Demos for Dollars, Part II

Demos aren’t your only option for game room activities.


Leagues are a finite periodic event with a competitive element. You require players to play matched opponents or choose their opponent within a certain time frame. Rank players each week depending on the results of these games.

The danger with a league is the risk of losing players who don’t do well. As the ranking ladder stratifies, the people with no chance of winning tend to drop out or play less. Keep this principle in mind when drafting your league rules.

How do you win with leagues?

  • Escalate game play. An escalation league encourages sales automatically for miniatures. Start off requiring a certain point value and increase the point value each week. A low entry point allows new players to get in on more equal footing.

  • Charge a weekly fee. A $2 maintenance fee each week for a summer league is easier for players to accept than a $24 fee up front. It also places a value on the games. Players might blow off a free event but show up for one that has some meaning to them (and, by extension, to the other players in the league).

  • Support weekly events with sales or promotions. League rules might grant an in-game bonus to the winning players. Artillery might gain a bonus to its accuracy, for example, for players who gain control a specific in-game territory. Support this with an in-store sale on tanks and artillery pieces for the game. Ideally, draft out these rules and plan your promotions together in advance of running the league.

  • Set up your points system so as not to exclude losing players. If a player sees 5 weeks into an 8-week league that there’s no way he can win, he loses interest. Balancing bonuses for winners without penalizing losers out of the league is a difficult task, but the extra player attendance makes it worth pursuing.


Tournaments encourage competitive play. When people lose to a deck or army type, they often incorporate a new element into their game. They might buy a tank for more firepower, or they might rebuild their deck with dual lands.

What makes your tournaments rock?

  • Unique prizes. Store credit as a prize is universally accepted, but it’s bland. A life-sized space marine, on the other hand, draws players from several states over.

  • However, don’t front-load the prizes. Coming in second and going home empty-handed is disappointing. If you want repeat customers, spread your prize pool among the top 4 or 8 or more.

  • Use a judge everyone trusts. Magic has a ranking system for its judges, but game knowledge is only part of the equation. If the players respect the judge, they’ll be satisfied with a ruling even if turns out later to have been wrong.

  • Charge the right entry fee. A high fee discourages participation. Most of the time, you’re better off with more players. More bodies means more opportunities to sell games.

These three items—demos, tournaments, and leagues—form the bulk of your organized play activities. They see the greatest attendance and prove to be the most effective at encouraging player participation. The rest of these events round out the toolbox. Use them to break up regular routines and fill needs as they appear among your player base.

Painting Clinics

Have an expert help players learn to paint. Have some materials on hand for players to use. You might use an event like this in coordination with a league or a tournament to make sure everyone’s figure gets painted in time for game play.

Character Creation

Teach people how to make characters for a given RPG. Have character sheets on hand. If the game has supporting software for character generation, pull that up on a laptop or a LAN station. People comfortable with character generation are more likely to participate in an ongoing game.

GM Clinics

GMs spend more money than players. Making more GMs out of your players increases sales. Your veteran GMs are usually eager to share their wisdom with new or prospective GMs. Create opportunities to get these two groups together and grow your RPG base.

Deck-building Clinic

What happens after a player plays a demo? He buys a starter or two, mashes some cards together and begins playing with your existing player base. The new guy plays against their deadly tournament decks and extensive experience. It can be a brutal transition. This workshop focuses on building a competitive deck for new players. Use it after you’ve had an influx of new players.

You Kill It, You Keep It

This is a demo with a twist. Alderac did this to support Clan War, its miniatures version of Legend of the Five Rings. While the game eventually went away, the demo format was very motivating. Create a scenario in which players are encouraged to fight several figures and let them take the ones they kill. Limit their time or their number of kills to control your cost. If you’re using painted metal figures, hand out unpainted versions.

Game Days

They’re like conventions but smaller in scale. Offer small prizes for events and encourage maximum participation on this day. It encourages people to try new games or participate in tournaments.

Use these events in coordination with other activities to build sales. One weekend might feature a Pathfinder character creation clinic. During the clinic you run a sale on introductory Pathfinder products. You also promote the weekly games that are looking for new players. Mention that you’re planning a GM Clinic next month and ask what day works best for those attending. Match up painting clinics with your leagues so that the new players can get their miniatures painted before showing up to play.