A good Go promoter needs a good toolkit!
Here we’ve tried to assemble a no-nonsense list of the most effective tools and techniques for promoting Go in your local community.
This page is geared towards supporting Go players who are taking part in Learn Go Week and running some kind of public Go event, but most of the material should be useful for promoting Go at any time.
Download the express toolkit
If you’re the kind of person who prefers to download a bunch of files and figure out what they’re for later, click here to download a bunch of useful promotional material in a zip file. Then register your Learn Go Week event with us, because this will help you and other Go players to promote your local events (how?).
You can also find some more resources here (and get the source files if you want to translate/edit them).
What follows is an attempt to distill more than a decade of experience promoting and teaching Go (and learning from other Go promoters) into something that’s helpful to you. It covers a lot of ground, so it’s long by necessity… (but hopefully useful too)
Go promotion – Tools and tips overview
Here’s what we have available to help you promote Go – I’ll explain how (and why) to use it in more detail below.
Firstly, there’s marketing material, which you use to 1. promote your event or club beforehand and 2. hand out to people on the day. This includes:
Secondly, if you’re running a public Go teaching event or starting a new club, you might need to get some Go equipment on the cheap. This can involve:
Finally, there’s the how and why of what you’re doing. I’m sure it’s not news to any Go players that there are more and less effective ways of doing the same thing. And who wakes up in the morning and aspires to be ineffective?
To help you succeed, this is also going to be something of a crash course in Go marketing. You don’t need to follow all the advice here, but the ideas are presented in detail for people who are trying run the best event they can.
Guerrilla marketing for Go players
As a Go promoter, it helps to acknowledge that what you’re doing is basically marketing Go to people within your community (even though none of us get paid to do so!).
That’s because it’s very useful to realize that there are common marketing templates and principles that have been shown to work well over time, which we can benefit from too.
It’s very similar to playing and learning Go – why reinvent everything yourself when you can take advantage of the accumulated wisdom and experience of humanity?
Making the most of your resources (why guerrilla marketing?)
Why guerrilla marketing though? Because we’re a loosely organized group of independent Go players, spread all over the world, making the most of limited resources and time. And also because you feel more motivated now that you’re an urban Go promoting ninja, no? 😉
When promoting our Go clubs and our favorite game, we don’t have the resources that big companies have. We don’t have fancy commercials and celebrity endorsements, but we have something they don’t have if we work together.
Strength in numbers.
We can achieve great things as long as we work together, but we have to do things in the most practical, cheap and effective ways possible. That’s what this page is all about.
Arm yourself the preparation checklist (the first of several), to give yourself a running start.
Sharing Go with people is nothing to be ashamed of
To some people, ‘marketing’ is a dirty word, but that’s only because other people abuse it to sell rubbish (not you!). It really depends on whether you believe in what you’re ‘selling’.
Remember, you’re not selling something stupid and useless like a ‘Pet Rock’ or an ‘Asparagus Peeler’ (yes those really exist, no they’re not just knives and no asparagus doesn’t need to be peeled).
You’re teaching people to play Go and enriching their lives in the process! And I doubt you’ve even asking for money, for your efforts.
That’s a wonderful thing to do for your community, so let’s do our best to make a real difference and not be embarrassed or pussyfoot around…
If you’re marketing Go, there are three basic things you want to do:
Obviously we won’t be able to ‘convert’ everyone into a Go player – you’ll lose a percentage of people at each step above – so it’s important to keep in mind that this is a numbers game.
What that means is that getting more people’s attention, using better marketing materials and/or improving your Go teaching and Go marketing skills (as you gain experience) will all lead to better results.
Getting people’s attention – Advertising and spectacle
There are plenty of ways to get someone’s attention. The problem is that people these days are so busy and there are thousands of things competing for their attention. And you don’t just want attention, you want curiosity and interest.
You should announce your event ahead of time over as many different media as possible. Remember that this is a numbers game. Your hope is that at least one of the things you do will cut through the noise.
