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Fighting Loneliness and Isolation with Toy Soldiers

The village of Pomeroy lies in the idyllic setting of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Roughly an hour's drive from Belfast, this rural community is the home of the Mid Ulster Gaming Club (Or Mugs as they prefer to be known as While on the surface they may appear to be just like any other gaming club, they serve a very important role in the community; combating loneliness and isolation, a difficult issue that farming communities face.


The club was recently featured in an article by the BBC highlighting how important social interaction can be in rural communities and what benefits it can provide. If you are keen to find out more, here is a link to the article:



I had the pleasure of catching up with Duncan and Simon two of the organisers from the Mid Ulster Gaming Club to find out more about running a tabletop gaming club in a rural community.


Mid Ulster Gaming Club gaming meet up, Source: BBC News


How did the Mid Ulster Gaming Club get started and how long has it been running?


We were a breakaway club from another club that ran in Omagh, some 20 miles from Pomeroy where we are based. At the time the Omagh club was looking for a new venue, and one of our members' mum had connections with the Pomeroy Resource Centre. There were only 4 of us to start with four years ago. The club has grown to approximately 35 members now. This represents a tripling of our membership in the last 2 years and we get regular enquiries from potential new members.


What games and activities are run at the club?


Our most popular game is Bolt Action followed by Warhammer 40,000, these two games form the two pillars of our club. But we also have a few D&D enthusiasts and have played Black Powder, Guild Ball, Age of Sigmar, Adeptus Titanicus, Judge Dread and Horus Heresy among others. Basically, we will play anything that our members are interested in!



Mid Ulster Gaming Club gaming meet up, Source: Mid Ulster Gaming Club


What impact has the club had on the local community and what sets it apart as a gaming club that operates in a rural community?


There are certainly other clubs in Northern Ireland and several in rural areas. Pomeroy is the geographical centre of Northern Ireland so we attract members from a wide area. We are within an hour's drive of most of Northern Ireland, and you can get to Pomeroy within an hour from Belfast, Newry, Enniskillen, City of Derry, Coleraine, Clones, and we have members who come here from the Republic of Ireland. Getting here via public transport is more difficult, and a few non-drivers have to rely on lifts.


We secured funding from the national lottery to buy mats and terrain which definitely helped to attract new members.


We would bring a certain amount of revenue to the local area- both by renting the Resource Centre for the day, our members buying lunch, etc… locally, and there has been members who have joined from the local community. Some of them had never played Wargames before and they are now regular attenders. Our location and active use of social media, and sourcing funding would set us apart from other clubs.


What feedback have you received from your members regarding the club?


Generally positive, but we are a democratic organisation! If the members want something or think something is not right, we do our best to provide for them (a bolt action army recently) or fix what is not right.


We have a Facebook Messenger Group set up which is very active and an important way to communicate. This has proved invaluable in finding out what people want from the club, what events people want to have, and if anyone is not happy they can PM one of the club committee members.


We welcome new members to the messenger group regularly and it has helped our members introduce themselves to each other, organise games, and bond as a community. It gives us a space to discuss things freely, and a lot of personal issues and problems are dealt with in the Messenger group which is an important source of support for our members.


Our club is also looking to set up accounts on Instagram and other platforms to make communication easier and increase the club's reach.



Mid Ulster Gaming Club gaming meet up, Source: Mid Ulster Gaming Club


What are your plans for the future of the Mid Ulster Gaming Club?


The club is expanding and we may need to book extra days each month to accommodate new members. We try to teach new members the various games we play by running demo games and this investment in our new members has paid off by them returning regularly to play at the club.


We run leagues in Bolt Action and 40K, and we would love to scale these up to full tournaments. Certainly growing the club and especially bringing new people to the hobby are the immediate objectives. Providing a fun experience, building a gaming community and offering support to our members is a core value of the club. Relieving social isolation and promoting good mental well-being are the result of those values.


Do you have any advice for anyone who is looking at starting up a tabletop gaming club, in particular those who are based in a rural area like yourselves?


Funding! Apply to whoever can provide you with grants and funds- you will be doing more for the local community than you realise and there are organisations out there to help you do that. For us the National Lottery provided most of our funding, but the local council, Peace4 and the Community Fund also gave us grant aid for various projects.


Also engage your community- use social media, signage, local press, radio and whatever other means you can to promote your club and build a community around it. We try to make our Social media posts personal, showing the achievements of our members at tournaments or modelling projects they are working on, and reinforcing that our club is a social endeavour and that all are welcome. Engage with other clubs too…many share members and can spread word throughout the gaming community. Work hard and have fun!


Seasons Greetings, Source: Mid Ulster Gaming Club


Thank you to the Mid Ulster Gaming Club and keep up the good work!


To find out more about the Mid Ulster Gaming Club, please check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Mid-ulster-gaming-club-562409480933946


A big thank you to Duncan, Simon and the rest of the Mid Ulster Gaming Club for taking the time to share their story.


To check out my latest hobby projects, follow me on:




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