INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNITY BUILDING 101:
Star Wars Destiny has now been on the market for about 2 years (exactly 1 year and 10 months at the time of writing this article). Despite initially not being 100% convinced by the game - mostly due to my reluctance to jump into CCG/TCGs after some solid years of Magic The Gathering and crying wallets... but as soon as my better half Anna got interested in the game I came to terms with the Battle Dice system, and understood how engaging deckbuilding was even with the limited card pool from Awakenings.
Since those days, I've done my best to diffuse Destiny, demonstrating the game at Comix Café (our Local Game Store), creating content on Starfighters Italia together with Bad Destiny and participating in as many events I could all through Tuscany at the beginning, from wonky Season kit tournaments with only 5 people to the fantastic first European Championship 2017. In addition to Grosseto, I'm trying to build a solid community also in Florence where I work.
Competitive players in Grosseto and Florence can be counted on one hand, but there are lots of players interested in the game who are still a bit shy about leaving the comfort zone of their house... Notwithstanding the effort and time invested in the game, what we've experienced so far is sudden spikes in players attendance, hidden within a slow but constant decrease of player numbers. The local playgroup has been slowly shrinking, with players ghosting the group both online and in flesh, citing some of the following reasons:
- The game is too expensive .
- Chase cards are too hard to find .
- FFG is not serious/does not support the game properly .
- My friend X has quit, so I have nobody to play, so I'll sell my collection .
- The nerf to card/charachter XYZ is the demonstration that FFG is not a serious company, they're only after my money (note: Good luck playing MtG and the sudden BAN LISTS friggin' up your 4-wide playsets..)
While game (products) promotion should not completely be on the shoulders of players, there is an important point to be underscored in this discussion: Given a certain amount of resources put in the "Promotion of Destiny", the number of competitive players generally grow at a much lower pace comparatively to the growth of the casual player base. Without a "roadmap" for community building and (mostly) maintenance, no local meta of Destiny - or any other game for what it's worth - can grow and keep the game healthy!
Therefore, this article is going to present some strategies regarding community building 101 and how to keep up a solid game group. The article is broken down in multiple sections, with the main three addressing the most important aspects of community building:
- laying down a solid foundation for a gaming group
- how to invite and bring in new players
- how to develop a good "gaming mentality" aimed at community building, with various examples
PART 1: SETTING THE SCENE
#1.1: EVERY ROOF NEEDS A FOUNDATION
The first step in building a community of players or playgroup is to have a proper environment to do so: an encouraging, reliable and diversified game environment will make the difference in the kickstart of a community, often being the sparkplug for it! Finding a local shop nearby and getting in touch with its staff is fundamental: by explaining to them why you like the game and why other new players should feel compelled to play it you will offer a precious insight to the shop.
With this, they'll be able to "wear your shoes" of a seasoned player, to start setting up and tailoring eventual promotion activities for their customer base. On the other hand, be sure to learn the basic information regarding:
- The store/club environment
- How it is managed, and the chain of command (you want to ask questions and give info to the proper person!)
- The company mission and style
- The role of every employee and internal/external collaborator
Now that you know you stage, the next step is showing the ongoing activity to the general audience.
#1.2: BECOME VISIBLE
You can start planning a line of action to promote Destiny. Start from the posters handed out in digital and physical form by Fantasy Flight Games (click the image for the full size file) and/or the local publishers of the game:
Have one of them displayed in the shop, possibly with a meet up date and time! This will offer the first reference for all recurring players and maybe arouse curiosity in other attendees of the shop. They could be YOUR new prospecting players!
#1.3: PLAN, PREPARE, PARTICIPATE
While you wait and prepare to attend the first Destiny Meetup, keep planning with the staff at the store. In my opinion - given my experience both as community manager and shopkeeper - you should discuss and agree on the following points:
- General events pace: An afternoon of full immersion? After dinner dice & beer?
- The type of events they would prefer to run: Casual or Competitive?
- Who's gonna follow the event during the meetup?
- What products they stock, and what they should stock for this event ?
- What does the shop expect from the playgroup and vice versa ?
