27 Jul 2022

Who's Playing What - the Post-Lockdown Edition.

 It's now been over two years since I last posted a full-year update on who was playing what on the UK Ancients  Competition scene - which is of course hardly surprising given that no-one was able to play anything face to face for much of that time, with various grades of Lockdown running from the start of 2020 until around mid-June 2021. 

Ancients competition wargaming in the UK did however stutter (or in some cases "roar") back to life again in the middle of last year, and so with over 12 months of events to look back on it's probably as good a time as any to start once again having a look at Who's Playing What

This set of "post-Lockdown" stats cover the UK "player universe" numbers for competition players across 7 of the most popular Ancients mass-battle rulesets for all events held in the UK in since things started up again at the end of June 2021 that I can find results for. 

Most sets now have a single, comprehensive results or rankings page and I'm therefore indebted to the various people who undertake the thankless task of maintaining these pages. I do also keep a weather eye on various forums and FB groups to make sure I also pick up any "unranked" events, and sometimes extra players who only filled in, or dropped out part way through some events as well - that's why the numbers you'll see here can sometimes be higher than those you'll see on the "official" rankings page.

I've also focused this time exclusively on UK-based players, as overseas travel has not really gotten back to normal and so relatively few overseas players have made it to the UK to play. 

To make comparisons to the pre-Lockdown era I've used the figures for the 2019 calendar year. A handful of events did manage to take place at the start of 2020, but even then attendances were impacted by the looming shadow of Covid to various degrees, so using the clean" 2019 numbers seemed a better benchmark than using Feb 2019-Feb 2020.

Even so, the calendar is still not quite settled yet with some events not yet sitting in their regular calendar slots (Campaign), and others (from last summer) still yet to happen (Britcon), and so I've tried to flag where this may have had an impact on attendance numbers in the commentary.  

So, on with the business...

Total Unique Player Numbers  (2019 calendar year in brackets)

  1. ADLG      177 (180)    #1          (L'Art de la Guerre)
  2. MeG         66   (62)      #2          (Mortem et Gloriam)
  3. DBMM     61   (72)                   (De Bellis Magistorum Militum) 
  4. DBA         55   (67)                   (De Bellis Antiquitis) 
  5. DBM        40   (44)      #3         (De Bellis Multitudinum) 
  6. FoGAM    35  (48)      #4          (Field of Glory Ancient & Medieval)
  7. TTS!         28  (64)                    (To The Strongest!)
This shows how many different, UK-based players have taken part in an competition since Lockdown restrictions were eased in summer 2021. 

As of today ADLG enjoys a 38% market share, with almost as many players as the next 3 most widely played sets combined. This small increase in market share for ADLG (up from 35% at the end of 2019) is however largely a mathematical artefact caused by the slower recovery of numbers for several other sets post-Lockdown.

The upshot is that post-Lockdown, total player numbers across all sets still compare very favourably with the 2019 totals - and (as I'll go into in the commentary on each set) even the more notable shortfalls can usually be explained by event scheduling or other issues unrelated to any loss of enthusiasm for face to face gaming in general post-Lockdown

# 1 I am aware of four players who played on the ADLG circuit who have sadly passed away since the start of 2019, so have excluded these players from both 2019 and current period counts.
# 2 MeG player numbers at the end of 2019 were at their lowest point that year. The peak, just after Roll Call in April had seen 70 UK-based players entering a MeG event in the previous 12 months. 
#3 One DBA player who appeared in 2019 has sadly passed away and so has been excluded from the stats
#4 FoGAM's rolling 12 month player count was also falling steadily throughout 2019, and ended the year at its lowest total, having started 2019 with 59 "active in the previous 12 months" players.

Post-Lockdown Growth trends 

This shows the relative growth rates of aggregate players numbers post-Lockdown for the various rulesets, using quarterly measurement dates. Other than for FoGAM (which has largely flattened out post Christmas) player numbers for all sets have continued on an upward curve into 2022. 

As this graph doesn't yet include any impact of players starting to "fall off" the back end of the rolling 12-month count, the next few months will tell whether these growth curves continue, or start to "top-out" for each set.

