AS fun as gaming is, I often come across and occasionally receive comments on how tough it can be to start a boardgame or card game group, and keep the interest going.
The typical reasons range from the practical (“it’s tough to gather everyone at the same place, and at the same time”) to the slightly flimsy (“we keep forgetting to bring decks/extra cards/the games”).

I can relate to all that as I’ve been flitting in and out of games since, well, 1995. I think I’ve run through the whole gamut of experiencing the periodic lulls and inactive gaming, sandwiched between intense periods of 10-hour gaming marathons on public holidays, and 14-consecutive-card-game-matches-minus-food-and-bathroom-breaks fiestas.

Looking back, and seeing how my latest obsession with the World of Warcraft TCG (Trading Card Game) is ruling my Sunday afternoons, I’d like to think that I’ve figured out a bunch of rules that we all can adhere to, in order to build, and sustain active gamer groups.

Starting point

In order to start the cult, err, gaming group, it pays to find out what you and your friends want out of the chosen games or hobby. Believe me, you and your compadres need common ground here.

This helps you focus everyone’s time as well. Playing to win all the time will require a very efficient approach to preparing (building top decks for instance), while playing for fun allows more leeway in terms of creativity and commitment (“let’s play with whatever we have!”).

Pre-empting the beginners’ frenzy

Remember the time you started a game, and ended up buying more than you ever needed?

I think the point of costs probably applies to card games more, but I’ve seen it while boardgaming too: we always, always end up buying more than we will ever need. In my early days of playing boardgames, I ended up “collecting” so many boardgames that I started selling the ones I’d bought (just weeks earlier) before I even had the chance and time, to open them and play.

So your role – in order to create a sustainable gaming community – is to try and mitigate some of the costs by playing provider. That’s right – instead just giving stuff that you intend to get rid off, why not make decks to help your friends start, or loan your games away?

Leave no one behind

In all games, no one can ever be assured of an even win-loss ratio. Let’s face it, we’re all human, and at the end of the day, it just isn’t very inspiring and motivating to be losing most of your games.

Someone has to play “equaliser” in your gaming group or circle, and why not let that person be you? I think this is less of a problem in plenty of boardgames (especially the ones that are more luck-dependent), than it is prevalent in card games.

Be the first to offer deck tips (do it nicely!) and don’t hesitate to give away cards that you think can help. Yes, even rare cards!

Sacred day, hour and place

It helps if the group agrees to one time, day and location. That way, everyone is given ample notice to clear their schedules, and stick to them.

It’s definitely okay to mix things up by changing venues, but the fixed time and day is a motivator and ensures everyone shows up.

This is definitely a surefire way to keep the group going, as unpredictable scheduling is sure to throw the group into confusion, as the need to communicate changes often just adds to the stress.

League or knock-out cup-style?

Playing even different games week in and week out for months can prove to be tedious at the end of the day, so why not offer additional incentives by mixing up the formats and start keeping scores?

All TCGs allow for easy ways to “sanction” games (you just have to play judge or appoint someone as judge). Plenty of such companies provide prize support, in the form of special cards or premiums, giving your group an incentive to treat those casual games a little more seriously.

If that’s too complicated, how about a simple DIY competition? Everyone could chip in for a prize, and the winner could perhaps win a booster pack or two, or a meal. If weekly prizes are too costly, perhaps you could try a league-style competition? Keep scores for an agreed duration of time, and reward the winner.

Go on holiday

No, you did not read that wrong. Taking breaks are essential for all activities, including the more fun ones as well.

Take a break every now and then so that everyone comes back refreshed with renewed enthusiasm, vigour and strategies.

So there you have it, a number of easy tips that everyone can try, in order to get your regular games in. It’s not that tough – happy gaming!

*Chee Yih Yang can’t stop making beginners’ decks for WoW TCG newbies. E-mail the esoteric gaming nut at if you have comments, questions, hot gaming news and tips, and trading lists and deck ideas, for both Magic and World of Warcraft.

Check out his blog at, and follow him on Twitter at!/arcturus_mengsk.

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