5 Apr 2020

Who "was" playing what? The 2019-20 Ancient scene

With competition wargaming pretty much now done and dusted until (hopefully "early") summer across the UK there's no real reason to delay publishing my once a year analysis of the relative popularity of various competition Ancients sets as unfortunately nothing will change now for a few months anyway. 

I also have the luxury of a little more time to delve deeper than usual into some of the nooks and crannies of the stats!

So, whats' been going on?

As of today there are still a good spread of viable Ancients competition sets out there all attracting north of 40-odd players and hosting events throughout the year. 
  • L'Art de la Guerre (ADLG) has continued to grow for a 5th consecutive year, such that it's pool of UK-based players is now almost as big as the next 3 most popular sets combined. 
  • ADLG is also driving an increasingly widespread use of 25mm figures on UK tabletops, to the extent that 2019-20 saw more UK-based players entering 25mm ADLG events than for several other single (non-ADLG) rulesets at any scale.  
  • To The Strongest! is now neck and neck with DBA as the third most popoular set, and is threatening to chase down DBMM's seemingly locked-in position as the second most widely played ruleset as it continues to pull in (but still churn through) large numbers of new players, even though the number of events for TTS! still remains far lower than for any other set.
  • Both MeG and FoG have seen notable falls in the number of players taking part in each circuit this year, with new player recruitment almost entirely drying up for both sets in the UK. For both however the level of competition participation by the remaining players remains solid.
  • DBM and DBMM are still both bubbling along at their previous levels, with the venerable DBM circuit enjoying an unexpected growth spurt in player numbers in the last few months.
The Summary:

The good news is that the number of Ancients events, and the level of participation is continuing to rise,  although the absolute number of players has remained stable over the last year as a continuing uptick in the numbers of people playing ADLG, TTS! and DBM has more than balanced out declines in numbers taking part in FoGAM, MeG and to a lesser extend DBMM events. 

The tables and charts below show the current direct comparisons between the leading sets:


Total Player Numbers (UK/Overseas), and amount of change from 2018-19

ADLG has seen the biggest net increase in players over the last 12 months, with TTS! and DBM also recording smaller increases whilst other sets have lost ground to varying degrees.




The number of overseas players now travelling regularly to the UK to play Ancients now stands at 48, up from 31 last year and has reached almost 10% of total player numbers - although this does vary significantly by ruleset. 

"Market Share" of leading Ancients sets by Total Player Numbers:



DBMM and ADLG players still make up just over half of the entire UK Ancients competition scene, with the other systems all each hovering in the 7-14% range.

One-unit-one-base systems (TTS!, and the DBx-based or derived DBM, DBA, DMM and ADLG) have increased their share of the overall player pool noticably in the last 12 months, with 82% of all UK-based Ancients players now favouring this approach, up from 75% last year.



Trends in numbers of "New" players adopting each ruleset 

Looking in more detail at just "new" players (those not seen on each individual circuit before), 5 years after it's English-language launch and even with the core rulebook now out of print for almost a year ADLG still continues to expand it's player pool. In the last 12 months more UK-based players joined the UK ADLG competition circuit than the total numbers of players for either FoG or DBM. 

The following graph shows the number of "new" players drawn into play each ruleset in any given 12-month period, as measured over the last 5 years, with the starting points for ADLG, MeG and TTS! being their first appearance in these stats. Over the past 5 years ADLG has also been consistently bringing in more new players in each 12-month period than almost any other ruleset, with around 40-50 new players each year.



TTS! and ADLG between them contributed over of 3/4 of all "new" players to the various circuits this year, although these numbers do also count players dropping out of one circuit and appearing for the first time in another.


(note - differences in 'net change' between this and the previous chart for some rulesets is due to some players returning 
to competitions after missing the entireity of the 2018-19 season. These players are not counted as "new") 


Numbers of Events and Total Entry numbers




Even with overall player numbers flat, the number of entries (each time an individual takes part in a competition) has still continued to rise year on year, and with 107 competitions held across all 7 rulesets in the last 12 months there are sure to be plenty of people out there raring to roll some dice again once the current social isolation rules are relaxed!


