a gaming  group or club in your opinion? Tell us about your club in the comments before part 2 arrives!

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