The Slow-Grow – How to Collectively Expand Your Gaming Experience

Article by Nicholas Fletcher

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Has your gaming group ever been interested in a game system, but have been too intimidated to make the first move in case no one else joins in? Perhaps you are already playing a game, but some people want to build up a new force for it, or join in for the first time and learn the rules. A good way to get everyone motivated to achieve their goals is to start a slow grow.

The idea of a slow grow isn’t exactly new, but it is something you can revise and alter to suit the needs of your group, and whatever you are trying to build. If you’ve ever read White Dwarf, you may be familiar with their ‘Tale of 4 Gamers’ articles, which operated in a similar manner. However the basic, most barebones explanation of a slow grow is where you give yourself a timeframe, decide on what you want to have achieved by the end, and from there set yourself targets at regular intervals, where the overall task is broken down into smaller chunks.

The customisable part of a slow grow is that when you come to decide the time spent, what you want to achieve, and how you want to achieve it, you make your own rules. If you want the slow grow to last a few months, that’s fine. If you want to drag it out over the course of a year, or even two, then why not? It’s up to you and your group if you want to make a large or small force, and you get to decide how you are going to break down the force for assembly, painting, and gaming, if any. The only things to strongly suggest is that you all agree before you start what goals you are aiming for and that your smaller goals before the end are comparable to each other. That way you all have a clear idea of what you are aiming for, and can compare results with each other as you go.

So what kind of targets are you looking at for a slow grow? Let’s use an example from real life. A gaming group I belong to did a Malifaux slow grow in 2012. The aim was to spend a few months building and painting a new Malifaux force each, ending with at least 55 soulstones worth of models. The goals were broken down like this:

  • 2nd November – Everyone confirms which master they are using
  • 16th November – 25ss worth of models painted
  • 30th November – 35ss worth of models painted
  • 14th December – 45ss worth of models painted
  • 28th December – 55ss worth of models painted
  • 11th January – Final games, all models painted, based and completed.

The dates were more guidelines than strict due dates. Some people didn’t want to build a group to that level, and some people weren’t able to start until later. All we were aiming for was to get some painted models on the table and playing games, learning the rules for new models as we added them in slowly to our teams. The final date allowed for people to catch up after holidays, and make any final touches, such as finishing bases. In the end, our group got a few more crews to go up against, some more games played, and a lot of fun. We even gave out some prizes.

When it comes to setting your targets though, they can be anything. The previous example was trying to get some new painted crews, but you might not want to paint your crews. You might not want to get a large pool of models together. You might not want to even go beyond a starter set for a game. Consider these alternatives:

  • Start Dropzone Commander with an army box each, and every fortnight add in another type of model (infantry, transport, drop ships etc.) from the starter box to slowly learn how the game works.
  • Grow your Infinity team by painting a new model each week to support what you already have.
  • Prepare for a Malifaux tournament by playing two games a month over the months leading up to the tournament, never using the same combination of troops and tactics twice in a row, and adding in new models where needed.
  • Play a series of Warmachine/Hordes games, aiming for ten played in a year, and ending with a 100 point Tier Four force.
  • Build a Carnevale force by beginning with a starter kit, and budget $20 a month to grow the force over a year.

These give you a few options, and there are many more. You just have to decide what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and how you want to go about it.

The real advantage of a slow grow is that you are working together with other people to help each other reach the targets you have set. If someone doesn’t look like they are going to reach their target, there are people around to encourage them. And watching people reaching the targets does make you work harder to keep up, which helps drive everyone else. But the really big advantage is that when it is over, you can see what you achieved, and you’ve hopefully had some fun in the process!

If you do end up running or participating in a slow grow, here are a few hints:

  • Keep it friendly and have fun – No one wants to end with a miserable experience, especially when it’s meant to be a fun way for a group of people to reach some goals.
  • Allow some leeway to let people catch up – Real life usually gets in the way of hobby time, and that won’t be different here. To take the pressure off, try to allow an extra week or so for people to get to the bits that have really been bugging them, but they haven’t had the time to get to.
  • Make the targets realistic – No one wants to see that within the first week you have to have fifty models constructed and painted. Break down the goals into something that can easily be achieved in someone’s spare time, without requiring all of it. If you can’t get it done in time, maybe you need to reduce the size of your target, or set another end date.
  • You don’t have to buy in bulk – If you are building a team, it can be disheartening looking at a pile of unbuilt and unpainted models. If you don’t already have the models, consider breaking the purchase of new ones down to match the targets, instead of buying all the ones you need in one hit. That way you don’t have a backlog staring you in the face from day one, and it will be a lot more comfortable. Similarly, if you have a pile of models already bought but still need to be built or painted, consider putting them somewhere you can get to them easily, but it is out of sight. It’s a lot less daunting when your ‘to do pile’ is a few models instead of a few hundred.

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