- There are only 3 events providing data points for TTS!, hence the staggered nature of the TTS! line.
- The DBMM numbers are based on 3 data points with intervening dates extrapolated from these, as the DBMM Rankings page does not present data in a way which allows player numbers for the intervening dates to be easily extracted. 

Post-Lockdown %ages for non-returnees (non-returnees & 2019 year-end totals in brackets)
  1. TTS!         67%  (48/64)
  2. DBA         36%  (24/67)      #1
  3. FoGAM    29%  (14/48) 
  4. ADLG      29%  (51/180)     #1   
  5. MeG         27%  (17/62)       
  6. DBM        24%  (11/44) 
  7. DBMM    23%  (17/72)
This shows how many UK-based players who appeared on each circuit in 2019 have yet to reappear post-Lockdown. Pretty much every set has seen around 1/4 - 1/3 of their 2019 roster of competition players fail to return to competition play post-Lockdown, with only TTS! an outlier to this norm. 

This level of attrittion is however only a little higher than seen previously in more "normal" year-on-year comparisons, so given these stats cover a period of two and a half years rather than the usual year-on-year view, it's not entirely surprising to see higher attrition. 

#1 Both figures exclude those players who have sadly passed away.

New players first seen post-Lockdown (entirely new - not lapsed returnees)
  1. ADLG      38
  2. MeG           20
  3. DBA          9
  4. TTS!          6
  5. DBM        5
  6. DBMM    1
  7. FoGAM    -
            A very healthy total of 79 players entered their first ever event across all rulesets post-Lockdown, suggesting that much rules-reading, army painting and online gaming had been going on when face to face gaming wasm not allowed across the UK. 

            More players than usual also moved across or between rulesets in the post-Lockdown period, with ADLG faring best on this measure picking up 9 of its new players from other circuits (some of whom now actively participate in 2 parallel circuits for different Ancients rulesets). Even so, the number of players taking part in multiple circuits remains low.

            Ruleset-by-Ruleset Commentary

            ADLG  (L'Art de la Guerre)

            ADLG has come out of Lockdown as still the most widely played ruleset with an almost unchanged number of active UK-based players compared to the end of 2019. This period also included the release of the V4 rulebook and army lists - both featuring a relatively limited set of updates, the release of which appears to have had no impact either way on player numbers. Whilst shrinkage in other rulesets player poosl means ADLG did again increase its "market share" the run of double-digit &age growth in player numbers (seen every year since its UK debut in 2015) finally came to a halt when faced with the significant hurdle of the Lockdown period.

            The 39 1-day and 2-day ADLG events held so far post-Lockdown managed to top the total of 35 held in 2019, with a strong showing of 25/28mm events (10 of these took place) as well as one "100 point" reduced format competition. 6 events were "two scales, one weekend" affairs, and several weekends in the last year also saw multiple events staged in different locations, most recently where 47 players were playing at the same time at two different events held in the geographically diverse locations of Devizes and Glasgow.

            This pattern continued across the year with ADLG being played in all corners of the UK, from Inverness to South Devon, Cardiff to York, Bournemouth to Glasgow, giving ADLG once again by far the widest UK geographical coverage of any comparable ruleset.

            Attrition was higher than in previous years, with 51 players (27%) from 2019 yet to reappear post Lockdown. With almost half of these 51 non-returnees appearing only on the Scottish ADLG circuit in 2019 it seems likely that geography (the UK's most northerly event in Elgin has yet to take place post-Lockdown) and Scotland's longer-lasting and sometimes more stringent Covid-related restrictions on indoor gatherings may have both played a material role in the incrased level of attrition - and there has been no indication that Scotland's Ancients players have started to adopt any other ruleset in Lockdown. 

            Even with this attrition, the return to the ADLG circuit of 10 players who last appeared pre-2019 (a significant difference compared to most other sets, where 'lost' players tend to stay 'lost'), and a further 38 entirely new faces saw overall numbers essentially hold steady.

            No doubt also related to the disproportionate attrition amongst Scottish players the proportion of competitors who took part in just one ADLG event dropped significantly compared to 2019, down from 38% to just 23% in the post-Lockdown era - a trend seen in most other sets too, as the keener players were first to return to the tabletop.

