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Casual-ing Up Your Base - Strategies for Expanding Local Metas

How do you appease more people and expand your local scene? You can offer prizes, but if they only go to the players at the top then eventually people might stop showing up. You can have MORE tournaments, but maybe people don’t actually like more tournaments.

In my experience semi-casual events that produce “fun competition” tend to expand metas the best. This is not something that has to replace hard-core competitions like ANRPC, SCs, Regionals or whatever, but purposely having fun with a game encourages others to play. I’d like for us to be able to share success stories and provide touchstones for others who want to have success stories where they pull 20+ people a night to their meet ups. So, lets collect all of our strategies. Here’s what I can provide:

“Casual League”

  1. Each player can play 2 rounds a night that are scored.
  2. Each win is worth 2 points.
  3. The highest scoring players at the end of the night get bottom rung GNK prizes.
  4. So long as someone has gotten less prizes than others they are placed at the top of the list for prizes. So, if you’ve already gotten a pop-up prizes get passed down to those that haven’t gotten pop-ups yet. Eventually everyone gets pop-ups but those who are doing the best get a play set sooner than everyone else.
  5. At the end of the league, top prizes are handed out to the players who did best in the league over the course of the time period.

This pulled 18-26 people a night at our weekly meet ups for a period of a year. When we switched to montly GNK tournaments our numbers dwindled.

We have a new idea which is that we’re going to have a persistant league where wins are worth points and you can use points to “buy” promos when you feel like it. This hasn’t been tested yet. I’ll let you know how it goes if we do it.

What do you do? How successful has it been?


Neat. Since I can make it so rarely these days I’d end up near the bottom rung but honestly, that’s totally fine with me :slight_smile: One thing is that as an ex-casual, playmats seemed REALLY cool. I wonder if there would be a good way to make sure those start getting a broader distribution, since the players who consistently top 8 or whathaveyou will almost certainly be getting 1 of each type. I’ve got two already and passed up two more and I’ve not been playing competitively for long.

Another thing that might be fun is run the challenge deck experience they ran at the SMC finals every so often. Have one person with a deck with odd deckbuilding rules take all comers. It would be off the beaten path and could be a fun diversion. One thing I would change to make it more casual would be instead of having a prize pot, I’d make it more of a pinata type effect where, when someone beats the Challenge, it unlocks some kind of prize for everyone who tried (with maybe a bonus for the winner). So giving it a crack will get you a reward even if you don’t take it down.


Play at microbreweries.

I should probably expand on this: play somewhere that isn’t a game store. Some people always come out of the woodworks when they can play in an environment they feel comfortable (brewery, cafe) instead of one where they feel uncomfortable (game store). Here in CO it’s breweries, but maybe in your state it’s cafes or something lame like that. Just make sure and ask the staff if they’re cool with it before you organize anything.


I’m doing this in a couple weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes.


We’ve been running Random ID tournaments, with the ‘competitive’ IDs removed.

There’s also an additional scoring mechanism - along with prestige for winning, everyone votes for the favourite runner/corp deck they played during the day, based on theme/combo/fun/scepticism of sanity. The winner of that gets additional points. This encourages rather more ridiculous decks.

It works well, and is quite engaging to even competitive players (who are given an additional puzzle to crack when they’re asked to make Nasir or Stirling top tier in a tournament filled with advanceable ice and Bullfrog).


Last night we had our first ever League night. As far as I know, we’ve never had a league in Atlanta, just regular game nights and sometimes GNKs. Day 1 was a huge success.

This particular league was hosted at Raven’s Nest Games, where our normal turnout is somewhere between 8-10 on a weekly basis. Definitely consistent enough to get a good group with good games.

As this was our first league, we decided to make it a short run to see how it goes, so the league will run in the 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rules are thus:

  1. You must bring different IDs every week.
  2. 1 point per win, 1/2 a point per tie, 1/2 a point for attendance
  3. Blue Shell Rule: last-place player gets to choose the IDs that the 1st place player has to use next week (and second to last place player chooses 1 ID that the 2nd place player has to use)

We ended up with 17 people last night, which was a huge turnout. There were a lot of people I had never met before, several new players, and people that our regulars invited. It was a great time! @pacer got 1st place and has to play Apex and Custom Biotics next week.