- Have a starter deck tournament day where the store offers structure decks for a slightly lower cost and the people who buy them get to play in an event for prizing .
- Have a player on staff who knows how to play the game and can give demos with the Rey/Kylo demo decks (even the old ones! who cares!) to anyone who is interested !
- Or host “learn to play days” where product is available for a slightly discounted cost/door prizes are available for those who come in to try out the game .
- Contact their Distributor/Local publisher to acquire information regarding prize kits and Organized Play (that's a fancy name for structured events with official prizes)
PART 2: ENGAGING PLAYERS
You've got the place, you've got your meetup times. Next step is finding the people!
#2.1: BE AVAILABLE
So now you're a partner in crime of your Local Game Shop and you have spotted some scoundrels looking for games. Good! Just so you know, your work is just at the beginning. You've put some of your personal time budget on the table, now it's the day to go ALL IN. Stick around the shop as much as you can, try to find players willing to meet on a regular basis to keep the playgroup alive!
Launching a group to success is like launching a space shuttle: The players are in the spaceship, the playgroup is the space. You're Cape Canaveral's launchpad! The main task now would be to connect players with the store, so they can reach out to the staff for information. This will be time consuming and possibly annoying from time to time, e.g. replying to the same questions over and over, but do not sweat too much over it. In just a short time all your hard work will be repaid!
#2.2: HANG AROUND!
What you want to do is spend more time at the shop/meeting place than you may have in the past. Instead of testing decks at home, go to the shop - this might make people around you curious, and will offer an opportunity to introduce someone to the game, or even just talk about it to already recurring customers! One of my favourite strategies is playing Destiny *while another event is running* at Comix Café. Inevitably, somebody will swing by the table and start looking at the amazing artwork and funky dice. Eventually - especially the younger padawans! - will ask for a demo.
#2.3: CONNECT PEOPLE!
Creating a Facebook/Discord/whatsapp group to get players in touch is a good idea. Also, it can be associated to a facebook page or wordpress blog to expose what you're doing! Rule #1 of playgroups is: *take pictures or you did not play!*. Every time you meet, shoot some pictures and post them on relevant feeds: Thanks to social network algorithms they will possibly show up in player's timelines! This way you'll have an easy way to:
- Help players network with one another .
- Begin forming relationships after they learn about the game.
- Announce when you will be at the store and find playtest partners to help attract newer players.
The numbers of the initial investment might be a steep obstacle for some people. BUT - there's always a but in this situations... you can help them overcome their hesitation! I bet you, seasoned player have a lot of extra cards, maybe even some with dice coming from your weekly draft. Discuss with the staff store the creation of a "free card box" where expert players can put some cards and donate them, with the intention of them being available for newer player to complement the starter deck they just bought!
The 20-card starters of Destiny have been accused of setting a high bar for entry in the game: This way the players will be able to jump in an event immediately and sink their teeth into the real game! Having a complete and ready deck will incentivize them to play, and increase the likelihood that they continue to invest their time and resources into Destiny! This will possibly reinforce your primary intention: Transforming a "new player" into a "regular attendee" of the playgroup.
#2.4.1 - YOU DON'T NEED EVERYTHING TO PLAY!
Overcoming the entry point is also a matter of mindset. When the game was launched, many prospecting players started buying boxes to have a full collection. Having a collection feels NICE for collectors (I'm one as well...), but it is definitely not mandatory. Foster the idea that to PLAY, all you NEED is ONE deck!
You don't need a whole collection to JOIN EVENTS on a weekly basis! Have new players choose iconic characters to start and build that deck around them. Tweak it from time to time to confront opponents and most of all... Do not make the playgroup obsessed with "completing sets!"
Several players might even share a set! Follow our fellow player Michele in this: he has bought ONE box in two years, then realized he only needed some cards for his sick Palpatine deck... and just bought singles!
There are great websites where you can get single cards, use them: for example, Rebel Base Gaming will satisfy all your needs, or maybe you can use the new DESTINY SECTION of Magic Card Market.