            Since the first UK ADLG event at Roll Call in April 2015, 295 different UK-based players have entered at least one competition in the UK (although 6 have since passed away), meaning that some 7 years later, 60% of all UK players ever to enter an ADLG event are still entering competitions in the last 12 months.

            The most active player managed to take part in 18 events post Lockdown, with just 6 players managing to appear at 1/3 of the events on the circuit - although this rises to 14 (8%) after making allowances for the fact it is impossible (even for Dave Allen!) to play in 2 different events held on the same day. 

            The sheer number of ADLG events now being organised, and the geographical spread across the entire country both work in parallel to ensure that (on this measure) the ADLG circuit continues to offer players the least repetitive mix of potential opponents at each event by quite some margin.

            DBMM   (De Bellis Magistorum Militum) 

            The number of UK-based DBMM competition players has yet to fully recover to pre-Covid levels, with the UK DBMM circuit a little slower to get back up and running compared to some others, running 16 events in the last year compared to the 19 that ran in 2019. Those events that have been staged have however been well attended, with Warfare in November 2021 in particular seeing the biggest DBMM attendance in recent memory by quite some margin.

            This difference - in events, and in players - can pretty clearly be attributed to the non-reappearance of two of the DBMM circuits' traditionally largest events (Guilford and Campaign), neither of which have taken place (as yet) post-Lockdown. Once they both cycle back into the stats there seems no reason to think DBMM numbers should not be back to exactly where they were pre-Lockdown.

            17 UK-based DBMM players attended just 1 event in the last year, not a massive change from the 21 who did so in 2019 - a little surprising as normally the one-day events in Milton Keynes and Guildford contribute many of these "one-off" players to the UK pool in prior years.

            DBMM staged a mix of 15mm, 25mm and (uniquely) "6mm based on 25mm bases" events throughout the year. The calendar also included a mix of singles, doubles 1-day and 2-day events, with the 1-day smaller-format DBMM 100 event being the latest to take place.

            DBMM traditionally sees a fairly low churn rate of players each year with relatively few new faces making a circuit debut, and similarly small numbers dropping off the circuit each year, and with just three new players post-Lockdown that trend has seemingly continued.

            The most active DBMM player entered 13 of the 15 events - an impressive 100% attendance record given that two events stage parallel competitions for 15mm and 6mm gaming!  23 players attended 1/3 of the events staged - 38% of the player pool, with the usual DBMM hubs in the South East, Milton Keyers and the Northern League circuit all hosting events in the last year.

            DBA (De Bellis Antiquitis) 

            DBA has yet to see player numbers recover back up to the level seen in what was a very successful 2019 season, even though the total of 12 events staged since Lockdown ended have has matched the 12 that took place across 2019. 

            The difference in player numbers  - as with ADLG and DBMM - may well be attributable in the main to geography, with only one of the regular 3 PAWS events taking place post-Lockdown as well as the Welsh Open also dropping off the DBA calendar entirely as a result of venue issues, making it harder for players from those regions to make an appearance on the circuit post-Lockdown.

            18 of the 55 players took part in just one event in the last year, a notable change from 2019 when almost half of the UK pool of DBA players made just a single appearance - again supporting the theory that the loss of a few regional events has a disproportionate impact on the number of "occasional" players.  

            The total number of entries made across all DBA events staged post-Lockdown (171) also compares more favourably with 2019's 189 than the reduction in player numbers might suggest, indicating that the enthusiasm of the core group of UK-based DBA players remains undimmed post-Lockdown.

            All DBA events are one-day affairs, and two players managed to take part in 11 of the 12 events staged, with 16 (29%) managing to take part in 1/3 of the full calendar. 

            MeG   (Mortem et Gloriam)

             The MeG circuit managed to match its pre-Covid scale in the post-Lockdown period, with 18 events (one of which ran across one weekend in 2 locations) taking place, on a par with the 18 that were staged in 2019.

            MeG was the only ruleset to record an increase in overall player numbers across the last 12 months compared to the equivalent 2019 year-end figure, however this needs to be set against the 13% fall in players numbers throughout the latter half of 2019 (anecdotally attributed to players waiting for the revised hard copy rulebook and updated army lists to be released) which saw MeG ending 2019 with its lowest rolling 12-month count of active players since late 2018.

