Gaming Clubs: What’s Your Experience?

ClubLong story short, some of us from an LGS are looking at starting a gaming club. There are a lot of reasons we’re looking to do this, no one in particular, and overall we feel the pros outweigh the cons. The pros are pretty obvious, basically do what we want, when we want and how we want to. I’m simplifying of course. The cons are finding a place for the club, the expense involved in such an endeavor and having enough members to cover that cost while hopefully making a bit of a profit to contribute towards the club.

This is an idea a few of us have had kicking around for a while. There’s a gaming club in Massachusetts that we visit when they run tournaments and some of us have admired the club atmosphere. It’s a very different thing from what you see at a gaming store. The people who play at a club are paying for that privilege and in turn want to provide the best gaming experience possible. A club can enforce rules that a gaming store could not for fear of alienating clientele. It’s just a very different animal.

That being said, I have no doubts a fair amount of clubs get started and fall flat quickly. Without proper organization and structure it could just fold fast; it’s like a business really. So I’m curious how many of you out there are members of a gaming club and how do you find the experience? Do you have any tips for a club looking to start up? What are the most common issues you see in a gaming club?

  • eriochrome

    Only club I have been involved in was really just an extension of the players at one store. If you want to have a club with an independent meeting location you probably really need to have a great idea of how many players you could get involved. I would start by getting in touch with your FLGS that have play space to see if you can start running events multiplayer events at their location. I would guess Apoc Games or Small Tournaments. Maybe try 2 events a month at a rotation of the stores within about 45 minutes or 1 hour travel for several months

    That should let you really gauge what you the player base is and build up your forum/webpresence before trying to organize a club house type of thing. Having a dedicated place to play that can handle an event is expensive so you might first look at the cost of space rental for 1 or 2 days a months at schools/churches/libraries/community centers and such that have unused space in the evenings and weekends. You then also need to worry about storage of club supplies and who has access since you will need table toppers(probably cloth initially) and terrain mostly.

    • A dedicated space is ideal but there’s definitely a lot of details, namely storage as you mentioned. At this stage we’re feeling things out to see how viable it even is.

      • eriochrome

        Ofcourse a dedicated place would be best but the cost there is pretty problematic. You need a place big enough that say at least half of the club could play at the same time so it might not need to be the size of a game store but not just a small room or garage sized space. If you want to use it year round you will need heat and AC and restroom so you cannot just grab so crap warehouse someplace so it is retail like quality space you would want. I cannot find a ton of listings for that in my area but those that I did for pretty new space was 13-14 dollars per square foot per year. My basement is about 800 square feet and would probably be about the minumum size for 32 people to play so that is 10K a year. Maybe you can get it down to like only 6K depending on the local market/building/neighborhood. You could cover that with about 35 players paying 15 dollars a month but you still have to pay for all the extra costs (power/water/gas/insurance) which will probably increase the load by about 50%. Either higher dues or you need more players.
        I know that some groups have done it but I think it will all come down to the rental rate and being ready to make the move when the right property appears. This means building up the group first so that you know how many you can get to kick in before you have to sign that lease or agree to rent the place since they will probably a least want first and last and security deposits which probably means collecting like 50 dollars per player in the bank before you try to sign up even for month to month.
        Trying to work first with the FLGS might also help you really see what the local community is missing. A big dedicated space is great but it will probably not be well utilized most of the time. If none of the FLGS are interested in working with you on events or you have none with play space I would really look first at someplace where you can get free use of space maybe once a month just to try to get a core formed.
        Subject: Re: New comment posted on Gaming Clubs: What’s Your Experience?

      • eriochrome

        I was able to find some industrial/office space for 6-8 dollars per square foot but it was offten for 2000-4000 square feet so does not really help in overall cost but better value (ofcourse higher overhead with more space to heat/cool/light). I am really not sure if you will find very many gaming clubs in the states with dedicated space as the gamers per square mile just is not high enough since the gamer to overall population is so low. In places where their density is high the rents are also high. I do not want to seem like a pessimist but I think starting by finding a place you can play once a month then move up from there is the best.
        Honestly gamers are great people but reliability and follow through are not traits generally associated with them. Do you really expect to get 40-50 people who you trust to write you a 50 dollar check every 3 months for a year or two? I bet you could get 40-50 people (depending on your local community) to say they will but I doubt that they will deliver after the first check or two is due.
        Subject: Re: New comment posted on Gaming Clubs: What’s Your Experience?