(Equip yourself with the marketing checklist for this section.)
Posters are a time honored, grassroots way to get people’s attention about anything from local music to political parties and wanted criminals (oops, no implication intended!), and everything in between.
Putting up posters is something simple that you can do on a small budget as long as you have some enthusiasm and time (or know another local Go player who does).
Download an editable Go poster
Like Go, this poster is designed to look good in black and white, so you can print a lot of them cheaply if you want to.
It’s an editable PDF, which means you can type in your own details before printing it if you install Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Here’s an example of what an edited version would look like. You can also just print it out and write in the blank spaces if you prefer (pro tip: do that once and photocopy it, instead of writing on all of them).
Print them at home, or make larger copies at your local print shop. Then stick them up all over town.
Put posters in prominent places, 1-2 weeks beforehand
Remember to put them in places where people will see them! For example, the local shops, community centers, popular parks, university campuses etc – anywhere that gets a lot of foot traffic. Think about where you usually see posters.
Only put your posters up 1-2 weeks before the event, to give people time to notice them, without having all of them covered. If you put them up too early, some local music promoter or student politician might come and cover your single poster with 20 identical posters of their own. I’ve watched them do this… 😉 which is why you should put posters up in a lot of different places.
How to stick your posters up
Remember that you’ll also need a roll of tape and some scissors to stick your posters to things.
If you’re a pro, you’ll use a bucket of wheat paste (glue) and a large paint brush to stick your posters up instead. This way is much faster and more efficient if you’re putting up a lot of posters, which is what you’re planning to do, right?
The revolutionary comrades among us have perfected the recipe for poster glue over the years (it’s really cheap to make). You should paint the wall with glue before sticking your poster to it, then paint another coat over the top of your poster too. Make sure you use wheaten flour (it makes things sticky) and plan to use your glue within a couple of days after making it.
I’ve had good success using posters to promote Go clubs over the years. Some of your posters might stay up for a long time (you’ll know because people will keep mentioning it), so put your club details on them if you have or want to start one, and don’t forget contact details!
Other free Go posters
Signs are pretty similar to posters. In this case we’re talking about something you stick up to help let people know what you’re doing.
Make sure you have some extra copies of your Go poster and tape them to the table(s) where you’ve set up your Go demo. If you’re doing this outside, tape them on two sides in a corner in case it gets windy.
Using a home made sign is ok
You can also make a large sign simply by finding a large piece of cardboard (e.g. cut from an empty box) and writing a friendly message about what you’re doing on it with a black marker.
It doesn’t hurt to look a bit unprofessional here, because it’s more authentic. Usually the only ‘impromptu’ groups who have large, professional looking signs in public spaces are those selling special credit cards, or Scientology, or other things people don’t want…
You’ve probably learned to avoid those sales stands, right? So have other people.
Put a tent card on your table
The American Go Association has a nice tent card on their publicity page, which is a small sign that you can fold and stand up on the table where you’re playing. Here are some pictures that show what tent cards look like (this one folds vertically).
People often talk about ‘The Media’ like it’s some kind of monolithic entity, but it’s made up of many smaller (and some big) players.
You have a decent chance of getting some media attention if you contact some of the smaller players in your local area. For example:
- The local newspaper (or community newsletter)
- Local radio or the local branch of your public radio station
- Local TV stations
- Other community websites
The media craves content
All of these groups have a big megaphone which you just want to borrow for a moment, and the good news is that they’re constantly looking for interesting content for their audience. Your focus should be on what you can do to help them and not simply what you want them to do for you.
The important thing is to make your message interesting or remarkable in some way. That’s because they also have to maintain their audience’s attention (or they’ll go out of business in many cases).
Be remarkable (one reason for Learn Go Week)
This brings us to one of the main reasons for Learn Go Week. Three Go players running a local teaching event isn’t that remarkable, but the same three local Go players who are now part of a global phenomenon involving thousands of players is a completely different story.
The media loves a spectacle, so why not give them one?
