Well, it is time to talk about getting some new players into this game. As I have continued to play this game since my return in Feb of 2004, I have noticed that the growth in players is almost completely made up of former players who have returned to a whole new world. I have spent a lot of time writing articles about the future of this game and how to get more people out to the tournaments. I am confident in my efforts, but believe that there is still more that can be done. I want to see more new faces at the tournaments. I want there to be more Star Wars players than any other at a local store. Am I dreaming, maybe, but at least I am trying. Ask yourself if you too want the same things for this game?
In this article, I hope to give further insight on getting more players to this game. From observation I have made playing the game with the current cards the way they are. What we have now with this game is a challenge? I have found that with the game the way it is currently, a new player has A LOT to learn in order to become even remotely competitive. This is not the way it was in the beginning. Back in the day, once you learned the rules and basic mechanics, all you had to do was have the right cards in your decks and your were set. Now the game is MUCH faster and sets up so fast, that a new player while still trying to figure out what the cards and rules do, are left in the dust by older players who can understand the new speed. There are so many different kinds of decks that can be played and win leaving the new player no way of knowing all the possible weapons his rookie deck might face.
I have noticed this from new players that mainly only come to like one tournament, and then never come back because they are too afraid from the lack of experience. This is a common problem with this game, because a new player cannot simply go to a store and find a player to playtest with. The only players are those that must be called and set up times to play, providing a weird experience for a new player who might be used to going to a store and just playing whoever was there like most of us used to do.
Because of this current situation we are in, with a game that is only supported by the players, a new player must be taught a different way from in the past. Currently in Nashville, we have taken a different approach to teaching new players. Instead of just teaching a player the rules and giving him some lame deck to play around with until he decides to build his own. What we have done is teach a player how to play, then immediately give them a well played and tested deck that would have a good run at any time of tournament. Then we provide him with the playtesting and experience by playing him over and over with different kinds of decks so that the new player will only know how to play that one deck and what to do against other decks he might see. We take the initiative to give the player the tools he needs to want to play the game in place of the old way which just waited for the player to come and ask for help.
Game after game, deck after deck, the player learns the different things he needs to do to win with his one deck and what specific cards do against his deck alone. He does not have to learn and understand all of the cards at once, but by knowing just his two decks, it gives him a starting point to go from. The problem with this idea is that it takes players who care about getting new players that are going to be patient enough to get them to that point as well as provide them the cards for these two main decks. After you can trust the player, they can be given the cards to practice with on their own time. Once they have learned the decks and how to play them, they will want to own the cards for themselves thus the want to buy and become a true player is born.
Currently, I believe the two easiest decks that a new player can get to know well that are easy to play are MBO for lightside and SYCFA for darkside. I will explain why I chose these two decks.
A new player will never be able to remember all of the cards and combos that are in this game. If a player learns to play a complicated deck like Huntdown or Throne room mains, they are just setting themselves up to lose every time for many many games. The two reasons for this are: battling on the ground is difficult to grasp and not understanding the power of Battle Order/Plan. Good space decks provide an easy way for a player to get out their strategy going with less fear of being beatdown, which is currently the #1 reason for a lose by a newer player. They never make it to the end of the game, because of a few mistimed battles that cause huge amounts of overflow. Battle Order/Plan is difficult because they become so afraid of being beatdown, that they pile everyone at one site or one system and never get their strategy going. Both of those decks can win with no worry of Battle Order/Plan being out.
MBO is easy to set up if it is built right. The new player can be taught to do the exact same thing every game no matter what the darkside is doing. They don’t have to worry about changing their starting effects or an auto loss to a specific deck that can always beat the deck they might be playing. First turn flip, set up Death Star, then by second turn or even third, blow up the Death Star for 14 loss. Then they spend the rest of the game deploying ships to the systems, draining, and retrieving. That’s it. You can put cards to protect from beatdowns on the ground and this is probably the only deck where it doesn’t matter if you never have anyone on the ground. You can still win with only draining and retrieving in space. It will be fun for the new player because they can kill off the opponent from space completely and feel good about playing their deck against most every deck out there.
SYCFA is a great deck for darkside because it is much like MBO, but can hurt the opponent without having to flip. FWKTIL (V) is probably the easiest direct damage effect to get out and keep out in the whole game. The new player only has to be taught to put out a guy at the docking bay and then play star destroyers to the systems. The deck is very easy to learn and also can stand up against almost every light deck out there, (but Agents). It requires very little red cards to win providing an easier platform to remember when trying to play a game in the beginning.
As the game continues to grow, there are going to be better decks to play besides these two. I am also sure that many of you will have a better suggestion for a beginning deck strategy, but the thing to keep in mind is that if a new player is going to be part of your local player base, they have to feel like they have a chance. The game is not big enough to just teach them how to play and expect them to feel confident enough to continue on their own. Both of those decks are also decks that don’t need to play with cards that are commonly used in your more popular decks. Most good/older players will have the cards to build these decks and provide them for the new player without hurting their own decks. That is the biggest thing to think about with this idea. Can I as a teacher provide the right tools to my student without putting myself in a weird place? It is also important to remember that even those both of these decks might not be the greatest thing for you to play doesn’t mean that these decks won’t give them the confidence it takes to beat a decent player in a tournament.
The great example of this was by a player in Nashville that had learned how to play but for months had only been bringing his own made up versions of decks. They almost never won and many of the games were always times because the decks never had a strategy for the newer player to follow. This all changed for that player when I loaned him an MBO deck that I kept built for playtesting. He already knew the rules of the game, and it only took a 2 minute crash test of how to set up the deck and win. He won both games with that deck and was one of the only players to win games with their light decks. Since then, he has been going on Decktech and building versions of the top decks being played. That one tournament taught him what he needed to play that was good and could win rather than just what he could build from his own experience. Even though we had already told him to build a different deck and to go on Decktech, it took him playing a good deck first hand to understand what we were saying.
A lot of new players believe that they have built a great deck when really they have no idea because they simply haven’t played enough games to know. Teaching from the gun how to play the game around a good deck will give the confidence and knowledge to be a long standing player in the world of Star Wars CCG.
This idea can be combined with my idea for a League (Read “Possible Future for SWCCG”) because it could be a regular thing every week on new player night. Anyone wanting to get better at this game can come to the night and learn their decks, even playtest against others at their same level.
Please let me know of your experiences with new players currently in your player base and how they have faired with the game the way it is. If you have had the same experiences as I have. Please let me know, because I believe that this idea can work and produce 20 players to a local tournament.
Also, continue to give me your positive feedback on the SWCCG League. I hope to start the steps to get it into effect once Worlds is over. Look for more article about it too.