Camp Zama: How to Make the Gamers` Gatherings Bigger and Better
Screenshot from one of the computer games we play sometimes.
by Bruce McBain
Editors Note: The Gamers` Gatherings take place at Camp Zama in
Kanagawa Prefecture. They are always
announced at Warhammer 40K Japan. James Keller runs them and donates
his time to make them a fun
experience for all. You can find James teaching newbies how to make
terrain or how to storm a ruin in Mordheim.
Regarding starter games: Trinity, Silent Death, Mordheim, 40K, etc are big
investments and a lot of inertia has to be overcome before someone new
will get started. Rules to buy (the easy part) and learn (the hard part),
figures to buy (easy) and paint (hard), and finding people to play with,
are some of what it takes to get someone to the table. Set up a few
figures or ships to give people a feel for the system.
James is the man with the training and experience of running ³demo²
games, designed to entice people to spend their hard-earned money and
valuable time on a great hobby.
Here are some tips from a rank amateur like myself:
Camp Zama Invitations:
³You want some of this, big boy?² for example. If you see some people
standing around, grab them and coerce them into a quickie.
Take a dive:
The second rule of demo gaming is ³Let `em win.² What? Yes, let the
13-year old and his mom hand your forces a humiliating defeat. If that
brings him to the next GG armed with a freshly-painted Eldar army- then,
you can kick his little behind around the table. BUT you have to get them
hooked first, and that is to let them win. If you can¹t arrange for them
to win, then play up the parts where they did well and emphasize that you
were lucky this time. Yes, become a game-whore!
Camp Zama Taunting:
Don¹t underestimate the value of scorning someone¹s forces to incite
them to try to thrash your army/fleet/warband to within an inch of it¹s life.
All in fun, of course, light-hearted mocking can make a game more
interesting and rivalry between established players or groups
drama and intensity.
We all enjoy it when our bed-partner is shrieking out with pleasure so get
excited and let the room know that you have just destroyed (or have had
destroyed) the big warship/troll/Warwalker.
Making simple hills and structures is a quick way to make your game at
least twice as interesting. Two forces fighting over a blank table is as
exciting as Saturday night bingo. You may have noticed the Mechwarrior
table loaded with industrial buildings, ruins, and foliage and 4 kids and
two adults shouting about blowing things up. Further rant to follow.
Yeah, baby, yeah! Talk to people about what they plan to do at the
next GG and warm them up to the idea of playing whatever you are hungering to
Some choice phrases and veiled threats may be just the thing to
instigate a game.
Reduce `down time¹.
Most games have a turn-based sequence so one player sits on his butt
waiting for the other person to finish their move. By explaining and
commenting on what you are doing in your turn you keep them involved. Ask
them questions about why they think you are moving your rangers into those
woods. Keep their interest up and focused on the game.
Some games are too complex to take in at one time so don¹t hesitate to
edit out some of the more difficult ideas, I left the special abilities out of
the Mechwarrior game until the players had a good handle on the basic
Hog the front table.
Set up your game on a table directly in front of the main entrance so that
is the first thing people see when they come in. Grab the people and
corral them into a quick game by handing them the dice and saying ³Okay,
you need a 3 or better to nail that fool looking out the window.²
What hooks people? Think of what has attracted you to a game.
The miniatures? The rules? The presentation? The art and images? Play up
the features that got you onto a certain game and emphasize them.
Not everyone is a good game presenter or can explain rules in an
understandable way. Everyone has their own strengths and you can
concentrate on those. Maybe you are good at putting prospective players
in the place of the characters of the game, or can give a battlefield
overview that brings the still figures to life. Team up with someone who
can do other things well and you are set.
Ideas for improving the facilities. What else do we need¹?
Bulk discounts Camp Zama`s Burger King? I don¹t use those buy 5 value meals, get one free
certificates so the next time I go, I will ask anyone if they have one.
That way, their certificate gets another meal towards them getting a free
one, and I get a warm feeling inside by helping needy gamers get the food
energy they need to make that last die roll. Deal!
Music requests? Can we bring our own music and punish lesser mortals with
our choice of toe-tapping tunes?
I will get off my soap box for now and let you get back to slaying the
foul beasts on the 12th level of whatever game you are playing on the PS2.
Bruce McBain is an English teacher by profession. He and his Japanese wife
have one great son. He has lived in Japan for many years. He originally hails
from perhaps the coldest city on earth, Winnipeg.