Good Times, Bad Times

SFX>: Knock, knock Me (opening door cautiously): Yes? Reader: Mister Boydell? Me (suspiciously): Yes? Reader: Mister ? Me: Yes? Reader (expectantly): I’m here about your latest article? Me (relieved): Oh yes! (laughs) Right! (opens door wider; Tony is in his underwear) I’ll just go get something decent on. (starts walking away, then turns) Want to…

SFX>: Knock, knock

Me (opening door cautiously): Yes?

Reader: Mister Boydell?

Me (suspiciously): Yes?

Reader: Mister Tony Boydell?

Me: Yes?

Reader (expectantly): I’m here about your latest article?

Me (relieved): Oh yes! (laughs) Right! (opens door wider; Tony is in his underwear) I’ll just go get something decent on. (starts walking away, then turns) Want to come in for a moment?

Reader: Okay.

Me (suddenly serious): Just don’t piss in the Yuccas like last time, okay?

(Tony points theatrically then walks upstairs. There is a long pause punctuated by scuffling noises. Readers mooch about the hallway straightening pictures, looking in the plant pots, and checking for dust along the Dado rail)

Reader (sniffing the air): Mmmm – lamb tikka masala?

Me (coming down the stairs in a business-like suit): Okay, then – let’s go!

You Know I’ve Had My Share
Welcome once more, dearest wriggling tadpoles in the Pool of Tranquillity, to my world. Today, I shall be mostly banging on about Magic Clubs and the essential criteria therein where-to-fore-why, etc. Given that I get to attend at least THREE (count ’em on one partly-mutilated hand, folks) clubs during my weekly sojourn (ooh! a bit of foreign – classy!), I thought it would be appropriate to revisit the essential qualities that make them work – for without said clubs, we would have to revert to meeting in peoples’ houses, and I’m not sure I want you eating my Pringles and drinking my coffee, thankyou very muchly.

So what is it that makes ’em good? What separates the "must attend" club from the "visit toothless, insane grandparent and spend the evening wiping up poo every time, if given the choice" club? The bullet-points follow thick and, indeed, fast (depending on your modem’s configuration, obviously):

When My Woman Left Home For Another Man

Obviously the ‘location’ plays a prime role in the success or failure of a games club. It’s hard to imagine people frequenting a club that is still only a concept in the mind of an ambitious player, a club that exists in terms of time, but not actually in any spatial sense, e.g., one second in the past, or it exists only if you don’t look at it except from the corner of one eye. The location should be:

– Reasonably central, to maximise customer catchment potential (CCP*) without being ridiculous, i.e., the earth’s core is about as central as things get, but try getting a bus at 10.30 p.m.

– Easy to get to, i.e., via road or rail. Expecting regular attendees to ‘fly in’ every Thursday, or engage in weeks of intensive mountaineering / scuba-diving training to simply get to the bar is unreasonable in the extreme.

– Well lit (though not ACTUALLY on fire), ventilated, and with sufficient sanitary facilities (pissing into a bucket, or liberal distribution of sample bottles / spittoons is generally frowned upon)

– Of sufficient size – nothing puts a player off more than having to perform an eight-player draft in the back seat of a rusting Trabant, or trying to call a Judge over when he’s actually in a different country.

– Legal. This often rules out such places as the inside of the gold vault at Fort Knox, on the naked belly of a Filipino house-boy, or the outside lane of the nearest motorway (though that would be quite good for access).

– Close to refreshment facilities. This is a very sensible criterion and I can’t think of anything stupid to say about it, so let’s move swiftly along.

"It’s good to be regular," my grandma used to say – I believe she was talking about defaecation in the original context, but it transfers quite well as an analogy. (Hey! I made a sort of pun joke! Defaecation and ANALogy – geddit?**)

There is no point in going to the trouble of establishing a gathering if people have no idea WHEN the gathering is supposed to occur – this means that keeping the playtimes, enciphered, in a safe buried in your garden is a BAD idea. Add to this the fact that the time should be fixed and follow a regular pattern if you want to avoid weekly phone calls about, "Is it on today?" or "When is it?" or "Mr. Boydell, if you persist in stealing my clients underwear, we shall be taking the matter up with the Authorities. Good day to you -click- brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…."