What this taught me is that our regional Facebook group has a lot of lurkers who were just waiting for a more casual event to happen to come out to. Game nights are fun but not special enough to attend, and GNKs might come across as too competitive. A league with fun rules seems to be hitting the spot.


I think that league/tournament structures (moreso leagues) are a good way to make sure people come back a second/third/fourth time, but not great at actually getting people in the door. There are a couple problems for getting someone from “never heard of it” to “attending game night 3 times a month”.

The first is hearing about it in the first place. The holidays are going to be a great time for people to jump in as nerdy people add stuff to their Christmas lists that their families have never heard of. I think a good way to try and turn those one time buys in to regular attendees would be a “New Year’s Invitational” where core only players could get coupons/full datapacks as prizes. This obviously needs some cooperation with your game store to make sure tournament fees cover any prizes but giving out an invitation with each core set sold would be a great way to get people introduced to the hobby.

Playing at spots that are not a game store are good, as are advertising your game nights directly next to the product on the shelf. Keeping people who show up for those initial nights is crucial obviously as they’ll probably be intimidated as soon as they walk in the door between the huge number of foreign cards, lingo, and light teasing between people who already know each other. I think a league is way more conducive to repeat attendance as they’ll be leaving something with the league organizer rather than just slinking away after a poor tournament showing.

As far as league structures go, you need to have something that captures the interest of regulars but also provides opportunities for new players to get their feet wet. Ideas I’ve had in the past include:

  • Players can exchange decks and pilot their opponent’s for bonus league points. This gets weird since you almost have an incentive to bring bad decks in the hopes that they’ll switch, but if you bring junk you may just end up playing junk all night. Would be an interesting experiment.
  • The player that loses gets to name a card that the winning player can’t use for any following league nights until a ‘reset’. This gives a nice catch-up mechanic and encourages outside the box deck building but the card pool might be big enough that you could faction hop and still be playing tourney-level cards until the reset. A more restrictive method would be to make players stay in a faction until they lose with it.
  • Achievement leagues have been mentioned in the past but put a lot of onus on the league organizer to make good achievements which is harder than it sounds.
  • Prizes could be awarded at nights based on meeting daily challenges like “Net damage win” or “sell 3 agendas to data dealer”. This requires a good bit of planning and does nothing for players who show up for the first time.
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Something we tried in my community is to have one of our weekly meetups have a limited card pool (one Core + one Deluxe). Since the community is so small, it was hard to get multiple people motivated to continue adhering to this restriction, so I think it’s dropped, but I haven’t been able to show for most of those particular meetups, so I’m not sure.

The hardest part for us is to attract new players willing to come out even semi-regularly to our designated meetup time. Even the Magic scene is somewhat small, especially considering the size of our city. I find it rather crazy that we haven’t been able to get a meta exceeding 10 people in a city of over 200,000. I know I’ve definitely gotten at least that many people into the game on my own, so it’s rather discouraging to look at our meetups and see only a couple of them there.

I don’t know if a competitive structure (even if casual) works to expand a local community. I would try to spend more effort in getting players truly hooked on the game, one at a time. I feel like that’s probably a bit more effective, even if the effort required is much greater.


Wait, everyone doesn’t do a league?
We’ve done a ten week league since, feels like forever now. Our community has done nothing but grow, even when we lost a bunch of people to burnout last year. Our league is over thirty members with usually 15-20 showing up on a weekly basis.
We don’t skew it all for casuals, I jokingly refer to it as fight club. You get beat on like the doughy soft scrub you are and you get better. The same guy you were mopping the floor with a league ago is now pounding your face into the pavement .
It makes me all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.
TLDR: do a league.


Tomorrow we’re having our second edition of Friday Night Netrunner (or ‘FNN’), a biweekly series of tournaments which is aimed to be very casual (and essentially mimics the way Friday Night Magic works, which is a tried-and-true format, and runs alongside the shop’s FNM). Three rounds of Swiss, £4 buy-in, prizes go down to >= half way (so 6 players get prizes if 12 turn up). It was well received last time and we seem to be getting even more tomorrow. Three rounds ensures that variance can play a bit of a part, it’s more likely that worse players can do well than a tournament with four/five rounds and low rounds makes it sound a lot more appealing to newbies.

