17 Apr 2017

Competition Ancients in the UK - The state of play, 1 year on

Almost a year ago I wrote a blog post on the relative popularity of various "competition" Ancients sets in the UK, which, unusually for this sort of thing was based on actual analysis of real numbers rather than just a subjective TMP-esque mumble of personal preference and "down my club we think this...".

At the time, FoG Ancients was the largest set by some distance but had declined from it's peak of a few years previous, the popularity of DBMM had been flat for some time and a new set L'Art de la Guerre (which you'll have seen on this site no doubt!) was just finishing its first full year of being played in the UK.

Well, how does that all look now, and what's changed in the UK competition scene?

DBMM

A year ago it proved a little tricky compiling accurate data for the numbers of entries for DBMM events, however since then the truly excellent DBMM rankings website at http://partridges.org.uk/rankings/ has been revitalised and updated and seems to have gotten back on top of capturing pretty much everything that happens in the UK DBMM-wise.

Last time around the total number of DBMM competition entrants in the previous year stood at somewhere around 90 players - including 11 based overseas - entering 17 different events (counting those events with both 25mm and 15mm periods as one).  The total number of entries stood at 326, or 314 excluding the overseas players

In the last 12 months that number hasn't really changed appreciably, with 17 events again making up the calendar featuring 84 different players. This year just 5 players based overseas have played in UK events basically representing a smaller Irish contingent at Britcon 2016, leaving a UK-based pool of 79 active players - exactly the same as a year ago. The total number of event entries was 296, down fractionally on the prior year.

The mix of "core" and "occasional" players is also a pretty much the same, with 17 players (21%) making up half of all event entries across the year (compared to 18-20 last year).

The number of UK-based players taking part in just one event has remained about the same, with 27 this year vs 25-30 last time around. 4 overseas players also took part in just one event in the last year.

Of the 27 UK-based "unique" players, 13 of them appeared at the Milton Keynes 1-day event - the biggest single pool event in the calendar with 33 players - highlighting the continuing importance of the Milton Keynes club to the DBMM community in the UK.  A new 2-day event held in Guildford also was added to the DBMM calendar in the past 12 months, drawing another large field of 18 players, of which 4 were also "uniques".

When Milton Keynes is combined with the 5 rounds of the Northern League and the 1-day event in Central London, one-day events make up almost half of all DBMM events staged across the year, contribute over 1/4 of all event entries (86), and are the only places you will come across players representing over a quarter of the entire UK player pool.

This period represented the year immediately following the introduction of a new version of DBMM and also a new set of lists - however with no appreciable change in player numbers or participation levels in this period it's hard to say whether this has helped or hindered the DBMM community either way.

That is not to say that over the past 5 years the DBMM community hasn't seem any churn of players coming in and out - far from it as this table shows:

Current20162015201420132012
Total Players848283929697
New this year61991411N/A
Did not returnN/A420181812

  • New this year means players who did not appear in a tournament in the previous year
  • Did not return means players who did not appear in a tournament in the following year

Consistently more players have dropped out of competition DBMM every year for the last 5 years than have taken it up as a competition game, however most of this churn is at the lower end of the "enthusiasm" grading - for core competition players what is clear is that the DBMM community is very, very stable.

To illustrate this more clearly I was able to create the following graphic by ranking players by "number of events participated in" for each of the last 5 years, and then colour-coding the placings into 20-wide bands (1-20, 21-40, 41-60 etc). The paler the cell, the more active the player.

Each row represents a different player, and each number represents where the player would rank in term of "number of events entered" for each year.  In this graphic, "Player 1" - the most active player in the year to date - has also been the most active player in 2016 and 2015, and was the 2nd most active player in 2013 and 2012. Quite what happened in 2014 is a mystery....but I guess Arsene Wenger would still consider 4th to be a successful year too!


With the banding of colours very consistent across the years, the graphic highlights how the 20 most active current players have also been the most active players every year for pretty much the whole of the last 5 years.
By the time you get outside the 'top 40' for any given year the number of events entered falls away to just 1 or 2, so it is probably fair to say that the national competition scene is essentially made up of the top 40 or so active players. Only 5 "new" players have picked up DBMM enthusiastically enough to join this core "active" group since 2012, and all are still found at the lower end of the "Top 40" participation chart.


