February 7, 2023

#TheACDC January 2023 After Action Review

Armchair Dragoons Public Affairs Office, 20 January 2023

This was our 4th ACDC, and our 5th convention once you roll in the “Virtual Dragoons Assembly” back in 2020.  And there’s some of this process that we can handle pretty smoothly, but that smoothness creates some friction in other places in the process – read on!

All of our virtual conventions have included talk shows with designers & publishers, happy hours with our team, and seminar presentations from game design students and historians, and a whole lot of games.  We keep tweaking the game offerings a bit as we go, but they are always the focus.

ACDC-Jan-2023-Banner


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Events & Comparisons to other ACDCs

This time around the event selection was a little lighter in quantity, but we did bring in some different games we hadn’t seen before.  Of course, some of “the usuals” were back and special shout-outs to Ryan Heilman, Ad Astra Games, and Lock ‘n Load Publishing, who have been with us at every one of these.

Our total event count across all of our virtual cons went 28 – 55 – 53 – 63 – 41, so we dropped quite a few events this time around.  How much of that was a late start in prep, or competition from other real-world conventions like Winter Offensive, or “zoom fatigue” is unknown, but it’s something we need to investigate.
The split this time was 30 game sessions and 11 talk shows / seminars1.

Our total badge count has tracked from 62 – 108 – 92 – 123 – 89.  So we dropped to 65% of the previous event count, and 72% of the attendee count of our previous ACDC.  Again, there are reasons for the drop, and there’s probably not just one.  We know there are going to be years where we lose some people to other circumstances, but we need to figure out how to best mitigate that, or offset it with new faces joining us.

We lost some events for illnesses – 2 presenters/GMs to COVID, one to the ER, and one to flu-induced laryngitis. We were able to backfill one of those, but unfortunately it cost us both of our planned sessions of the Twilight:2000 RPG that were full and included players who joined the con specifically for that event.  We are going to see about a one-off “make up” event for those players as an invite-only sort of game for them.

ACDC23 compare

 

Your Turn to Sound Off

As always, we’ve asked participants to fill out a short survey with feedback on the convention.  Several of the questions have remained the same across all of our conventions, as we’d like to be able to identify trends, and benchmark against our previous performance.

“Did you have a good time?” 
This one has trended “Hell yes” from 59% – 63% – 53% – 47% – 59%. So we’re back up quite a bit from last time. That said, we ended up with a “nope” vote sneaking in again, and we’ve still never had a “Hell meh” vote.

ACDC 2023 Good Time

 

“What did you think of the event selections?”
The top option has trended 36% – 42% – 50% – 53% – 47%.  We’re down a bit from last time, but we had a lot of options in 2022 that we didn’t have this time around (losing 4 GMs can do that to you!) we did get rid of any votes for “It was disappointing”.  And overall, we’re still over 95% positive, so that’s good.

ACDC 2023 even selections

 

Registration through Tabletop.events is pretty well understood by the audience at this point.  Some folks are still experiencing it for the first time, but a lot of you have seen the platform over and over.  And now that Origins has shifted to TTE, more people are getting used to it.
Everyone seems to be OK with a $5 price range for the cost of a virtual convention weekend, though we do appreciate those of you who think it’s too little.  The early-bird registration, and free badges for Patreon supporters, are still in place, and we’re going to hang onto those for now.  There’s still a few of you buying full-price badges while there’s still early-birds available and no, we don’t know why, either.

ACDC 2023 5 dollars

 

Again, there’s probably some self-selection bias at work here, because if you’re not here on account of Winter Offensive or some other in-person convention, then you’re not here to tell us it’s a bad weekend.  But this is where we’re planting the flag every year, so plan for it from now on, and spread the word! (more on this later)

ACDC 2023 sked

 

What are some specific quotes from the audience?

As always, we asked “If there’s one thing we need to make sure we sustain for next time, what is it?”

The announcement bot was a great addition!2

Great variety of events and the VASSAL/Discord boot camp

I won’t say $5 to attend is too little, but it’s great value for what’s available.

The signup to events process was great. I was even able to step in and watch some games being explained even though there wasn’t room to play.

Professional wargaming discussions, demos. And the dragoon “chats” between Moe, Ardy, Brant, etc. Just listening is to the jabber is why we’re here!

The awesomely friendly player/attendee base. 🙂

It’s interesting that we had “variety” mentioned multiple times in other comments, despite the overall count of games having gone down.

 

We also asked “If there’s one thing we need to improve for next time, what is it?”

Have platforms for the events in each Discord text channel, or another Discord channel to make them easier to find

Multiple times for the play sessions

Getting started since it was my first online convention. I figured it out but it took a bit.

Try to get more games

Make it easier to randomly socialize.

