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How to Build a Successful Venue
Mike "Blue Atoll" Wethington (08/11/2011)
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How To Build a Successful VenueMy venue, Dragon's Lair in Austin, TX, is the premier location to play Heroclix in Central Texas. We average a solid 14-18 people every week with 24+ people coming out for our Sealed events. It wasn't always like this though.

Prior to me becoming judge at the venue, we were down to myself and the judge showing up for Thursday night games. The judge wasn't interested in playing (he'd rather read comics or use his laptop), so I would most nights show up, sit around for 30 minutes, and go home with an LE. This went on for more than 6 months. As the last of the other venues in town to run Heroclix events shut down, I decided to try and start up a new scene. I began running events on Friday nights and started to send out regular emails to a large group of people announcing that Heroclix was back at Dragon's Lair. This was during the off-year for WizKids when the fate of Heroclix was in doubt. 


My first week of events resulted in a no show by anyone. Yes I was frustrated by this and overreacted but soon came around to understand that it takes perserverance more than anything else to grow a venue. Slowly we brought players back to the game, built up support and the goodwill of the store, and by the time Heroclix returned we were off to the races. Attendance has been solid since then with new and old players phasing in and out of the game as it ebbs and flows. We're a good bunch with the right attitude about a game. Still it can be a challenge to be patient with players (new and old) and I continually work on that.


I think that the biggest single way that I've grown my venue is by creating an atmosphere that welcomes new players and keeps things interesting for our experienced guys. I do that by actively discouraging overly competitive (cheese) play. I do this through creating scenarios, actively listening to my players for suggestions, judging the temperature of each tournament, and flat out giving people a hard time if they are playing cheese. My good players are going to win regardless of what they play. I've had out-of-towners come in bringing the cheese, I very specifically shield my new players from them and let my experienced guys (who have all been playing from the beginning) school them. Of course, I try and tell the out-of-towners that we don't play in a hardcore competitive environment and let them adjust their style of play first but if I see a top 8 Worlds team in their build, their game schedule is set for the night.

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Posted by: Disgruntal Troll on 5/17/2013 8:39:30 AM
Sounds about right to me. I started playing at Dragon's Lair with Mike and his crew back in November of 2010. I recently took over judging for Mike when he is out of town, or just burnt-out on judging and wants to play. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know all the rules, but I'm familiar with the majority, and if I don't know an answer, I turn to Mike or one of our senior players. Keeping the game light and fun is important, and not allowing everything to become super-competitive is hard sometimes, but it's what keeps people coming back and the tourneys worth attending.

Posted by: Oran C. on 2/25/2012 10:37:24 PM
I am all for "Good" venues of play. This broadens the play, and the Fanbase. Unfortunately, the judges need to be selected very carefully. A store, in Virgina Beach was banned from Heroclix play because they were opening the boxes removing all the Uniques and High Value characters, then resealing the boxes. Then they would hold a sealed booster Tournament selling the bosters for the players who came to play. One particular player (a friend of the owners) had been selected to receive a special "Boosted" pack and would walk off with all the prizes. his was done with the co-operation of the Judge who always ran all his events at this one store. Also this judge would always rule in favor of his friends... They were caught doing this one night by another judge...

Posted by: David Hawk on 10/21/2011 11:30:25 AM
i like the competition. but i understand as a newer player you dont want to see cheese. My first tourney i had a rookie icons superman and a couple other figs. i ran against a all hypersonic team all with armor piercing and swingline. yah cheese take the fun out for newer players. But its good to get some sometimes. probably just big tourneys or cons.

Posted by: sleeping_giant on 9/2/2011 9:35:51 PM
Judges are supposed to pair the opening rounds randomly.

Posted by: Jack on 8/27/2011 12:54:20 PM
great article it's a shame the gaming shop near me is sh*t all it cares about is money and not gamers .it gone on to say it won't do games like heroclix or others but it will keep geting more card games for the 12 and 20 yrs old players. and all i get off the players is how old am I. am 29 like that makes any different to how i play games

Posted by: ikari on 8/23/2011 4:53:19 AM
Great article. I've noticed that the most enjoyable and successful venues focus on Heroclix as a secondary characteristic, focusing more on players shooting the bull and/or making new acquaintances. I tend to steer clear of venues where players only focus on being competitive, and are otherwise antisocial.

Posted by: SilverSpider on 8/17/2011 2:52:17 PM
I really enjoyed the article as I organize the tournaments at Marvels & Legends in Cape Girardeau, MO and definitely got some good tips to help out with it. We routinely have 10-12 players and like your venue we try to keep it light and entertaining and discourage the win or die attitudes. Having fun should definitely be the first priority because it is just a game.