        • All good and valid points. The idea would be a once a week setup with the ability to rent a Saturday or Sunday every now and then for tournaments. It’s the cheapest option as well as the most viable all around.

          • eriochrome

            My local school district will rent classrooms out after school for like 20 dollars an hour for the school year for 20 uses. If the janitors are on duty(additional per use off hour fee avoided) something like that could provide space for half the year for 4 hours of gaming every week for like 100 dollars. If they have some rooms with the right tables for what ever game you are trying to play (4*6 can be hard to come by) you might be able to find something like that. Having the right tables available on site is vital since you will have to bring in armies and terrain you do not want to be moving 6-8 big tables every week.
            Another good place to look for space would be churches since they usually have gathering spaces where they have things like funeral luncheons and such. Those generally have bigger tables but often circular.
            Subject: Re: New comment posted on Gaming Clubs: What’s Your Experience?

  • TheRhino

    I think the biggest obstacle is going to be apathy. We’ve got that core group of people who care and are concerned about the catalyzing issues, but how many of them care enough to open their wallets every month?
    I’m not around much, if at all, in the group any more. I’m no longer a “core” member. Vocal, sure. But not core. I don’t see the situations and things that have kick started this movement on any sort of regular basis. To be honest, that factor alone prevents me from opening said wallet on a monthly basis. Definitely not on a weekly basis.
    I would recommend starting small and slow. Gather your core group members and decide on your monthly dues, method of expenditures, and future goals. You want a mission statement right up front. A mission statement of “Play someplace other than the FLGS because it stinks now.” isn’t going to cut it.
    I’d avoid jumping right to a private play space as well, as it will eat your income instantly. You’ll basically be collectively paying rent, with no income to fund terrain, tables, etc. I’d recommend that after you draft up your mission statement and initial policies, you use your first month’s dues to make an initial collaborative purchase of some terrain. Ten people at $10 a month will get you one or two terrain pieces from GW and a little in the bank. Decide as a democracy what your first terrain board will be, and spend towards it. When that one’s done, start another.
    Keep playing for free at the FLGS’s in the area until you have the bank and steady income to rent a space. Honestly, you may never have the steady month-to-month income to rent a place weekly or monthly, and that shouldn’t be considered a failure. It’s the collective effort that you’re after.
    The thing that will sink this project before it leaves port is the pay-to-play model. No FLGS will let you charge its customers to play there using your terrain. Attempting to rent a space and then charge per head to play there is the quickest and fastest way to drive folks away. Unless you have a drop-dead gorgeous space with mind-blowing terrain ready to go (you know, all that stuff you were saving and investing in), no one will pay you X dollars to play at your space when they can go to any FLGS and play for free.
    When building yourselves up while “living” out of the FLGS, do NOT insinuate, advertise, or outright state that your ultimate goal is to break away from the FLGS. It’s subversive, creates cliques, and will get you kicked the hell out. If I owned a shop and found a band of players was collecting money from my regulars in order to fund some breakaway movement, I’d take some action, either positive or negative. Either way the club movement would be gone, either through exile or dangling better treats.
    The interaction between a club and a business is a fine line to walk, and the interests of whichever serves a larger, self-sustaining population win.

    • I agree 100%. If one out of every four players I know were actually willing to consider a club then I’d consider that a success and that I see as unlikely all things considered.

      A mission statement, charter, organizational structure, etc., would be cards on the table from the get-to. I’ve never been one to put down something as a means of promoting myself since it just means you have no faith in your product.

      With that, agreed, get everything in order first, including funding. Nobody is looking to jump the gun and get something rolling next week.

      Recruitment is tricky for sure, at least without being seen as a douche by the establishment you’re recruiting from.

      • Okay, TheRhino beat me to the punch on this (it took me a long time to type mine!) I agree that charging people club dues to play at the FLGS is a no-no. But if you are transparent with the FLGS that you would like to form a club and collect dues to fund events they may be supportive. I haven’t been around there a lot so I don’t fully understand the situation but it seems like the FLGS is still big enough for the weekly gatherings. You just need some funding and organization to put together independent events on a larger scale. A good club can be a boon for a store if they work together. You might be able to get the best of both worlds with some diplomacy and negotiation.

