A Milestone at Brooklyn Wargaming

100KviewsThis week, this site rolled past 100,000 views and 56,000 visitors since its launch in July 2013. While Brooklyn Wargaming is by no means one of the more popular gaming sites out there, I am constantly pleased I garner so many visitors every day around the world coming to check out what’s new with me and my hobby.

Over the past few years, I written over 200 posts, played over 100 games, paid visits to numerous historic sites and museums, modeled a lot of terrain and painted a ton of miniatures. My blog has served as not only a diary of my gaming passion, but also as a way to share my love for this stuff with people who have visited my site from almost every country on the planet.

Here are some lessons learned and observations about blogging about gaming over the past two years:

Be Early

One of my earliest successes was from a post I wrote about the passing of famed wargamer and author Donald Featherstone in the autumn of 2013. Just as the story was breaking on the morning of September 4, 2013 in Europe, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of coverage in the United States as of yet. I work for a company that works partially in breaking news, so I know the value of being first to a story. By the end of the day, my traffic had spiked to nearly 200 visitors, by far the best day for my site which had just launched a couple months before.

Be Timely

As a historical wargamer, posts which tie in with anniversaries of particular battles and campaigns are great generators of traffic. My best examples are the two articles I wrote about modelling the Guards Armoured Division during Market Garden. Many months after originally posting them, the Flames of War website made the two posts featured articles in their weekly site update celebrating the anniversary of Market Garden. Traffic flooded in and each have seen about 3000 reads over their lifetime.

Be Unique

Now and then I write about my early years of gaming with my Retro Gaming the 70s & 80s series. In these posts, I look back at games from my childhood and teen years when I was just becoming passion about the hobby. Often times, these posts are love letters to obscure games which appeal to only certain people. While many of these articles get just a few views from my nostalgic visitors, I’ve been surprised that my piece on Crossbows and Catapults has become a popular post day in and day out since it was published in July 2014.

The Crossbows and Catapults article lingered in obscurity for a few months, but several months later the traffic started picking up. Since then, this piece has been getting about five reads a day. I find this to be an interesting stat given the game is not especially well-remembered nor is it played much today. What I think makes the post strong is that it is one of the few comprehensive articles about the game you can find online. The article contains a detailed history of the game and its subsequent editions plus lots of photos and scans of the original rules included in the game. Other sites have linked to the article over time, directing traffic to my site daily with people with fond memories for this game. Unwittingly, my written childhood memories have now become a go-to article online for Crossbows and Catapults.

Be Instructive

As a hobbyist, some of my favorite articles online fall into the ‘how-to’ category. It shouldn’t be surprising then that my posts which outline detailed descriptions, step-by-step guides and lots of illustrative photos are among my most popular. Over time, I’ve added more in-process descriptions and pictures of my painting and modelling projects, garnering traffic day in and day out. Whether it’s modelling 15mm Western European terrain, micro armor projects or my recent build of Pegasus Bridge in 15mm, these ‘how-to’ posts are visited multiple times day after day. The great thing about a solid, detailed instructional post is they have long ‘evergreen’ lives as both new and old hobbyists alike seek reference posts as they work their own projects.

Be Connected

People don’t find stuff online on their own, so connecting my blog to like-minded folks is an important way to get others to read my posts. Posting modelling projects and after action reports links to The Miniatures Page is the number one generator of outside traffic for my site. After that, connecting posts to various groups, museum, historic site and manufacturer pages on Facebook is the second best way to find readers. Facebook also gives the most ego-boosting immediate feedback as the likes, shares and comments flow with almost every post. Posting my articles directly to forums on manufacturer websites, like Flames of War and GHQ, also drive pretty significant views from people invested in a particular niche of the hobby. As a member and president of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, my posts also flow directly to the club’s homepage for current and prospective members to check out. I also use my Twitter account and have dabbled in Reddit, although each of these only see a trickle of visitors to the site. It’s a bit of work, but I definitely need to push my social media connectivity to keep my traffic boosted.

