Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Deep Thought: Competing for the Community - Charity Tournaments

Hello again, my friends! It would seem that people enjoyed my article on Cameronians, so Pride has chosen not to feed me to the Antipodes… yet. Instead, I have a new piece to offer, and it’s a bit different this time.
Infinity is a fantastic game. I love every minute I spend standing around that table, pushing little tin men and women around, laughing, joking, and cursing with my friends. It’s also a very privileged, luxurious hobby. Spending $13 on one little toy soldier is a perfectly fair price, by the standards of the hobby, but it’s also the cost of a meal for two people from the grocery store. That’s something I’d like to talk about, and I’m just going to dive right in.

Wargamers, while perhaps not wealthy by most standards, have a fair amount of disposable income. There are a lot of people that don’t. As we move forward to the holidays, the spirit of generosity runs high among those with the privilege to not worry about their next meal, or where they’ll sleep that night. Which is where we, as gamers, come in. We have the power to gather together, and put our collective resources to good use and help our fellows in need. I’m talking about the idea of a charity tournament.
I just got back from attending one of these last weekend, a benefit for a local women’s shelter. While the tournament itself was a blast, there was a lot of satisfaction knowing that we were helping people in need. 20 people raised $165 and enough supplies to fill the trunk of the organizer’s car to the brim with donated goods. It was a fantastic display of generosity, as well as just a great time to be had. This isn’t a new thing; gamers from all different types of games hold charity tournaments. But I want to focus on wargaming, and Infinity in particular, and I want to talk about how best to host your own benefit tournament.

The Ops Manual

Picking the Right Charity

Planning and running a tournament is a lot of work, but it’s even more so when you have to work with outside organizations like charities. You have to start planning months in advance. The first step, of course, is to select the charity you wish to benefit. The single most important thing about selecting a charity is to do your research. There are a lot of “charities” – I won’t name names, for obvious reasons – that don’t do good work, or simply use the donations they receive to line someone’s pockets. Research the charities you’re interested in on the internet. Contact them directly. If possible, try talking to the people the charity claims to have benefited; if it’s a homeless shelter, go down there and talk to the people who are staying there. If it’s a food bank, go visit the location where they distribute the food. It’s very, very important to make sure that your hard work and generosity actually goes to someone who needs it. Another thing to consider is the idea of staying local. There are some national organizations, like Toys for Tots or the Teddy Bear Brigade, that are a great choice, but by and large, your best bet is to focus on an organization that helps your own community. Your players will feel more invested in their efforts if they think it’s going to improve the lives of people near them. Children’s hospitals, homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and food banks are all great choices. Once you’ve selected the charity you’re interested in helping, make sure you contact them well ahead of time. They may have certain regulations that need to be followed, either legal or simply their own methods of operation. Some places have limited amounts of space to store supplies and donations, so they need to know in advance if a large influx of generosity is on its way.
An example of a local charity that's definitely doing a lot of good

Tournament Itself

Now you have your charity picked out and a line of communication established. Next, you need to start figuring out how the tournament is going to work. Work with your local LGS or gaming club to make sure you have time and space to play, and hype the tournament a couple months in advance. Local gaming forums, social media, even just a flyer tacked to a cork board in the game shop will go a long way to helping you get a good turnout. Even the fine folks at Pride of Rodina will help you. Reach out to us and we’ll be more than happy to help you advertise.
Charity tournaments also work a bit differently from the usual ITS system. Come up with creative incentives for people who donate. For example, the event I went to over the weekend offered a bonus in overall tournament points if you brought a donation of money or supplies. Some formats allow you to buy the use of “cheats” with donations. An example is the excellent Food Drop format, as designed by Infinity forum member Zreef. The most recent rules set can be found here. Make sure your players know that donations don’t have to be massive or expensive; I’ve found that a trip to the local dollar store is one of the best ways to stock up for a charity event. $25 will fill a grocery bag to the brim with supplies – socks, gloves, food, hygiene supplies, etc. That’s the cost of two, maybe three blister packs of models. It doesn’t have to be ITS either, you can just as easily use YAMS or 20x20. That said, it’s often much more fun to come up with your own homemade games. Be fun, be creative, and don’t be afraid to be a little silly! It’s a game, we’re supposed to be having fun. Nothing brings gamers together like laughing over a silly joke. If it’s going to be an all-day event, consider operating on a potluck sort of basis. Give additional tournament points for bringing food or drinks to share.
Of course, a tournament wouldn’t be a tournament without prizes to give away. If you can get your hands on an ITS prize pack, that’s always a great way to go, but it’s not the only option. The event I attended had prize support donated from local shops and terrain manufacturers, and the grand prize was a sword and a jug of homebrewed beer! If you’re hosting at a game store, talk to them about prize support, like store credit. If you know someone who’s a phenomenal painter, maybe you can get a model painted up as a prize. If you have access to a 3D printer, fancy tokens or scatter terrain are a great option. Be creative, and make sure nobody walks away empty handed. Even something as simple as a button to put on their gaming bag is nice. Give prizes for different things; the event I went to had best overall, best sportsman (won by yours truly, if I might allow myself to brag a bit!) best painted army, best S2 model, best large model (bike/remote/TAG), and best food & drink contributions. Give bonus points or hold a raffle for players who have their entire army painted. I play with most of my models bare metal or primed, but it’s good to recognize people's efforts, even if they’re not top flight, and it gives the players something to work on leading up to the tournament to get them excited.

When to Host a Charity Tournament

Finally, there’s one more point I’d like to address. During the holidays, as I mentioned above, the spirit of generosity runs high, but poverty and misfortune aren’t a once a year problem. People need help all year round; hunger, domestic violence, and homelessness don’t just go away after the holidays are over and the weather starts becoming nice again. Consider running a tournament in the summer. Food banks and shelters are always grateful for help during those times, as donations slow to a trickle, and their resources are spread thin. A lot of areas will run programs to give sack lunches to families who depend on public school lunches to help feed their children; a lot of kids end up going hungry when school lets out. And make sure your players know to adjust their donations accordingly. If you’re working with a homeless shelter, instead of asking for warm blankets and gloves, ask for bottles of sunscreen or reusable water bottles. As I said, charities tend to run pretty lean most of the year, and a benefit tournament during the low months can be a wonderful gift.

Gamers often have a life of relative luxury and privilege, and it’s all too easy to get caught up in the numbers, the dice, the painting of the little toy soldiers. You go into the club or LGS, and the whole world disappears as you become engrossed in your game, but the world doesn’t really disappear. People suffer every day, and as gamers, we have the power to help change that. Let’s use that power to do some good.

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