5 Year Trend analysis:


This illustrates the change (or not) of overall player numbers (in the preceeeding 12 month period) for each ruleset since 2016, measured at snapshots taken at year-end and in April/May each year. These do figures include overseas players.


Looking in more detail at the individual rulesets :


L'Art de la Guerre
Last 12 months: 37 events, 216 Players (194 UK, 22 o/seas), 741 entries

A year ago ADLG was comfortably the most popular UK competition ruleset with 187 players taking part making 671 entries in total across the year, and one year on ADLG is still seeing continued strong growth, adding a net +29 new players to it's UK circuit and witnessing a 10% increase in total event entries as well such that the UK ADLG player pool has now exceeded the number of players for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th biggest sets (DBMM, TTS! and DBA) combined.

The size of the UK ADLG circuit continues to include a solid smattering of overseas players, some of whom are now becoming regular visitors to these shores. In the last 12 months 22 overseas players played in the UK, a notable increase of 5 from the previous years stats meaning the domestic player pool grewn by a net 24.

The number of "occasional" ADLG players who only made a lone event appearance in the ADLG rankings increased from 65 to 81, up year on year from 35% up to 38%, driven mainly by the increase in overseas visitors (as 17 of these only played in one event). Just looking at UK-based player numbers shows almost exactly 1 in 3 players only entering one ADLG event per year in the last 12 months.

At the other end of the enthusiasm scale 17 players contributed 1 in 4 entries across the UK's 37-event ADLG competition circuit, extending out to 43 players who contributed half of all UK tournament entries.

The ADLG circuit currently includes more 25mm events than any other ruleset, with 13 of the events staged this year featuring large scale figures. 57 UK-based players (and one overseas player) dropped some heavy lead (or more often than not, plastic) onto an ADLG table in the past year. 

These figures are such that were the 25mm game considered as a stand-alone circuit, 25mm ADLG would just inch ahead of TTS! to have the fouth biggest pool of UK-based Ancients players (after ADLG 15mm and DBMM) - great news for the Perry Twins, Victrix and Warlord Games!

Just under 15% (32) of all players from the previous year's circuit dropped out in the last 12 months, however 9 of these were overseas-based leaving 23 UK players who failed to continue after playing last season. 50 players made their first appearance at a UK ADLG competition in the last 12 months, of which just 6 were from overseas and 44 were UK based - marking more "first timers" picking up ADLG than the total UK player universe for a number of other rulesets. 

The first ADLG event held in the UK was Roll Call 2015, and since then a grand total of 306 people have played in at least one UK-based ADLG competition. The current total of 216 means that a chunky-sounding total of 90 players have been "lost" to the ADLG circuit in the last 5 years, 29% of the all-time player pool, or 18 lapsees (!?) per year on average. 

These numbers are however tempered a little as 20 of these 70 'lapsed' players were from overseas. Removing overseas players from the entire analysis gives ADLG an all time UK-based universe of 70 lapsed and 194 still-active players, meaning 73% of all UK-based players who have ever entered an ADLG event since the ruleset was first launched in the UK were still actively participating on the circuit inside the last 12 months. 

Since 2015 the ADLG rulebook has been reprinted 4 times in it's English iteration, and is now only available as a discounted PDF from the author while a new version is under preparation for release later this year.

Taking just the last 10 months (starting just after Campaign 2019) there have been 208 people who've taken part in at least 1 ADLG event in the UK.

DBMM
Last 12 months: 19 events, 84 Players (73 UK, 11 o/seas), 301 entries

The DBMM rankings website at http://dbmm.org.uk/index.php/rankings/comps provides the data for the analysis, capturing details of all players and games in the UK.

