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How to grow a team

This is the last article of a four-part series analyzing everything you wanted to know about teams. You can find the theoretical origins of teams here, the structure of teams here, and the different player types here

We have talked about why teams are necessary, how you should structure a team, and the types of players you want to attract for your team.  Up until this point; however, we have not really covered how you can attract new players to your team. As such, for the conclusion to this series of articles, I will cover some of the finer points of adding members to your competitive HexTCG team.

There are basically four reasons to expand your team at some point in its history. For some teams, just one or two rationales apply.  For others, all four of these may apply.

  1. You may want to expand your team as the team is in its infancy. We assumed in a previous article that your team size was up to 5-6 members as a basis. A half-dozen players can be solid, but for really testing decks, coming up with new ideas, and making sure people have overlapping schedules, you may want more players. Also, as your team’s profile and stature increases, you may attract more talented players which can raise the average competency in your group.
  2. Some teams plan to never stop recruiting. Some teams will want to be uber teams that include all the players they can get. Others may be slightly more selective and try to get as many high-quality players they can get their hands on. Regardless, these teams are constantly recruiting. There is a risk that, by being too open, you may attract players who are collecting information for their own testing group. Such information leaks are unattractive, but it may become obvious after awhile that your testing results and decks are leaving the group.
  3. You need to shake things up. Teams can become stale when players become set in their roles and preferences and innovation evaporates like a stagnant pond on a warm summer’s day. This can happen if a set has been around too long and player’s lack an incentive to innovate; or they are favoring known decks over experimentation. Adding new blood to a group can be a boost to morale, creativity, and innovation.
  4. Your group is shrinking. Players leave teams. Or, they become inactive. They may become fatigued from the game, from their commitments to the group, or the group may have changed direction from what they had originally expected. It is also possible that the team is just not living up to their expectations. While it is natural for some members to feel betrayed when people leave, departures are inevitable and should be as amicable as possible on both sides; future collaboration is certainly possible. As your group shrinks, you likely want to stop the dwindling so the group does not wither into nothingness. As such, you will recruit to fill in those blank roster slots.

Step One: Decision-making

Regardless of the reason, the process in which you find members can be the same. However, before you decide upon the process, it is important that you establish how you will decide which members to add and which ones you will not. If you get several applications, people within the group will have different preferences, and you may not be able to decide unanimously on which people to select (or not). If consensus is important, then establish the process early on. If one person is the manager or owner of the team and they decide, then make sure that is clear to the other members. If you are voting, how many people will you vote on? Will you have a yes/no vote on every entrant? Pair-wise comparisons? Will people rank-order their picks and you accept some number of applicants? Will you pick the top three? The top 20%? How long is your recruitment period? These are important questions and the group needs to know this going in.

Step Two: Application process

Ultimately, if your team is expanding, you will have to figure out a way for players to apply. If you are a team that will take everyone, then you can ignore this step. If you are more selective than that, then you will have to figure out how to judge the applicants. Here are a few options:

  • Word of mouth: Your teammates may know people and refer them to the team leader. That person can then talk to them and determine if they are worth consideration. Then, if members other than the team leader are making the decision, the team leader can make the case for (or against) that individual.
  • Email: An applicant can send in an email that states why they are applying to the team and what qualities they bring. That email is then sent to the team leader, the entire team, or a subgroup that focuses on applications. This is the process we use to recruit people to work on FiveShards.com
  • The interview: If you identify a person, then either the group leader, the team, or a subgroup of the team can interview that person on Skype, in a chat channel, in hextcg whispers, or on a VOIP like Mumble or Ventrilo. This happens in real time and may allow you to get better answers than other methods. If an applicant is vague, unclear, or dodgy in answering a question, you can ask a follow up to see how they clarify their position. This also can establish if the person is a good fit conversationally.
  • The application: Teams will set up a form (e.g. Google Docs), or list requirements to be answered via email, in which a person responds to questions to give the team a better idea as to what they can bring to the table. My competitive team, the Collective, used this approach recently.

