Making something out of nothing

Hi, my name is Nitz and I’m a Ronan of the gaming world.

About the only positive thing that comes out of not having a local gaming store is that you can buy your miniatures and games for cheap, without any of the guilt.  Other than that, it’s kind of miserable.  No one would deny that saving $15 on a $50 game is fantastic, unless of course you never get to play it.  No local store means no helpful staff to point out new games you might like, or even let you try them prior to buying.   No store means no spot for local gamers to congregate and meet each other.  Further, should you meet a potential gamer, no local store means no safe spot to meet up.  If your potential gaming buddy is a lemon[1], he at least knows your phone number and may even know your home address.   No local store also means no game nights or weekend tournaments that you can attend that don’t require a massive outlay of time and/or money.   It also means no demos, not painting classes, and no display of the latest and greatest in new game shiny-ness.

As I said, my name is Nitz, and I’m a Ronan of the gaming world.  I love Warmachine and board games, but I’ve never had a local gaming store to play them in (or a club for many of you non-Americans).   My choices were to give up on gaming and do things people around here actually love to do: sitting, hunting, darts, and drinking Busch Lights, or try to manufacture a gaming group out of thin air.  I choose the later, with varying degrees of success.  This series of articles is going to be about how I have tried to fashion a gaming group out of thin air.   My hope is that is might provide some insight and ideas to those readers of this sight who might have a similar plight to me.  I also hope it might make some of you more fortunate gamers realize how important and valuable your local gaming store is.

But let me back up first.  To get there, indulge me as I tell you where I started[2].  I discovered gaming stores and real games back in 1997 at VEISHA.  VEISHA is a big festival held at Iowa State University in Ames each spring.  I was down from my college visiting friends, and happened by the colorful storefront of Mayhem[3], full of superhero figures.  I’d always liked comics, but never collected them because I’m too cheap (or they’re too expensive).  I had a bit of time to kill, so I walked inside. We never had a comic book store in my hometown, so it intrigued me.  I never made it to the comics.

As I walked in and looked to my right I was met with a dazzling display of Games Workshop goodness.  I saw 40k and fantasy miniatures by the hundreds, and I was hooked.  I really didn’t know what to make of it all, but one thing I love doing is finding out about things.  I’m not kidding you when I tell you I went back to my dorm that night and did my first honest to God Internet research on a topic.[4]  What I saw was amazing.  The only “real” game I had played to that point was Axis and Allies, and my friends and I had played that so much that we’d felt that we’d pretty much cracked the game[5] assuming the Axis didn’t roll heavy bombers.  This game seemed to have everything I had been looking for, plus a hobby aspect that I grew to love.  Long story short, I embarked down the GW path for the next 13 years.

I actually never lived in a place with a very good gaming store.  In college we had a comic book/game store but its support of gaming was laissez faire at best.  I was able to get my brother hooked[6] and so when we’d both be home we’d battle.  I eventually took a job teaching in my hometown, so I went from marginal gaming store to no gaming store.  I did get a few buddies involved, and over the course of the first ten years of the new millennium I even hit a few tournaments around the United States and even one in Canada.  However, most of my hobby was looking online and painting.  I also go sidetracked a lot by WoW and Rugby.  Not that surprising considering how little opportunities I had to game I suppose.

In 2010, I made the switch over to Warmachine for a whole host of reasons that I won’t go into now[7].  While exciting, the biggest problem with this switch was I knew exactly ZERO people who played the game.  I was sure I could convert my brother and my main Warhammer buddy, but one lived in Italy and the other had moved to Egypt, so that wasn’t going to help much.  Additionally, I was now married and had a child on the way.  This meant that traveling around to tourneys to play was out, at least for the near future.

What I needed was to get a community going locally.  It wasn’t going to be the biggest.  It wasn’t going to be challenging for Mayhem cups now, or maybe ever.  What it could be though, was a group of people I could play Warmachine and other games with.  Despite not having the all the benefits a store, brings I wanted to find a way to expand the hobby I enjoy.  What I hope to do in this series is lay out how I went from being the only Warmachine player I knew, to having a group of guys that manage to play occasionally and hold two invite tournaments a year.  This may not seem like much, but in a town where Busch Light is the most commonly ordered drink at a Martini Bar and most people’s fantasy/Sci-fi experiences start and end at the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars movies, I’m pretty happy.  As I said, I hope it might give someone out there some insight on how to go from excited isolated gamer, to member of a gaming group.

[1] A fantastic insult used extensively by my Aussie Rugby buddies

[2] It sounds like I’m giving you a choice to indulge me or not, and I am.  If you don’t care about how I got here, skip all that garbage and go to the last paragraph

[3] The Original, and predecessor to the one of MoM fame

[4] I know I know, but listen it was all pretty new back in ’97.  My first e-mail was sent just 6 months earlier

[5] “Giant British Navy on Turn 2 for the win, Alex”

[6] In no small part because he went to ISU was able to play a bunch at Mayhem

[7] Which probably comes as a shock based on how long this thing is getting

Author: Nitz

Nitz is a man of many interests. His journey into nerd games began with a fateful purchase of Axis and Allies from Toys R Us, but got in full swing on an even more fateful stop on a whim to Mayhem in Ames during VEISHA '97. He enjoys all manner of games, movies, video games, professional wrestling, and sports. Most of his hobby time is spent in painting and theorymachining, as he lives in gamer no-mans-land, but he's working on that!

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