FoGAM

In May 2016 FoGAM was the biggest ancients set by some margin, with 140 players taking part in 16 events and making a total of 422 entries between them.

In the past 12 months these stats have seen a significant change, with the total number of active players falling by almost 1/3 to just 97, including just three overseas players.  The total number of event entries has also unsurprisingly declined by a similar amount, falling from 422 to 308, leaving FoGAM only now marginally larger than DBMM in the UK.

Of these 97 active players, 40 were "uniques" who entered just one event during the course of the year and a further 17 entered just two meaning just over half of the player pool are currently "occasional" players.

Unlike DBMM, the FoGAM circuit doesn't have a "Milton Keynes One-Dayer" event driving up the number of "unique" competition players and overall player numbers, with the Schiltron competition in Scotland contributing the most FoGAM "uniques" with 7.

21 FoGAM players between them made up just over half of all event entries, entering more than 7 events each throughout the year - the same as a year ago. This core group represent an identical proportion of the (smaller) overall player pool compared to a year ago, and the same proportion as seen in DBMM too.

A year ago FoGAM was already clearly on a downward trajectory from its peak back in 2012 of 250+ active players, and from these stats this trend has clearly continued.

This table shows overall player numbers in the last 5 years:

Current20162015201420132012
Total Players in UK Competitions93137156193235250
New to the circuit this year39163142N/A
Did not return after this yearN/A4941598159
  • New this year means players who have not previously appeared in any tournament in any previous year in the period 2012-17
  • Did not return means players who did not appear in a tournament in the following year
Over the past 5 years FoGAM has seen a significant shedding of players, with very few new players joining the circuit - unsurprisingly this trend really gained pace in the years immediately after the debacle of the initially non-printed V2.0. With the rules now hard to come by, the conveyor-belt of new players has largely dried up. This also means that more new players have picked up DBMM (competitively) than FoGAM  in the last 3 years, by 34 to 28 - an effect largely attributable to the impact of the Milton Keynes 1-dayer (which is strongly attended by players from Milton Keynes club where DBMM is the dominant ancients ruleset) on the DBMM circuit stats.

I've also pulled together a similar graphic to the DBMM one to show how dynamic (or static) the ranking by "number of events participated in" has been over the last 5 years. Because FoGAM has a bigger pool, I have banded the colour-coding into 30-wide bands (1-30, 31-60, 61-90 etc), again with paler cell meaning more active the players.

Each row represents a different player, and each number represents where the player would rank in term of "number of events entered" for each year.  In this graphic, "Player 1" - the most active player in the year to date - has been creeping up the activity rankings steadily over the past 5 years, having only been the also been the 12th most active player in 2012.  Once you get outside the Top 30, players are taking part in 3 or less events per year, and anyone outside the Top 60 is generally only entering 1 event.



The Top 30 most active players have, like in DBMM but with a handful of notable exceptions mostly been the Top 30 players throughout the last 5 years, but the amount of new blood coming full-throttle into the UK competition scene is also greater than seen for DBMM - possibly showing again the distorting effect of the hyper-local Milton Keynes 1-dayer and Northern league attendances on the stats for the DBMM competition circuit.

The core group of FoGAM players appear to still be just as active as they ever were however, and with every event on the circuit being a two-day affair the level of commitment by the active player group is still pretty strong.

Quite how this will be impacted by the arrival of yet another new edition is still to be seen - if the DBMM experience is anything to go by, the answer is probably "not a lot", but the FoGAM experience might suggest otherwise.

L'Art de la Guerre

A year ago ADLG was very much the new kid on the block, with only 8 events having taken place in the first year of the ruleset appearing at UK competitions, at which 84 players featured making just 136 entries between them.

12 months on and the picture is rather different - in the last 12 months 18 separate events have been staged, with 122 players taking part making 331 entries in total - giving ADLG the largest calendar of UK events, largest active played pool and largest number of event entries of any mainstream mass-battle ancients set in the UK today. With a large international player community it is also perhaps not surprising that more overseas players have taken part in UK ADLG events (7) this year than for any other ruleset as well.

The shorter game-time of ADLG makes it especially suitable for 1-day events, with three games possible in one day and so unsurprisingly the UK ADLG calendar currently includes 8 one-day competitions, one more than those currently staged by the DBMM circuit and with only 1 ADLG round of the 5-round Northern League included in this count compared to 5 for DBMM.

