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Jeff's Gameblog
Friday, 5 March 2004
SFBM Issues #4: Who wants to play this crap, anyway?
Let's face facts here: Star Fleet Battle Manual is an old game with an old premise. There are kids gaming out there who only know the Next Generation through syndication. Heck, original Trek was old and kitschy when I was a kid. Can a game that recreates the era of velour-and-styrofoam draw new players? SFB does okay, but in many ways SFB and Star Trek parted ways a long time ago. SFB's own track record largely powers its juggernaut nowadays.

I must admit that I would not take it well if I put together an SFBM game for Winter War and no one signed up. We're talking about a major project, with serious (for me at least) time and money to be invested. I'd like to avoid the disappointment that was my DinoWARS! game. Sure, I had 5 players, but four of them I personally knew. It's hard to count as a win the one kid who signed up on virtue of the game alone.

One obvious thing I can do to try to draw players is mkae sure I have a good write-up in the con program. For rgp's especially I have a tendency to send in filler text and write the adventure laters. That works for something like Call of Cthulhu because Call of Cthulhu sells itself. With SFBM I have to make sure to a) distinguish the game from SFB and b) convince people that SFBM is rad to the max. I can also help myself by doing up a snazzy webpage about the event and sending in a link to the Winter War website. I might be able to chat up the game at the C-U Gaming yahoo group, especially if I run an open call playtest.

Past these measures, I'm not sure what else I can do. How do I make Star Fleet Battle Manual relevant to players of other Trek games or sci-fi games in general? I guess I have an extra point of connection with SFB players and the one or two fans of Last Unicorn Games original series rpg. I'm not sure how to leverage that into actual players though.

Thinking back on the one kid who signed up for my DinoWARS! game, maybe I can extract some useful info from the experience. He signed up a little bit into the start of the session, well after I had started setting up the toys. The toys are what brought him to the table. A good centrepiece (a large planet, an asteroid field, etc) would probably help me lure in a player or two.

One other idea I have is to advertise at the con. "Star Fleet Wants You" type posters on the con info wall would kick six kinds of ass. A Klingon counterpart "For the glory of the Empire!" would be even better. Hopefully the con chairman would have no problem with me posting those. (Heck, at this point I don't even have approval to run a big floor game, so why sweat this small detail?)

Past all these ideas, I'm certain the best way to get this puppy to fly is to take the long view. If I were to commit myself to running this game for, say, the next five Winter Wars, then I would have the opportunity to cultivate some regular players. Like a newly hired coach on a losing team*, I have to approach the first few years as "building years" and take my lumps. Planning to run the game many years in a row would have the added benefit of allowing me to develop a campaign approach to the scenarios. That would be cool.

*This may be the first time I have ever employed a sports metaphor.

Posted by jrients at 1:41 PM CST
Updated: Friday, 5 March 2004 2:41 PM CST

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