The goal of the application process is to gather information so your team can make the best decision possible in adding new members. The less information you have, the worse the pairing may be for both the team and the new member. However, the more onerous the application process is, the fewer applicants you will have; you want to strike a balance between ease for the applicant and information gathered for the purposes of decision making. Also, the more the applicant has to write, the more you have to read. Given my normal occupation, I am acutely aware of the dilemma between assigning work and the consequence of having to read the results.

Of the four methods, I prefer the fourth one the most, if you can garner enough applications. This circumvents the performance anxiety of number 3, the random information of number 2, and the imprecise nature of number 1. However, if you are just building a team, putting out an application may not get the responses you are looking for. Also, people worry that applications may appear pretentious as it signals that the team thinks highly enough of themselves that they are requiring people to fill out forms. I would not let this bother you as an application is a fantastic way to get guided information about a candidate and applicants that are turned off by applications may not be the types of team members you want to recruit.

Some questions we asked in a recent application run include (Thanks to CoachFliperon for putting these together originally!):

  1. What is your in-game name?
  2. How would you describe your level of TCG experience?
  3. What skills, assets, and/or efforts do you expect to bring to The Collective?
  4. What goals would you like to achieve within HexTCG?
  5. What is your regular availability for playtesting and discussion during the average week?
  6. Do you currently have any affiliations to other groups? (guilds, teams, other groups, etc.)
  7. How would you rate your Hex PVP collection on a scale of 1 to 10?
  8. How did you get referred to this form?
  9. Any additional comments?
  10. What email should we use to contact you?

Questions 1, 2, 6, 8, and 10 are basic information-gathering questions about the player. Questions 3, 4, and 7 give us more insight into the player as a whole. For example, knowing the player’s goals is useful in understanding where players see themselves in the long run and what they think their limit is. Some people may have more reasonable expectations than others and may be less likely to get discouraged if they are not meeting those goals in the short term. There is a good chance that we know the person that is applying to the team and this may just provide some additional background information to members who know that person less well. Alternatively, if we do not know that person, this allows us to contextualize that person’s role in our group even more. We had a few additional questions that allowed applicants to give us additional feedback. Ultimately, we received about 22 applications for the one week of recruiting we did and decided to recruit two of the players. The decision to recruit only two had little to do with the pool (there are some great, teamless players out there), but more with our expansion limitations and not wanting to grow too quickly.

There are certainly other questions that can be asked. Each question increases the length of the application, so make sure each question is useful to your group in making its decision.

Step Three: Advertise

You have an application process, but does everyone know that you are recruiting? Probably not! This may seem obvious, but you need to get the word out. Some options:

  • The forums: There is a subforum specifically for this. It is not well traveled, but a few people will check it out.
  • Reddit: Do not spam the Hex subreddit, but an initial call to arms is appropriate and will greatly help to get the word out. /r/hextcg drives quite a bit of traffic to hex related content, including the main site.
  • Chat: There is chat in the in-game client! There are entire groups of people who do not read the forums or reddit and just read the in game chat. Advertise there (again, do not spam).
  • Word of mouth: Tell your friends. Have your friends tell their friends. Maybe Penny-Arcade will write a comic about it if they hear about it from their friends.

There might be a few other ways to really get the word out as well, but these are going to be your primary mechanisms. Don’t be shy; the goal is to maximize your applicant pool so you can strengthen your team as much as possible; censoring yourself will only limit your choices.

 

This concludes the 4th article of the series on teams. There are other topics to cover, but I do not want to belabor the topic more than what people demand. As such, if there is a team-related question you have, I will be happy to cover it in a future article (or directly if it is a short question). The best place to ask questions is right below.

Michael Allen is a competitive HexTCG player, co-host of the 2 Turns Ahead podcast, and founder and moderator of the Hex Subreddit.

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