25 players make up half of all competition entries - perhaps weirdly, again an identical proportion to that seen for the other two rulesets - with 60 players having only taken part in one event across the year.

The pattern of appearance of "uniques" in ADLG is more akin to that seen for FoGAM than for DBMM, with no stand-out event contributing such a significant proportion of "uniques". This total of 60 "uniques" is still materially higher than in DBMM or FoGAM, but is not entirely unexpected given that ADLG numbers are still growing year-on-year.

The recently-held Roll Call has been the single biggest contributor with 11 new ADLG players appearing there for the first time followed by 7 at the inaugural round of the Northern League and a further 7 appearing at the only event held in Scotland in the past year, Sighn-Dubh.

Central London Wargames Club is a particular hotbed of ADLG and has hosted two 1-day events in the past 12 months and this alone could reasonably be expected to skew these figures. However out of the 122 players currently in the UK pool, only 8 are CLWC club members who's appearance in the rankings is attributable to these two events alone. This means that CLWC's two ADLG events are making a smaller contribution to the ADLG player pool than MKWS' 1-day DBMM event makes to the size of the UK DBMM player pool.

One other notable aspect of the ADLG circuit is the large number of 25/28mm events being staged. The "big toys" format had nearly died out in the UK for most of the other rulesets, with at best 1 or 2 events having a sub-tournament alongside a larger 15mm competition, but ADLG seems to have captured the imagination of players with 25mm armies, presumably because the lower unit count makes them easier to collect and paint, and also means the table is less cluttered than for other mass-battle 25mm sets. As many as half a dozen of the ADLG events held in the past 12 months have been in 25mm scale.

Other Rulesets 

A year ago I also looked at DBM and DBA - both were smaller player pools and circuits than any of the above sets, with around 50 players each and 8-12 events staged. Looking at the tournament listings for both sets, they appear to be relatively unchanged and so it's fair to assume that with no major upheavals in either community both are doing much the same as before.

Mortem et Gloriam (MeG) is this year's new kid on the block, having had it's first (technically a "playtest") event at the BHGS Challenge last June and so is coming up to close on a full year of events.

So far there have been 5 MeG events staged - 3 singles, 2 doubles - all held as part of existing multi-ruleset competitions, attracting a total of 31 different players, 13 of whom have appeared only once.

The total number of competition entries so far has been just 68 (less than half the total racked up in the first full year of ADLG) with the 8 players who took part in last years initial "playtest" event making up almost half (29) of those entries. This picture will continue to change with 8 new players already signed up to play at either Britcon or The BHGS Challenge later this year (but a similar number from this year's events not yet signed up to return). Basically it is still very early days to draw any meaningful conclusions as to what impact, if any, MeG might have on the mainstream of the UK mass-battle Ancients competition scene.

Swordpoint is the new mass-battle set from Gripping Beast launched at the end of 2016, and from what is posted on their forum it looks like they have held 2 events so far, with 18-20 players at each. There are at least 2-3 more events planned for the rest of the year. Currently the player pool stands at 30 unique players after 2 events - the same size as MeG already - with only 8 of the 30 having done both events. The pool size is certainly set to increase based on the already-published list of entries for Warfare (11 players as of today) and so it is possible that by the end of this year Swordpoint and MeG will both be neck and neck in terms of player pool, number of events and number of entries.

The Summary:

The good news is that the number of events, and the numbers of players entering them is - overall - still slightly increasing, as the uptick in people playing ADLG (plus a little bit of MeG) is now more than offsetting the continuing decline in numbers of FoGAM participation, whilst DBMM continues to chug along at much the same level as it has done for the last few years - although with an arguably slightly shrinking pool of highly active players.

Independent of any single ruleset, the most notable top-level trend would seem to be the increase in numbers and importance of one-day events across the UK circuit, most notably for ADLG but also for DBMM. The one-day format is clearly easier to get a pass-out to attend, but is also easier to organise, so the emergence of a series of new, mostly 1-day ADLG events in the SW and SE of the UK to mirror the Northern League has contributed greatly to player numbers and participation levels overall.

On this basis, if the new supposedly "faster" format for FoGAM v3.0 allow the FoG community to shorten game times down towards 2.5 hours and therefore get onto the one-day-event bandwagon, it could well end up doing more to redress the ongoing decline in support and participation for FoGAM than anything "new" inherent in the rules themselves.







