For those who don’t know, what is Roll For Group?
Roll for Group is a meetup site for board gamers.
Our mission is to help make board gaming accessible and enjoyable fun experience for everyone. Before starting Roll for Group, I surveyed and interviewed two hundred board gamers online on what their pain points were with the board gaming hobby. Most people had the issue of not being able to play the games they wanted, for a variety of reasons:
- People who are new to the hobby and have nobody to play with.
- People who are stuck in a group with different tastes what they want to play.
- People who are stuck in groups were players only want to play what’s new.
The survey inspired me to create Roll for Group, to help board gamers by identifying local, compatible players to improve the board gaming experience for them.
How did you get involved in the board game scene?
My first non-standard game purchase was Settlers of Catan which I bought to play with my family.
Around the year 2012, a work colleague was always getting Kickstarter products shipped to the office, and he mentioned they were board games. I was intrigued, and we set up a board game day after work. He brought in Betrayal at House of the Hill and Marvel Legendary for us to play.
I enjoyed it, thoroughly and knew this would become my hobby.
I had the issue where I didn’t have anybody to play with, but now with Roll for Group, I find I’m able to play 2-3 times a week with different groups in my local area. Mid-2017, Roll for Group volunteered to help one of Australia’s largest board game conventions (LFG Australia), which helped players meet up for the event, and managed the games library.
I find if you reach out to people in the board gaming community, they are usually willing to offer help or advice.
What kind of growth have you seen internationally? I was able to create an account here in Germany, but couldn’t find nearby players at the moment.
We have around two thousand user accounts globally on the site. Mostly in English speaking countries, including Australia, New Zealand, England and the USA. Some other game groups in the Netherlands, and Chile who use the site.
Areas grow successfully when a game group organiser decides to use the site for their local game group organisation. They encourage their players to sign up and start posting regular matches. Once players begin joining the event, they start inviting their friends. Over time the users start hosting their private games, inviting new friends. Soon the area grow’s organically until there are hundreds of players in the area.
The challenge is getting that first group organiser in an area to start posting games and asking their local game group friends to sign up.
For the technically-minded, how is the service built? What kind of time investment is involved?
The site is built on a MEVN stack, which is MongoDB database, Express on Node.js for the back end, and vue.js for front-end rendering.
In my previous role at work, I had quite a bit of DevOps work, and I used that experienced to design the back end. The time commitment to Roll for Group is that of a full-time job. I was lucky enough to be in a situation where I could put six months of full-time work into the site to get it to where it is now. Before that, I was working on the site for six-months in my spare time.
I try and make sure I do something for the site every day, from writing to code, to writing a blog, to reaching out to new users.
What’s next for Roll For Group? Are you focusing on new features, or trying to grow the user base to that critical mass?
I’m trying to find a balance between new features and pushing for growth.
Earlier on I was advertising the site on Facebook, which works quite well because I can target specific geographical areas. I learned from the new player’s feedback where the site was lacking in some areas, and I concentrating on coding in response to their feedback. I’ve set a goal to get the site to a point where board gamers love using the site, and I’m pleased now because I’m getting thank you messages, and positive feedback from board gamers.
Players that use the site are loving what the site is doing for them, and it shows. Now that the site is at a stage where players love using it, I want to slow down on features and start focusing on growing the user base again.
Finally, do you have any advice for anyone interested in developing digital products for the boardgame community?
Board gaming is interesting because as a hobby it’s something people choose to do it for fun.
The age-old saying of “build it, and they will come” does not apply. If you want to make a digital product for board gaming, you want to focus first on understanding how gamers think, and why they play games.
Immerse yourself in a regular board gaming group to understand the gaming community. Then you’ll be able to make a great digital product for the board gaming community.