Also, consider holding the club during the week instead of the obligatory weekend – think of the advantages:

* It won’t clash with big events and tournaments
* Venues are cheaper to use during the week
* I work away during the week and am more likely to attend
* Little annoying children with Pokemon decks and a persistence to rival the limpet will more likely be tucked up with a few volumes of homework, asleep, or out stealing cars / dealing crack.

So you got a venue and you’ve got the time. People have arrived, raided the mini-bar for tequila and Warninks Advocat – what now? People mooch about, some trade, some play games of Magic, others just see how long they can go without blinking. And the guy at the back is trying to eat a double quarter-pound beefburger without tipping mayonnaise on his work shirt.

Is this a picture of a healthy, thriving assembly?

I’ll help you out: The answer is NO!

The club now needs a direction – a focus! What you need are tournaments – preferably with prize support and sanctioning (so those ratings can trampoline).

Nothing raises a player’s game more than some healthy competition – the chance to truly test your skills in the gladiatorial arena, to chase the rabbit of triumph around the dog-track of ambition***


You should remember, of course, that if your meet will be confined within certain time parameters, i.e., don’t expect people to bring duvets and snuggle down for a 48-hour session! Some of us have work in the morning and need our duvets there instead, you know.

Oh, and you might like to get at least one qualified Judge involved.

Good Competitive Formats (under the Arena or FNM umbrella, I guess):
– 6-8 Player Draft
– Sealed
– Block Constructed
– Standard
– Time-bound Multiplayer, i.e., highest life-total after three hours, etc.

Bad Competitive Formats:
– Single-player draft
– Hermetically-Sealed (starters are embedded in eighteen inches of toughened perspex)
– 100 person multiplayer where everyone starts with 1,000 life
– Strip-Magic (take one damage, remove one piece of clothing)

So you’ve read this far. Great. You will have noticed that, when addressing you (the readers) in this article, I’m taking the stance of addressing just one person… (insert own joke here)… and that’s a deliberate ploy, because I’m assuming that you, as singletons, will go away and form your own clubs.

So this paragraph is to reinforce another vital criterion for your regular, accessible, sanctioned jamboree – that someone has to take charge of the whole thing and steer it through calm seas, storms, routine inspections by the Coast Guard****, and guest appearances by Sonny Bono, Cesar Romero, Jimmy Osmond, Ginger Rogers, and Ethel Merman*****

You’re in charge, buddy (just don’t ask people to call you "Sir" or "Fuhrer" – veeeeeeeery sensitive issue, that)

Now this may seem like an odd thing to suggest – but a healthy, thriving Magic club can’t survive without some other activities going on around it. This keeps boredom at bay and allows for cross-fertilisation – sort of diversifying the mana pool, if you want a vaguely biological analogy (there’s that almost rude word again!).

Good Alternative Activities to Run In Parallel With
– Role-playing games such as AD&D, Stormbringer, Star Wars, etc.
– Board games such as Settlers of Catan, Tikal, Euphrate & Tigris, etc.
– Other card games such as LOTFR, Jyhad (much better name, isn’t it), and Coppertwaddle

Bad Alternative Activities to Run In Parallel With Magic:
– Pro Baseball
– Laughing at Netrunner and Battletech players until your nuts fall off
– Board games like "Orgy" or "Chemical Abuse – Get High With the Family"
– A full fox hunt, using the tables as jumps

Which kind of brings me on to the final ingredient in this hobby-esque gumbo…

Hopefully, all of the other elements will bring a full mix of players at all levels into your club. Exclude no one, not even that guy with the warts on the end of his warts. All are welcome (especially if they’re female, blond, and just eighteen, Officer).

I Still Don’t Even Care
Well, there’s enough grist to well-and-truly jam the mill so off you pop, my ticklish swans, and I’ll speak with you again soon.

Ciao babies,

Tony Boydell

* Never to be confused with PCP which is, frankly, scary in the extreme.

** I can wait. I’ve got lots of time

*** Or something like that, anyway

**** That’ll be the ‘Wizards of the Coast’ Guard then ;-P

***** Sing along with me now: "The Lo-ove Boat! Soon will be making another run. The Lo-ove Boat promises something for everyone. Set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance…"