Want to start a board gaming group or club but don’t know where to start? I’ve been looking into this myself and learned from several club organizers what they did to start their board gaming clubs.
Just for clarity, I’ll state what I mean by a board game group or club. From my research, the terms ‘group’ and ‘club’ seem to be used almost interchangeably with a ‘group’ just meaning a smaller ‘club’.
What is a board gaming group or club?
A board gaming group or club is a group of people who regularly meet to play board games in a public place. The invitation is always extended to the general public to come along and join in. Group members attend sessions regularly, but not necessarily every session. There are enough members in the club so that even when every member isn’t present, there are enough people there to play games.
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With my definition out of the way, let’s dive into how to start a board gaming group.
11 steps to starting a board gaming group
- Consider how big you want this to go
- Choose a name
- Decide on a schedule
- Contact venues
- Consider charges carefully
- Set up a Facebook group
- Keep basic records
- Select the games
- Be the perfect host
- Have fun!
1. Consider how big you want this to go
Start at the beginning. Why are you starting the board gaming group?
Is this just for you to meet some more people to play games with? If so, you might be better off finding board gamers near you. For ideas on where to find them see my post: 13 Places, Apps and Sites to Find Board Gamers Near You.
Maybe you want to start a group because you can’t find any local gamers. Or maybe the existing groups meet up on days and times that don’t work with your schedule? Maybe you attended a couple of events with a local group but they weren’t your type of people.
Whatever your reason, have an idea of how big you want your board gaming group to go.
Are you thinking of a small group of maybe 6-12 people to play games with regularly? Or are you thinking of a club with 50+ members? This can shape some of the decisions you make while setting up and which of the steps in this guide you choose to follow and which you skip over.
If you’re not sure, then it may be best to aim for a small group to begin with. Then you can see how it goes and if you want to grow it later.
2. Choose a name
You need to call your group something! It doesn’t need to be anything creative and fancy. Simply Boardgamers[location] would work fine as a name. It’s clear what your group is about as soon as people see it.
If you live somewhere where there is already another boardgaming group and you want to set your group apart then you may want a more creative name.
There are plenty of name generators online. You may need to enter a few different variables and try a few things until you stumble on something you like.
Name-generator has a business name generator section which would work for a board gaming group. It allows you to enter a location to include in the suggestions too.
Shopify has a business name generator where you can enter the words you want included and it will give you some suggestions.
If you are only wanting to attract seasoned board gamers and not necessarily people new to board gaming you could use a term that board gamers would understand. For example, you could use, dice, pawn, token, chits or meeple.
3. Decide on a schedule
There are a few things to think about with the scheduling.
What works for you?
This is the most important decision because you’re the one who will be running the group and you need to be at every single session. At least in the early days. So pick a schedule you can stick to. People need to know they can rely on you to be there if they’ve made the effort to come along.
Even if no-one shows up for the first few sessions, keep turning up.
It may be tempting to change the schedule if people don’t show up to the first couple of sessions but stick with it. Keep advertising your sessions and word will get around about what you’re doing and people will start to show up.
When your group has been running for a while, regular attendees can take over and run the session on days you can’t be there.
When will people be available?
The second most important consideration is when will gamers be available? Most people work during the day on weekdays. So Saturday and Sunday day times are an option. Weekday nights can work well too, just allow enough time for people to get there after work.
If your venue offers food, then that may help you to start your event at an earlier time as people won’t need to go home and eat before heading out. 6.30pm is the earliest I would recommend – a lot of people commute for work and this will give them time to get to you.
How long do you need?
Ideally you’ll want 3-4 hours of playing time to get through several games or one large one with enough time to set it up too. A reasonable end time during the week is 10-11pm so that people have time to travel home and aren’t too tired for work the next day.
How often do you want to meet?
Consider how often you want to meet. Once a week is quite common for gaming groups where I live. Just remember, the more regular your sessions the more time you need to give.
Whatever you choose just make sure it is regular. Consistency is key to people planning the board gaming group sessions into their schedules.
4. Contact venues
Not that you’ve decided on a regular day and time it’s time to think about where you’ll meet. A public place is the best option. Your events will be open to the public. You don’t know these people and they don’t know you! A public place is safer for everyone.
Things to consider when choosing a venue
- Good transport links
- Wheelchair accessible
- Food and drink available
- Good lighting
- Tables large enough to seat 6 people and lay out a game
- Free (no hire charge)
- Coffee shops
- Friendly Local Game Stores
- Board Game Cafe or Bar
- Community centres
- Schools, colleges, universities,
- Local libraries
Most bars open late and will be happy to let you come because people will buy food and drink while they are there. Just be careful in selecting a bar because you need one that doesn’t play music too loudly and has decent sized tables.
