If you’re anything like me OCTGN is not enough.
When I play online, even with friends, it never quite feels like “Thrones.” The problem, of course, is that in order to play out in “the real world” you need folks in your local community who are actually ready and willing to play the game. This is particularly true if you want to play A Game of Thrones: The Card Game at the highest level. Mastering the game on OCTGN, in the comfort of your pajamas, is one thing. Being able to play seven (or more) Swiss rounds of Thrones face to face with strangers is another. To take your play to the next level you need that fabled and elusive group: “a meta.”
But, what exactly is a meta?
Short for metagame, the exact meaning of “meta” is slippery and sloppily defined. At its broadest sense it is everything that revolves around the game outside of the rules themselves. That can range of deck archetypes, approaches to in-game strategies, to the cultural norms around the game. Thus tournaments (large and small) have “metas,” countries have “metas,” local play groups have “metas,” and even continents have “metas.” Everyone who talks about Thrones, or any other competitive game, is guilty of using the phrase in a sloppy way at one time or the other. Particularly on podcasts.
None of these meanings is quite what I am going to talk about in this series of columns.
For our purposes here a “meta” is a local (or semi-local) grouping of players who game together on a regular basis and seek to play Thrones at a competitive level. The most (in?)famous example of this sort of meta is the “DC meta” – a group of players, based in the Washington, DC metro area, which contains several (repeat) North American and World Champions. Personally I am a member of the “New York City Meta,” a group of people who play out of the greater New York metro area. These sorts of groups vary in their philosophies – some build decks together as a “team,” while others approach things on an individual level but playtest together; some travel for big tournaments, others only make it out to regional events. What unites all of these metas, however, is being part of one makes competitive Thrones a more fun, engaging, and rewarding experience.
Building and maintaining these sorts of groups is what I will be covering in this column. The relaunch of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game with the second edition provides an excellent opportunity to build up the community and establish, or reestablish, metas all over the world. People love new and shiny things and right now our beloved game is at its newest and shiniest. The barrier of entry is as low as it will ever be for competitive play. Here in New York City I have been one of the people working to try and expand appeal game and I am going to use this space to share the tricks to our successes and failures in growing our meta.
The very for things you need to know, if you want to build or grow your local meta, is this: you’re going to have to be “that person” if you want to succeed. That annoying person who is always needling people about the game. That person who is always posting reminders on your group’s community page (on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tinder, MeetUp, etc.) about local meet-ups and events. That annoying person who is always asking everyone at game nights, week after week, “are you going to the [insert next event]?” That person who tries their damndest to be at every week’s meet-up. That person who plays with the new players, be they experienced card-gamers or someone who’s only ever seen the D&D episodes of Community but loves the Game of Thrones TV show. That person who greets everyone that comes to your local store championship. That person who makes sure everyone ends up at the bar after the tournament.
Building a meta is a lot of work. It can be exhausting, but it is also an incredibly rewarding experience to watch one’s weekly meet-up grow from a handful of people to over a dozen. It is no exaggeration to say that joining the NYC meta was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time and that helping group that community grow over the last few months has been a very fantastic experience. Hopefully over the coming weeks you’ll get a bit of taste of that.
Future columns I’ll try to cover the gamut of topics related to getting a new meta up and running, along with how to grease the wheels of longer running ones. We’ll discuss how to reach out to local stores, how to engage with new players, how to help keep established players in the fold, and much more. If there’s some specific you’d like me to discuss in future columns, please let me know in the comments section, below.
 The recent dust up over the final 1.0 melee table at the Worlds Championship is an example of this. There is a “European” culture around melee games, which differs from the “America” attitude. This played out to tragic drama in that game.
 I promise this is the last time I will put “meta” in quotes.
 DC shows just how slippery this definition of a meta is for several DC players are based out other parts of the United States – from California to the Mid-West.