In this post, I discuss tips, tricks and thoughts on demoing Frostgrave and other Miniatures Wargames.
Back in May, I demoed Frostgrave for the third time of the year (2019). This time, at Broadsword 8. Six players came to my table to give the game a try on two separate battlefields. Some veterans of a battle or two and others completely new to the game. Now, let’s get on to my tips.
Over the past three years, I demoed a good number of games. You can find many of the Reports of those games on this website if you search for them or comb through the Battle Report section of the site. Here is what I find helpful in running games at conventions.
One of the most important things for me when running a convention game is getting into the right mind set. I am here to give new players a taste of the ruleset. I am not here to sell the players a game, or to turn them into veteran players of a system. Instead, my goal is to let people experience the game and decide for themselves if it is something that they want to get into further.
Below is a list of tips that I try to follow each time that I go to demo a game at an event.
- Know your rules, but keep in mind that flow (and flavour) is more important than getting every detail right. In fact, it is even okay to alter the rules a little if it keeps the feel the same and speeds up play.
- Be friendly and inviting to everyone. Be upbeat and positive if you can. You are looking to provide your visitors a good time while playing a game that interests them.
- Try your best to keep people interested in the game. Keep things flowing quickly and people on task. This task is not always as easy as you think it might be. Depending on the people, sometimes it can feel like herding cats.
- Know that you can’t make everyone happy. Some people will love the game and others will complain. If you end up with a few people negative people at the table, try not to take it personally. Better yet, have them explain their complaints. Then think about whether you can address these complaints the next time you run a demo.
- Look for constructive feedback of the game you ran. Ask people what they thought about the experience and how they think you can run the game better next time.
- Get the proper amount of sleep so you can think clearly.
Presentation is Important!
When demoing Frostgrave (or any game for that matter), I try to make the game look as nice as possible.
Although some people will disagree, how you present your game is important. Try to have fully painted miniatures and some nice terrain. A game mat or well done custom terrain also helps add to the experience. The better the game looks, the more attractive it will be to your potential audience. That said, this can be a double edged sword. While you want your table to look great, sometimes I worry about scaring off players based on perceived effort to get into the game.
My approach to counter that thought is to let players know that they can play the game with whatever terrain they have. While I have a nice set up, I started using textbooks and pop cans on a floor as a battle table. It wasn’t a glorious start, but there is nothing wrong with playing like this at home or in the beginning of your gaming career. Although I came from humble beginnings, I am going to do my best to present the game in as interesting of a format as I can.
The added value of a well presented demo is that people walking buy will also snap pictures and remember the game that you ran. This gives the game you are demoing more exposure. To me, that exposure is very important when you are dealing with anything outside of Games Workshop. Sometimes just getting the game that you like out in public can help get new players involved. Also, one of my mandates with Must Contain Minis is to raise awareness of products by various companies that people might not otherwise know about.
Also, I try to do my best to generate excitement for the games I run on my website and on social media. Letting people know that you will be running a demo will hopefully get more interested people to your table.
Gathering Your Miniatures
When demoing Frostgrave and other games, make sure that you can provide the miniatures for the game. Whether you get together with friends or provide everything yourself, try to have a number of armies (or warbands) available. I aim for six to eight when I run demos, but I recommend you offer four to six forces for any demo game you run. This allows a good number of people to try the game, and if each faction is different, it also adds to the replay-ability of your table. People may decide to try a different faction at your next convention.
I tend to like demoing games by Osprey Games. One of the things that I love about them is that their rules are miniatures agnostic. This means that I can use whatever miniatures I want in an official capacity to represent their games. Personally, I use this as an opportunity to bring the miniatures of many manufacturers to the table (especially of companies that helped out Must Contain Minis with review products). I view this as a way to get the products of multiple companies out in the public and generate more public interest in what they provide.
What to Pack
Almost every time I run an event, I forget something. Because of this, I do my best to do a mental checklist before every time I go demoing Frostgrave (or other games). Be sure to bring…
- Your Rules. These are pretty important to have with you. 😉
- Gaming supplies – This is a tough one, but try to provide printouts of the rule summary sheets and miniatures’ statistics. Layout the information in a way to not overwhelm your players yet keep them informed and give them something to review for while they wait for their next turn. Also, be sure to bring your dice, pencils and anything else that you need.
- Terrain for your gaming table.
- Miniatures – Four to Six forces plus any NPC or creature miniatures that you can use in the game.
- Super Glue. Accidents happen. Be the guy that can deal with issues and bring some super glue in case your minis (or someone else’s) meets an unfortunate fall or encounter.
- Hand Sanitizer. Bringing cleanliness products to a convention is very important. Everyone wants to shake your hand and talk. Many gamers would rather come to an event sick than miss a convention that they have been looking forward to all year. I used to come home from most of these events sick. Since I started taking hand sanitizer, the number of times I come home sick has greatly diminished.
Keep Track of Your Stuff
When demoing Frostgrave (or any other game) you will want to keep an eye on your stuff. You are in a public space and sometimes things go missing. Most times that happens, I think it is accidental. In fact, I have been guilty of making that mistake myself. I once accidentally took one of Guerrilla Miniature Games Ash‘s Frostgrave books at an event. Of course, I did the right think and couriered the book back to its owner. Thanks for being understanding Ash! 😉
Likewise, I have also lost stuff at events. So far the items have always come back to me. Fingers crossed that remains the case. Sometimes a friend accidentally picks up an item thinking it is theirs. Other times, it gets lost in someone’s car or misplaced at the venue. As stated earlier, I have been fairly lucky so far in that everything is accounted for a few days after the event.
While I have been lucky, sometimes things disappear and don’t come back. My best advice on that is to watch your stuff and keep it safe. If you have to leave it, assign someone to watch it or put it somewhere safe. Also, try not to take your best or most expensive miniatures (if you have the option).
Flow is More Important than Perfection
The fact that flow is more important than perfection when demoing Frostgrave (and other games) cannot be understated. Do your best to know the rules in-side-out, but if you get a rule wrong during the game, roll with it. Try not to slow down the pace of your event. I find that if the pace slows, people start looking at their phone or talking to their friends. Once that happens, you lose their engagement and the demo loses its appeal to the players.
House ruling the system to run faster is also okay as long as you keep the core mechanics the same. Be up front if you change the rules and let players know that if they get further into the game, the rules play differently. Also, let your players know before the game that you are not going to spend time digging deep into the rule-book during play. If a rule question comes up that you don’t know the answer to, house rule it how you see best or run the rule as you remember. Afterwards, look the rule up so you know the proper approach for next time.
While I realize that not everyone will agree on the importance that I place on flow, in my opinion, it is one of the most important aspects when running a demo (especially to new players). Give them a taste of the rules, and if they like them, they can learn the full rules on their own. Just be upfront that not all the rules that you are using are as written in the book.
Working with a smaller table also helps flow. I started by running demos for 8 players on a 6′ by 4′ table. I found that a little unwieldy, so I changed it to two games (each in a 3′ by 3′ area) with two to four players each. Demoing Frostgrave on that size of table creates good flow for the game.
Wrapping it up…
Hopefully you can use some of the tips in this article about running demo games.
Personally, I really enjoy running demo games and run a few a year. Right now, I am very comfortable with both Frostgrave and Bolt Action and can run demos of them without refreshing on the rules. On top of those two games, I plan to work towards running demos in other systems including Blood and Plunder.
Until next time, Happy Gaming Everyone!!!