Prizes are currently given out in store credit (or if you’ve won £10 or more you can get a datapack instead). I talked at length with one of the shop’s employees (who happens to be a very good friend) who runs FNM and plays Netrunner every so often, and this was what we decided on to have a more regular Netrunnner event. A league might be something we look into in the future, but prizes get a bit odd: we don’t want everyone to know who gets prizes half way through but we also don’t want them to be random (and also a prize on the day of the ‘league night’ seems essential if people pay for entry).

I want to be somewhat of a voice against the sort of random ID/restricted card pool. Having separate events for restricted card pools segments the community and I know I wouldn’t want to play with a restricted card pool (the lowest attending GNK my shop ever had was a core only tournament). The amount of players with a low card pool are in the vast minority, and the majority of players don’t want to restrict themselves. Random ID tournaments don’t appeal to many players, either (and some people inevitably get better IDs than other people, creating somewhat of a ‘feel bad’).

What’s wrong with just normal Netrunner? ‘Normal’ Netrunner is why everyone plays the game, and surely that’s the most welcoming format to everyone?


Nothing is wrong with normal netrunner. It’s great. The card pool supports lots of neat machines that usually aren’t quite good enough against tier 1 decks. I enjoy seeing them work. It’s also interesting to explore what can be done with some of the more esoteric IDs. Playing against a variety of decks makes the day more enjoyable. I think I prefer a snake draft than pure random though.

Personally the only IDs I’d be sad about receiving are BWBI and Stronger Together.

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Those are all fine objections. On the other hand, these events have had a fantastic turnout, and this is particularly surprising when people have to register in advance to be assigned IDs.

My local game shop often sells out of Netrunner products. I’ve asked who is buying them, because our regular play group nowhere near covers this amount of sales! It seems there are a huge amount of players who play with a friend or two, have all the card pool, but can’t make/don’t want to attend regular events, or attend competitive tournaments. But a day of Netrunner focused on the more, er, underwhelming parts of the card pool might well be serving to draw then out (and perhaps bring them to other events, too). It certainly attracts many players I play with on a weekly basis who have no interest in the more competitive tournaments, but are quite happy to attend something like this.

I don’t think it should be a super common thing, but I can’t deny the popularity it seems to have.

Maybe it’s worth challenging this, too. I think a lot of players quite like the restriction. One of the very oldest tricks for aiding creativity is an artificial restriction - can I write a poem without the letter ‘e’? Can I write this tune without any tonal centre? Can I paint an emotive scene using nothing but shades of purple? A lot of Netrunner players are as creative as they are competitive, and this format has room for both.

There’s also the fact people quite like a lot of the more uncompetitive parts of the card pool, and everyone views this as a chance to wheel them out in an environment where they won’t just get utterly stomped on by Fastro NEH and PPVP Kate.


We should make cards for TM to give out with data pack sales. Maybe the people who buy the cards don’t know that you (sometimes we) play on Monday nights there?

That’s a good idea. Some probably won’t know (though I think the store does inform people). Conversely, I know of at least one 3-5 player group that absolutely know about the weekly meet ups - they just prefer just to keep to themselves.

How dare they? :wink:

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How do you guys run your league? What kind of games, just normal Netrunner? How do the points work out? :smile:

We run three rounds of swiss, normal netrunner. Top player gets an alt art and one given away randomly. You get 5 points for showing up, 3 if you don’t. We have a once per league, referral bonus, 5 points for the referrer and the referee. You get 1 point for bringing a new id on either side, to encourage variety. You get 1 point for each win. We cut your worst week when figuring totals, allows you to miss a week without scrubbing out. We have a cut to top eight after 10 weeks, with the prize support being the GNK. We keep all the stats in a google doc on our slackchat, points and id’s you’ve already brought. The whole thing plays out that if you show up every week and bring a new id you are in contention for top 8.
We are thinking of trying a few new things next league like point bounties on the top 4 in the standings and point bonuses for going deep into a faction’s id pool.


That sounds pretty fun. Perhaps something that scales with consecutive wins?

As @inqueblot suggested, having a league that is really sharky isn’t actually a bad thing. We very frequently have had newish players show up and get ruined, but they came back because the store was friendly and they felt like we took them seriously. Making the game-play itself super wonky is actually less appealing to newcomers than veterans. They just want to play the regular game. Since we never baby the newbies, some of them get stronger VERY quickly. Learn by losing :stuck_out_tongue:

Just play Netrunner as Jackson intended and have a positive, fun atmosphere. They will come.


Did you guys charge a buy-in into the league? Or is it a per league day buy-in?