Get my boss to give me the weekend off so I can do more.

One note we had from last year was about descriptions, and sadly, we’re not sure we really improved much this time.  We definitely need to get better on this.  That’s on us to better check those things going forward.

Additionally, several people mentioned the idea of making it clearer / easier to ‘eavesdrop’ on games when you’re not playing in them.  There are several ways we can do this, from streaming within Discord or GMs broadcasting on their YouTube channels.  While we’re probably not going to standardize across a single way to show the games in progress (to allow for variations in GM comfort level and personal preferences) we definitely want to make it more clear that it’s encouraged for GMs to do this.

 

That said, the thing that really jumped out at us for something to improve going forward was better on-ramps for new convention-goers.

Getting started since it was my first online convention. I figured it out but it took a bit.

More help/assistance/tutorial for helping deal with Discord problems.

New User Guide (video, webpage, email, etc) summarizing business rules for accessing games through the tech, how to set up pickup games , and “etiquette” for attending events/games not signed up for (ie are people encouraged to just drop in and watch?). I’ve used these interfaces before, but infrequently enough that I usually need a refresher.

Maybe this is on me as a 1st-time attendee, but I assumed all of the game sessions were “show up prepared to play” and then later learned that at least some of them were demos or teach-and-plays that required no previous experience with the game.

As noted above, we’ve got over a half-dozen of these kinds of events under our belts, and we sometimes take for granted how the processes and interfaces work.  We’re going to figure out the new-user guide for folks that are joining us for the first time, because there shouldn’t be any reason they can’t jump in and have fun with everyone else just because they’re rookies.

 

Some additional extended feedback from some of the participants

I think every year has been better technically and organization wise. This year I saw no issues at all in fact technically. But now since you can support the number it is time to try to get larger numbers with SDHIST does with there{sic} virtual con.

Loved it, it was great, again! haven’t missed one of them.

My segment went well. I wish more folks had come live, I think there was only about 10. But 60+ have downloaded it since Brant posted the links

It was good as always. With that there is of course always room for improvement. Its an event that gets you to meet/ discover new people with the same interests, skills and thoughts on the war gaming hobby and variuos offshoots. You get to disover new games just from the events list and those hosting it.

 

Areas to Improve

Last year, we heard from y’all

Getting the word out. And really need to open registration maybe a week earlier and then events a week after.

More advertising for the convention as a whole and the games themselves

Publicity- I attended a previous ACDC event and got no direct notice of this event.

So this year, the feedback was…

You need greater advertisement of the event

More advertising/outreach to expand attendance

Might help to get everything open for registration out earlier. I thought the late opening this year compared to other years limited attendance somewhat. More time to get the word out and people committed to that weekend before the last second.

Yeah, it still looks like we need to improve the advertising.
On top of the half-dozen posts we dropped into each of the major wargaming Facebook groups (Wargamers, Board Wargamers, No Offense Wargaming, ConSimWorld, plus some in the Modern Warfare group b/c of the modern-focused sessions), we also hit several Discord channels (SDHIST, Homo Ludens, GUWS), our Twitter feed, our Mastodon feed, multiple pages on CSW (forums, community, Discord, etc), both the wargaming and general areas of BGG, two different professional Slack channels, 3 different io groups, Gary’s live show, and even posts on Gamesquad, Matrix, and Battlefront.  Oh yeah, there were also emails to every attendee of the last 2 ACDCs, plus at least one through the professional wargaming distro.  We felt like we were spamming the crap out of everyone and yet we still had people not know anything about it.  Don’t believe us?  Watch!

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This is just a smattering of what we plastered all over the web, as most of the FB groups and message board all had identical posts in the days/weeks leading up to the convention. So when we posted something to the Wargamers group on FB, the same post went to Board Wargamers, No Offense Wargaming, CSW on FB, our own FB page, plus all the other message boards, Discord channels, etc etc you see above.

And yet, with all of that, somehow the word is still not getting out. Yikes.

 

Overall?

The people who were there enjoyed the convention, and that was the most important thing.  We need to improve in several areas, most notably easing the on-ramp for new conventioneers, and increasing the visibility of The ACDC overall.

To-Do List for Next Time

  • Better new user guide
  • Get the word out more / earlier / wider
  • Clarify the streaming / viewing options
  • Don’t let the GMs get sick
Keep It Up List for Next Time

  • Announcement Bot
  • Social events / talk shows
  • Cost / price for participants
  • Variety of games offered

 

 

Oh yeah, and the next ACDC?  Already on our event calendar!  12-14 January, 2024.  See you there!


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Footnotes

  1. To compare, in January 2022 we had 40 & 23.
  2. shhhh… no one mention we had it last time, too!

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