Have you ever sat down after a game of Bolt Action buzzing with excitement, hoarse in the throat from laughing but you still can’t keep the giant smile off your face?

That is pretty much what happens to me every single time I get to play Bolt Action. The players in Perth whom I get to roll dice with are full of good-natured banter, continually encourage each other to progress in their hobby journey and focus on having fun whilst doing it.

These experiences are so much more than games. We are lucky in Perth to have some very dedicated terrain makers, great local stores, some incredible painters and some dedicated people who do all sorts of things behind the scenes that allow us to run some excellent game days and events. This community needed to be built, however, so this article will highlight three of the top tips I’ve learnt which have been critical to our success and growth as a gaming community over the last 3½ years, as well as what we have in the pipeline coming up.

Back in 2018, I was playing Bolt Action with a group of gamers in one of the stores. As there were 5 of us and a couple of additional players we knew of, the question was raised about running an event. Everyone wanted to play in something that was bigger than a pickup game but had no idea how to do it. I volunteered to help pull something simple together based on some prior knowledge and experience from other areas and we were underway.

This event was a litmus test of sorts and drew more people into contact with other players in their local area, resulting in a successful post-event follow up within two club locations. It is important to understand that this point, crucially, three and a half years ago, is the core reason which reinvigorated the Bolt Action scene in Perth. We acknowledge the foundation of hobbyists before us and the hard work they put in, but this is where it picked up again. Ten players who simply wanted a fun day of playing games.

This first event had two things about it that resonated with players. It was not competitive and therefore held no pressure of winning, and it was fun which made the players come back for more. So, I set about starting to ask questions of clubs, other more experienced event organisers and players the simple question ‘What do you want to see more of for Bolt Action in Perth?’. This led to several things happening very, very quickly. Within 6 months I was partnering with other event organisers to run Bolt Action events as part of well-established events. Within 9 months I was partnering with representatives in local Clubs to run events at their locations and we’d grown from 10 players to averaging 25-30 who weren’t necessarily the same each time.

Tip Number 1

Creating a community takes time and it takes effort. Get 2 or 3 dedicated people to help split up that workload so it isn’t all on you. You will notice I use the ‘we’ and ‘our’ terms frequently in the article and that is deliberate!

Three years on and we’ve run several very different types of events averaging between 5 or 6 per year. Tank Wars, Firefight, Narrative battles, non-competitive events and 1 or 2 competitive events. Each of these has had differing restrictions, army construction limits, varied mission selection, themes or even special locations like a military barracks mess hall. Our player base does have a natural rotation due to ‘fly in, fly out’ work schedules, but we have a player pool estimated at 45 if I could ever get them all in one place at the same time! After each event, the most valued element of player engagement is the feedback loop. This helped me (and the informal support team l created) to keep track of what worked well, what didn’t, how we could improve and what we should drop.

To give you a taste of the variety; we’ve played 200 point firefights, 750 point escalations, 1000 and 1250 point games (with and without dice caps), doubles events at 500 and 750, 5000 point tank war games and this doesn’t include the narrative battles such as the Lorraine campaign in 15mm (8 players company level) or the massive Siege of Budapest game weighing in at 16,500 points!

Tip Number Two

Don’t stop asking your community what they want just because the current event is over. Use that time to grab inspiration for the next idea and don’t be afraid to try something new.

It may sound a bit obvious to some, but we also try hard to advertise outside of Facebook or Club Discord channels as well as within them. The majority of our community are on social media channels, but not everybody uses these and in fact sometimes a flyer on the fridge gets more of a look in than a Facebook event depending on the target player!

What you should consider though if you are using digital channels posting up the players pack, event days or information, is to check every 2 days or so. Questions may get posted asking to clarify intent, wording or logistics for the day. Consider getting a few people around you who are willing to pick up some of the easier questions, distribute event information or locations of clubs (in fact club members are great champions of this).

Also try to be mindful of any shows, conventions, open days, craft fairs or in fact any gathering of people (virtually or otherwise) who may have some sort of cross over with tabletop gaming or history. This coverage is less about gaining immediate players to the community and all about visibility and simply saying ‘hey, we are doing some cool stuff, we’d love to have you down to visit’.

Tip Number Three

Take every opportunity to advertise and tell people about what your community is doing. The more visible you can make what you do, the more likely you will hit growth and engagement targets.

I think it is fair to say that your local community is particularly healthy when new people are stepping up to run something or take part in the planning, support or delivery of existing events. It shows that they are engaged and want to participate in what you are doing. The best thing to do is say yes because the variety will help draw more visibility to what’s going on.

So, what do we have planned for Perth 2022? Well, like most of the world we must be mindful of the current pandemic and its impacts. A lot of the events or club meetings must put contingency plans in place, which means any event we do run could drop on attendees, or dramatically increase as players seek that social face to face (mask to mask probably) interaction. In April 2022, the Outpost 6030 club will be running “Enigma”, which uses an interesting secondary objective mechanic where players attempt to collect clues to decipher the Enigma for an in-game benefit during the next round. Planning has started for a follow up narrative battle with the Rockingham Historical Gamers as part of Operation Compass as we play through a few notable battles in North Africa, with themed desert boards and terrain. And there are rumours on the wind about planning a local historical wargame show…

I originally thought this article would be quite easy to write. I’ve got a good overall view of hobby activities in Western Australia, I’m active on the local social media groups and I have a decent grasp on events being run as the primary organiser for our lovable riff-raff. But as I started writing, there was more detail than there was paper. There is so much more I could go into about the Perth community, what we do, how we operate etc. but when I looked at everything I’d started to note down, those three points floated to the top. If you get those right, you should see good engagement, growth and players having fun pushing around toy soldiers. And that is kind of the point. After all, it is just a game.

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2 comments
  1. Daniel,
    That was a great feat of communication. The dedication to the hobby and the thought put into the “tips” was fantastic. I run the Facebook GRoup “Wargamers” with over 15,000 members and we would welcome any or all of your fellow gamers to have a wee look at it. Warmest regards and thanks for the fantastic read – Jim O’Neill.

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