Rather than just rely on gut feel, I've pulled together some stats for the rulesets covered in the main "BHGS" series of events (edit 2.6.16 plus the DBA circuit), as these are (I believe) the rulesets that have most takeup in competitions right now. This does unashamedly mean the focus is on mostly 15mm events - so all of the various iterations of WAB and it's derivatives are not covered, but unless I'm missing something I don't believe any of those sets are supporting the same sorts of numbers of players or events throughout the year as the ones I looked at.
The data I did use was collated from several sources - the current BHGS rankings for FoGAM and L'Art de la Guerre, plus the DBMM rankings page (edit 2.6.16 plus the UK DBA rankings) and finally John Graham Leigh's DBM results page, all to look at how many people are playing each system in competitions across the UK.
The main (and I believe fairly safe) assumption is that these sets of rankings & results capture pretty much all of the competitive games played in the past 12 months in the UK across these 5 systems. I also then shared this with the veritable king of stats analysis in UK gaming, Martin from Vexillia who did some validation and additional analysis (thanks Martin!)
What I looked at was numbers of players, number and size of events, and then also how much does each set appear to depend on a "core" of very active players, and finally also how long is the "tail" of occasional players in each ruleset.
So, what's the state of play?
Currently the dbmm.org.uk site shows results from 17 events held in the UK, although there are a couple more which haven't made it onto the site. Two of the events Roll Call & Warfare) have two DBMM periods running in parallel on the same weekend - usually 15mm & 25mm.
As of today the data available suggest that there are between 80-90 players who have entered a UK DBMM event in the last 12 months. This does include 11 players listed as "non-UK", who between them represent 12 competition entries (ie they all entered one event, apart from one person who entered two events this year). Most of the "overseas" players are from Ireland, so whether that’s technically abroad in MM terms I’m not sure...
If we settle on 80 UK players (netting out 11 overseas) they generated between them some 326 event entries (or 314 counting UK players only) in the past 12 months, giving an average of just under 4 events entered per player.
4 of the DBMM events were small(ish), with 10 or less players entering. There were also 5 rounds of the Northern League, which is nominally a doubles event but where the majority of "teams" in each round are usually single players. Each NL round had between 10-13 players at each one-day event making up 8-10 "teams". The 4 "small" events include two 25mm competitions that ran alongside larger 15mm events.
The 4 "small" events account for 37 of the total UK entries.
Other DBMM stats:
- It looks like around 35-40 people entered just 1 event - if however you strip out the effect of overseas players this means 25-30/80 UK players played in just one event last year (35%)
- 18-20 people made between them half of all UK competition entries.
- The average DBMM event attracts about 18 UK-based entrants
Going back to 2012 and using the same dbmm.org.uk database (see FoGAM analysis below for why 2012 is relevant) the UK DBMM scene appears to have been pretty much the same size with 97 players entering 21 UK competitions (of which 9 were 1-day events), and making up 359 total entries - of these 13 were overseas players, all of whom entered just 1 event. 22 players made up half of all competition entries in 2012 (not that different to today) and 34 players, including the 13 overseas players, entered just one event, again a similar number to today.
The current stats are for the period immediately prior to the recent rollout of an updated version of DBMM, which common sense suggests will result in an increase in competition entries. Whether this brings lapsed players back into the pool, or increases the number of events that existing players attend will be interesting to see.
The FoGAM rankings currently includes results from 20 events, but this reduces down to 16 if you count Roll Call, Reading and Britcon where multiple FoGAM themes are offered at the same event.
As of the latest rankings there were 140 FoGAM players who took part in at least 1 event last year. It looks as if only 3 of these were non-UK-based, and all of them only entered one event each so unlike for DBMM this will be largely immaterial for player numbers overall.
These 140 players generated 422 event entries in total - an average again of just over 3 events entered per player.
Only 3 of the FoGAM events featured less than 10 players. These were Roll Call 25mm, running at the same time as a 15mm event, and both PAW events, where 15mm and 25mm events were also offered together on the same days.
- 57 people played just 1 event (Burton Doubles accounts for 12 of these) - again almost exactly the same as DBMM, at 39% of all players.
- 29 people (out of 140) made up half of all competition entries - 21% of the player pool
- The average event has a whopping 26 entrants (counting 2-period/theme events as one event)
With a new version of FoGAM in gestation currently there is again the potential for a resurgence of interest in FoG. The key differences to the DBMM community are that FoG has both a wider current active player base, but also a "keener" core group of highly active players who on average enter 7.2 events each per year - the highest number of events entered for any ruleset by the core groups of players.