Getting to the next 100,000 visits…

So, with this first milestone at Brooklyn Wargaming, I’m asking myself where I go next. I’m certainly going to be continuing to post projects on a regular basis, and I’d like to break into miniatures of more eras beyond my core interest in World War II. I’m going to keep bringing reviews and plays through new board games to the site as I’m introduced to them. I’d also like to get into more feature articles, and I’ve got a few ideas churning away in the back of my head.

As a kid originally from a tiny rural Western New York town who’s been pushing little miniatures around tables and rolling dice for over thirty years, I’m grateful to my tens-of-thousands of readers who have come to my site over the past two years. Keep checking out the site, and, if you’re ever in Brooklyn, let’s play a game.

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Gaming Wars In The 21st Century

I was pleasantly surprised to open the back page of this past weekend’s New York Times Sunday Book Review section to an article on the 100th anniversary of H.G. Wells’ “Little Wars.” The book’s Edwardian-era style, classism and occasional not-so-thinly-veiled sexism is mixed with the mechanics of a gaming system which makes it a relevant read even today.  Before “Little Wars,” wargaming had largely resided in Europe’s war colleges and in the parlors of the ruling elite. Even with its English intellectual, upper-crust trappings, “Little Wars” sought to expand the popularity of wargaming. As the article points out, “Little Wars” is an important foundational document and should be required reading for those who are interested in how we’ve arrived at the business of gaming on the tabletops and screens of the world today.

“Little Wars” is widely available for free online and for e-readers today, and “ownership” of gaming is largely the subject of a post today on BoingBoing about Dungeons & Dragons retro-gamers. Whether driven by nostalgia or as a reaction to corporate ownership of a beloved game of their youth, “old school” D&D gamers stress what they believe to be a truer game style more focused on role-playing and less-so on action-driven play. To stay relevant to a new generation brought up on CGI special effects, so the argument goes, the now-owners of D&D Wizards of the Coast have increasingly made the game more combat-heavy (read: more like video games). In reaction to this, retro D&D gamers have created an increasingly-active community of story-driven gamers who look to old rules for inspiration. The ability to share thoughts, opinions and out-of-print rulesets online has only fuelled the movement.

Old school gamers are just the latest combatants  in the war over gaming. The history of wargaming rules development winds its way from military schools and H.G. Wells to postal games and strategy boardgames in the mid-20th century. Games and rules were more fluid in the 1940s-60s where there was little profit to be had in wargaming, and a big part of the gaming community was in the debates over what rules were the most realistic or playable. With a few exceptions, ownership in those days was based more on pride and ego than copyrights and profit. This timeline is well-documented in Jon Peterson’s “Playing At The World” which finally arrives at the early days of D&D.  Even before D&D made the great leap into a world-wide phenomemon there were arguments and accustaions over copyright and ownership. Peterson’s recent analysis of a transitional draft of D&D (the Dalluhn Manuscript) not only adds greater nuanace to the development of the rules themselves but I think also provides another chapter on the concepts of evolutionary, intellectual and legal ownership of games.

Much of the digital conversation today — whether about games, photos, movies or music — hinges on the topics of openness, control and copyright. Along with the free and independent gaming forums and sites, we’ve now been given a new frontier of games on Kickstarter. What used to take years (or even decades) of slow development and debate by word-of-mouth fanzines and postal newsletters, Kickstarter achieves in weeks or days. Players vote with their wallets in support of games which can now easily garner six and seven-figure funding levels, all but guaranteeing a fanbase that literally buys-in at the ground floor. Sites like BoardGameGeek can help make or break the success of a new game and then go on to serve as R&D for game expansions, rule variations and subsequent editions.

A hundred years after “Little Wars” pulled the ownership of wargaming out of the fists of Europe’s elite, we’re still warring over our games. Copyright laws, digital distribution and individual financial investment will continue to shape the next hundred years of the ownership conversation, but gaming is certain to remain a very personal investment for some time to come, too.