            Just over a year post-Lockdown, and almost 2 years since the launch of that hard copy rulebook, MeG player numbers still remain a little short of the pre-Lockdown peak, with 20 new UK-based players and one returnee (who's only other circuit appearance was way back in 2016!) offsetting the non-reappearance of 17 players from the 2019 circuit. These in's and out's place MeG's rolling 12-month UK player count in the 60's, a level it first attained in the latter half of 2018.

            Of the 17 lapsed MeG players, two have swapped to play on the MeG Renaissance circuit (launched at the start of 2022), although a further 13 current MeG players now also play in Renaissance MeG competitions as well the Ancients ones, forming the great majority of the current 19-player ReG rankings. Around half of MeG's current roster of players are recognisable as having previously taken part in the once-thriving UK FoW-circuit, so it will be interesting to see if a new circuit for WW2 MeG ("Divisions of Steel") mooted for the tail end of this year will prove equally enticing to the former tread-heads currently in the MeG ranks.

            All bar one of the MeG events staged were standard "Maximus" format 15mm singles, with only a single 1-day lockdown-dodging outdoor event (which snuck into the calendar early last summer) not following this standard format. The most active MeG player on the circuit took part in an impressive 16 of the 18 MeG events staged, with 32 players turning up for at least 1/3 of the full calendar (47%). 13 UK players took part in just one event - a lower %age than that seen in 2019, in common with the trend seen for other rulesets.  

            As is the case with DBMM, DBM and FoG the 18 MeG events held were in the main geographically concentrated - in MeG's case half the calendar took place at a handful of venues all within a few miles of the central stretch of the M1, with a further 4 being held in Greater Manchester.

            Since the first UK MeG event held at the BHGS Challenge in June 2016, 121 different UK-based players have entered at least one competition in the UK. 55% of this all-time UK player universe remained active on the MeG circuit by attending events held in the last year.

            FoGAM    (Field of Glory Ancient & Medieval)

            2019 saw a significant decline in numbers on the AM circuit as those choosing not to move to V3 after playing at the start of 2018 began to drop off the rolling 12-month count of active players. Post -Lockdown that trend has continued, with those who last played FoGAM at a handful of events held at the start of 2019 now also falling out of the stats.

            10 FoGAM events were held in the last year (compared with 16 in 2019), only one of which was "north of Watford" as the circuit coalesced around a hub of players mostly based on the South Coast, supplemented by others seemingly more willing to travel to play. The 35 players are however still highly committed with an average attendance at each event equivalent to almost 50% of the entire UK pool - far higher than for any other set out there.

            3 players managed to take part in literally every FoG event staged, and a further 8 only missed 1 or 2 events in the year. On a similar note, only 5 players took part in just one event, again a lower %age than any comparable ruleset. 18 of the 35 players took part in more than 1 in 3 events on the circuit - the only circuit to see over half of its' players reach this bar. 

            Following the introduction on FoGAM V3 in January 2018, 62 different UK-based players have entered at least one V3 competition in the UK, and 56% of these remained active in the last 12 months. 

            With no new players joining the FoG circuit this year and neither of the 2 "new" V3 players from 2019 returning either, every one of the current roster of 35 UK-based FoG players was already playing FoG prior to the launch of V3.

            With a "free to download" V4 mooted for later this year, and a number of FoG players now dabbling in other systems in parallel to playing FoGAM it will be interesting to see whether these numbers change either way going forward into 2023. 

            TTS! (To The Strongest!)

            A relative newcomer to these stats, Simon Miller's TTS! had a record-breaking year in 2019 with five events staged across the country. With only 3 events taking place in the last 12 months (one of which was TTS!'s traditional "big" summertime event at Chalgrove hastily rearranged at short notice for last Autumn, with consequent impact on attendance as a result) it is hardly surprising that the comparative stats for TTS! show a significant dropoff compared to pre-Lockdown numbers.  

            In 2019, 24 players who have yet to return appeared only at Chalgrove, with a further 14 non-returnees only having played at a (first time) event held in Glasgow in 2019, which also has yet to take place again post-Lockdown.

