Occasionally I like to pretend I’m an actual journalist and reach out to interview local Nerdy individuals or organizations. Recently I had the pleasure of talking to Bradley Curtis of the Edmonton Board Game Exchange and MapleMeeple.com; a brand new Edmonton website that’s a home for all things tabletop.
Nerd List (NL): Hello Bradley, thanks for taking the time to do this.
Bradley Curtis (BC): Thanks for caring about what I have to say!
NL: I’m very curious to know what you’ve got planned for the Edmonton Board Game Exchange and get your thoughts on the local board game community
BC:The basis of everything we do is how can we help all parties involved, retailers, cafes, conventions, enthusiasts/hobbyists, designers, reviewers etc and that’s to give everyone a local platform to be heard with regard to this hobby and one central site to grow the hobby locally to increase the market. Especially with the number of cafes etc popping up everywhere need to ensure its sustainable. So trying to unite all parties for the benefit of the market instead of against one another. We’ve made good inroads on developing those relationships and approaching anyone who is interested in being heard from the stand point of how can we help you. We aren’t doing this for monetary gain but I have a vision of what I see this becoming and am excited for the day we get there
NL:What inspired you to start the Board Game Exchange?” I know it originally started as a Facebook Group but it evolved into a lot more
BC:Actually it started with a thread I made on Board Game Geek called the Edmonton and Northern Alberta Board Game exchange six years ago. We grew that to over 100 unique visitors. Board game geek caught on and because we were doing things locally and selling locally; it wasn’t in the geek market and they closed the thread unexpectedly one day after five years. I went through every user who ever posted in it and invited them to the Edmonton and northern Alberta Board game exchange group that I made on Facebook. The Facebook group started the day after Kefcon last year. So in one year we grew to the 1100 we are at today. The original inspiration was the constant need to try more and more games, it became an addiction. Buying more and more and more, trying to find my favorites in the never ending hobby of board games, I needed a means to sell and to buy more. Today it seems we have found hundreds more super passionate users such as myself who love this hobby and now my focus has shifted to growing this market and hobby with as many like-minded people as we can introduce it to.
NL: As you stated, the group has grown to over 1000 members and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. When did you realize how popular it was getting? Also, when did you make the decision to shift to more than just buy & sell?
BC: I realized how popular it was getting based on the growth we were seeing (about 100 members per month). The group started out as a buy sell trade but as people started to meet one another repeatedly from transactions (how Tony Chin my partner and I met) at board game conventions and board game cafes, we started to grow into a tighter knit community. I sort of had an “a-ha” moment during Gamelot this past year when I was talking to John from Mission Fun and Games who was one of the people responsible for getting me reintroduced to board games about 10 years ago. A man who has been doing this since well before it was the popular craze it has become. I realized just how big the group had gotten and it wasn’t until that point that I realized that I had a responsibility to try and diplomatically do something not many people would be in a position to do and that was to try and find a means to unite all the different local retailers around the joint goal of growing this market instead of working against one another. Don’t get me wrong I understand business is business and these people have their money invested in the success of their business. Our approach has been to go to these retailer partners and offer our help however they see fit and that’s why our next endeavor is to create our company as a new medium to compile all the wonderful things that are being done in this city surrounding board games and give everyone a means to be heard as we have direct access to the market and there are lots of insightful, informative and innovative individuals in this community that want to have a voice. We have in essence outgrown the buy and sell for the functions of what is needed by our members and as such we have founded MapleMeeple.com. By months end the website should be complete and we will have a means for everyone to continue discussions for local meet ups, reviews, podcasts, game design, conventions etc. Our goal is to make the site a local resource here in Edmonton that is a one stop shop for all of the information locally and a means to grow and strengthen this community. Edmonton is unique with the number of board game cafes and retailers that are popping up monthly it seems and instead of worrying about fighting over the same customers and retailers having to worry about losing game sales to online discounters we can all try to support one another and hopefully grow the market to help accommodate all retailers. In the end it ends up being a win all around, the retailers win with additional exposure of the hobby and their events, local designers get exposure for their projects, local reviewers and podcasts get exposure, local entrepreneurs who are painting minis and 3d printing board game accessories gain exposure. Board game hobbyist and enthusiasts get tons of selection and options for great gaming options and more accessibility to game with new people.
NL: I’ve seen the Q&A/AMA’s you’ve been doing with Brian Flowers (from Table Top Café) and the upcoming Board Game Exchange Xmas party/exchange, as well as the communal Kickstarter orders you’ve been doing. What’s been your favourite thing to do with the group so far and what do you have planned in the future?
BC: Honestly the event I’m most excited about right now is the Board Game Exchange Christmas party. I really hope regardless whatever people’s affiliations are or what business they operate, people can feel comfortable enough to come on out and meet one another for a nice evening and enjoy a gift exchange together and hopefully make some new friends. Aside from that I’m really excited about the value we are adding to our members through facilitating Kickstarter group buys for our members, and ultimately the completion of our website is exciting too. All around nothing but positives are happening on our end and it’s hard to not be happy when you’re doing something you’re passionate about.
NL: Do you have any highlights you could share of your interactions with local stores/cafés/organizations?
BC: All in all they are very passionate people who recognize much the same as I that the Edmonton and area community is very strong and there are tons of opportunities to grow this hobby exponentially just off of the people who are already a part of it and their friends and family who play. As more people play the more their circles grow and so it continues!