Below is the kickoff newsletter I sent out to my small group of gamer friends. I've slightly altered the format for blog-posting purposes. My hope is that anyone who is considering starting their own little private board gaming or wargaming group can glean some useful ideas from my efforts into organized gaming. So read on and enjoy!
Hello Swabbies... Arrrrrr
Consider this your first official SWABI email of 2008. I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss some key things about SWABI and explain where things are headed. Save this email for reference. It's a long one.
On with the show mateys!
At this stage, there are 5 official members of our little group: myself, Wally Wenklar, Kevin Sarnowski, Mayer Foner, and Kenny Alfery. These are the people that (1) have shown the most interest in regular gaming, and (2) are up for playing pretty much any type of game whether it's 2-player of Multi-player.
I will look to find other friends who might be interested in being part of SWABI. Feelers will be put out over the next few weeks and throughout the year.
I struck out contacting my old pal Allen Marshall via email, so I'm going to followup with a phone call to him soon (I was too busy to remember to do that over the holidays). I haven't talked to Allen in eons, so I really have no idea if he's into board games like he was when we were growing up. But he used to be an avid boardgamer and RPG player so it's worth a shot.
I'm not too sure if Geoff Kyper will be able to release himself from the evil clutches of his Pirate Wife long enough to get away for some occasional multi-player board gaming and grog guzzling on a Sat/Sun. Geoff has promised to make time for Sword of Severnia playtesting, but his wife might frown upon him doing anything beyond that -- he babysits his tiny tots a lot since his wife is always working lots of OT or odd hours at her psychology/social-worker practice.
I'll also touch base with Joe Foner. I'm guessing Joe will mostly be interested in playing multi-player game sessions along with his Dad.
Alton Whittle emailed me about a week ago to say that he cannot commit to anything right now. He might be a resource in an emergency for multi-player games in which Wally is playing, but I don't believe that we can count strongly on Alton.
I'm guessing that Hunter Wenklar would be interested in joining some multi-player game sessions on the weekends. I'll let Wally ask him what his status is.
I'm hoping that Mike Hughes' busy personal life (he's been remodelling his house for what seems like Forever) slows down somewhat and allows him to be involved in some multi-player games down the road. He had great fun playing HeroScape, and I can easily see him getting interested in some of my other battle games. Once his schedule frees up, I think he might be interested in this and I'll contact him about it.
I'm sure that I can get Anna (my wife) to join us in some multi-player games occasionally. She's not a diehard gamer, but she always has fun playing games. It takes a lot of coaxing to get her to play in an "all-boys club" and she likes to fill her free time cross-stitching or reading. IF only I could get Rob Sarrafian and his wife Sue to play, Anna would be gaming in a heartbeat!! She gets along great with those guys.
Anyway... I'll be trying to slowly increase the size of our SWABI group over time. That would greatly help my efforts at getting enough people together for multi-player games -- I'm not really worried about 2-player games since I only need 1 person to make Wargame Wednesdays happen.
I got mixed reviews on the idea of having folks pay a $10 seasonal fee. Nobody seems to have a problem kicking in money to cover the cost of drinks/snacks. But not everyone is interested in the seasonal prize giveaway (a lottery to win a free board game).
So I'll stick with a $1 Cover Charge to help cover the cost of drinks/snacks. If I do decide to do a prize giveaway in the future, it will probably be something that I'll do out of my own pocket and just for the hell of it.
I decided to create 2 Gamer Queues:
- The STERN = this is where I'm putting everyone who likes to play ANY TYPE OF GAME (2-player and multi-player, any genre). This queue currently includes Wally, Kevin, Mayer, and Kenny. Perhaps others will get added to this queue later, but for now, these four mateys are sitting pretty in the Stern. Watch the waves ye salty sea dogs!!! Arrrrr....
- The AFT = I know what you're thinking, "Aft kinda rhymes with Ass". Those scurvy pirates!! Arrrrr... All the casual and choosy gamers will be put in the back of the SWABI ship. I realize that some people just don't want to play 2-player wargames and solely prefer playing multi-player adventure, strategy, and card games. These multi-player ONLY gamers will reside in this second queue.
I'm going to start setting aside WEDNESDAY NIGHTS on my calendar and reserving them for tabletop gaming. Based on a survey I sent out many weeks ago, Wednesday Night was a decent gaming night for the majority of you. Since I'm unlikely to draw big crowds on a regular basis during the middle of the week, I've decided to limit Wednesday game sessions to 2-PLAYER games.
Since most of the 2-player games in my collection are wargames or strategy games, I've annointed these mid-week gaming sessions as WARGAME WEDNESDAYS. It's an easy name to remember, and since most of us really like wargames & strategy games, it's a perfect fit.
The first session will likely be slated for next Wednesday (JAN 16). I'll pick and announce a game soon.
