Welcome to Part 2 of my Building a Community Series. If you missed Part 1 please check it out here. I apologize for the delay in getting this article posted.
In this installment, I want to talk about poisonous players and the current challenges with this type of player that I am currently facing. I will not be calling out anyone by name, as that is not the direction I want to take this article. My wish is to show you my personal dilemma that I have encountered while trying to grow my local scene. Hopefully, my experiences can help others to better prepare for these obstacles.
So first let me set the scene. When the 8th Ed. Warhammer Fantasy scene died, I decided to take the reins and lead the Age of Sigmar division of our gaming club, Ligonier Legions. Our club has three main game systems that we run, Flames of War, 40k, and Age of Sigmar. We typically meet twice a month, and Flames of War. Flames of War is the most popular of the games and was guaranteed a date each month. This left 40k and AoS competing for the other date. During this time, I was only in charge of running the Age of Sigmar events. I did not have any authority on picking the dates for which games would be played. This worked for about a year, until recently. The senior member who handled all the higher level duties, as well as running the other game systems, burned out trying to manage it all. He tried listening to everyone in how to run things and gave in to every request. By trying to make everyone happy, this quickly made everyone unhappy. Instead of playing the three main games we were supposed to be dedicated to, we were playing older editions, board games, open games days, build leagues, paint leagues, etc. This led to bitter people blaming everyone else and generally beginning to create a poisonous atmosphere.
This should bring everyone up to speed. At the end of 2016, I arrived at a combined 40k/AoS event. The senior member who had been running things up to this point told me that he was done and needed a break from all the aggravation. I was thrust into the position of club leader and running the 40k events as well. I now organize all the events; however, I did have to put someone in charge of running Flames of War, as I am unfamiliar with that system. I had seen this coming, so I had a bit of mental preparation to take over long before it actually happened. The thing I wasn't prepared for though was the complaining that followed, and the poisonous players trying to assert their views. I never realized how a few people could bring a group down and inhibit its growth so easily.
Over the past year of running AoS, I have learned to run events and gaming groups with the view that "if I was a player, how would I like this to be run". My first order of business was to adjust how we shared time. I wanted more focus on 40k and Age of Sigmar. These two game systems have a bit of player cross over, as well as a stable core. We now have a solid rotation of 40k and Age of Sigmar, and are able to keep Flames of War consistent each month. Unless the group wants to run an open games day, in which case Flames of War has to volunteer to give up their day.
It did not take long after this adjustment for those poisonous players to assert their opinions and make demands that had pulled down the previous leadership. It has been challenging, to say the least. These players have refused to accept that Games Workshop has changed for the better and cling to older editions with zeal. They have had no love for 40k as it stands now for the past year, arranging for previous edition play outs that have had a reduced turnout month after month. When I put the word out that we will rotate 40k and Age of Sigmar they suddenly began defending the game of 40k as if nothing was all that wrong with it anymore. They debated my change because I was taking time away from their failing games for Age of Sigmar. I have explained myself, but they didn't grasp my long view. I understand they want their old editions to become the “new” way to play in the area, but I know we can grow all of our game systems to be equally supported by the player base.
They talk about wanting to run older editions of Fantasy and 40K even though in the past these events have failed to draw players. I decided to not simply say no, as I feel that isn’t the right path. I told them that it could be a fun idea and they should organize it on one of our open days. I put the ball in their hands and said go for it. So far they are unwilling to step up and organize it but continue to nag and make comments to other players. You must be cautious if you have players who may be poisonous to your larger group because they could easily get the ears of the newer players with negative remarks or even outright complaints. When my new players show up, I just want them to have fun playing some games, and not have people who take a negative view on the game drag them down. When this happens in my group, I combat the problem in two ways. I counter with my excitement for the game. If this fails, I have no problem pulling the person aside and asking them to set a better example for the younger players. I have seen this succeed in the short term, but old habits tend to die hard so you need to keep aware of the poor attitude returning.
The long and short of all this is there will be some people that may be poisonous to your local group for one reason or another. My advice is to set your course and see it to the end. Some people may drop off, but others will join you and those are the players you will want to focus on. It is important to adjust your course from time to time but always head towards your goal of growing your scene. Don't let anyone drag the whole group down, keep motivated, keep active, and keep it fun along the way. All the negative talk will not be able to stand up to the real examples of fun and excitement you will bring to the community. You will fall occasionally, but focus on the good and don't let it drag you down.
Until Next Time, Happy Hobbying!