Sometimes you’re preparing for that game night that’s going to be so big that you’re not certain if you even know everyone who’s coming over to your place. Other times you’re preparing a game for an event, like a convention, or someone else’s party where you’re running the game. How do you prepare for those games that are meant for a crowd of people that are not necessarily friends, but you’d like to impress them?
The best way to approach this sort of sizable game event is to look at it as a production, but also to bear in mind that it’s all meant to be a good time first, and a flashy game second. Here are five things to keep in mind.
#1: LEARN THE GAME!
This may seem obvious, but you may be surprised how many people host games, then, as everyone gathers, they start paging through the rules saying they have to touch up. Sometimes they decide to start learning a complicated game after everyone arrived. This is a waste of time and kind of lame even when it’s just your friends gathering, but when you are putting on a game for people you’ve just met, it’s unforgivable.
#2: PUT ON SOMETHING VISUAL.
At home, you’re trying to do something memorable. At a convention, you’re trying to attract players. Make sure it’s flashy. That means choosing a game that is visually pleasing and adding elements that contribute to the feel of the game. For instance, a game about racing could have a miniature bleachers section with cutout crowds on it, or a card game can have figures that represent characters in the game. Miniatures games are always visual, but don’t forget about that piece of decorative terrain that has nothing to do with the game, but sits at the border as an attention grabber.
#3: USE SOMETHING FAMILIAR TO THE PLAYERS.
Playing a game that a lot of people know helps generate interest in the first place. However, sometimes it’s fun to throw some familiarity into a game that doesn’t have it. For instance, my most successful convention game was when I ran Formula D and had each car being raced by a famous character. Each one had special rules; the Duke Boys could jump over other cars, Speed Racer could get bursts of speed, and James Bond could use spikes to attack other players’ cars. Marcelo Figueroa of Golden Distribution regularly does something very similar with the game Win or Go Home where the players play vehicle characters from the movie Cars. This attracts a lot of children to the game.
#4: PUT IN FLAIR TO IMMERSE THE PLAYERS.
It’s one thing to move the pieces around, but it’s another to feel like you are the characters. If it’s a mobster style game, fedoras and sunglasses make nice costume accessories. To use the race car example again, have a small trophy in the center that will go to the winner. For horror games, have the illumination only be candles; or, if you can’t do anything about the light, bring in dry ice for a fog effect. These add-ons can even be something people do. At the Strategicon Convention in LA, there’s a chariot game where, every time a player has to roll to see if they crash, all players chant in unison, “Flip! Flip! Flip! Flip!”
#5: KEEP IT SIMPLE.
You have limited time and your players do not want to spend the evening learning the game. Whether you are hosting at home or at a game convention, you want to jump the players right in and keep them engaged the entire time. This is not to say you can’t run a complicated game; it’s just that the more complicated it is, the more you should feed the rules over time. If it takes a bit of learning, warn them that you’ll be feeding the rules as you go along, tell them the goal, then start with the first part of turn one.
Most importantly, never forget why you’re there; to have fun. Your guests didn’t arrive to get as stressed out as you over the game, so try not to place it on them. If you forgot something or wished you had done something differently, take a breath, note it for later, and have a good time with the others. Remember, you are also a part of the fun.
Let us know some of you do to prepare for a convention or big party game in the comments below.
Featured Image: Colleen Guzman
Images: Strategicon, Los Angeles