The Hunger (for) Games Part Three:Playtime
You have the time. You have the people. Now have the fun.
Gaming groups, on average, are delicate things. Some people don't have the personality or character to be a good tabletop gamer. It requires patience, kindness, and consideration of others. If you're going to whine about every perceived bad rule, or gripe about king-making, or just have a bad attitude when you win (or lose), tabletop gaming is probably not for you. Go try knitting.
When your group is fresh and new, it's like dating. Nobody shows their bad side. Everyone is putting on their best behavior, because this is the wooing season. But, soon, cracks in the façade appear. That guy who was jovial most of the time is starting to wrinkle whenever the dice don't go his way. That girl just can't help insulting the other players when they make a mistake, and she seems to blame the rules for her bad plays.
So, when the honeymoon is over, don't be afraid to kick someone to the curb.
Pruning the Bad Apples
Don't be afraid to talk to disruptive people. A disruptive person brings bad vibes to the group. Some are passive aggressive. Others are just aggressive. You don't have to suffer them. In fact, if you let them stay, the rest of the group suffers. Better to ask one person to leave and have four others happey, than to keep the grouch around and make everyone miserable.
You can, and should, be kind about it, of course. You don't know what makes a person be that way. They could have past traumas. But that's no reason for you to suffer current traumas. Just politely say, "We want to give you one more chance to try to have some fun at game night. Or you can bow out now. It's up to you. Nothing personal, but you bring some stress to the table that we're all trying to avoid. We just want to have fun, and you don't seem to be having any fun." If they can't shape up, you'll have to tell them to find another group.
There's no point in keeping someone in the group who is miserable, or who makes other people miserable.
Different Boards for Different Hordes
We don't all like the same games. What you don't want to do is bring games to your tabletop that other people in your group don't like. TabletopGameNight has a voting mechanism. Use it. You can, as the host of a party, select a few games, then let people vote on which one to play. Of course, you can play more than one! But this gives you an idea of what games will be played that night. It also helps you figure out what games people like, and if the group is compatible.
Different people have different tastes. Some people are still going to enjoy Monopoly. Others will hate Food Chain Magnate. But that's the beauty of TabletopGameNight. You can create a variety of groups to accommodate all those players!
I have a gaming group for just the casual players. We play games like Kingdomino and Ethnos and Machi Koro. I also have a group for the medium-weight game players, where we bring out Scythe and Xenoshyft. The hard core group plays Agricola and Twilight Imperium:4th Edition.
I also have a group for experimenters, composed of all sorts, who get together to play new stuff that looks fun.
I have another group for online folks. We plan our online tabletop game nights. We don't have a "Bringing List," but we still schedule a time and date for the get-together, and there are a ton of games available online, as I've mentioned before.
You can do the same thing, and you should. Make more game groups. You don't want to lump Aunt Margie and her Kingdomino passion in there with Uncle George and his Gloomhaven addiction. Someone is not going to be happy.
So, make groups. Make plenty of groups. Then fill them up.
The More The Merrier
Don't be afraid to expand a group, either. Once you have a good core group of players, encourage them to invite someone they think will be a match. Again, be up-front that this is a try-out, and that you're looking for compatible players. Warn, up-front, that not all people will qualify; even if you're a great person, you might not fit in with this particular gaming group.
But if you can grow the group, it can be really amazing. Now, those party games come into play. I've hosted a game night with more than 12 people! We either play a large-group game, like Werewolf or Mafia, or we split into groups and play multiple games. Having more people also increases the chance that enough people will show up to play anything. During holiday season or the summer, people might not be in town! And if you're gaming to game, you'll want to have enough on the roster to field a team. I just went all baseball. Homerun, baby!
And, always remember, this is a long-term project. Be patient with the process and with yourself. If you start to get discouraged, go online and play some games there. You can always find real-time tabletop games online, and they are worth it, even if you're playing with strangers. Most have chat interfaces, so you can get to know people all over the world and make new friends.
I hope these tips and strategies have helped you formulate a plan to get more plays at the table this year. Let me know in the comments or in the forums if you have any other ideas that have helped you fill up your tabletop game nights with quality game players.