Hi, I’m Paul, and welcome to Sculpting, Painting and Gaming.
It’s no secret that clubs are one of the most important—not to mention vibrant—parts of our hobby. A place to play, paint and socialise, they are intrinsic to both the appeal and enjoyment of wargaming, fostering a sense of community and competition that many of us might struggle to find elsewhere. Our hobby needs more clubs like D.A. Bar, and more communities, because such communities, and the friendships they foster, are the difference between a new hobbyist getting bored and moving on after dabbling in the latest offering from Game Workshop, and that hobbyist becoming a committed gamer.
I was pleased, therefore, to receive the following article from Jeremy Spurlock, the founder of a club in San Diego. It not only details the challenges involved in creating and running a club, but also—more importantly—the rewards.
Hi, my name is Jeremy, and I’m the founder of San Diego’s B.A.R. wargaming club.
I think most wargamers can probably relate to the following scenario: you’ve just discovered your latest wargaming passion. You excitedly order the models (because you have, of course, already painted the ones you already own), you paint them up and then you look around at your Friendly Local Gaming Store to see if there are some folks with which to do battle. If that fails, you search around on the internet, hoping someone in your area is playing the game you’re so excited about. If you’re lucky you might have a pal who is also interested in the game, but you’d like to do more than play your friend week in, week out.
A few years ago, my friends and I found ourselves in this predicament. We’re all big history nerds, with World War 2 and the Dark Ages being particular passions of the group. We hit up our store and played a game or two, but we wanted something with a bit more structure. After all, we’d previously been involved in some leagues for games like X-Wing and Armada, and we liked being part of something more organised. So we took the next logical step: if we couldn’t find a club we liked, we’d make one of our own, and one that was run our way, with our rules.
The first such rule is ‘Don’t be a jerk’; we don’t need people around who make our games less enjoyable by being poor losers or winners, or who are rude and / or generally unpleasant. If you’re a jerk you will be asked to dial it down and—failing that—asked not to come back and game with us. That’s really our only rule; all other behavior should flow from there.
Our first obstacle was finding a place to play. We approached one of our local stores and asked them if we could ‘reserve’ a night of the week to get some people together to play the games we wanted to focus on. They agreed, and this first hurdle was cleared. The second hurdle was finding people who were also interested in games like Bolt Action and Saga, and so we created a group on Facebook to organize our club. I cannot overstate the usefulness of having an online mechanism to organize a bunch of gamers. The phrase “herding cats” was muttered more than once by myself and fellow club runner. We chose Facebook because it is widely used and the groups you can set up enable you to do everything you need to run a club: create events, invite players, and have discussions about the game and models you love.
Then we hit our next obstacle. Now we had a core group of people, but we didn’t know how to get them involved, or how to keep them involved. We decided on several things, the first being League Seasons. It’s pretty simple, and it works: we run a ranked system for three to four months with everyone reporting their matches. Win or lose, everyone gets some points at the very least. We also want to encourage people to paint their models without making it a requirement, so we decided to give out league points for painted models. Indeed, people who paint many models often come in first for the league! At the end of a season, we take everyone’s league fees and buy some prizes for a season-ending tournament with their ranks determining their seed in the tournament. Their league rank is also rewarded. with the league winner getting a prize of their own. This winner, of course, also earns those all-important bragging rights!
So league seasons were fun, but we felt like we could do even more to encourage involvement. We had several painting contests with prizes, such as ‘Heroes of the Silver Screen’, in which everyone painted a Hollywood-inspired figure, and a contest sponsored by Rubicon Models, in which everyone had to paint a transport vehicle. we try to do at least a few of these contests every season.
In addition to these, we try to run at least three to four tournaments a year. It’s been mentioned to me repeatedly that we are really great at getting prize support for our tournaments. How do we do this? Well, I have a deep, dark secret: it’s real easy. With historical games in particular, all you have to do is ask. I just send out emails to various miniatures companies and ask them what they can do to help us with tournament prize support. The generosity from companies continually floors me. Most of these companies want our community to thrive. In turn, I always make sure to encourage my folks to purchase products from these companies; after all, they are doing quite a bit to make sure everyone goes home with some goodies.
Running a games club can be exhausting—after all, you’re managing people—but it’s also very rewarding. Every day I chat with folks who are passionate about the games I love. I get to play those games every week (Saga being my personal favorite) and for that I grateful. So I say to you, fellow gamers, that if there isn’t a local community for your most beloved of games, forge one…
…You won’t regret it.
About Jeremy Spurlock
Jeremy Spurlock is a tabletop gamer in San Diego. He helps run the San Diego B.A.R a gaming club that focuses on historical miniatures games. His favorite games are Saga and Bolt Action, although Gangs of Rome is climbing his list.
We’re currently open to submissions, so if you have an article about sculpting, painting or gaming, then please do send it our way. From historical to sci-fi, battle reports to painting tips, modelling to terrain and all points in between, we’d love to hear from you. See our submissions guidelines for more details.