They will be most receptive to events at the times they are quiet – so Monday and Tuesday evenings. The same may apply to your local board game bar or cafe. If you can attract customers on the evenings they are quiet you may be able to negotiate a discount with them.
Actually go to the venue and see if there is someone you can speak to in person. People tend to be more receptive when they talk to you in person rather than over the phone or email.
When you speak to the right person explain:
- Explain what you want to do
- What their business can gain from it (people buying snacks)
- Regular dates and times you’d like
- Confirm your assumption on charges
- Swap contact numbers and emails to keep in touch with changes
Keep in contact with the venue regularly. Especially if your sessions are monthly instead of weekly. Just a quick email or call to double check they will be open and have the space reserved for you.
5. Consider charges carefully
This is something to consider, but not necessarily implement.
If you are hiring venues or want to build up a shared library of games for the group, this might be something to consider for the future. You could have a small charge per session which goes into the group pot or offer a collection tin then people can donate however much they want to towards the games library.
Think very carefully before introducing charges.
They can lead to people evaluating whether they are getting good value from the group, squabbles over which games are bought with the money and keeping track of the finances.
As soon as you buy group games you’ll then have the responsibility of finding somewhere to store them and keeping track of which group members have borrowed them. What will you do if games go missing? Unfortunately it’s a common problem in board gaming clubs.
Personally, I’d prefer to keep the group casual and just have people bringing along the games they want to play. The more responsibility I have and the more admin there is to do, the less fun I have.
6. Set up a Facebook group
I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook, but I do like the Groups and Events features it has. They are free and easy to use and a great way to advertise and communicate with everyone in your board game group.
Facebook has over 2 billion users so the chances are the people who join your group will be on there. Generally it’s less effort to communicate with people on a platform they are already using regularly, rather than setting up your own website or forum. It’s just another place for people to remember to go and check for updates.
On Facebook you can create a Page for your group where you can share posts like what is coming up or photos of your last gaming session.
You can set up an Event for each session and people will respond with whether they are attending or not. They can comment in the event thread with what games they want to play and which games they will be bringing along.
For the odd person who isn’t on Facebook, you can find other ways to communicate with them – like email or a WhatsApp group.
7. Keep basic records
You can do as much or a little of record keeping as you want to.
Record keeping doesn’t need to be a lengthy task. You might just do a post on your Facebook Group Page with a note of what games you played and any key things which came up during the session. For example, if people requested a particular game be played at the next event.
Some groups keep a log of the games played, when they were played and who won.
Logs like this are nice to look back on in the future to see how much fun you’ve had as a group.
You may want to collect a list of people’s emails so you can email everyone major updates between sessions. For example, if you need to cancel an event. Or if you’ve spotted an upcoming event elsewhere that your group might be interested in.
If people are happy for you to have their mobile number that would be helpful as a way to get in touch with them. WhatsApp is free and it’s very easy to create a group on there. I use WhatsApp when making plans for a group where some of the members aren’t on Facebook.
8. Select the games
What games will you play? Will you use your own collection at every session? How will you get them to the venue? How will you get new games?
Your games and their games
To begin with, you might be the only person providing the games, but even after the first session people may want to bring their own games. Encourage them to do this! They will enjoy doing something for the group, and everyone gets to enjoy more games. People bringing their own games along is much less complicated than buying shared group games.
There are always people who turn up early and other people who are running late so filler games are a great way to give people something to do while they wait. These games are quick to explain and are short so are easy to wra up when everyone has arrived.
Sushi Go! Zombie Dice, Saboteur, Coup and Spyfall are all good filler games.
Make sure you have a good mixture of games from introductory gateway games like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne to more complicated games that take a few hours like Arkham Horror.
In the first few sessions, you may want to stick to the light to medium weight games while you get to know people.
So you’ve got a name, a venue, a date and time, a schedule and a Facebook Group page.
It’s time to start advertising. Create a simple poster and get it printed out. You can use a site like Unsplash for free stock images to use on it. If you take good photos then take some of your board games and use your own.
On your advert put all the essential information but be really clear on the type of games you will be playing. If it is everything from King of Tokyo and Dixit to Arkham Horror then say that. It’s a quick way for people to understand what they can expect.
If it’s free, tell them that too. People like free things!
To get the best results from your marketing, you need to advertise in places where gamers go and will see the adverts.
- The venue where you’re meeting
- Your friendly local game store
- You local board game cafe (if they’ll let you, they might be funny if you’re hosting in another venue!)