That, by the way, is why it’s very important to register your Learn Go Week event, to help create a tangible list of events which you and other Go players can show to the media to credibly claim that x people are involved.
Be interesting and helpful – have some dot points up your sleeve
In addition to telling them about Learn Go Week statistics, you’ll want to have some other interesting facts to share. Try to organize your talking points so that they flow from one to the next naturally.
- Some people think that Go is about 4000 years old, but nobody really knows for sure, because it’s so old! (it’s at least 2,500 years old and originated in Asia)
- Even though it’s an ancient game, computers still can’t play Go as well as top human players can (in contrast, Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997).
- There are more possible games of Go than atoms in the universe.
- And by the way, astronauts once played Go in space (Daniel Barry, USA and Koichi Wakata, Japan).
- Despite this, the rules of Go are surprisingly simple and anyone can learn to play Go in about five minutes (even children).
- In fact, Go is an excellent game for developing logical thinking, mathematical skills, creativity and self control in children (Dr Roy Laird has a lot more great info about this).
- Playing Go also reduces the risk of developing dementia in later life and can also be beneficial in helping people to retain their mental faculties as they age; so it’s a game for all ages.
- And finally, this weekend you’re going to be teaching Go for free at [place and time], as part of a global event involving [x] people worldwide. You welcome people to stop by and learn more about this fascinating game.
This is probably more than enough information for a short article or radio interview, once you also include the important details (date, time and location) of your Go teaching event.
In terms of the big media players, it’s unlikely that they’ll be interested in a local event like this unless you do something really remarkable, but if we as a global community ever manage to make Learn Go Week big enough, they will pay attention.
With social media (Facebook, twitter, etc) the barriers to entry are much lower and you can still reach a reasonable number of people. In terms of promoting a local event, you only need to reach local people anyway.
Use Facebook, twitter and Google+
Tell your friends about your Go demonstration on Facebook; create a Facebook Event and ask them to share it with their friends. Tell people that it’s part of a bigger global event called Learn Go Week to get them interested – nearly everyone likes novelty.
Announce your event on twitter and Google+ using the hashtag #LearnGoWeek. If enough people tweet about #LearnGoWeek it will trend on twitter, and that’s another way of getting media attention these days.
Don’t underestimate community forums – the forgotten side of social media
You also want to look for local forums and community websites for your area (Google them). And don’t forget about reddit (search for your town/city) and Craigslist, which both have a lot of local content for most places (there’s also a baduk subreddit for Go players, by the way).
Sites with a local focus will reach fewer people in absolute terms, but the people you do reach will be better ‘targeted’. That’s a weird marketing term, but it basically means that you’ll reach people who are more likely to be interested in what you’re doing, which is very valuable.
Location, location, location!
As with many things, running a Go demo is largely about having a good location. You want to choose a place which:
- Is fairly well known (so it’s easier to tell people where it is and for them to remember)
- Is easy to get to for people who’ve seen your advertising
- Has a lot of local foot traffic at the time when you’ll be there.
What’s a good location? What are your goals?
Examples of good locations are public spaces near popular shopping areas, popular parks and tourist attractions.
It depends a little on your goals though. If growing your local Go club is a high priority for you, you might want to choose a location which is more popular with the locals (rather than tourists).
On the other hand, if you’re just doing this to promote the game, then tourist hot spots are are a great place to meet people who aren’t too busy and are likely to be open to new things.
Accost people in a friendly way
A really good location can make up for a lack of advertising and preparation to a large extent.
That is, as long as you’re prepared to accost people who are walking past and ask them something like “would you be interested in learning a 4000 year old board game?” or “did you know there’s a board game which computers still haven’t mastered?” (or some other variation on this which inserts an interesting fact about Go).
Don’t be scared to accost people if you don’t already have people to teach. Try to say something that’s also interesting to people who don’t already play Go.
Check whether you need permission
A final note about location; you might need to get permission from your local government to setup a small event in some places. Try Googling some variation on “[Location name] event permission” or “[Your town] public use”. You might find a phone number you can call for more info. If so, contact them as soon as possible, because bureaucracy moves a bit slowly sometimes.