            TTS! did rather uniquely manage to run online events during Lockdown using the Tabletop Simulator platform, demonstrating that interest is clearly still strong for the system, and the UK circuit is now picking up again with three more events scheduled between now and the end of 2022. 

            As such the calendar-year stats at the end of 2022 may well show a more realistic comparison with prior year figures for TTS! attendance than a snapshot at this time is able to deliver.

            DBM   (De Bellis Multitudinum) 

            Numbers for DBM were relatively stable this year, with a drop of 4 following a rise of, erm, 6 in 2019. That still gave the venerable DBM ruleset a small lead in UK player numbers over the slightly less venerable FoG ruleset for the first time since probably something like back in 2007!

            The DBM circuit managed to put out 11 competitions post-Lockdown, one more than the 9 staged in 2019, again concentrated in the same handful of venues as in previous years. This included a mix of 15mm and 25mm events, and both Doubles and Singles format competitions too

            DBM's strong showing at the handful of clubs who also stage most events has again meant that this ruleset has managed yet again to pull in almost half a dozen new players to enter events for the first time - often as part of doubles pairings at events where single players and doubles teams can freely mix. 

            11 players took part in just one event, as with other sets lower %age than had been typical pre-Lockdown. 

            The most active DBM player impressively managed to appear at all 11 events held in the post-Lockdown era, with 17 players (42%) managing to get to at least 1 in 3 of the events held.

            The Conclusion

            In summary, post-Lockdown the UK has seen pretty much every circuit for the main Ancients rulesets achieving pretty much the same numbers of players as the last full year of events pre-Lockdown, showing that enthusiasm for face-to-face ancients gaming remains undimmed by the events of the past 2 years. 

            Even those sets that have seen some shortfalls can almost all point to likely causes involving the phasing or rescheduling of a handful of "key" events, or a truncated calendar in specific geographical regions. 

            Revisiting these figures at the end of 2022 should give a more complete picture, with many of these types of one-off effects washing through the stats by then.

            • As always, this only measures "Competition Attendances" at events where results have been posted in the public domain and I've been able to find them - what's played at your local club between consenting adults in private isn't measured by these stats.
            • Some players appear in the stats twice because they played two rulesets over the course of the past year - this is essentially discounted for the analysis as numbers are too low to impact the main trends. And it's too much work to de-dupe them by name as well.
            • I've had to make educated guesses in a few cases - especially where nicknames have been used in publishing results, or in working out if a player is "overseas" or UK-based.
            • As a result of all of the above I make no claim these stats are 100% perfect - but I also don't believe any of them will be out by enough of a margin to change the big picture stuff either
            • If I've missed anything - especially any events - please let me know and I'll change it as necessary. 

            25 Jul 2022

            A Little Fort

            At the recent ADLG Worlds in Rome I picked up a little fort from Rafa's stall, to use as a fortified baggage camp for some of my ADLG armies.

            I should have had one of these already, as they are made by a guy in Alicante, and were given to all competitors at the event I attended there in January, but somehow I lost mine on the way home and so, given the opportunity, decided that I just had to actually buy one instead!

            It is a resin print that fits (just about...) on a standard 80mm x 40mm camp base, so is probably scaled more to 10mm - or perhaps even a smidge smaller - rather than 15mm. 

            It is an incredibly simple paint job - I undercoated mine in black, then did successive layers of increasingly "dry" dry-brushed, ever-lighter browns on it. 

            I started with Army Painter Oak, then Vallejo Beige Brown (which I use instead of Army Painter Leather if I run out of the Leather), then a bit of Vallejo Ochre Brown for more warmth.

            The inside floor was - as usual for my current basing style - builders sand glued in with PVA, stained to a more dark and even colour with Rustins Dark Oak, then drybrushed with Skeleton Bone and then a pale grey

            Highlights (especially the pointy bits / tops of the cut trees of the fence) were also the traditional Army Painter Skeleton Bone.

            I then finished the whole thing with a very light highlight of Coat d'Arms Horse Tone Grey - my lightest grey paint. 

            It now only needs me to start taking well-orgainsed armies with fortified camps to competitions !


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