Year on year, nothing much has changed in the world of DBMM. The number of active players has slipped back marginally by 3 to stand at 84 including 11 foreign-based players, continuing a pattern whereby the total player pool has hovered in the 80's for the last 5 years straight. The usual Irish contingent in the 2overseas" category this year was bolstered by a number of players from Germany coming over for the new BHGS Team Tournament last October.

Again as always, 8 players contributed 1 in 4 UK competition entries, with a group of 19 making up just over half. The total number of entries has again crept up with 301 entries - up from 282 last year. Yet again this seems to be driven by higher attendances at the one-day and "DBMM 120" short/small game format events.

Looking at the mix of "keen" vs "very occasional" players, 35 people only played in one event, up from 30 in 2018-19 to hit 42% of the total pool of UK event attendees, although 9 of these were admittedly overseas players mostly flying in for Warfare or Britcon (aaah - remember those days..?). 

After a year of some considerable churning in and out last time around, the last 12 months saw a period of relative stability with just 5 new UK-based players joining the competition circuit, together with 2 new overseas visitors, offset by 10 players dropping out.

The 2020 Milton Keynes 1-dayer was the biggest event in the DBMM calendar with 34 entries, closely followed by Warfare and the LGT Teams with 30 each. Just over 1/3 of current players only took part in events held in or near Milton Keynes, Reading and Guilford, the three clubs which continue to form the bedrock of  the UK DBMM community, with 10 of these only appearing in the stats as a result of a lone appearance at the Milton Keynes club's own 1-day event.  

The past year was however notable in DBMM terms for the the number of relatively new players taking a keener interest in competitions. In both of the last couple of years barely anyone (or, literally "one player") who picked up MM after 2012 managed to enter more than 2 events, but this year the number of enthusiastic newbies soared to a record total of 6! 


DBA
Last 12 months: 11 events, 65 Players (64 UK, 1 o/seas), 181 entries

DBA maintained a stable number of competition players in the last year with 65 players, down 3 from the previous set of stats. One of these players is from overseas, leaving 64 active UK-based DBA players - the change coming from 8 non-returnees and 5 new players this year.

With a couple of events dropping off the circuit in 2019-20 the number of competition entries fell 
noticably also, down to 181 from 224 last year, reverting to the level seen in in 2018-19's stats.  

28 players on the DBA circuit have only entered one event in the last year, getting on for half the player pool, and increasing noticably from the 20 one-event entrants last year. This seems likely to be linked to the loss of events, which denied some players the opportunity to participate more than once a year at competitions within easy driving distance.

6 players made up one in 4 of all entrants to UK events over the past year - a smidge under 10% of the player pool - and 14 contributed half of the total field across the year. 

Taking just the last 10 months (starting just after the PAWS Spring event in 2019) there have been 58 people who've taken part in at least 1 DBA event in the UK.

To The Strongest!
Last 12 months: 5 events, 59 Players (56 UK, 3 o/seas), 89 entries

To The Strongest! made a further net gain of 11 extra players across it's UK circuit to end on 59 different people taking part in at least one event, driven mostly by 2 extra events which brought the annual calendar up to 5. Three of these players flew (or used other forms of transport) to come to the UK from Europe to play at the World Championships at the end of February, leaving a UK-based pool of 56 active players.

A rather astonishing rate of churn saw 30 new players (including 3 overseas visitors) take part in their first UK TTS! event in the last 12 months, and a further 22 who failed to reappear. The biggest driver for "new" players was the first TTS! event to be held in Scotland which generated 14 new players for the circuit. More puzzlingly perhaps, the majority of the 22 lapsed players had all taken part in both of the previous two World Championships (held at the same venue and same end of February dateline) as this year's event, making their non-reappearanace somewhat noteworthy.

With just 5 events (only one of which was in Scotland) the stats for one-event players and enthusiastic players must be taken with a (wee) pinch of salt, but for what it's worth 5 players generated 1 in 4 of all tournament entries this year and 16 players delivered just over half. A huge 41 of the 59 players either chose, or were able to enter only one event. perhaps not surprising given there were only 5 to choose from in the last 12 months.