If you can’t find anything, then assume that it’s ok to use a public space. Remember, you’re teaching people for free and doing a community service. If anyone challenges you during your event, tell them that.
This, by the way, is why I recommend that you don’t try to sell Go sets or anything else, unless you really know what you’re doing. As soon as you make something commercial, you make things more complicated for yourself and change people’s perceptions of what you’re doing.
I know that having to ask for permission is annoying, and goes against the grain for most people, but often the best move in Go and life is one of patience.
Holding people’s attention – Teaching and collateral
So now that you’ve got someone’s attention, you want to keep it for long enough to tell them about Go.
First of all, having the right tools on hand is invaluable. Use the event checklist to make sure you’re prepared on the day.
And most importantly, you need a short and interesting explanation. One that you can finish quickly, so you can get people playing before they lose interest.
In other words…
You need a spiel
Your Go spiel is a short talk about Go; that you’ve probably planned in advance.
I can’t overemphasize enough that your spiel should be as short as possible. There are so many things competing for people’s attention these days.
(Did my phone just buzz? I wonder when Pete’s going to text back… Is my parking about to expire? Hey, did I remember to lock the car? How long is this guy going to talk for? I have to pick the kids up at two o’clock. OMG I forgot to call NAANNNCY!)
All the best marketing concepts start off being short and to the point (you can say more later, if and when you get someone interested in Go, be patient).
Keep it simple
Think about the minimum you’d want to tell someone before they play their first game of Go.
Then remove all the extraneous cruft and cut it in half.
Now reduce that down to its essence.
Just do it. 😉
As Leonardo da Vinci said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As a Go player, I think you know that that’s true.
I’m an advocate of capture Go because it’s the fastest way to move someone from listening to you talk (boring for everyone who’s not you) to playing a game (fun!). To me, capture Go is a good attempt at the minimum spiel we talked about above.
Capture Go is a simplified version of Go, where you only teach people how to capture stones (to begin with) and then play a game where the first person to capture a stone wins. Some people call it atari Go and it’s usually played on a small board, like 9×9.
You can progress to two captures wins, three captures wins and so on fairly quickly and introduce other rules if they seem relevant and your student seems interested.
Stone counting is another simplified teaching method, which is also very good.
I’ve tried both ways of teaching, but I usually still prefer to teach capture Go because it gets to the point more quickly (really important if you’re teaching in public). However, stone counting can be better for certain students and especially if you’re teaching at a Go club (where people have more time and interest to begin with).
It’s not really a choice between one or the other. You can teach capture Go first and quickly progress to stone counting after a few games, for example.
Here’s Dieter Verhofstadt’s take on stone counting.
Forget the kitchen sink
Some people criticize capture Go because they think it “encourages capturing,” or stone counting because it “doesn’t talk about territory.” From my perspective – based on more than 10 years teaching and promoting Go – these criticisms are superficial and painfully completist.
For example, most beginners want to capture stones anyway and trying to capture helps them to learn to see when stones are in atari more quickly. Giving beginners Zen sounding advice like “it’s often better not to capture stones,” is bad for them. It confuses people and stops them from learning to see atari as quickly as possible.
Again, it’s a numbers game. It doesn’t matter if you give the most perfect and complete description of Go ever if five out of six people get bored and walk off before you ever finish. Focus on percentages, not perfection. Let’s move on.
This is not a lecture! Get people playing quickly
Regardless of how you choose to teach, remember that this isn’t a lecture! Try to talk for more than a few minutes and you’ll notice a glaze come across your student’s countenance.
Don’t believe me? Look more closely. Paying attention to the person you’re trying to teach is very important.
Adapt to your audience
One of the big secrets to teaching is the same as a secret to playing Go. Don’t underestimate the power of empathy; try to see things from their perspective.
There’s actually no ‘best’ way to teach, the same way that there’s no ‘best’ move in Go. True mastery requires you to constantly adapt to changing circumstances.