      • TheRhino

        One tactic for recruiting is to represent it as a player group that spans multiple shops, which is accurate and can be effective.
        It gives you the benefit of being able to say “The Group” lives at Shop One, Shop Two, and Shop Three, as opposed to saying “The Group” lives at Shop One only. You create this little pack of members who have allegiance to all the shops in the area as a whole, instead of one. That presents to the shops the opportunity to compare themselves to one another and cater to the larger group. If Shop one hears that a lot of players from “the group” have been shopping at Store Two because of a discount policy or other perk, it’s incentive for Shop One to pick up that perk as well, or offer something new or comparable. This makes sure the rotation keeps stopping at all the shops, instead of skipping one.
        You’d be like Eldar Harlequins going from Craftworld to Craftworld!

        • I agree with this entirely. Spanning multiple shops will increase your membership, improve your pull with the shops, help support more shops, and help draw people to club events.

        • Awesome idea.

      • JustHippie

        If I was running a LGS and some of the players wanted to create a club I hope I would support them. Those guys are going to drum up more players and promote the products that I sell. I’d be more inclined to offer them help and support than kick them out. If these guys end up running a successful club and I kicked them out how much business will I be getting from that club. Remember every 10 happy customers tell one person but every single unhappy one tells at least 10 people. If these are the guys playing the games there word of mouth advertising is pretty valuable.

  • Have you guys had any talks with the FLGS about your intent to launch a club? Having a location with space and a large terrain collection for weekly and walk in games is a luxury that most clubs don’t start with. Since most of that terrain was built by people who are very likely to be founding members of the club you have a well established relationship already. It might be possible to work out a deal to use that terrain for remote club events, and to set aside space to store club exclusive terrain/equipment. Even if you kick in a percentage to dues to the store for these privileges it might be cheaper than renting remote storage and space for weekly games. That would allow you to dedicate a higher percentage of the dues toward event costs. It also means that you’ve got a solid fall back during the start up period and during lean times in the future.

    It may sound silly but shirts are a good idea. One of the things driving this idea is a desire to gain more control over your hobby. The shop owner/employees may have a decent idea of who the regulars are as individuals, but individuals blend into the crowd. If club members are visually distinct it gives a more solid impression of an organized group with collective influence and purchasing power. This is doubly important at tournaments and when visiting other stores. You will be much more memorable to shop owners and other players as a group.

    Most importantly, keep things as civil as possible. You don’t want to burn bridges with your current FLGS, or with any other you deal with. Having the stores as playing areas, and possible storage spaces, to fall back on gives you a much higher chance of success. Maintaining a visible presence at the local stores is also a good way to bring in new members so that the club doesn’t wither away. Being visible and maintaining a good reputation could also give you the clout get stores to give you a club discount. You also want to make sure you don’t come across as elitist and alienate potential future members. Even players who are not likely to join the club can make or break the decisions of other potential members.

    • TheRhino

      The shirt idea is great.

      • I love the shirts the Dorka guys have.

  • Another thing you want to figure out is the benefit of membership. To me it isn’t worth $10 a month just to be part of the ‘in’ group. Voting rights and free admission to certain events might be. For example, if the club hosts two major events a year at $35 per event you could include admission to those major events in membership. That would be $120 into the club, and $70 saved for me (assuming I attend both.) I can see spending the $50 per year for voting rights and the knowledge that I’m supporting the club.

    If you can work out a deal with one or more stores, like a 5% discount for club members or members only sales events, that would also encourage people to pony up the cash. It would also let the store(s) involved know that club members are more likely to support their business.

    • Good point. Incentive is always a good call. The base idea would be that members get voting rights. If you’re not in good standing you have no vote. Discounted tournament entrance could work as well.

  • Gamble

    I live in a Chicago suburb, and there is a nightclub that runs once a month or so….during the school year. Its an 18 an under club. When its open tho, that area is packed full with lines waiting outside… When closed, its just an empty building costing someone $.

