The Subcritical Mass Dilemma

Yesterday’s Call of Cthulhu tournament at Black Moon Games did not go off, unfortunately. We had three players show up, including myself, which felt like just one shy of anything that felt like an actual event. There was a quick game of trying out some new decks, but that was it. A bummer for sure, as scheduling conflicts didn’t allow for the otherwise reliable fourth player to make it, and people who might have come did not.

I get that when a game like this is just getting started in a game community — and in our case, two distinct, separate game communities on opposite sides of Vermont — it’s tough to draw people in. It’s like learning any complex game, and then add in that it’s highly adversarial with a predisposition to “gotcha!” plays. But there has to be a way to do it, because people do get into these games, and I bet that more of them do so because of a friend or new acquaintance than buying it out of the blue, as I did.

Gaining our fourth player was a real milestone, because it made asking the local stores to host Cthulhu events less asking for a favor in case someone opted to show up and more stating confidently, “Yes, we can get this many players reliably” — albeit reliably when all our schedules line up.

Now, the next step is another player, and another player and another, until the point that we can hold an event, or maybe even a regular get-together, that doesn’t hinge on every single person being available every single time. I bet you it’s going to come from making one to one connections with interested people, rather than sticking up fliers or Facebook events. It’s also going to come from figuring out how to teach this game by playing well without accidentally rules-lawyering a new player into not accomplishing anything at all.

But being on store schedules helps. Having events listings to share on social media helps. Having events at the regional game events, which is absolutely coming up next, helps. I’ve tried the targeted “hey, let’s try this game together” approach in the past, which really turned out to be lessons in how not to teach the game, based on how no one developed any interest in playing. Having improved as a player and a teacher since then, as I did draw in two new players on my own in the last year, maybe that means it’s time to try again with a little more benefit from hindsight to apply.

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