- BoardGameGeek forums for your local area
- Reddit for your local area
- Reddit boardgames group
- Coffee shops near the venue
- Book stores
- Your local library
- Community boards near the venue
- University campuses
- Shops near the venue
- Post on Meetup.com (it will alert people nearby who have ‘board games’ as an interest)
- Create a Facebook Event and ask your friends to share it
10. Be the perfect host
It’s the first session. What do you do? Well, likely what you’ll do at every session!
Arrive early and set up
When someone arrives at the venue they don’t want to awkwardly go up to people and ask if they are there for the board gaming. Make it easy for them to know who you are. Arrive early and get yourself a drink and get settled in. Put some game boxes on the table and maybe play a solo game of something or shuffle some cards.
Keep an eye out for people coming in and looking around as though looking for someone. Make eye contact and smile at them. Even if they aren’t there for board gaming, a smile won’t hurt anyone.
Be super welcoming and inclusive
It is intimidating for new players to join a gaming group. For some people, they will have been thinking about this gaming session for weeks. See my post on How To Support Board Gamers With Social Anxiety to see what I mean.
You want everyone to have a good experiences so they come along to future sessions.
It may mean that you need to step away from a game to get up and greet a new person if they arrive a little later on. Be prepared to do this.
Introduce the new person to the rest of the gamers and wherever possible deal them into a game.
If you’re an inclusive host right from the first session then it may go some way to discouraging cliques from forming.
In the future, it will be hard to make new players feel welcome everyone is in their tight-knit groups and don’t want to let a new player in. So just make introducing new players to everyone something that you do from the start.
Gauge gaming experience and recommend games
When you meet a new gamer, try and find out what experience they have with games and what they like to play. It’ll help you to suggest games that they will enjoy so that they have a good time and come back!
Playing games with new people is good way to find out what they enjoy. After a game you can simply ask if they enjoyed it and what they liked about it so that you can recommend similar games.
Teach and co-ordinate games
Teaching games and
Co-ordinating the games just means that you’re making sure that everyone has something to play. You may need to check on the tables occasionally just to make sure everyone is happy and how long they might have left in their game.
Games will rarely finish at the same time for groups to switch over, but it does happen and people don’t mind waiting to join another table. Especially if the next game is something they really want to play!
You’ll get pretty familiar with how many players each game will take and how long they take too. You may also need to join in with a different game to the one you wanted to play to make the player numbers balance.
Make sure everyone plays nice
Some gaming groups have a Code of Conduct that all members agree to stick to. I think that’s a bit formal, especially for a new gaming group. But you do
If someone is aggressive or rude to other players. Or if quarterbacking is happening in a co-op game (see this post: Quarterbacking in Board Games (and How to Avoid It)) then you need to step in. You are the leader and people will look to you to do this. Just have a quiet word with the person about it. You could have a ‘3 marks and you’re out’ rule to give your words some clout.
The other thing you’ll want to watch out for is people respecting the game components. You don’t want them getting grease marks over everything or bending the cards when they hold them in their hand! Again just ask people politely. They probably don’t even realize they are doing it.
If you do want to draw up a rules sheet or some kind of Code of Conduct, then here’s a list of ideas.
- Be nice to each other
- If you can’t make it to a session (especially if you’re bringing a game) let people know
- Listen when people are explaining rules to you
- Don’t talk about contentious topics. We’re here to have fun!
- We have a 3 mark rule on bad behaviour. It will not be tolerated.
- Respect the board games – don’t put greasy fingers on the pieces or bend the cards!
- Play by the rules!
- Take your turn in a reasonable amount of time
- If dice roll off the table or land on their sides then they are re-rolled
- Don’t start a game if you can’t finish it
- Don’t leave part way through a game
11. Have fun!
You’re organizing the gaming group because you want to have fun playing games. Make sure you are having fun! Like anything you do, if it becomes a hassle the negatives outweigh the positives then stop running it.
Taking it to the next level
Now that your gaming group is up and running, if you want to grow it and take it to the next level you could:
- Start a gaming group pot of money with contributions from members.
- Build up a shared group games library.
- Share the host role with other members. Sometimes you can’t be there. Life happens.
- Hire out a larger venue such as a church hall or a hotel meeting room so you can invite more people.
- Start a website for your club.
- Liaise with your friendly local game stores for discounts on games for members.
- Consider two regular gaming sessions. One for hardcore gamers who like the long, complex games that take several hours to play. The second for the lighter, gateway games. Some gamers may come along to both of them, but at least everyone has the opportunity to play.
- Design a logo.
- Start social media accounts.
- Do another round of marketing.
- Get on board game directories so people can find your group. For some places
boardgamers might go to look for groups see my article: 13 Places, Apps and Sites to Find Board Gamers Near You.
- Draw up a group charter and assign roles – game librarian, marketing officer, chair, treasurer etc.
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