#2.5: PROMOTE CONTENT CREATORS
There's a great trick that you should use to generate and increase players' interest in the game: introducing them to Destiny-based content that they can watch and read during their own time. YouTube, Patreon, Reddit and Blogs will be wonderful pull-factors for your cause, gathering a lot of content that will stimulate their curiosity and enhance their playstyle!
For example, what I like to do is suggest players to install Feedly or Flipboard and add some Destiny blogs as content. They will receive notifications every time a new content piece is created! Here's a small list of places to start so that you can share it with new players based on their interests.
Official FFG Communication channels:
Content creators and podcasts
#2.6: BE A COACH!
Don't just play with players, help them become better players! It can be helpful to play a game with both players' hands laid down on the table, exchanging thoughts on how the game should go forward, and giving suggestions on how to pilot a deck! You can draw a lot of inspiration from the many Deck Analyses published on the YOUR Destiny website.
#2.6.1: BRING MULTIPLE DECKS - MULTIPLY THE FUN!
Bringing several decks means you’ll be able to vary the play experience during your meetup. Would you rather spend an afternoon playing the same deck against the one single deck of your opponent, or play 10 games with different combinations? I bet my money on the latter! Invite all players to bring at least 2 decks, feel free to set up a mini tournament drawing the decks by the lot. People might get interested in playing different archetypes and deepen their knowledge of the cardpool! Also, you’ll be able to lend a deck to a prospecting new player or to the shop staff to join the event!
#2.6.2: BUILD A GAUNTLET
Now, if you want to take things seriously, you should definitely find the time to build a Gauntlet of Decks and bring them with you. Feel free to use printed proxies and proxy dice (e.g. https://www.amazon.com/Pack-Blank-White-22mm-Chessex/dp/B01K5ZST8Y) to simulate those legendary chase cards that you don't have for all the decks, and ask the players to get some practice with competitive decks. You'll be able to write on blank dice with a sharpie and when you're done with that deck, just soak them in warm soapy water and clean them!
#2.7: INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO THE META, FAQ, ERRATA AND CLARIFICATIONS:
In the beginning for new players it’s not gonna be easy to catch up with all the rules, clarifications and erratas floating around. Introduce them to the various documents that support regular and competitive play, explaining not only what they are, but the importance and long-term meaning of them, i.e. Balance of the Force, overall meta archetypes and trends. Explain to them how this system of documents and standards is meant to keep the game and its cards in check, contributing to the creation of a fun and consistent play environment.
Explain why they should not be afraid of characters changing costs, and why even if their favourite card is changed that the sky is not falling. If you need an anecdote for this, tell them the story of Sabine Wren: From being a card definitely above the curve to being put back in her place with BoTF… up to winning a Store Champ by own lonesome herself!
No changes are definitive, and every little errata or clarification is meant to keep the game as healthy as possible in the long run!
PART 3: EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT - AND YOU HAVE TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYONE!
So if things have gone well, at this point you have been able to start your locals on an upward trend in terms of attendance and might think everything is all set for you to shift back your focus to your own personal game related goals. While it may seem like that is ok, making that shift too quickly or without keeping these points in mind can actually undo most of your work.
#3.1: BE PROGRESSIVE!
Inevitably when playing, the topic of tournaments will pop out! Be it the next appointment of the playgroup or just a random idea, some of the players will eventually be interested in competitive play. This will lead to part of the playgroup if not all players testing repeatedly the best decks and their strategies in preparation for a tournament. Also, they might get invested in high-level tournaments such as Regionals/Nationals/Continentals and start playtesting consistently at every local tournament.
This kinda conflicts with new players jumping in the local scene, as they could face players piloting very refined and high-tier decks that eventually will crush their just acquired starter! While some players will deal with that and learn from this experience, some might get discouraged and disheartened by a series of unfortunate losses.
Worst thing that could happen is this resulting in a probable exit from SW Destiny, because of the lack of fun. I’ve seen this snowball become an avalanche in time, with players discussing this experience and compromising the growth of your community, on the basis that “OMG that single experience ruined the game for me forever”. Despite this not really fitting with my character and not really understanding how this could detract from the interest I have in the game, please remember that every player is different in expectations!
