Polymath Tabletop

That All Important First Step – Making Friends

Now, I think I would be fairly safe in assuming that anyone reading this, already has an interest in tabletop gaming. If you’re not interested in it (yet), then I would like you to get in touch and let me know how you got here (I might need to adjust my advertising). But let’s assume you are already interested.

Now, in the last article, I touched on the fact that there is no “best” game. There will definitely be a best game for you personally, but there isn’t one overall “best” game. The trick to really enjoying this hobby is to find that “best game for you”. Now most people get into the hobby through a couple of consistent ways; Friends or Other Media. If your friends are recommending this hobby, that’s great. You will already have someone to help guide you through the process of starting out. If you’re coming to this after seeing some other media, be it a game like Total War Warhammer or Vermintide, or an interview with a notable figure like Henry Cavill or Ed Sheeran, then you will likely be in for a more difficult time.

The first step to getting into any hobby is to find your people. Very few hobbies are purely solo endeavours, majority of the time, you will need to engage with other people. This isn’t a bad thing, as making friends as part of this adventure is a good thing, and will really help you along your road to hobby greatness. These friends could be in-person at a store or event, or even online friends, that purely exist in a digital format. Until you run into them at a tournament, and end up discussing the finer points of your armies over a couple of drinks.

I strongly believe that the community of a game is much more important than any ruleset or models. It is the community that will support each other and push them to excel at whatever their chosen game/aspect that they want to excel at. When I think back over my many years of playing games, I can remember some of the interesting situations that occurred on the table, but mostly I remember the people.

Back in 2016, I travelled to Amsterdam as part of an Australian team for the Warmachine and Hordes World Team Championship (WTC). It was my first time travelling overseas specifically for a tournament, and I was absolutely ecstatic about it. I wasn’t one of the better players in the groups, Australia had sent three teams, and the other two teams were definitely the better two, but I was just pumped to be there. I knew some of the other guys that went over, but a few I hadn’t really met before, apart from meeting briefly at a tournament or two. Now, because Australia is on the opposite side of the world compared to Europe and USA (the two major tournament hubs), it has been a tradition that everyone goes over about a week in advance to make a proper holiday of it. We were staying at a hostel and by the time I got there, some of the others had already found a hardware store, got some boards cut, and were smashing out practice games. The next week was amazing, despite my teammates’ abominable snoring. Each day was taken up by spending time with other people who were just as obsessed about the same thing as I was, playing games, taking tactics over meals, and debating ideas over drinks. We ended up meeting up with both the English, Irish and Polish teams over the course of the week and hanging out with them as well. 

Eventually we all got to the venue, and I was blown away. To put it in perspective, the biggest event I had ever been to was about 50 people. Here, in one place, were almost 400 people, who were all here for the same thing, to play Warmachine. One of my mates noticed me staring dumbstruck and mentioned that we had a warm up game against the English scheduled for the afternoon, as part of Australian WTC tradition. Whilst I was playing a warm up game, a member of the Chinese team started watching. After chatting it turned out that we had already been talking to each other for several months on one of the forums we both posted on. We grabbed a drink and ended up spending a couple of hours discussing the finer points of the game and our armies.

Over the course of the rest of the tournament, I had several amazing experiences. I played six games over the course of the tournament, and played against six people I never would have met. We laughed, we cried, we rejoiced and we lamented the games, decisions, and most importantly, the dice that resulted in me personally going 3-3 at the end of the weekend. I was pretty happy with that outcome, but what was even better was another Australian team managed to tank everything that was thrown at them and emerge victorious!

But that is an experience I would never have had, if not for being invested in the hobby. When you start playing tabletop games, you are joining a worldwide community of people who are interested in the exact same things as you are. I watch videos made by Swedes, Americans, Canadians and Britons, and have played games on most continents on Earth (I still need South America, Asia and Antartica), and have played against people from all walks of life. And that is the beauty of this hobby. There are people everywhere who are interested in the same thing as you, and nothing brings people together like a common interest.

So, how do you make friends with people? There are a multitude of different books, shows, guides, tips, experts, and lifestyle columns that try and teach people this. It has been something that I have always struggled with as well, and is something that can be intimidating to even the most capable person. But I can let you in on a secret that I have uncovered, that has helped me greatly.

Be Yourself.

I won’t lie and say that if you are yourself, then making friends is suddenly easy and your new problem will be too many friends. But, I can attest that if you are comfortable with yourself and who you are, it is easier to make friends. The important thing to remember is everyone you meet in this hobby, well most people, are part of the hobby because they genuinely want to be. 

Very few people are forced to participate (my wife is one, but that is another article), meaning that most people want to be there, and want to be playing or talking about what they are passionate about. Passion is an emotion that can trump almost anything, and there is nothing more convincing than talking to someone who is truly passionate about something. Now, don’t let that passion become obsession, because talking to someone who is completely obsessed can be very off putting, but healthy passion can make even the most shy person talkative.

The other benefit of being yourself is you will find your people. Not the people who tolerate you, but the people who enjoy your company, thoughts and views on a particular subject. In larger communities it may get a bit clique-y (think highschool all over again), but this can help newcomers find the people that they will engage best with.

Are you a powergamer, who only cares about optimising your army and playstyle? Go talk with those people over there watching the top tables. Are you more of a hobbyist, who would prefer to talk about the pros and cons of different paint lines? There is a group of people hovering around the display cabinets. There are tons of different groups that will form when a community hits a certain size, and you will definitely find the people you fit in with best.

The most important thing to remember, is at the end of the day, we all enjoy our hobby in our own way. When you can find someone who enjoys it in the same, or a similar way to you, then you have just made a friend, they just don’t know it yet.

Until next time.


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