To give you a good idea of the types of games that will be on the docket during the course of this year, here's a rundown of 2-player games that I currently own and most want to play (as well as some multi-player games that play well with 2 players):
- Battlelore -- card driven Fantasy wargame using regiments of 20mm minis
- Battle Cry -- card driven Civil War battles using regiments of 20mm minis
- HeroScape -- skirmish battles in Valhalla (fantasy, sci-fi, historical mix) using cool 28mm minis & plastic hex terrain
- Tide of Iron -- tactical World War II wargame using squads of 15mm tanks and infantry minis
- Wings of War -- card driven World War I aerial dogfighting game with pre-painted miniature planes
- Hammer of the Scots -- map-based, strategic block wargame based on Braveheart period (Scots/English Wars)
- Wizard Kings -- map-based, strategic block wargame using Fantasy armies (works with up to 7 players)
- Dungeon Twister -- strategy game involving getting 5 heroes out of a dungeon before your opponent does
- Lord of the Rings: Confrontation -- Stratego-like strategy game (Sauron's baddies vs. Frodo/Gandalf's good guys)
- Feudal -- classic Chess-like Medieval wargame (works with up to 6 players)
- AT 43 -- Sci-Fi skirmish battles using cool pre-painted 28mm minis and large mechs
- Doom -- Sci-Fi dungeon crawler based on Doom video game with miniature space marines & demons
- Starship Catan -- 2-player strategy variation of Settlers of Catan with Sci-Fi theme
- Chaos Marauders -- light card game about building battle lines for your army of Orcs
- Battleball -- light Futuristic Football game using 28mm miniatures
- Lionheart -- miniature-based Medieval battle game with faint Chess-like elements
- STIGA Table Hockey -- Rod Hockey dexterity game with 3D players
There are other multi-player games I have that work well with 2 players (Domaine, Dark Tower, Nexus Ops, etc.).
Although I truly love both Statis-Pro Baseball and Strat-O-Matic Hockey, the player cards that I have for those games are quite dated (circa 1970's & 80's). So that's why I didn't include them on the main list. I faintly recall that someone is producing and selling new cards for Statis Pro (which has been out of print for many years). So that might be something I would buy and play again if I could get new 2007 cards for it. Strat-O-Matic sells new player cards every year. But getting into these games again might prove to be a very slippery slope for me -- how can you resist playing these sports games without drafting your own fantasy teams and forming a league around it?!?!
SWASHBUCKLING SATURDAYS and SUNDAYS
I haven't settled on a nickname for these weekend gaming sessions yet, so this is what I'm going with for now. My plan is to reserve time over the weekends for MULTI PLAYER games. Time slots for these gaming sessions will vary according to my schedule. I'm going to try and mix things up a little since some people prefer afternoon gaming, while others like evenings best.
For now, the 3 most common time slots will be Saturday Afternoons (1 PM start), Sunday Afternoons (1 or 2 PM start), and Sunday Nights (6 or 7 PM start).
The first session will likely be slated for next weekend (JAN 19 or 20). I'll pick and announce a game soon.
What I'm going to do for weekend sessions is announce both a PLAN-A and PLAN-B. So what does that mean?
- PLAN-A will be a MULTI PLAYER game (3 people or more needed to play). That's the tabletop game that we'll play if we can get the minimum number of players.
- PLAN-B is the backup plan, and is a 2-PLAYER game. If only one person wants to play in a weekend session (and he/she also wants to play 2-player games with me), then I'll pull out the Plan-B game and we'll play that.
By the way, Kevin mentioned that he might like to do Saturday Morning sessions sometimes (with coffee & doughnuts). I could probably swing that on occasion, although I'm not generally a "morning person". Does anyone else like the idea of SAT Morning gaming sessions (say 9 AM to Noon)? If so, please drop me an email and let me know. If there's a demand for it, I will add that into the weekend scheduling mix.
As far as multi-player games go, here's are the key games in my collection that I'm hoping to get to the table:
- Pirate's Cove -- a Pirate themed adventure where you battle enemy pirate ships and steal treasure. Arrrrr!
- Shadows Over Camelot -- co-operative adventure game involving knights (set in King Arthur's Camelot)
- Talisman -- classic Fantasy quest game with lots of chaos, monsters, and surprises
- Prophecy -- a new Fantasy adventure game (reputedly a faster & more elegant variation of Talisman)
- Arkham Horror -- lengthy but immersive co-operative adventure game set in Call of Cthulhu world
- Cash 'N Guns -- party game where you play mobsters divvying up stolen loot, has cool Foam Guns you point at each other!
- Citadels -- classic, bloodthirsty card game of Medieval castle building
- Domaine -- elegant, area control strategy game with Medieval theme
- Acquire -- classic economic game from 3M about building/merging hotel chains
- Ticket to Ride -- very popular, fast-playing game about building railroad connections across the USA
- Through the Desert -- arabian themed, area control strategy game with cool pastel camels!
- Condottiere -- card based wargame centered around mercenaries in Renaissance Italy
- Carcassonne -- very popular, tile-laying game involves building and controlling roads, cloisters, towns, etc.
