Saturday, 25 February 2012

Cambridge Wargaming Club - 5 months on

It's been 5 months since our opening night, Wednesday at the scout hut in Flamsteed Rd, Cambridge.

It has been a challenging period.

We have really struggled to be honest.

The first 2 months were fantastic! We require just 12 people per evening to meet our costs (ranging from facility to terrain upkeep to tables to insurance) and there are 4 of us that run the club! So 8 more and we are sorted..

For a while we had between 18-22 coming each week and were flying.

But then Christmas hit... and over December and January we have just been really hit hard.

We have had podcast shout outs (thanks to the Overlords podcast), a website, forums, advertising in local geek stores, I've thrown shit up on the blog, facebook..

Now, for the 3rd month of 5 we are short on meeting our costs financially.. I have no desire to go back to just gaming with a couple of dudes in the garage and only getting in games vs new people at tournaments.. whilst I accept that that is the way of it for many people, we did have a real community based around Cambridge and I am not sure where it has gone!

Trouble is reaching everyone.. it simply isn't possible! Whilst GW Cambridge operated it's Battle Bunker we had a huge community and all was good, we had the numbers of few choice dudes who were similar in personality etc.. you  know, friends.. and everyone else we took for granted. Who knew it would close!

Then we played on our own, round friends houses etc for a year - 18 months.

This, I think, was the real killer.. if we had got going almost straightaway when all the guys n gals were still around (as opposed to lurking in their houses and garages!) then we may have been able to gather the community to us.

Now, if you walk into GW Cambridge on a Tuesday Vets night, there are 2 tables (possibly three on occasion) and a handful of guys playing. No more than we have at the club on our worst nights... the issue with recruiting these guys is that they see nothing wrong in the current situation.

The 'new blood' at the local GW has never experienced GW Cambridge in the 'Golden Years' - Andy Keddie as manager and smashing the trade, a true community playing on over a dozen boards, every board filled and gaming, with dudes waiting to play in the wings.. wonderful. Banter everywhere and different guys to play every week!

If you've never experienced it, how do you compare it to 2 tables with the same guys every week. I can do that shit in the garage...

At our club in Cambridge, we have a dozen boards, all with decent terrain, the biggest and best place to play in Cambridgeshire..

Ah. Fuck it.

Cost, I believe, is also a big issue. We charge £3 for casual gamers, £2.50 for members. This is based solely on meeting our costs on expected level of 'customers'/gamers... If more and more guys were to come down, we can afford to drop our costs. Simple as.. help us develop the community and the costs are drastically reduced.
Again, if you are used to playing at GW and not having to pay to play then fine, but you only get a game every other week due to the lack of boards..

Expectations.. Do you only want to play one game a week at most.. Are you happy to just watch others play the game? I'm not, my leisure time is precious to me, I am a classic "money rich, time poor" western european worker.. when I want to do something, you better make fucking sure you can provide me with what I want! So watching a game of 40k once a week is not what I want from my hobby..
I can't imagine how it is for some!

HELP ME! Do any of you guys run clubs? How do you get your business in? How tough was it for you to get started.. what would you do in my situation??


  1. Very tough when Oxford gaming club started. The best sayid to open it up to all war-games and just keep Plugging away. I think ogc made a loss for about 5 years and if it wasn't for a patron bailing it out it would have closed. Your lucky you live in the age of technology!

    Good luck mate.

  2. Would be happy to share the insights we've gained over the last 12 months from starting a club in Redditch (West Midlands). Probably too much to go into here, but feel free to drop me a line (Stuart @ the URL posted against this comment).

  3. Its hard Ven but I think the biggest thing is to maybe run a bi monthly local tourney and offer up some form of prize. Its not ideal but it could bring people in. You could hit the local GW on a gamesnight and mention it, as long as it doesn't conflict with their own night (thursday usually) I cant see them having an issue asking around.

    Really its offering something people want to do.

    What about that "Badab in Cambridge" blog, do they play there, seems like an ideal crew.

    1. Local GW has been hit on numerous occasions, but not since before Christmas. We hit it up quite a bit before we opened and for the first few weeks and got a load of guys check us out.
      Dimitri who runs the Badab in Cambridge blog has a load of dudes and we've spoken, used their facebook page to advertise..but not to much effect tbh.