Posted by: Preston B. on 8/14/2011 7:44:00 PM

We'd love to have you come out. If your son is young, since we go to almost 11:00, we let the two of you play together if you need to. Maybe your son plays the first two games and then you take over for the 10pm round.

Either way, we are flexible and would love to have new players come out. Hope to see you soon.

Posted by: Mike W. on 8/14/2011 3:26:56 PM
Great article and timely since I will have to build the venue here if I want to play. That much has become clear to me.

Posted by: Thewildeman on 8/12/2011 12:44:43 PM
Wizkids @ Gencon should take heed.

Posted by: Frank Z on 8/12/2011 10:42:12 AM
sounds like a lot of fun Mike. I'm not an avid player, especially since my oldest moved away but I enjoy collecting heroclix for my sons and for myself. I have played at other stores and have always had problems with the rules(understanding them, lol) but other players don't seem to mind. I'd really like to take my younger son to your venue but since I'm in south Austin it makes it difficult. My collection has taken a hit since I sent all my figures to my oldest when he was stationed in Hawaii. I had to start all over, starting with the release of Hammer of Thor. Anyway, I hope to make it out to Dragon's Lair soon with my youngest son.

Posted by: Daniel on 8/12/2011 10:11:10 AM
Nice little read, I'm glad to say my judge where I play does practically everything u do. Eveyone there is friendly and just like u even tho they don't play cheese the competition is stiff

Posted by: Jeris on 8/12/2011 8:36:44 AM
Wow, I agree with ALL of this and have done ALL of this! I don't have a large group. But a great goup of FRIENDS. We play on Thursday nights and Life sometimes takes over! For the most part we have 7 to 14 players every week. There are 3 difrent venues in our town.(all on difrent days) It is nice to hear that things are good else were. The onlything that I would add to the article would be 1 difrent Idea is what I do. My group of friends are very competive. Like myself. I hope I dont come off as a jerk.(witch I am) Heres what I did OUR GAME STORE OWNER is the GREATEST! He trys to help keep us going! By getting multiple op KITS. We use every 1 of them too. We run a 10 week league. Where by just attending you get a point. Then by fellowship, 1st, and 2nd place gets more points. (2 for 1st.. 1 for fellowship and 2nd) At the end of the 10 weeks we split up prizes from a Whole op kit(1st gets a SET and 2nd get a third of the set ect...) I bring other stuff for trade! Everyone seems very happy with this, and we all have a GREAT time. HOF OUT and I'm always wrong! But I try.

Posted by: Hof on 8/12/2011 7:22:19 AM
Nice article. With myself and my two sons having played since the game started and also being the only ones left from then. We have see the ups and downs of heroclix tourneys at our venue. The highs of reaching 35+ players at an tourney during the Avengers/Galactus summer event and the lows of being the only ones to show up for a tourney at our venue during the dead year. For awhile I felt like the three of us was the only ones promoting the game in our area.

Some of the things you stated we have done at our venue. For most of the past three years we have averaged 4-8 players at a tourney. But about a month ago we tried some new incentives and added an instructional heroclix night to our venue on Mondays mainly for our new players and anyone interested in the game and our attendance has almost tripled at our Saturday tourneys.

But right now all looks good at our venue here in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Posted by: Nightwing-fan on 8/12/2011 5:08:40 AM
Great article. My local store is trying to get a heroclix night all ready to go, but is having trouble. Is there an official set of rules for draft, etc? Is there a link that I could get, to give to the store manager, which would make running official tournaments a reality? Thanks

Posted by: Eli@NY on 8/11/2011 11:19:03 PM
Thank you very much for the ideas. We have been trying to get more players, but have been hit and miss at times. We have one excellent judge and the owner of the shop does give prizes, but I do think there needs to be more advertising. Thank you again for some suggestions and I hope we can get things going better here to the north of you.

Posted by: ShawnInDallas on 8/11/2011 7:59:44 PM
Your tips are great. I do some of the things you have mentioned, but will try some of your ideas that I haven't thought of.

We actually have two groups going. A local comic book shop that ran games went out of business and because I was nice to their players when I played at their venue, they started playing at my venue. Also because we are "gamer" friendly, I think they feel more comfortable at our store rather than the chain hobby stores across town.

I make sure we have at least two prize kits so each group has them. I run my games on Saturday night. Many of the guys in the other group work on Saturday and so they play on Sunday when I try and have family time.

It works well and both groups have great players.

Posted by: x.law22 on 8/11/2011 2:40:36 PM
Great Article, sounds like the thought being put into the scene is reaping rewards. Kudos!

Posted by: Kyle From Kansas on 8/11/2011 2:18:06 PM
I know what you mean, I run a venue too. I have any were from 8 to 12 people show up every Tue. and Sat. Its hard to protect the new players some times from the one that know how to play. But we still have fun.

Posted by: quicksova on 8/11/2011 1:35:33 PM