- Attack! -- grand-scale wargame set in World War I/II era, similar to Risk and Axis & Allies in some ways
- Cosmic Encounter -- classic Sci-Fi negotiation game (you play aliens using special powers to take over the galaxy)
- Monsters Menace America -- game of B-movie Giant Monster combat using miniature monsters
- Nexus Ops -- Sci-Fi wargame involving exploration, mining, and aliens
- Win, Place, & Show -- classic Horse Racing betting game
- Mystery of the Abbey -- Clue-like deduction game where you find the killer amongst monks in an abbey
- Saboteur -- light card game about Dwarven Miners digging for gold
- Guillotine -- humorous card game about chopping off heads during the French Revolution
- Slapshot -- humorous card game about Ice Hockey
- Monkeys On the Moon -- humorous card game about sending monkeys into space
- Apples to Apples -- popular, light party game of word association
- Rogue Trooper -- like a Sci-Fi version of Talisman, based on 1980's British comic
I've got many other games I could choose from as well, but they're not nearly as high on my radar as the above listed games. Of course this list could change, especially if I buy new games and sell off any old ones.
I will schedule game sessions and release an updated schedule VIA EMAIL each week (probably every FRI or SAT -- I just need to get into a routine of doing it).
My plan is to create a ROLLING 2-WEEK SCHEDULE. For instance, the first SWABI schedule would have game sessions listed for the weeks of JAN 14-20 and JAN 21-27.
The first week's sessions will be cast in stone as far as times and games to be played. Consider that I need to clear my schedule AND learn the rules (or refresh my memory) for the games we're going to play. So I really can't change everything on short notice. The second week's sessions will be more tentative, and times/games may change by the time the next schedule is published. So please be aware of that.
Due to vacations, trips to Philly, game conventions, Bears hockey games, SOS wargaming sessions, family events, overloaded work weeks, etc., there will be times where I can only fit 1 game session into the schedule. I'll do my best to stick to 2 sessions per week, but realize that sometimes that's just not going to be possible. I'm sure everyone understands that, but I just wanted to make a special point of it.
WHY 2 SESSIONS PER WEEK?
Although I'm scheduling 2 SWABI game sessions per week, I realize that it's Wishful Thinking to assume that 2 game sessions will occur every week for 52 weeks of the year. I fully understand that your free time and schedules vary, just like mine. There will be some weeks with 2 game sessions, other weeks with only 1 session, and weeks where no games are played at all. I fully expect this.
My decision to schedule 2 game sessions per week was simple. If there are 100 game sessions scheduled between now and the end of 2008, and only half of those actually come to pass, then I will still have participated in 50 game sessions for the year. And that my friends, would be a most excellent year indeed. A hell of a lot of Game Play and a hell of a lot of Fun will have occured during the year. Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I certainly think that 50 sessions is doable. And the potential for even greater numbers exists. But even if there's only 35 SWABI game sessions played, that's still pretty good and much better gaming output than most of us experience in a single year.
I suspect that in the early going, it will be easier for me to get Wargame Wednesdays going on a regular basis. I only need 1 other person to join me for a head-to-head game each week, and you swabbies seem to like those types of games. I had some measure of success hosting 2-player strategy games last year with Wally and Kevin, so I'm optimistic this will work out.
Getting multi-player gaming sessions to happen every weekend will be trickier. Experience has shown me that. It definitely can happen. I've hosted multi-player games before with several of you guys. But I suspect that getting a regular routine flowing for multi-player gaming will be a slower process that will require time to build up. The interest is definitely there. It's just a matter of getting 3 or more people together on the same DAY & same TIME. Finding a day and time slot that suits the majority of people will take some time to figure out. Plus, it wouldn't hurt to have additional gamers lurking in our AFT queue. The more people we have, the easier it will be to fill out multi-player sessions.
I need some leadtime before each gaming session to know: (1) whether or not anyone is coming to that session, (2) who and how many people want to play, (3) whether I should spend time studying the rules beforehand or not, and (4) whether I need to go get drinks/snacks for the session in case there's nothing already available in my house. I also need to know that if 3 people all want to play a 2-player wargame, that the first respondent in the Queue gets first dibs, and the other guys will need to be notified via email to know that the game is already full.
So that said, I need to have a system in place for RSVP-ing me. This is what I would like to go with:
- If you want to play in WED NIGHT game, please notify me via EMAIL or PHONE by 8 PM MONDAY evening.
- If you want to play in SAT or SUN game, please notify me via EMAIL or PHONE by 8 PM THURSDAY evening.
This gives me sufficient leadtime to do everything I need to do, including notifying everyone whether or not a given game session is already full and who DID or DID NOT get into that game this time. That's why I'm doing the QUEUE thing. If Wally gets into a 2-player game this week, then he moves to the back of the line, and everyone else has a better chance than him to get into next week's 2-player game. The queue allows me to give everyone a chance to participate, rather than just those people who always have a fast email trigger finger and respond first.
SWABI needs a personality. I like the pirate theme. It's silly and fun. And fun is what this is all about. If want to make up your own pirate name, go right ahead! Otherwise, I'll be making up pirate nicknames for everyone soon. If you need help thinking up a cool name, check out these two Pirate Name Generators (http://www.mess.be/pirate-names-male.php -OR- http://gangstaname.com/pirate_name.php).
Get ye naming yerself ye scurvy dogs!!!
That's the scoop for now. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.