You need to teach in a way that you feel comfortable with, but it’s better if you’re comfortable with a variety of ‘strategies’. Then you can teach in a way that suits your student and the teaching environment best.
For example, if you’re teaching a family with young kids, outside, in a noisy place, get to the point as quickly as possible. Choose capture Go. If someone seems unsatisfied with a simplified game, start introducing more rules. You can do this!
Some people might be very interested in learning more, or hearing about the culture related to Go. Tell them more. Let them feel your passion for the game. Traditional stories about Go are of interest to some people too.
If someone comes along who’s heard of Go and tells you they’re a serious chess player, chat with them about strategy. Tell them about moyo and how it’s all about controlling space.
If you’re not too busy, maybe explain ko and how it can affect other parts of the board indirectly, as long as they remain interested. Some people might not even want to play right now, because they’re enjoying talking about cool strategic stuff with you. They might prefer to just take a brochure instead.
Actually, you might think I’m violating one of my principles right now, because this article is very long, isn’t it? Didn’t I tell you to keep things simple?
That’s true in part, but the people who wanted the short version downloaded the express toolkit and left 10 minutes ago (you had that option, remember?). If you’re still reading, you’re like a person who’s stuck around to ask questions or come to the Go club looking to learn more. That’s when it’s time to introduce people to more advanced concepts.
And believe me, I’ve spent a long time condensing this information for you and trying to make it engaging
Get people to play together
If you’re doing well, you might have a group of people learning by now. The best way to manage this situation is to get people to play one another.
It’s better for them anyway, because they can play a more interesting game against another beginner. And it frees you up to teach more people. Two big advantages of mainly teaching capture Go are its speed and limited friction. Exploit that.
Try not to spend too long with any one person, especially if you get the sense that they’re not really interested or just like to argue about things (some people are just like that). Give them a brochure to read and invite them to hang around and play with someone else soon, especially if you spot someone else waiting to ask a question.
Smile and have fun
Try to be entertaining and funny where possible. You don’t need to be a clown, but a sense of humor helps to break the ice with people.
You’re telling people about a game you love, right? Otherwise, why are you doing this? Try to convey your passion for Go in your words and actions (like I hope I’m doing for you right now) it will motivate them to learn more.
And don’t forget to smile. It will make you seem more approachable and will actually make you feel happier. It’s true! Try it now.
If you asked me for an example spiel, I’d show you my first lesson on capture Go again. However, that lesson is actually too long for face to face teaching, because you can communicate much better in person, more quickly.
In written form, on the internet, you have to write for a broad audience and have no sense of whether people understand or not. You have to cover topics more carefully and pre-empt questions that some people might have (this article is an example of that dilemma).
When you teach people in person, you can show them things on the Go board and you can easily see whether they’ve understood. They can also ask questions if something’s not clear
Because of that, I recommend page 1 of this Go brochure, stopping before you get to suicide, as an example of how simple things can be to start with (‘page 1’ is actually on page 2 of the PDF, because of the way it prints).
The American Go Association has some other examples here. They’re much too long for my taste, but the content is still good and might work for you.
Brochures (and why they beat business cards every time)
Now lets talk about ‘collateral’, which is another fancy marketing term for ‘stuff that you give people so they stay interested’.
Here’s a brochure (A4 paper) which you can print out and fold.
Edit the brochure to put your Go club’s meeting times and contact details on the front before printing it. If you don’t have a club, put you own details on the brochure so that people can get in touch for a game from time to time (this can also help you to start a club).
Unfortunately most home printers can’t print these out, because they require precise measurements and margins. However, I believe it’s worth going to a print shop to make these if you can spare a few dollars.
Give people something valuable, so they don’t throw it away
What’s so great about brochures? Well, this one is a very basic ‘rules’ booklet for Go.
It contains useful information about how to play Go, so that people are more likely to stick it to their fridge or file it for later. It makes people less likely to throw it away and more likely to see it again, and get in touch with you (remember to add your contact details!).