Taking just the last 10 months (starting just after Roll Call 2019) there have been 57 people who've taken part in at least 1 TTS! event in the UK.

Mortem et Gloriam (MeG)
Last 12 months: 14 events, 62 Players
 (52 UK, 10 o/seas), 245 entries

MeG also saw a noticable fall in player numbers in the last year, losing a dozen players overall as the annual total fell from 74 down to 62. This fall came after 2 previous years of growth, with the 10 new players who joined the UK MeG competition circuit offset by 21 who failed to reappear after taking part at events held in the 2018-19 season.

This downward trend would have been even steeper were it not for the MeG World Championships being again held in the UK and attracting even more overseas-based players this time around. This event, together with Britcon saw the overseas component of the "UK" stats doubling year on year (from 5 up to 10), leaving the underlying numbers of active UK-based players down almost 25% in the last 12 months (falling 17 from 69 to 52). 

Of the 10 new players seen on the UK MeG circuit for the first time this year, 6 were also part of this year's overseas invasion leaving 4 UK-based new adoptees, all of whom only entered one event. 

The number of MeG events staged last year also fell slightly with 14 staged (17 in the previous year) as some of the more poorly attended events dropped off the calendar.  The 62 active players racked up 245 entries between them - a fall of 16% following a 50% increase between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. 

Almost uniquely, every event on the MeG circuit is a singles competition and all are played in 15mm. Most other rulesets circuits support a mix of scales, or include one or more doubles-format events in their calendars with doubles in particular often being where new players for other sets will put a toe in the water and make their first competitive outings.

As with FoG, a relatively small number of very enthusiasic players are continuing to drive the MeG circuit. Just 6 players made up a quarter of the field at all competition fields across the year, with 13 players representing just over half of the field across all 14 UK-based MeG events staged. 

At the other end of the scale the number of players who only entered one MeG event this year was 21, or 34% of the UK pool with 7 of these being overseas-based. The list of 'only one event' gamers also included all bar one of the 10 "new" players, with the other being a French player who made it to two UK competitions last year. 

Since MeG was first launched in summer 2016 a grand total of 103 individuals have taken part in at least one UK MeG competition, with 60% of them active members of the UK competition circuit in the year. Just looking at UK based players the stats are 52 still active players out of an all-time pool of 90, or 58% - leaving the number of currently active UK-based MeG players back at the same level as it was in January 2018. 

Copies of the original ring-bound rules from the first print run are still available from the authors website, however a new, hard copy verison of the rules is due to be published by Plastic Soldier Company later this year.

Taking just the last 10 months (starting just after Campaign 2019) there have been 61 people who've taken part in at least 1 MeG event in the UK.

DBM
Last 12 months: 9 events, 44 Players (43 UK, 1 o/seas), 141 entries

The number of active DBM players crept upwards again, this time adding a net +3 more players over the last 12 months to end on 44, passing FoGAM in the opposite direction on the absolute popularity leaderboard in the process. 

Only one of the DBM players visits from overseas (I believe..), however this year also saw 7 brand new faces (well, "new" since I started keeping these stats back at the start of 2017) join the circuit, replacing 4 who lapsed and failed to return in the past 12 months  

The now-standard list of 9 events spread across two geographically diverse DBM hotspots of East and West England combined to deliver 141 entries in total (up from 132), although high proportion of doubles events on the DBM circuit continues to boost both players numbers and the total number of entries relative to the stats for other sets. Many of the 9 new players made their first appearance on the circuit as part of a doubles team, often at events staged by their hometown clubs.

Just 5 players make up over a quarter of the total entries on the UK DBM competition circuit (a shade under 10% of the player universe) with 11 chipping in with half of all entries. At the other end of the enthusiasm scale, 16 players only appeared once last year, including 6 of the 7 "new" players. 

Taking just the last 10 months (starting just after the Westbury event in 2019) there have been 42 people who've taken part in at least 1 DBM event in the UK.

