Building a society of wargamers

I know, I know, there’s very little we can reliably generalize from the Great Wargaming Survey, but I think if there’s anything to take away from it, it’s that wargaming is a great social hobby for most. But outside of the UK, where to the rest of the world it seems there’s a club in every pub, it’s not always easy to find link-minded spirits and kindred souls, or a bit more prosaic: a guy or girl to play a good game with. Luckily, social media has a role to play here. The Netherlands, where I live at walking distance from WSS HQ, is a densely populated, small country, where, as far as I always knew, wargamers are (or were) hard to find. Enter Facebook… I knew a few people who enjoyed wargaming in this country, and they knew a few, and those people knew a few. So we started a Facebook group and now, a few years in, we’ve got a thriving group with nearly 600 members. This time I KNOW we haven’t got nearly all Dutch wargamers on there because I see other Dutchmen on other Facebook groups for specific games and they haven’t been seduced to the Dark Side yet. It’s a work in progress…

Formal clubs - with a board, a place to meet and standard meeting hours - are rare in the Netherlands as well, though they do exist. I think we’ve discussed the reasons before and they vary between ‘independent-minded Dutchmen need no clubs’ (even though this country - population 17M - harbors several hundred-thousand clubs, societies and foundations for absolutely everything you can do together), to more practical reasons such as high rent and a lack of easily available club spaces. That situation does mean it’s harder to get from Facebook friends to real friends - apart from making concrete appointments for games - as there are no clubs to scope out and see what those people are like. To circumvent that, we started organizing bi-monthly ‘wargame-beers’, a meetup to chat about the hobby, later extended with a game, organized at WSS HQ and dinner. I think it’s worked a charm! In fact, it’s worked so well, that the Netherlands now boasts a yearly (well, we hope) wargaming convention in PolderCon, and we’ve just had our second yearly Big Project, inspired by Guy’s Ligny plans. In 2014, we had a four, if I recall correctly, battles from the 1814 campaign with some two dozen participants collecting and painting new armies, and this August we played the 100-days (doh) campaign with a similar number of people. My modest contribution consisted of several regiments of Piré’s cavalry division for Quatre-Bras (unfortunately, they spent most of the day not doing much due to pretty atrocious command rolls on my part). After two such events, it seems clear that a communal project is an excellent way to motivate wargamers to get started, and to meet new people as well, first online and then in person to admire new armies, to have a chat and to roll some dice! The topic for 2016 has already been established. Three dozen Dutch gamers are heading for the Southern Campaigns of the American War of Indepence. More on that another time!

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