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The DFW Short Circuit: Burning it in

by Ben Matthews (with thanks to Skip Pickle)

To be honest, I can't remember when I first met Skip Pickle. I'm pretty sure that our first contact was at a WotC-sponsored demo in Arlington in the later half of 1996 while I was working on Mastering Netrunner, and we've since played many a game of Netrunner. At that demo was born the idea of starting the Short Circuit tournament series, with a goal of having rotating tournaments between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Together, Skip and I have taken many different approaches to tournament organization, but we have learned a few things about scheduling and locations in the last year and a half. We provide as much advance notice as possible for our tournaments, generally scheduling at least a month in advance, and we try to play in stores that carry Netrunner on the shelf.

Our initial tournament efforts consisted of asking stores if we could run tournaments, and then inviting the friends we had exposed to Netrunner personally, or met while playing the game. Our next idea for promoting tournaments consisted of contacting the manager of one of the bigger game store chains in the area. He seemed very receptive to having us game regularly in his store, and promised to promote the game throughout the chain. Our first mistake was not following up. We found out the day of the first tournament that the store had not done any advertising. We should have paid more attention to the details of how the promotion would take place, and helped if necessary.

At this point I started creating full-color posters (I had a new color printer - what can I say? It's fun to use! :) with the tournament locations, times, etc. We tried to distribute these to the stores where the tournaments were taking place, which worked relatively well. What didn't work was the reception we received from a few of the retailers we talked to. I had to argue with one of the owners where I had played on a regular basis for almost a year to allow me to put up a poster (and when I returned the next week, it was mysteriously gone). His argument was that I was actually taking revenue from his store and giving it to another store. While that is a legitimate worry, I should have been more persuasive about improving Netrunner sales overall in DFW (which should have the effect of increasing his sales as well).

Another owner actually wanted to know what was in it for him to put up the posters or even allow us to have a tournament in his store. It was pretty frustrating at the time. Again, if I had been a bit more organized and/or persuasive, then we might have had more success using posters.

Towards the beginning/middle of 1997, we found a place out in Fort Worth called Grand Slam. They were very hospitable, put up a signup sheet for a tournament, and agreed to have cards on hand for our players to buy. We regularly run sealed-deck tournaments every other month or so there now. Skip was able to develop a good relationship with the owner, and Jim is always glad to see us back. At about the same time, I ran across an old friend who still organizes Magic tournaments in the DFW area, and who ran the very first Netrunner tournament in the area, sometime in the fall of 1996. I asked for his advice on getting our tournaments going successfully, and he offered to put our tournament on a postcard flyer that another local store (Keith's Comics) sends out to their clientele advertising their Magic tournaments. While we really didn't generate too many extra players at the time of the mailout, I did develop a nice working relationship with the owner of the chain as well as the manager of the store where we played. We did have a bit of trouble getting Netrunner stock into the store, but they at least tried to accommodate us.

I think my main point is that you should try to develop a good relationship with one or more store owners in your area. If you play your tournaments in their stores, they can make all the difference in the world in how the tournaments go for the long term. Be willing to promote the game yourself - play Netrunner casually with a friend in an established gaming store, and invite people who wander by to watch to learn the game. Once they've played a bit, get their email address/phone number and invite them to your next tournament.

Have fun. Play Netrunner. Talk to store owners. Teach people to play. Hold tournaments. Burn it in.

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