This is an old marketing strategy which was perfected by direct mail marketers like Gary Bencivenga. Instead of sending people advertisements (aka junk mail), he sent them useful, free magazines (which also contained his ads).
A business card is only valuable to you
Some people recommend using business cards, because they’re small and you can hand out a lot of them. And they make you look professional.
The problem with this is that your business card is way more valuable to you than it is to anyone else (sad but true). It doesn’t contain any useful information to encourage people to keep it, unless they’re already super keen to contact you again.
Business cards are great in formal situations. And they work very well if you’re the local plumber or the person someone really needs to call for work first thing on Monday. But I don’t think that’s the case here.
Think about it this way, your Go brochure is your Go club’s business card (you put your contact details on it, didn’t you?). It’s just an upgraded version.
By the way, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use business cards if you already have them, just that I believe brochures are a more effective way to get people into Go.
The Instant Go Set – another useful give away
I made this one a few years ago and it has some Go Game Guru branding on it. If that bothers you, you’re welcome to edit it and add your Go club’s branding instead. However, all that extra paper will be cut away pretty quickly anyway.
The Instant Go Set is great for giving to families, so that the kids have a project for when they get home. They can cut out all the Go stones and play some more Go!
Each set is three pieces of paper, so you might want to hand them out sparingly, to kids and people who seem really interested.
Do you know Go? (a Go comic for kids!)
Another give away that you can print and give to kids is Colette Bezio’s Do You Know Go?
Colette is the author and illustrator of the wonderful web comic Aji’s Quest.
Turning people into Go players – Give them a next step
Ok, so you’ve got people’s attention and you’ve held it for long enough to teach them to play Go. Now what?
Now you need to give people a next step to continue learning. There are things you can do on the day and things you should do afterwards.
The follow-up checklist will help you to ensure that your efforts bear fruit to the greatest extent possible.
Tell people about local clubs and other Go events
If you’ve followed the tips so far, you’ve already got brochures that you can give people with meeting times and contact details for you club.
When you give a brochure to someone, you should also tell them about your club in person and show them the contact details on the front cover. People aren’t stupid, but they are busy. It helps if you can make things as clear as possible.
When you’re telling people about your Go club, try to mention any other Go events that take place in your region from time to time. It helps to show that there’s a community that they can be a part of.
Take photos and share them – let’s make some noise
This can be hard to remember in the rush of an event, but try to take at least one photo sometime during the day.
A photo of your team (e.g. just after you’ve finished setting up) is fine. A photo of people learning to play is even better.
Share your photos on social media using the #LearnGoWeek hashtag again. And email a photo to [email protected] – we’ll broadcast them on social media too, and will collate them for a Go video later on.
You can also use your photos on your Go club website or in your newsletter if you have one. And you can send them to your local Go association, so that they can share them too.
Collect contact details – don’t wait for people to come to you
All of the best run Go clubs I’ve ever seen have one thing in common; they collect their members contact details and stay in touch with them.
A simple paper notebook and pen is all you need to collect email addresses from people who seem interested in staying in touch. If you only take one pen it will probably stop working or get lost, so remember to take a few spares.
After your event finishes, you can follow up with people to let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and that your next club meeting is coming up on [date x]. In particular, if you’re running a beginners’ night at your club as part of Learn Go Week, remind them about that and invite them to bring friends to learn too.
By the way, you shouldn’t just take a notebook for collecting contact details to your event, you should be doing this every week at your Go club too for best results.
Stay in touch and run mini events (email still works best)
You should periodically run special events at your Go club and email people to let them know about it. Having a party for no reason is fine! Having a party because it’s Christmas, Halloween, or whatever is even better!
People love ‘events’. They look forward to them. That’s why annual events feature prominently in many cultures.
The reason why special events are good is that they motivate people to come back to the Go club and help to keep the club alive. You can organize for your more regular members to bring food and drinks (depending on the venue), because they’ll be more interested in helping you to keep the club going.
