Community: Your Hobby Home

In my article last night I talked about change. Today I want to talk about the stabilizing force of the miniatures world. Whether it’s a new game, a new edition, or a new release,  community is what keeps you grounded through that change.

Why Community is Important

Miniatures games are more than just a set of rules. I consider a compelling miniatures game to have three distinct parts: a rules set, a narrative, and a community. Let’s use Warmachine as an example. The rules set simply defines what actually counts as a game of Warmachine. The narrative encompasses the model sculpts, the army configuration, and the “fluff.” The individuals who put the game on the table are the community. I consider these to be the three pillars of wargaming.

There are gradients  to each of these three pillars. Some players choose games based on competitive rules sets, while others see rules mechanics and interactions as an afterthought. Games that have significant narrative elements or field breathtaking models draw the attention of another group of players. Again, some people give the models and story little to no consideration. Where a game lands on these scales can vary from game to game, player to player and still be a good, compelling game.

The third gradient has to be community. The scale here goes from “Overwhelmingly Positive” to “Toxic AF.” In my opinion, a game cannot be a good, compelling game with a toxic community. Community is the central force that drives the success of a miniatures game both at the local and global levels. Even apathetic communities will drive away players despite the rules and/or lore being perfect matches to that player’s tastes. Any player base that is negative will ultimately disintegrate while that games that flourish do so on the back of their communities.

Maintaining Community Health

Boy, I wish I had a perfect little answer for how to maintain a healthy community. If there was a one liner that put all the truth on this topic in a nutshell, it would probably be the Golden Rule of wargaming. I’m not smart enough to tell you that. I have a few ideas rattling around in my head, so you will have to make do with these.

  • Remember why we play games. The point of all games is to have fun, but there is more to it than that. Some of us need creative release. Others need that spark of competition. Many of us go to games as an escape, a refuge from the stresses and cares of real life. Games should be that happy respite from the to and fro of daily life. I need it. You need it. We all need it.
  • Be excellent. This builds on the previous point. Being excellent can mean having a solid mechanical grasp on the rules. It can mean having an amazingly beautiful army. We all have something different we can contribute to the game just like we all get something from it. Whatever good you bring to the table, bring your best.
  • Be understanding. We all have our weaknesses in addition to our strengths. A lot of us are rough around the edges. Sometimes life gets us down. Sometimes the dice fail us. Sometimes we struggle to be our best. Sometimes our best feels like it sucks. And that’s ok. Any given day it could be you, or it could be me, so when you see the player across the table getting weighed down by something, put yourself in their shoes and empathize a little.
  • Be honest in a thoughtful, positive way. There is a lot to unpack here, but I’ll keep it brief. Take time to listen. Take a little time to think about what you are saying. Say what you mean and don’t sugar coat things. Some things are negative, but don’t ignore them or deny they exist. Look for ways to build up others and move forward from those negative things.
  • Be inclusive. A community will never grow without new players. New players will never join a community that excludes them. The best way to grow a community is by welcoming other people to partake in your game. Be willing to engage the occasional passer by and talk to them about what’s happening on the table. Be willing to help the rookies out with their starter box games. Also know that not everyone wants to play your game. You should always let other people make a decision instead of letting your attitude decide for them.

Who is your Community?

I see community as all the social circles that create the Venn diagram of your life. You could also think of them as little social ecosystems or biomes. I think the second illustrates the importance of understanding who is your community. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how we all relate to each other and how much we need each other to be mutually successful.

Your local meta

This defines the group of people that you play a certain game with. They are the folks you interact most with as a miniatures gamer. They are important because they decide what your experience with a game system is going to be like.

Your local game store

This is the place your local meta probably meets. Your local store supports your community with product and serves as the physical focal point of your meta. I understand some people have “basement metas,” and there is nothing wrong with that. Local stores are extremely important for advertising games and growing communities around them, though.

Local stores also bridge the gap between the various aspects of the hobby. I think this is especially important. Multiple metas can exist out of the same store, and the store depends on them to be successful. By extension, your meta depends on those other metas to be successful. One of the reasons why I can run large WMH events with plenty of terrain is due to my local MTG and 40k metas. Turns out if you have 100 people at a shop for Friday Night Magic, you probably also have room for eight to ten 4′ x 4′ tables. We all get to share an awesome amount of table space because our shop has resources for that space. The shop has those resources because of the combined revenue it draws from the various metas. It is a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship.

If your meta is centered around the painting side of miniatures, then the local shop is even more essential to you. Having a common workspace with your other painting enthusiasts is a big deal, as is easy access to paints, supplies, and models.

Your regional/national meta

These are the people you see mostly at events, tournaments, or conventions. Even though you might not see these people more than a couple times a year, the principles of growing and maintaining a strong community apply. After all, you need a lot of people to enjoy being together so you can binge on miniatures games for 14 hours at least one day a year. Or painting, like my wife did at MuseOn Con. There is a lot of investment that goes into traveling somewhere to enjoy a miniatures game, so be a player that makes it worth the trip for your friends.

Well, I hope that was constructive and worth reading. There certainly is a lot that could be said, and I have a lot more to learn for sure. What makes your community special? I’d love to hear about it. Comment on this post or drop me a line at Peace and love to all y’all, and let’s keep those dice rolling!


Micah Walker

Wargamer, miniature painter, and now blogger for Midwest Wargaming. I love crunching numbers, and I can nearly guarantee that my articles will be the most boring, but you will learn something, damn it!

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