      I need to hit up the local GW again, but we know there are not that many people hitting it up at the minute..

      Sad times..

  4. Ok I am in the process of running a club and ven we are taking a different approach. We are going the yearly dues route. However to offset this we are adding more than just gaming into the mix. We are looking to offer our members not just ways to improve themselves as players but in all aspects of the hobby. Be it in conversions, painting or tourney etiquette and tactics. Granted we have a local gaming store that we are partnered with to offer a discount on merchandise which really helps.

    I think its all about your approach. Make it instead something that focuses on helping the hobby as a whole for players of all shapes and sizes. Reach out to those who aren't super competitive and offer them a chance to learn something they might like. Perhaps a new painting technique or a model conversion that really does look cool. Set up campaign style events for your members or even do a night where all you guys play is nova style missions. These are some of the many ideas i plan to use for our gaming club here in the states.

    If you need any more ideas or help let me know. FYI our yearly dues are going to work out as follows, 1st year member is $40 giving the member a t shirt with the club logo on it, an engraved club pen and a 10% discount on all GW merch at our local hobby shop that we are playing at. After the first year it's $25 for renewal.

    Hope this may help ya bro!

    1. Hey Paul,
      We too use Annual and 6 monthly membership fees. This reduces the cost per week to play, but we haven't the connections to offer discount. I may try and work on that though as it is attractive.

      We play all sorts of games not just 40k, we offer Malifaux, Infinity, Blood Bowl, Fantasy, Specialist Games etc.

      I like the idea of running hobby elements, that is something we can do for free and just get stuck into. Thanks for that idea bud.

      In March we are launching an Esclation League for Fantasy as well as a Blood Bowl league.

      I think after that the next stage is to offer a tournament to try and use it as a jump off point..

  5. I really do think a tourney is what your going to need Ven. Advertise on various blogs + forums. It should in theory draw some people in.

    1. Yeah,I think we need to organise something. Will have to try and negotiate use on a weekend..

  6. Feel for you, when I started attending first company veterans at WHW nearly three years ago we had over 100 members, now we have about 8 who turn up regularly and they nearly all play bloodbowl.

    Its a shame when your community dies so good look with your venture.

    1. What the hell happened there!? Great facility, easy access, car parking..

      Is there a level of apathy in gaming clubs?

      Is it simply that our gamers expect the facility to be there and will drop in whenever it is convenient for them? Which is absolutely fine, it just means we need to gather more and more people..

  7. are you sure you dont scare some people off with a hyper competative mindset?

    1. Is that a genuine comment mate? (Looks hurt) I've lost/drawn more at the club to newbs than I ever have to anyone else anywhere!
      I play nice, not in a hyper competitive fashion and whilst we discuss tournament play there, the new guys and girls we play always walk away having had a tough, fair and rewarding game bro..

      In short...No. we make a point of trying to make sure people play new people, enjoy the games they have and most importantly have fun.

      This is why I run things like the Jumper BA and walk up field getting shot, or why the Paladin army I am planning will walk up field and get shot...

      Hmm..came across defensive there.. the whole situation is just very frustrating.. we have created a wicked environment, there is literally nothing done wrong.. except we clearly need to market ourselves even more.

    2. fair enough. i didnt mean any offense, i just know that a lot of the guys i am forced to play around here and probably most of the hobbying population would never go back somewhere once they got the remotist sniff of the words 'tournament' or 'competetive'. they are not interested in improving their game, just the action of playing with their toys. nothing wrong with that, but it isnt what most of us lot are about.

      i think Bully is right, run an event or two and see how it goes. no better way to spread the word and it can be a little income source if planned well.

  8. What game systems do you entertain at the club mate? My own observations on clubs is that the ones that try and cater for certain game systems are the one's that struggle or have a smaller head count. There was a club in Doncaster that just did 40/WHFB and Warmahordes, I think it lasted 12 months before it died off. If you look at the GIMPS (a Sheffield based club) they cater for any game system but I would say the hardcore of the group are the older historical gamers.

