Monday, February 28, 2011

Just Add Water: Growing a Hobby Scene in your area!

Here's a spot from a guest writter, MattC. He's an old friend of mine and has recently embarked on making something out of nothing: a 40k Scene!

In 2006, I left Michigan and moved to Florida. I put frozen car doors behind me, and embraced Florida, the nation’s weirdest state. Upon moving down, I also left behind my Warhammer 40K friends. After half a year of searching for a scene in Tallahassee, I admitted defeat.

Then dumb luck struck two months ago. As a long time Warhammer 40K player, I know the importance of dumb luck. A friend admitted he played Space Marines, and our local gaming store moved from its old location the size of a Japanese water closet to a spacious Old Navy store in the mall. With more space than customers, I suggested building Warhammer 40K tables and possibly carrying product.

As is always the case, if you build it, they will come. Or so Field of Dreams made me think, but it’s a bit more complicated than some weird, disembodied voice telling you what to do. In hindsight, was Kevin Costner just insane?

So I tried to boil down what a successful gaming store needs to host Warhammer 40K. I mean, sure, pushing two plastic white tables together, measuring off deployment, and then tossing up old Pop Tart and Starburst boxes works, but it doesn’t really appeal to passersby.
Regulation-sized tables - pretty obvious, but the tables should be sturdy, presentable, and of the proper height
Terrain - from area terrain with elements to bulky, blown out buildings
Terrain shelving - no one likes their pieces dry humping in a cardboard box
Sign-up list - new players who have never touched a 40K miniature, and veterans who need new blood
Demonstration schedule - for those new players who don’t quite yet understand how expensive Warhammer 40K will be; somewhere near huffing a dozen cans of duster a day
Network and relationship building - getting to know folks, which means not only your player base, but related hobby stores
Let’s focus on the following two points for right now:
Host business benefits
Network and relationship building
Why would a store invest in tables, terrain, and product? Because our local gaming store butts up against the mall food court, the number one answer would be foot traffic. The store primarily operates as a LAN center, so renting out time to young adults so they can yell at monitors for three hours straight. In addition, it carries other hobby supplies and product, so getting people through the door generates revenue. What’s more appealing than watching grown men play with little models? In all seriousness, not much.

So the host business generates foot traffic, sells related product, has seasoned players running demonstration events, and generally filling up the space with activity.

But the business relationship doesn’t end there. Several other stores in the area carry terrain material, flocking, paints, etc., and those businesses have a vested interest in the success of Warhammer 40K in the area. Whatever hobby supplies our local gaming store host doesn’t carry, the partner businesses do. So post a flyer, speak with the owner of those hobby supply / crafting stores.

If you tell folks our store runs Warhammer 40K events and carries overpriced plastic models with too much flash, we’ll tell them to patronize your store for base flock, paints, and remote-controlled helicopters with video cameras on the front to spy on the neighbor’s wife. We all win!

Next time we’ll talk about a few of the other approaches, and so far what has worked, and what has failed.

Old School here. This is a great example of gamers taking their hobby into their own hands and growing a community. The folks here at Evo, our FLGS have a similar story and I bet there are more out there. If you have a story about how your hobby grew up or how you influenced it, please comment. I bet there are more hobby-starters out there than you think!


  1. Fun read and reminds me of the 40k scene locally here when we got started. It only takes two players to get the ball rolling!

  2. My only question is what if one doesn't like the community they are in, more specifically the people, and still want to have a 40K community?

    Would one need to just get used to it or will they need to find another area to cultivate growth?

  3. It's great to see that we're all self-starters, huh? I just can't believe that someone would go this far though.

  4. I hate the 2 plastic tables pushed together, way to low and unsteady. With $40 of materials you can build a very nice/tall wargaming table with a shelf underneath.

    Basically if a store only has the plastic tables they are telling me that they dont care about wargaming.

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  6. Our area is pretty known for the players pretty much trying the best to make our store happen. Only problem is our owner isnt 100% sold on 40k yet, because it isnt a bit draw. Our area is Magic and other card games and it brings in money so we cant hate on him. Just need more in our area to start buying product from the store to show that it draws and not buy everything online.

    You can have 50 people all for the growth of the store and have the mind set of "What can i do for my store", but all it takes to ruin everything is one person with the mid set of "What can my store do for me" And thats where our problem is.

  7. This story is a bit familiar. At our own store we had a couple guys who might play every great once in awhile, meeting late at night, playing when the store started to close becuase an employee also played.

    Then he held a tourny for the locals and a couple more people (including yours truely) tried out the game and began to play as well... dragging old players back into the fold (thats you Vogrin!) and helping introduce new players and people who freshly moved to the area. Over all we grew from a small group, who went together to a large group who regularly played twice a week.

    I am proud of how our local store handles new people and players, giving encouragement and play advice, and playing anyone who comes in.

  8. Our store seems to have developed cliques....And sadly im not the only person who seems to believe this. Certain players will only play certain players. Granted this steps their game up but also brings it down.

    If you only play the same 2-3 people everytime you won't progress. You'd be suprized at what some of the so called "B-leaguers" can do.

    Ive seen some good lists and well played armies come from these players, yet they still get trashed on by the called "A Leaguers"

    Its a game play who ever. If u stomp their face in....well sit down with them after the game and help the understand why they got stomped. Show them obvious flaws in their them critque them with stratgies with it. If the better players with more knowledge don't try to help and pass it on these younger more inexperienced players won't progress.

    Ive seen one other person do this. Things like this step everyones game up. Id love to see other players from other stores and areas come to one of our game nights and leave saying "Wow the guys at evo are good". Reguardless of who they play.

  9. Great article, this is the same thing I am doing in my area (Bend, OR). Unfortunately, I am not a store owner but I am trying to build a scene that will last that is perpetuated by the hobbyist more than the place of business. I still wish a real gaming store would open.