Armchair Dragoons Public Affairs Office, 28 June 2021
Oops, we did it again… It was our 3rd digital game convention – and 4th overall digital event – in the past 12 months, showing that (1) we’re nuts and/or (2) you guys really enjoy your online gaming while we still dig out from under the pandemic.
Events & Comparisons
We’ve noted before that we try to offer multiple iterations of each game to give players some flexibility in arranging their schedules. This time, however, we had a handful of “big” events that just weren’t conducive to repeat iterations (like a 6-hr Kriegsspiel) or were intentionally designed to not repeat (the linked World at War ’85 scenarios). As a result, we ended up with a very different mix of events than our past conventions. Those games included a lot more ‘age of gunpowder’ era games than normal, with events like Iron & Oak and Bayonets & Tomahawks and Shores of Tripoli and Napoleon 1807. So while we had a Ad Astra back with Squadron Strike and Ryan & Dave back with BLB and WED, we seemed to be a bit loaded with muskets this time around.
The final count of total events was 53 total events, and while a handful of those ended up zero’ed out, other had no registered attendees but still ended up happening when ‘drop in’ players popped in at the scheduled time. We did lose a couple of events to some personal challenges (one GM had a death in the family). Overall, we had 19 seminar events (an increase of 6 from last time) and of the 34 game events, 25 of them were able to be played in some form or fashion, which was a drop of 3 total game events from January’s ACDC.
We’re still not sure we can pinpoint a single cause the overall drop in registered events, and attendance, but participant feedback included the schedule proximity to Connections US, Father’s Day weekend, and the recent SDHISTCON Spring event. This particular weekend was chosen because it was the original weekend of Origins, where we normally host our Wargaming HQ. As you’ll see below, we’re looking at other options going forward.
Overall, Cyrano’s usual Saturday Night Fights were a highlight, as both games filled up and he was a true TTS warrior in guiding players through a pair of big games. The World at War ’85 guys from Lock ‘N Load Publishing (hey, Keith & Devin) put in around 12 hours of gaming across the 3 days as they kept one giant rolling scenario going. The IKS team started waaaaaay too early for the fact that they’re on the West Coast of the US, but they had a full, multi-national/multi-timezone table fighting a hypothetical ACW Lynchburg game.
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% to 63% to the current 53%. More concerning was that we got our first “nope.” We’re going to have to take a look at what’s worked and what hasn’t to try to and get that trending upward again.
click images to enlarge
“What did you think of the event selections?”
The top option went from 36% to 42% to 50% this time. So it appears that our event selection options are resonating with the audience as we continue to experiment with the right mix of options, while recognizing that our GMs are all volunteers who do this because they love it.
Support for the vendors offering discounts to players seems to be holding steady at about 25%. It’s tough to run a virtual exhibit hall, but we’re still trying to figure out a good way to do it.
The registration process seems to be understandable and familiar to wargamers who have now seen the tabletop.events platform used by multiple online conventions, as the numbers this time are almost identical to the last ACDC.
Moreover, the audience seems to be comfortable with a $5 price range for the cost of a virtual convention weekend, even though some of your fantastic people still think we could milk a little more out of this (which isn’t really the point of the cost).
As noted above, we chose this weekend for our Summer ACDC because it was ‘replacing’ Origins on our own internal event calendar. That said, with the expected return to something resembling normalcy next year, we need to think carefully about where any future virtual conventions will land on the calendar. We fully expect the Armchair Dragoons will continue with at least 1 ACDC/year going forward. We just need to figure out when it makes sense during the year. The respondents were all over the calendar, and not a big help with that!
What are some specific quotes from the audience?
We asked “If there’s one thing we need to make sure we sustain for next time, what is it?”
We also asked “If there’s one thing we need to improve for next time, what is it?”
We are going to set aside some budget for next time to advertise through social media and try to raise awareness of the convention through those channels.
Some additional extended feedback from some of the participants
Extremely grateful that business personalities share knowledge. Always willing to learn. Who knows….