    The same could be said for the York War gaming Society who are I would say the extreme of a Gaming Club. They are very wealthy and run one of the countries best war gaming trade shows each year (Vapnartak) which drags in massive amounts of funds for them which in turn allows them to pay for members tournament tickets and even get people started with armies. I would hazard a guess that they are heavily involved in the historic scene though just from what I've seen at the show.

    I don't envy you bro, setting up a club seems to be a tough thing to do and I certainly couldn't do it myself.

    1. We offer everything and anything!! We didn't want to restrict our appeal in any way...

      The York setup sounds awesome. I had no idea Vapnartak was any more than just a tournament..

      Staying open and operating is one of the most important elements without a doubt... I think if we can avoid "doing a Donnie" and closing after a year we'll be doing well!

  9. LOL this makes me wish i wasn't across the pond now getting a gaming club going over here in the states. The Cambridge location sounds like the place id love to play at. Perhaps some day we can organize an across the pond challenge or something!

    1. I envy the US due to the number of people! Cambridge is an amazing city, I love it. Small, but perfectly formed! I'd love to one day do that, would be wicked!
      It's a long way off tbh, but perhaps in 2013/4! lol

  10. I read this and it made me think about how lucky I am to be part of a 60-something man (person, to include the ladies) outfit and we've been going for about 7 or 8 years in a small city in Ireland. The big thing I suppose is we've got our gaming hall for free in the past few years and that means that we've got a place to meet up every week (Thursday nights) and play different game systems.

    I will say that a couple of the lads have drifted off and come back in the past few years (jobs, kids etc) but its a constant that's held together by a few people making sacrifices by having their house filled with boards and terrrain: one guy has basically driven a car into the ground lugging stuff to events all round the country.

    Judging by this quote: 'Cambridge is an amazing city, I love it. Small, but perfectly formed! I'd love to one day do that, would be wicked!' I reckon you're in a similar boat to where we were a few years ago but you have access to the same resources we have. Are any of ye attending college in Cambridge or do ye know someone that is and is into wargaming? You might be able to unlock something there.

    1. We have one Masters student and have had a few of the Cambrige Wargamers Society down, but they run a very different type of gaming (roleplay)... I will try and develop our student into a proactive ambassador...

      having a free hall would be amazing!! I'm very envious!!

  11. Hey Andy, sorry i have not been over I have been an ass, and I have lost my painting gaming mojo. There is good news though, GW is doing a RAMPAGE doubles tournament on the 13th of April at warhammer world, and the store has done no prep for the players.
    I am not going to it cause its on a Friday but there are 4-8 people really into it,they have a facebook page for it (its a closed group and I don't have you on facebook) why not organice for next Wednesday a 2part tournament 2 games per night, 7 and 14 of march entrance fee a 5£ for both nights entry. I will through in a gw 40k bassing kit as a prize. Talk to Harry Hopkins he seems to be motivating everyone.

  12. Hey bud, don't worry about not being's your leisure time mate! You spend it how you like! lol!

    Add me on Fbook mate, Andrew Humphris and I'll get in on it... then I may be able to get in touch with them, I'll swing by GW tomorrow night as well and see if I can rustle up some interest.

    If you are happy to put an email to the group of RAMPAGE'rs and link to the club website ('ll happily host it! I'll come up with a prize or two as well. What you have said above for dates and cost is great. If we could get a load of the Cambridge dudes down to sample the club and practice for their tourney that'd be wicked...

    Basing kit, plus limited edition Games Day models from previous years as prizes too.. £5 for both nights, doubles games at Xpoints (whatever the tournament is), two games per night...get their tourney practice in.. deal.

    Good thinking D.. cheers

  13. Great to hear it, I will be in on Tuesday too and i will start on a poster now.

    1. wicked, what sort of time mate? I'll catch you then.. if you need club details, use the link on the top right of the page..

  14. It's a tough task to start up a gaming club from scratch.

    The club which I play at is multi game system and there's also a thriving CCG group too, that may offer you a higher membership and attendance?

    I used to run a games club too back in the day but it was effectively all the GW regs in a club about 1km down the road so we never had an issue with generating attendance.

    Good luck matey x