Building the small town SW:CCG Community

First, this article is not designed for any player who lives in an area were you could easily get 20 players to show up for a tournament. If you live in this type of area, consider yourself blessed, save yourself the time and skip this article.

Second, constructive criticism is always welcome.

Third, being my first article to DeckTech, I decided to skip writing a strategy article, primarily, because I really cannot teach anyone out there anything new. So, if you are looking for a strategy article, move along, because these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

Let me describe where I live and explain to you the situation I am in. I live in Illinois, Southern Illinois. For those of you from Chicago, I am not talking just south of Interstate 80. When people ask me were in Illinois I live, I say “You know where Chicago is?” And they say, “yeah!” Then I say, “Well, I am nowhere near there.” In fact, I can drive to 9 other states faster than I can get to Chicago. When I say rural Southern Illinois, I mean rural. In April, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale held their annual Gaming Convention. SIU-C is a university with over 24,000 students. There were 2 Star Wars tournaments that weekend. 8 players played in the constructed event and only 2 showed up for the sealed event. Of those players, only one was an SIU student and 5, including myself, drove over an hour to be there. Welcome to the Star Wars CCG Gaming Wasteland.

I do realize there are players in a worse situations than I am in, and let me say I sympathize with you. The purpose of this article is to share some ideas for organizing a successful SWCCG community.

1. Find one other committed player.
The first thing to do is find one other player who will commit to gaming with you on a regular basis. I personally had just about decided I was going to quit playing Star Wars, but it was quite pointless to keep buying the cards just for them to sit in a box in the back of one of my closets. It did take me a couple of tries to find someone truly committed to playing on a regular basis. The first attempt lasted about 4 months before he washed out. However, the second guy who committed to playing SW:CCG is still active in our regular gaming group.

2. Where to play?
Another important thing to do is find a place to meet regularly. Generally, your best bet is a card and comic shop. Most towns with populations over 8,000 have something that qualifies. I have read stories of some gamers meeting at their public library. In my circumstance, a local card shop was the best alternative. This is a place where I initially made a mistake. I personally had a bit of a problem with the local card and comic shop, which I will not delve into at this time. So, initially my buddy and me were meeting at my home to play cards. While that was convenient for me, it did not give the game an opportunity to grow.

3. Start Slowly.
I highly recommend once you get your initial group up to 8 to 10, to start with a sanctioned sealed deck tournament. This creates a more level playing field. It is very discouraging for any player of any card game to come into their first tournament and have their first decks they have made destroyed by a player who has all the cards. Even in this situation, the more skilled players will generally come out on top, but a loss by 10 in sealed deck beats a loss by 36 in constructed play any day. This gradually increases interest over time, and gives players time to accumulate cards before moving on to constructed deck tournaments.

4. Show me the money?
This was the most difficult thing for me to do personally was to take a loss of both cards and money. I decided that my first sanctioned tournament, as suggested above, would use the Decipher official tournament sealed decks. To increase the participation in this tourney, Players got their deck free with a $5 tournament fee. I believe it is better for a player committed to SW:CCG to take on the burden of promotion in a small community than for the game shop. Most small town game shops currently view anything other than Magic or Pokemon as money losers, and thus will not want to “waste” a lot of time on a game they cannot sell. You can change this feeling over time. Since our local gaming community got started, they are unable to keep Star Wars in stock.

5. Be generous with prize support?
I have committed that for every tournament I run, I will have some sort of prize for every players who completes the tournament. In the above-mentioned OTSD, I had prize support down to 12th place. All money collected from entry fees went toward the purchase of Enhanced Jabba Palace Sealed Decks. I also pulled several cards from my personal collection as well. I even included some boxes, several hundred cards, of commons and uncommons to give out as some of the lower prizes. This may sound cheap, but generally your newer players will still tend to finish near the bottom of the chart in any type of tourney you run. Additionally, I was surprised when some of the mid-level players opted for the quantity of known cards over taking a few packs. Now, if I run a tournament with 20 players, I probably won’t have prize support down to 20th place, but if I you can get that many to a tournament, you don’t need to read this article anyway.

6. Give away key cards.
Those of us who have been playing since the release of the game, for the most part, have thousands of commons and uncommons stored in boxes that we rarely touch. Why not dust off some of these cards and give them to some of the new players. Now, don’t hand them all your extra imperial blasters because you have 50 of them. Do, though, hand out some key meta-game cards like: Ultimatum/Resistance, Ghhhk/Houjix, Monnok/Grimtaash, Signal/Twilek Advisor, etc. Explain to the new player how these cards benefit their decks, which leads to my next point. Create stacks of the top 50 common and uncommon cards in the game (hey, that sounds like an idea for my next article), and hand them out to new players, or even include them as prize support at tournaments.

7. Be free with deck ideas.
In pickup games you are playing, I personally do not enjoy just wiping the floor with my opponent, unless he is a really experienced player. When you see a new player make a bad play, give them the opportunity to go back, and correct what they have done wrong. Some people feel it is better to let new players learn from their mistakes, but this still happens even when you allow your opponent to backup a phase or two. Explain to them how they should have played something. For example, why they shouldn’t play that stormtrooper all by himself at the Tatooine: Cantina or how to use Twilek Advisor/The Signal during the activate phase to get that needed effect after activating just 3 force instead of all that is available to them. Even in a tournament, if you clearly have a victory in hand, start helping your opponent on how to play their deck more effectively. This not only demonstrates to players how to play the game, but also, what they need to be considering while they play the game. Most importantly, it builds a stronger opponent, which makes the entire SW:CCG experience much more enjoyable.

8. Communication
This one is kind of obvious, but take advantage of the resources you have available to you. For my local SW:CCG group, I have created a list serve for players to communicate with each other and announce tournaments. Additionally, flyers are sent to all card and comic shops with in an hours drive concerning tournaments. Flyers are also mailed to players who do not have Internet access. Don’t be afraid to try to get a firm commitment from your players on whether or not they will attend a tourney you will hold. Also, if a player misses a scheduled event, be sure and contact them. Don’t harass them because they missed, just find out if the scheduled game times are bad for them and let them know when you will meet again.

9. Enlighten players from other games.
If you have a card and comic shop nearby, you most assuredly have Magic: the Gathering players there. When our local SW:CCG started playing, it was interesting to see the reaction of the Magic players to the game. At first, most just wonder what was going on? Very quickly, several of the top Magic players who were looking for a game with more depth to it converted to Star Wars. Strive to introduce your higher quality players to the game. Most card players are happy to pick up a second CCG just to break up the monotony of playing the same game over and over again.

10. Be there!
When you do schedule a game day, make sure you are there prior to the start time. Someone has to be the first one there, and I have found that players tend to not like being the first ones there.

11. Meet Regularly.
It is not necessary to meet to play every week. Our local group meets approximately twice a month. Try to know roughly a month or two in advance when you will be playing, and let everyone know on a regular basis. In addition to e-mail, I generally hand out flyers to players and people who seem interested on when we will be meeting over the next month or two.

Over the last 3 months, our local SW:CCG group has grown from 2 players to 19 who are currently on our list serve and mailing list. It takes a decent commitment of time to keep the communication it takes to keep a SW:CCG community active.

For those of you who made it this far, I hope you found some of this information beneficial. I realize this article is not for everyone, just for those struggling to even find a game on a regular basis. I had reached a point in my SW:CCG experience where I had to decide to either give it up or make a commitment to building up the game in my area. I decided the enjoyment I received from the game was worth the extra effort.