    My point? When your club is not running, its not making $$. Rent aint cheap and neither are taxes. Instead, why not look for a place to rent for a night/weekend? Weird as it may sound, but wedding reception halls would work. Youre contracted for the time used, not tied to a building, can set an age limit, and serve adult beverages if needed. heck, you could add a dance floor and DJ to add some fun for guys who bring dates.

    casinos, hotels, etc would work too…its just covering the cost you gotta worry about. owning a building is expensive, trust me. Most night clubs that are successful charge high $’s for cover or drinks and usually have an established name. Or, they run a restaurant during the daytime to cover expenses. Weekends are usually where they make $, not during the week

    • TheRhino

      That’s actually what they’re trying to do. Rent a hall or something once a week on a regular basis.

    • As awesome as having an establishment would be, we aren’t going that route. Basically once a week for X hours that night is all we’re looking at. The tricky part is storage for tables and terrain.

      • JustHippie

        Most Halls have tables and chairs(even if they are round like at Dorka). Game surface could be a roll up mat(I have a green one at home) and terrain can fit in a box or 2 and go home with regular members if needed. The 3 piece 2×4 boards we currently use can be easily transported as well if needed.

      • My local rents at a community centre. Part of their rent (I’m guessing) includes the storage of both tables and crates of scenery.
        That seems to be the norm for the established clubs around here. I remember one club starting up where they would lug the tables and the scenery to the venue every week until they were established.
        I think proper planning would serve you well ie. budget, charter etc. especially when starting out because if people come and go and interest waxes and wanes, at least you’ll still have that underlying structure there.
        Recruiting from local stores will be the best and rocking around with club shirts is totally awesome fun at tourneys, purely for the show off value. Strangely, club shirts don’t impress the ladies too much though, so they’re probably not considered “going out” wear.
        I say go large with your ideas and your execution and the best of luck to you.

  • Brenden Hill

    Hello Creative Twilight Community. I wanted to join the conversation both here and on the forums (I am still awaiting approval on the forums as I write this). I am a bit in the dark here, but I felt that this was an important conversation for me to be a part of.

    I wanted to share some of my thoughts here and perhaps get the ball rolling on a conversation about a gaming club around 40K in Maine and it’s relationship to my shop, Crossroad Games.

    The 40K crowd at Crossroad Games on Wednesday night is very much like a club. All the store really does is provide a space for the players to meet and try to meet their needs as a play space (which we have failed at recently it appears and is something that I would like to talk more about).

    The core group that meets on Creative Twilight is already a 40K club. The only thing that you are missing is a dedicated club space. It is my humble opinion that you do not need a club space, because you can meet at a FLGS and run your events there (for free most likely). There are a few downsides to relying on FLGSs for your space; shared space, non exclusivity of players, operating hours are not dictated by the club are the big ones that come to mind. All of these issues are solved by a dedicated club space. The downside to a club space is almost entirely monetary. 40K requires a lot of room to play and when considering rental of space this just equates to money.

    The question becomes pretty simple: are the downsides worth the expense?

    Most players rely on their FLGS to mitigate the downsides of play space by providing a space at no charge in exchange for the players buying from the store. This “agreement” is just a social contract and needs maintenance just like any other social contract.

    Crossroad Games works with many gaming clubs in Maine and New England. If an active 40K club were to get formed, I would want to help out as much as possible.

    It seems that the wheels have come off the wagon a bit here (regarding this communities relationship with Crossroad Games) and I wanted to learn more about the situation. I am not at the store during game time nearly as much as I used to be. I want you to know that, while you do not see my face as much, I am available to you to work out issues or just talk shop. I want to hear your comments and criticisms. I want to work with you to resolve them. I consider it the primary mandate for myself and every employee at the shop.

    Crossroad Games loves having the 40K players at the shop (you are one of the best gaming communities that I have ever met anywhere). We have failed in making you feel that love and for that I apologize and pledge to change.

    Crossroad Games is growing at a very fast pace and we are experiencing many growing pains. I very much want the 40K crowd to be a part of Crossroad Games, now and into the future. I know that we need to earn that from you and we want to.

    Please feel free to contact me via the comments section, email: [email protected], Facebook/Brenden Hill or see me at the store (I will be there for the 40K night this Wednesday, the 18th to talk to everyone).

    • Brenden Hill

      So….there is a 40K tournament at Crossroad Games today. I am going to be there and hope to talk to everyone about what these issues. I look forward to some face to face time with all of you.

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