There are a lot of social media ‘gurus’ around these days who can tell you all about the latest features rolled out on Facebook, twitter, wigwam and twiddlydo (not sure about those last two), and how to use them to keep in touch with like-minded people. Do you know a better way to keep in touch with people?
Boring old email.
Social media can get so busy that it’s hard to get heard over the noise. Plus, not everyone who comes to your club will use it. Emails are more direct, less fleeting and almost everyone has an email address these days.
Don’t get me wrong, Go Game Guru uses social media a lot and it definitely has its place. It’s very good for spreading the word about something, as we discussed above. But don’t kid yourself about what the best way to stay in touch with someone is if you only have time for one medium of communication.
If you must use social media to manage your club, create a Facebook group so that people at least get a notification when someone posts a new message. Meetup.com is another site you can use which is better geared towards running a club. It works better than Facebook, but there’s a small subscription fee to use it (worthwhile once your club gets big enough, you just need a few members to chip in to pay the fee).
Go equipment on the cheap
If you already have plenty of Go equipment (or at least a set of stones) then you’re pretty much set. You might just want to print out some spare 9×9 boards in case you get a lot of people at your event.
Printable 9×9 Go boards
Here’s a downloadable 9×9 board which you can print out on standard paper.
Small boards are ideal for teaching beginners. The games finish more quickly, which is better for beginners and also means you can teach more people, and they don’t require as many stones.
With 9×9 boards, one standard set of stones will be enough to cover four games with eight players at a time. For a small event that’s probably enough to get by, which means you only need one set of stones at a pinch.
You can also laminate these boards at your local print shop if you want them to last a bit longer. I used to do this when I taught Go at schools.
Cheap Go stones
There are lots of things that will substitute for Go stones if you don’t have much money or access to Go equipment.
Some people use pieces from other games or bottle caps that they collect. Here are some other ideas:
Paper and cardboard Go stones
The cheapest way to get Go stones is to make them yourself out of paper or cardboard. If you can find some cardboard that someone is throwing away, the materials are free.
Use a bottle top as a stencil so that your stones are all the same size and then draw a 9×9 Go board on another piece of paper which will be the right size for your stones. You can measure the distance between the lines using the diameter of one of your stones.
This is an excellent way to make a Go set for practically nothing. The downsides are that paper and cardboard Go sets aren’t very durable and tend to blow away in the wind when used outside. They’re not ideal for public Go demonstrations, but they’re fine for indoor use.
Buttons as Go stones
If it’s hard to buy Go stones in your area, but you want something that’s more substantial, buttons are a good substitute.
Find someone who sells buttons and ask for size 34L. Buttons are measured in ‘ligne’ and 34 Ligne means 21 mm or 7/8″ in diameter. That means 34 L will fit reasonably well on a standard Go board (like the 9×9 board you’ve just printed out).
For a single 19×19 Go set, you only need 150 of each color (300 in total), or 40 of each color for 9×9. However, if you’re using them for teaching, try to get 200 of each color so you can have 4-5 games going at once on 9×9.
Cheap Go sets
If you’re short on time, but have a little cash to spare, the easiest thing is to buy a cheap set of Go stones.
We have very cheap Go sets which we sourced for this purpose and sell at practically no profit to help promote Go. One set is enough for four printed 9×9 boards.
If you’re in the US, UK, Australia or Hong Kong, we can ship them to you locally. If you’re somewhere else, you might find that the featherweight Go set is cheaper overall, once you factor in shipping costs.
Go forth and conquer!
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of this very long guide and you’re well on your way to becoming a black belt Go promoter!
I hope that you’ve picked up some useful tips, which will help you to build a flourishing Go community in your area.
Remember that these suggestions are just examples of things that work well to promote Go. They’re by no means the only way, or even the best way. You might come up with even better ideas as you gain experience, so keep an open mind and let me know if you come up with something else that works well.
Now it’s time to start applying what you’ve learned. Go forth and conquer!
If you have any questions about this guide, or suggestions about how to improve it, please feel free to contact us.