I've made passing mention of the fellow on BGG who got in contact with me to start up a game group here in town. I wanted to take some time to talk about the group and some of the things I've learned through the early growing process.
We started the group in mid-September, so I think 3 months is a good time to expound upon what I've learned. Things started really small, usually only 3 or 4 people, but we had a good time. The storeowner got behind us, and continues to promote it to his customers which is a great boost. We've had a few people join us through that, and others through meetup. As a group, we have a lot of different tastes in games, so finding something that works for everyone can be a challenge. I've taken the approach of "I'll play anything at least once." It helps ease tensions when you have a group of people who are open to anything. The downside of that, no one wants to be the one to make a decision. Since I'm the "leader" (I use leader loosely, I just try to organize things, and make sure people are having fun.) I tend to suggest games and try to keep things moving. It usually works well, but sometimes you just have to be flexible.
Game selection and variety are big keys to success. I have a very nice Costco tote bag full of games that I bring to game night. Currently it has the following games in it: Seasons, Ticket to Ride, High Society, For Sale, Incan Gold, Tsuro, Fleet, No Thanks, Coloretto, Martian Dice, Lost Cities, and 7 Wonders. It's a good blend of short and long games, a good player range 2-8, and a good mix of themes and mechanics. I'm always open to playing games other people bring, but these present some reliable options for people to enjoy.
Another important aspect is splitting up the group. This past week we had 11 people, so the group had to split into 3. There were 5 of us who wanted to play Airlines Europe, so we did, and then the other 6 split into 4 and 2 to play Last Night on Earth and the Star Trek Deckbuilding game. Due to the timing of these games, we never got a chance to mix the groups, but there's always future meetings. Other times we've had 7, so that means 4-3 unless you want a big game of 7 Wonders. When that happens it's all about being flexible, and making sure people have a good time.
I've been talking with the store owner to try to get more people involved, so we'll see what happens. Just by being there, we get people walking by and watching what's going on. As you look to build a public gaming group, have patience. It takes time to get the word out. Work with your local game stores to drive up attendance. Be flexible with the games you play, and be willing to play just about anything once. If you try it and don't like it, that's ok. Stay positive, and try to bring in your friends and family if at all possible. Most of all, have fun and be positive. A smile goes a long way towards making people feel welcome.