Building Your Game Group: The Substitute

Time will come in the setting up of your boardgame group that you will not be able to attend. When that time comes you have a decision to make. Do you cancel? Do you reschedule? Do you find someone to fill your shoes?

It is not a straightforward answer and I propose that you could justify doing any of the above mentioned things. If you have to cancel or reschedule, my recommendation is to remind people several times and in several different ways in order to make sure they don’t show up.

If instead you decide to rope ask someone to lead for you there is a bit more to that process to help ensure that when you do return, a group still exists. In order to select the “right” substitute I offer you a few tips:

  1. Have a few options in mind: This one should seem a bit obvious, but don’t put all of your hope on one person being able and willing to host your group in your absence, especially if it is for several meetings. Pick a couple of people and ask if they would be willing to co-lead or alternate days. Maybe only one will be able to lead, but maybe you will have multiple people ready and willing. Both are good results.
  2. Ask well in advance: Don’t do what I did and ask people to sub for you (especially since I was asking for 6 weeks of subbing) one week before your absence. Ask them in advance so they can think about it and prepare themselves in whatever way they see fit.
  3. Ask people who are good teachers and that group members like: This is a key thing and probably the most important tip. Don’t just ask someone who will say yes, ask someone who the others in the group respond well to and who can teach a few games. If you ask someone who isn’t well liked, can’t teach or just rubs people the wrong way, then you might be coming back to a shell of what you had before you left.

  4. Leave games with the substitute that people know:  As I’ve talked about in previous posts on this topic, you should have a stable of known games in your group. Your substitute leader may not have access to those games in their collection, so leave them with them. You may have a substitute who wants to teach a new game, maybe one of their favorites and that is fine, but providing them with some games that everyone knows will allow flexibility. That flexibility means the group attendees can request to play ones they already know and they aren’t forced into learning something new if they don’t want to.
  5. Continue, if you can, what you normally do: Obviously you won’t be leading, as you would normally do, but if you are able, continue to do some of the other things that you do on a weekly/monthly basis. For example, every week on the day of our group I put a post on Facebook remind people that it is happening, the location and the time of the meeting as well. Even though I will be thousands of miles away from the game group, I can still do that post. That small act leaves the substitute one less thing to worry about and possibly lowers any stress that they may be feeling. Whatever you can do to help your substitute from wherever you are, I recommend that you do it.

What other tips would you give to others? Have you left a substitute to cover for your group? Leave a comment here or on the guild on BGG.