FoGAM
Last 12 months: 12 events, 40 Players
 (all UK), 207 entries

2019-20 has seen FoGAM lose close on another 20% of its player universe, shedding 9 players and 3 (admittedly small) events whilst still holding firm on the total number of competition entries at 207 over the year. That reduction of 9 players was achieved through a simple loss of players, as no new players joined the UK FoG circuit over the last 12 months. Uniquely, there are no overseas players I can identify who take part in UK-based FoG events. 

As the pool of players shrinks, the importance of the keenest players to the FoG circuit continues to grow with 11 players now making up half of all competition entries in the UK (13 last year) and just 5 people (6 in 2018-19) now making up a quarter of the field across all 12 UK events held in the last 12 months.  At the other end of the scale only 6 players entered just one event in the last 12 months, a far smaller proportion than any other UK ruleset. 

The 6 biggest clubs chip in with 25 (62%) of the current universe of players, and the average FoGAM player now attends more than 5 competitions each year, the highest of any ruleset in this survey.

As a result of these trends the UK FoG scene is now pretty much identical in profile to the longstanding DBM circuit, with a committed group of around 40 players concentrated in handful of clubs which also play host to the more popular events in the calendar. 

Since the introduction of FoGAM V3.0 at the start of 2018 there have been 62 UK players who have entered at least one V3 event, of whom a smidge under 2/3 are still playing FoGAM. V3 is available through Caliver Books and some other outlets. 

Taking just the last 10 months (starting just after Campaign 2019) there have been 39 people who've taken part in at least 1 FoGAM event in the UK.


Others - Armati, 7th, 6th, Swordpoint, Impetus, War & Conquest etc

From what's available online, the only ruleset on the above list which comes close to generating comparable numbers of regular competition players in the UK to any of the rulesets covered here is Swordpoint, with 4 events and 34 active players in the past 12 months. 

The most recent couple of Swordpoint competitions have however both generated the highest attendances I've been able to track down for events for this system (with both getting into the 20's) so it may be that had CV19 not decimated the tournament schedules Swordpoint could have made a chart entry next time around. 

Interestingly this recent post on TMP by Gripping Beast states that they have now sold almost 3,000 copies of the first edition, and are now planning a revised version for re-release - a interesting benchmark for the sales of volumes of wargame rulesets given that actual sales figures are rarely published.

The Boring Methodology Stuff 

As usual, all the data is compiled using actual names and numbers of players taking part in events in the UK, as published online on a forum or similar. Sometimes I've had to rely on runners and riders lists rather than results, and sometimes I've had to make some assumtions and guesses where nicknames have been used - but generally, given the amount of hard data here any errors shouldn't be enough to skew the bigger picture.

The other key caveat is - as always - that this is just competition data. What gets played at your club, or even solo in your basement isn't visible and isn't measurable, so this is just a count of those weird people who, pre-social isolation, used to go out into the world and enter competitions held in the UK.

Last year's analysis ran from May-May, but with things screeching to a halt in mid-March there were a couple of ways to approach this year.
  • Run a 10-month "year", from May 2019 to now. 
  • Run a 12-month "year", from March 2019 to now. 
Having chewed it over I finally opted for using a full 12-months, and "double-counting" those competitions that happened between mid March and the beginning of May last year, so attendances at those events count in both this years and last years stats.  Neither way would have been perfect, but I felt that any trends are easier to understand and spot if when comparing 12 months with 12 months rather than comparing 12 months with 10 months worth of events and data. 

I've also presented the stats in a way which shines a clearer light on the numbers of purely UK-based players than it has perhaps done in previous years. This is because some rulesets have now started to see very significant numbers of overseas players coming to the UK to typically take part in one (or at most two) events per year, inflating both total player numbers and also the numbers of 'occasional' players for a couple of the featured rulesets. 

With some rulesets now drawing almost 20% of their total player pools from overseas, and others not attracting any overseas players at all last year, without adjusting the numbers to show the impact of overseas players these stats would struggle to give a fully transparent view of what was happening in the UK ancients community.

