About a year ago I joined my first demo program. I had done some research, had a list of programs I wanted to join, and was nervous/excited. I had no real idea of what to expect…but thought that joining a demo program would be fun and would be a nice supplement to my work (being a professional game demonstrator – yes, seriously, I get paid to teach people how to play games…yes, it is amazing). I don’t remember exactly why I choose to try AEG’s Vanguard Program first but I did and I submitted my application and waited anxiously for a response. I don’t remember how long it took to get a response but I know it was less than a month – and I had been approved! I received a t-shirt and was added to a closed Facebook group set up just for AEG “Vanguards”. After that I began demoing AEG games at my FLGS (friendly local game store) and the rest is history.
As with many demo programs some of the key areas of the AEG Vanguard Program include interacting with people (store reps like managers and employees, customers, and others in the program) in a manner that is respectful, cooperative, patient, and honest. Emphasis is placed on inclusivity and non-discrimination. Proactivity and deep knowledge of the games you’re demoing is also key and will exponentially increase your success and enjoyment (this will always be true for anyone demoing games for any reason). In this particular program the expectations are moderate and include maintaining open lines of communications with AEG Vanguard management and store reps, presenting yourself, AEG, and the games you demo in a fun and professional way, and posting pictures of your events in the Facebook group. As compensation Vanguards can receive brand new copies of games; I’ve lost count of all the games I’ve received through this program but it’s at least a dozen. More than once I’ve received a game in advance of its release date and I’ve even been able to help in special playtesting groups for games in development. Additionally, I have been given fun bonus items and made aware of ways to get free promos for my games. The connections I’ve made as a Vanguard have been awesome. Through this program I’ve gotten to network with other passionate gamers, game designers, and store and company owners (one of whom offered me a job which I took and love!). I’ll talk a little bit more about this below.
This program is completely free, although I will say that I’ve bought more AEG games than I might have if I wasn’t in this program (while I do receive a lot of free games from AEG I still buy some of the ones I want and/or think would be good to demo). It’s also a lot of fun. I love the sense of community that I get from being a part of this program; the Facebook group allows us (Vanguards and AEG reps) to share experiences, ask questions, foster relationships, and create and maintain excitement. Near the end of last year there was a transition within the company which transferred the leadership of the group from one person to another. The person who had been in charge when I first joined was awesome; under his leadership the program had momentum and was an exciting, fun, and rewarding thing of which to be a part. His attention was refocused to other projects within the company and another person was put in charge. Unfortunately, at this point the program lost a lot of forward movement. Things quieted down significantly and it felt like the sense of fun, excitement, and community was lost. Recently AEG has recognized the problem and made steps to correct it and I feel like we’re back on track. Still a little shaky, but headed in a good direction.
Something I’ve yet to mention but feel is important is that, when choosing to participate in a demo program, you should choose a company that produces games you enjoy – this seems obvious but I don’t want to overlook it, it’s important. The tabletop gaming industry has grown so much over the last couple of decades and there are so many games out there now; it’s ok to not like all of them. One of the reasons I really enjoy being a part of this program is that I enjoy AEG games. I absolutely love Mystic Vale and with each new expansion it’s a game that just keeps getting better and better. I’ve also been enjoying an upcoming release, The Captain is Dead (stayed tuned for a review). AEG classics like Love Letter and Dice Heist are fast to teach and play and are fun, enjoyed by almost everyone to whom I have shown them.
I feel lucky to have just randomly picked this program to be the first one I tried. I have been or am involved in multiple demo programs and this one is a great mid-weight program. Another program I was in felt like it didn’t even matter at all that I was in it -there was zero activity within the program and the criteria for consideration as literally “If you want to be in this program, you are!” Another program is much more involving and requires considerable effort. The AEG Vanguard Program is the perfect blend of structure and fun.
If you’re interested in joining The AEG Vanguard Program fill out an application here: https://www.alderac.com/demo/volunteer/ and if you do become a Vanguard or join any other demo program drop me a line and tell me about your experience! Thanks for reading my review; I hope you enjoyed it! S