The events that happened for me were good, but it felt like either attendance was short of a critical mass, or my interests aren’t in line with the overall crowd.
From my perspective it was great. I was able to attend because there was no travel involved and my weekend was actually free for once. This was only my second game convention of any kind. It appeared this one was a bit “smaller” than SDHistCon, but that might have just been my perception, but I was able to sign up for what I wanted and even got to watch other sessions I hadn’t signed up for.
There was a valid concern that The ACDC was scheduled too close to Connections US (we ended Sunday; they started Monday) but as noted above, the weekend we grabbed was the original Origins weekend, so that’s unlikely to be much of a concern going forward.
Areas to Improve
We’ve heard over the first 2 ACDCs that the seminar presentation process was lacking. We were trying to find a way to keep the seminars semi-exclusive to the paying customers as a way to reward their commitment to the convention, while still lowering any burden to watching / participating. What we learned during Connections Online was that Streamyard/YouTube was the right approach, and that the key benefit for the audience was the parallel interaction through the Discord channels that allowed them to chat along with each other during the seminars. The saved YouTube videos that are available for future viewing are also a must-have. We adopted that model, and in conjunction with SDHISTCON and Connections US, that seems to be the preferred method of presenting seminars going forward. We’re still working out the kinks between Discord chat vs YouTube chat for participant interaction, but it’s getting there.
We’re still working on the ‘right’ answer for the technical and help documentation. There seems to be a fine line between “figure it out yourself!” (our first one last summer) and “ohmygawdthatstoomuchtoread” (Connections US). Certainly adding the Bootcamp guys (Tim/Karl – youse guys are awesome!) has dramatically increased the digital literacy on the platforms for players. What’s probably needed are some basic cheat sheets for each area of the conference (Discord, VASSAL, TTS, seminar interaction, registration) with links to other sources for more details as needed.
We heard over and over that the publicity needed work. We’re going to try to improve that by including some advertising budget for next time, but we’re also going to try to partner with as many other content sites as possible to promote the next convention when we’re ready to make it happen. We also need our participants to share far & wide to join the event, so we need to look at some possible refer-a-friend prizes or benefits.
Finally, our event selection was definitely broader, but the trend seems to people people looking for ‘big’ games and events that are beyond their ability (or motivation) to organize for themselves. We added both a larger multi-player Kriegsspiel that was very well received, and a ‘rolling’ World at War ’85 game that had several repeat participants. Both were well-attended and reported as a favorite event by most of the players in those games. We need to improve our offerings across the board, but there seems to be evidence that those sorts of ‘big event’ games are a definite draw.
Something Completely Different
For our opening happy hour with Ardwulf, we tried something completely off the wall. We broadcast live from The Gamer’s Armory in Cary, NC (it’s a suburb of Raleigh). We took a walk around the store and tried to show off as much of the wargaming shelves as we could without forcing the audience to take Dramamine while doing it. Obviously there was great attention paid to the Wall of ASL™ but there was also a good bit of interest in the fact that a retail store had Holllandspiele and White Dog games on the shelves. We also showed off over a half-dozen separate racks just of wargames, not counting Flames of War, Battletech, and Warhammer.
We were just getting cranked up, though, as we also had the announcement of the upcoming Armchair Dragoons Awards program, laying out how the awards came to be, how we were differentiating ourselves from other awards, and how we expected to handle our process. In short: the public gets a say, but they are not the dominant voice and it’s not a popularity contest.
So a very special thanks to Ardwulf for giving us the space to talk about the awards (since he’s a part of them!) and to The Gamer’s Armory for hosting us. Special thanks also to Moe from Moe’s Game Table, who was not only a hardcore broadcaster with 5 different shows over the weekend, but also bringing a few designers to the convention to show off their games to the audience.
And most importantly, a HUGE “Thank You” to everyone who attended and made The June ACDC a bunch of fun. Stay tuned for the next one!
What did you think? Let us know either below this article, or in our forum. Thanks!
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