Previous stats published on this site:




7 comments:

Vexillia said...

Always useful and a joy to read another outing for "Player universes". ☺

vonGottschall said...

Playtesting of ReG has had an effect in MeG numbers too. The release of updated rules with varying play levels will be interesting too.

The next set of rules to watch for will be Clash of Spears. Still very new with UK distribution lagging. Support from Victrix will help here and they have ready made army boxes. Can be played without changes in your basing. While it will be mostly 28mm, many are using 15mm and others. It will need expansions in army lists. Will expand to other eras and lists available to try online niw.

Madaxeman said...

The stats cover all events in the last 12 months, so I'm 99% certain that the handful of beta-testing events for ReG have had no impact at all when it comes to overall player numbers - they may have depressed numbers of entries a little, but not total player numbers.

The reason is that as far as I can work out all of the ReG players who are/were also MeG players still made at least one appearance on the MeG circuit as well this year - so they still appear in these numbers. I guess if ReG does take off some players will inevitably fully migrate to a separate Renaissance circuit ad drop off the MeG circuit, but I'm pretty sure that hasn't happened yet.

Clash does have a lot of PR and positive noises around it at the moment, however other than Saga skirmish-level games have never really been any sort of part of the competition scene in the UK - I've no idea if the system is even suitable for competition play, so it may not be something that even makes a dent in the ancients mass-battle competition ruleset "player universe". :-)

Chris Smith said...

....for DBM there are actually 2 brits abroad who travel back for tournies, me from finland and Ed from Germany

Madaxeman said...

Aaaah - 2 not one! I'll update !

vonGottschall said...

After reading Simon Hall's comments I am rather dismayed that these numbers are missing quite a few MeG events. Per Simon, 79 events within the UK alone. As Simon stated relying on online forums and postings when many don't report in either isn't working. I would assume there is an undercount with other systems now too. I appreciate the effort but would recommend you contacting those in the know for verification. So apparently MeG would still be in the upswing rather than down. I also assume some stability at least with FoG due to V3 release? And anecdotally, DBA is played quite a bit with shorter duration tournaments as games can be in the 30 to 40 minute range with experienced players. Point is older players and organizers don't necessarily post results online. In the US, many times runners and riders are not posted as an example.

Madaxeman said...

Hi VG. I have included every UK-based event that's included in the MeG Rankings, every event that has been discussed on the MeG Forum and every event that has been discussed on the MeG Facebook page in the last 12 months.

If there are events which have taken place with zero publicity on any of these three platforms (either beforehand or afterwards) and which have also then failed to be included in the rankings I'm more than happy to include them if someone can send me details.

This is very admittedly an imprecise science and I'm always happy to be corrected (as you'll see with Chris' post above) as getting this info exactly right is very difficult - however until someone is able to provide me with details of what must have been a significant number of UK-based MeG events in the last 12 months, all of which would need to have been organised with literally no pre- or post- event publicity, which were not included in the MeG rankings or were not referred to by any of the participants in any MeG forum or Facebook page, and which in aggregate were attended by at least 17 unique players who also all failed to appear at any of the other MeG events held throughout the last 12 months I'm going be a bit stuck to be honest.

I've also been producing these stats every 6 months for the past 5 years, and no-one has ever suggested for any of the featired ruleset (MeG included for the last 4 years) that such an invisible, "shadow circuit" exists.

One other possibility is that Simons number he is quoting of "79" exactly matches the current number of players on the MeG Rankings website, which includes the IWC held in Brussels last February. This event is not in the UK, so is outside these UK stats.

There were 22 non-UK-based players at that specific event, and only 5 of these have played at events in the UK in the last 12 months. So, if you deduct the other 17 (Greeks, French and Belgians) who played at the IWC but did not attend an event in the UK from Simons "79" he would end up with exactly the same number (62 of players appearing in UK events that I have done in these stats).

How to apply Occams Razor to this coincidence, and to the idea of an essentially invisible, yet significant parallel UK MeG circuit is of course down to the individual reader.

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