#3.2: BE A POSITIVE EXAMPLE!
Some players might look up at you as the "spark" to the community and/or the person of reference. This means that your actions and behaviour might impact the community and its members. If you'll sport a positive attitude, the other players should follow the lines you're tracing, creating a good environment and fostering the invitation of new players.
#3.3: BE A KALEIDOSCOPE!
Beforehand: With this I'm not saying that you should drop your competitive targets. But in addition to your competitive decks, you should also bring a few "jank" decks built for fun, maybe kept together by a strong theme. The forbidden lovers Asajj and Quinlan, Vader/Royal guard, Saw/Chirrut and so on. Find a theme, build a deck around it! You will only have to worry about gathering players. If most of them are new players, just pop out your janky decks and have fun with them.
If they are all experienced players, bring out your gauntlet and get practice for the next tournament. Being able to read the atmosphere of a meetup without forcing the environment to stick to something and adapting to it is a key element in building a strong community and most importantly having people come back the next time!
#3.4: BE OUTGOING!
It is fundamental to make the games fun: do your best to interact with your opponents and players in general - obviously respecting personal boundaries. Don't throw games at your opponents, since part of the fun is a fair competitive game. Still, if you find the chance for a crazy combo just for fun or to praise your opponent or a nice play, do it! Also, if they make a mistake, let them go back and choose another action THE FIRST TIME (it's important as a learning process!). If all players have fun, the meetup will be considered a positive memory and experience. The longer streak of positive experiences you build, the more you'll encourage players to talk about your playgroup and come back - possibly with friends - the next time!
#3.5: BE BOUNTIFUL!
You've probably been playing for quite a long time, and I bet you have lots of extra promos from local tournaments. Possibly, also your store has leftover promos they can spare. Get everything you can, shuffle everything together and put them in an old deckbox to take with you or drop at the shop.
Once you finish a match, offer your opponent to fish one card out of the box: it's a nice way to say "thank you for the game" and leave them a good memory of the meetup! Most of the players will love this: Some because of the reward, some because of the simple fact of obtaining an exclusive item just for playing with you! Wanna take it further? offer 2 cards to those who manage to beat you! Even if it is not much on paper, you'll notice players starting to work harder on their decks and techniques to claim the victory and the sweet sweet ink of promos!
#3.6: BE PRODIGAL!
When acquiring your first Destiny products, you'll learn that Star Wars Destiny is a COLLECTIBLE card game. This usually involves trading. Many players will consider it a fundamental part of the game, if not the funniest part. Transforming cards into value - be it more useful cards or plain cash - is challenging.
Despite some players' opinions, this is another area where your role as community leader might be useful. At the beginning of their journey as CCG'ers, many players will not have access to some chase or Tier-S cards (e.g. Luke3, Snoke). They might be looking for some cards to improve their deck(s). While going trough their collection, you might want to adhere to the unconventional mindset of "letting them walk away with more than they gave". Again: I'm not suggesting to throw money or Ancient Lightsabers at them, but not to worry too much about the exact value of every single trade. This will encourage deckbuilding while at the same time save them some money/cards to be invested in the playgroup activities!
PART 4: FINAL THOUGHTS
Starting and maintaining a playgroup often will be time consuming and/or extremely confusing, but I hope this "small guide" will give you some ideas to get things started in your local community - or, on the other hand - offer you some points of thought to recover a community that might have lost its focus on the game or some players along these past two years!
As I said before, this is not a MUST DO kind of list, but more of a "virtual checklist", I hope you and your community will grow into something amazing!
These general ideas can obviously be adapted and applied to any game, and are not limited to Destiny, therefore feel free to try them and let me know how things are going!
Next season is gonna be a great one for Destiny, with the first rotation happening and I am looking forward to bring you - and especially Italian players - more content and articles from now on.
Do you have a topic or type of article you want me to write about? Feel free to send me suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org I want to write about what you want to read about, and so the easiest way to make that happen is to just shoot me an email!