11 comments:

alan Cutner said...

Interesting summary. Do you have any data on numbers playing more than one ruleset, and whether this gives any indication of what people are moving to?

ahuyton said...

Yes, an interesting summary. I would very much like to try ADLG, which looks a worthy successor to DBM. Good to see that it is gaining in popularity.

Madaxeman said...

Trying to work out the stats for each ruleset is tricky enough, but the idea of trying to work out who appears in more than one set of rankings is a piece of work that is well beyond me, even on a quiet bank holiday weekend!

Also, more importantly, as each ruleset covers the previous 12 months, each set of data will inevitably include people who are in the process of sliding into or out of each set of rankings through inactivity/new starters - but telling which is which is almost impossible.

Taking a snapshot of overall numbers at a point in time, be it yearly or at an event by event basis is the only way of really seeing how that is playing out.

Ultimately, ADLG is growing, FoG is shrinking, DBMM is static but somewhat dependent on MKWS, and as of today MeG has relatively little traction. It's probably fair to say that very few players (outside those from MKWS) will be taking up competition-level DBMM, and even fewer for FoG, so looking at the list of players in the ADLG rankings and those who have appeared in MeG results so far will probably gop a long way to showing who is moving where.

First Chapter Review said...

That's not a lot of people in total doing Ancients, at least competition Ancients. Any links to the popularity of Ancient's rulesets in other countries?

WebOgre said...

Hello!
Charles from the US here. Are there any rumblings of Swordpoint coming on the scene yet? I know it has just been released this last year and their Classics lists aren't released til Salute, so my interest is really in if there has been chatter about it. I'm an old time DBA player but have taken notice of ADLG and hope to give that go soon. The aspect of better DBA/DBM is intriguing and welcome.
Cheers!

Madaxeman said...

It's still in the region of 4-500 people entering UK competitions in the last 12 months across just a handful of 'mass battle' rulesets, which isn't all that bad!

If you look back at past results from major events (on http://www.bhgs.org.uk/previous-results.html) you will see some years around the turn of the century (yes... that does sound odd!) when the takeup for single rulesets was greater, such as when DBM was "the" ruleset, with FoG having a brief period of much the same dominance in the mid 2,000's.

But there are also other differences between then and now - not least the explosion in small one-day competitions of single-ruleset events as well, which has been helped both by rule which move away from the 3.5 hour game format, by a growth in clubs with their own premises, and not least by the emergence of commercial gaming centres who can host events at the drop of a hat on any given weekend.

All in all we might actually have more people playing than a few years ago, but they are playing more different rulesets, and doing so in more, smaller venues than back in the day when a few major events very much dominated the scene.

Madaxeman said...

No much sign of Swordpoint as yet = there is one event being planned for Warfare in Reading this November but I've not seen any others announced. However, with internet forums and the like, it's entirely possible that the Swordpoint community could exist in it's own bubble without me seeing it!

One example of this that always amazed me was/is how the Saga event at Derby Worlds can attract in the region of 50 players each year, with almost zero chatter on the official Saga forum. The same seems to happen with a Bolt Action event in Cambridge too - 100+ players and no real chat that I can find online either.

So, I suspect Swordpoint is a bit limited to the Reading club and people in that ecosystem, but that may just be silo'ed ignorance on my part....

Madaxeman said...

aaah - I found a Swordpoint forum. Looks like they have had a few events already: http://swordpoint.grippingbeastplastics.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=4&start=30

Madaxeman said...

Also found some old "one ruleset era" rankings. The biggest single year for DBM was in 2002 when 574 UK players were ranked in DBM. Thats about 100 more than across all the sets I looked at here, but in an era when FoW didn't exist either, which certainly took a good chunk of the competition player universe out of the Ancients world.

Prufrock said...

Interesting post, thanks. Lots of hard work went into that, I'll bet!

Cheers,
Aaron

A Lot of Gaul said...

Apologies for the thread necromancy, but I just came across this blog post. Very interesting analysis of the UK tournament scene. As a Swordpoint player, I was glad t see it in your post. In addition to the dedicated Swordpoint forum on the Gripping Beast website, there is also a fan-generated Facebook page, where additional tournament info may be found: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1366129113399672

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