The DBM circuit is concentrated in two areas - Norfolk/Essex and the South West of England, and almost all of the 10 events last year took place in those two locales. Many of the events are doubles, but single players often enter these events too. 2 of the 10 events had less than 10 entrants. The DBM community continue to release small incremental amendments to the rules, and also have adopted the newly revised DBMM army lists for competition use, and so a degree of freshness is regularly injected into the circuit.
On the DBM circuit I counted 52 players in total appearing in last years results, making up 149 event entries (including doubles where each player is counted separately). Apparently one of the players does live in Finland so I'm told, but in the absence of a huge Finnish DBM community I guess he can count as UK-based! The 2 small events attracted 17 players across the two events.
- 20 players played just 1 event (40% of the player base - almost identical to the other rulesets)
- 12 players made up 50% of all competition entries (24% of the overall pool)
- The average event has 15 entries (although this is skewed upwards by a greater proportion of doubles events on the DBM circuit)
The core 12 players who make up half of all tournament entries take part in an average of 6.2 events each per year (out of 10 possible events!!), but still represent a smaller proportion of the overall DBM universe than the equivalent group do in in FoGAM.
L'Art de la Guerre is the new kid on the block, having been widely played for just under a year and so the rankings currently include results from just 8 events. There are as many as 8-9 further events scheduled for the rest of this year, so by the end of 2016 the UK rankings will be more directly comparable to those of other rulesets. Some events are now also included on the international rankings site, which has over 350 active players this year entering events across the globe
These 84 players are more thinly spread than in other rulesets, making 136 competition entries in total. Only one event featured 10 or less players, which was the 2015 Challenge - the oldest event in the rankings currently - however as of today 18 players are signed up for the 2016 Challenge which will replace the 2016 event in the rankings in a couple of weeks.
- 52 people have played in just 1 event (including 4 overseas)
- 24 people currently make up half of all competition entries (30% of UK-based players).
- The average ADLG event has 17 entries.
DBA (added 2/6/16)
Bill MacGillivray has now kindly sent me the UK DBA Championship standings, which means DBA can be added to this mix. Most of the DBA events are one-day competitions, but with the shorter game length of DBA they will often have the same number of rounds as a 2-day event for the more "big battle" sets listed here.
The DBA numbers are based on the final 2015 season standings, so are slightly out of sync with the other sets of results. So far this year numbers appear to be almost exactly in step with 2015, with a couple of new events on the circuit as well in the Midlands and North of England. A new version of DBA 3.0 came out last year which is likely to have rekindled player interest so overall 2016 numbers might well end up being higher.
The 2015 season included 15 events, all stand-alone competitions, and including 4 in Portsmouth. The biggest event had 18 entrants, the smallest 6, and 3 of the 15 had less than 10 players, the cutoff to be considered "small" in this analysis.
In total 49 players took part in at least one DBA event last year, and these players between them made a total of 176 competition entries. This level of participation is great than for both DBM and ADLG currently, and if "small" events with less than 10 entries are stripped out of the numbers the gap with DBMM also shrinks, putting DBA in third place behind FoGAM and DBMM as the most actively played ruleset, even though it has the smallest overall pool of UK-based players.
- Just 15 (30%) DBA players took part in only 1 event - the lowest proportion of 'occasional' players for any of these rulesets. This may well be down to a combination of predominantly one-day events on this circuit, and the geographic concentration of DBA players in a few specific areas.
- 10 players made just over 50% of all competition entries - at 20% of the total player pool this is comparable to FoG but lower than the other 3 sets which have more directly comparable sized pools of players.
Interesting times - but still also pretty good times too for Ancient gaming, with over 1,000 entries to UK competitions over the last 12 months across these 5 rulesets alone.
With all 5 sets having something "new" going on in terms of rules updates and new lists (or, in the case of FoGAM, having updates on the horizon) there is also plenty happening to keep each community interested in their particular set, which only really leaves the possibility of over-familiarity with the same pool of players as being likely to dent numbers.
Even with the decline in numbers for FoGAM and DBMM over the past 4 years, the emergence of ADLG as a mainstream set, plus the introduction of new versions of all the other sets may mean that by the end of this year the UK will be back to pre-2012 levels of participation in Ancients events again.
As another relevant comparison, the equivalent headline numbers for FoG Renaissance are;
- 101 players in the last 12 months (6 overseas)
- 300 competition entries (exactly!)
- 21 players make up half of all entries
- 46 players only played in 1 event
These numbers would place FoGR in second place behind FoGAM in terms of popularity, ahead of all of the other Ancient rulesets on both of the key metrics of player numbers and competition entries (if it was an Ancients set of course...!).