3 Mar 2024

Who's Playing What - the 2023 (slightly delayed..) edition

Various real life things, and a ridiculous amount of actual gaming have rather gotten in the way of usual programming here on Madaxeman, however I have finally managed to run a quick update on my now-traditional full-year snapshot of the UK Ancients competition scene in 2023.

As usual I'll start with (an abridged) version of the ground rules and caveats. 

  • These "2023" stats cover competitions held in the UK during 2023 for which attendance information is the public domain. In practice this means "results that appear in the rankings" plus a few more unranked events that I've picked up from keeping a weather eye on various forums and FB pages - or in some cases where I've been sent results by the people who organise events for each set.
  • It only covers "competitions" - that essentially means 5+ people from multiple clubs gathering together to play over a day or two at a single venue, at the end someone gets a prize for winning, and the then the world gets to hear about it afterwards on a forum or FB group. If it's a "gathering", an "organised play" weekend, a "boot camp", a "club ladder tournament"  or a "This isn't a competition, no scores will be recorded or published"-type event it's not included, a criteria which is applied consistently across all sets.
  • I've adopted a totally arbitrary cut-off of "about 30 players and half a dozen events-ish" in the calendar year for any set to be included. Of the other sets being played Swordpoint may be closest to meeting this criteria, but is still a little short at the moment.
  • I'm largely guessing who is "overseas" and who is "UK". C'est la vie huh..?
  • Some players appear in the stats twice because they played two rulesets over the course of 2023. This is still (just about) too low a number for me to worry about, but it does seem to be on the rise so I have noted it in a couple of places. Maybe one for next year? 
After doing this analysis annually since 2016 I think I have a pretty good handle on whats occurring and where to look to pick up the data - and the idea that in this day an age a competition could be promoted, organised, played and concluded without leaving any sort of online footprint of any kind on any of the mainstream forums used by the players of the rulesets concerned, and not be picked up in the rankings system either is rather far fetched to say the least ! So, while I would not want to promise 110% accuracy, especially where nicknames are used, or where players may have dropped out midway through an event for example, all in all it's still a pretty good bet that every UK-based "competition" that has happened for the rulesets I'm looking at here has been included. 

The other thing to bear in mind is that for all bar one of the rulesets in this analysis the total number of players falls between 30-90, so the absence (or presence) of a car-full of players turning out for a single event staged at their local club can swing almost all of these figures by as much as 5-10%. 

So, please don't read too much into any single year-on-year variation - this is all about capturing moments in time and adding them together to form a broad-brush picture over the longer term - which is why I have been collating similar stats since 2017. 

So with those qualifications out of the way, onto the 2023 data.

Total Player Numbers 

(Numbers are UK based players / UK+Overseas players): 

  • ADLG    178/186  (2022: 172/185)     (L'Art de la Guerre)
  • MeG       78/89 (2022: 71/76)      (Mortem et Gloriam)
  • DBA       64/64        (2022: 57/58)         (De Bellis Antiquarius)
  • DBMM   60/73       (2022: 69/78)         (De Bellis Magister Militum)
  • TTS!       43/43        (2022: 32/33)        (To The Strongest!)
  • DBM      41/42        (2022: 39/40)         (De Bellis Militarium)
  • FoGAM  34/38 (2022: 34/35)        (Field of Glory Ancient & Medieval)

In "League Tables" terms therefore ADLG continues to lead the pack by some margin, with over 1 in 3 of all players in this survey taking part in at least one ADLG event in 2023, more than the next two biggest sets combined.

MeG has consolidated it's grip on 2nd place through a combination of solid growth through 2023 and a continued tailing off of the numbers playing DBMM. 

This in turn leaves DBA very much now neck and neck with DBMM in 3rd place, recording higher UK-based player numbers but unable to match DBMM's international pulling power which sees total DBMM attendances just outstrip those of DBA. 

At the other end of the table (as John Motson would say..) both FoGAM and DBM have been overtaken this year by TTS! despite small upticks for both sets, as what appears to have been a concerted effort by the TTS! community to stage more events has started to pay off with greater overall attendance figures.

%age Change 2022 vs 2023  

(UK based players / UK+Overseas players):

  • TTS!        +34% / +30%
  • DBA        +12% / +10%
  • MeG       +10% / +17%    
  • DBM       +5% / +5%
  • ADLG     +3% / -%
  • FoGAM   -% / +9%
  • DBMM    -13% / -9%

Unsurprisingly TTS! saw the biggest %age increase in overall player numbers, with MeG and DBA both recording double-digit increases too in UK-based players. 

DBMM saw the biggest fall in player numbers, somewhat masked by an increase in overseas players heading to these shores. 

Total number of competition entries made 

  • ADLG      727    (2022: 703)
  • MEG        379    (2022: 338)
  • DBMM    263    (2022: 291)
  • DBA         220    (2022: 204)
  • FOG         185    (2022: 185)
  • DBM        167    (2022: 123)
  • TTS          101    (2022: 57)

These figures aggregate the attendance figures for every event in the calendar for each ruleset, and so give a combined flavour of the number of events held and average attendances at each event. 

Both MeG and TTS! saw significant increases in aggregate turnout, both coming off the back of increased numbers of events in their respective calendars. 

The star performer in this bunch is however undoubtably DBM, with a 36% increase in overall number of entries across its' 11 events last year compared to the aggregate attendance across the same number of competitions in 2022. DBMM was the only set to see a decline in the total number of entries made across the year. 

New players first seen on each circuit in 2023 

(UK based players / UK+Overseas players):

  • ADLG     23 / 26
  • DBA        13 / 13
  • TTS!        13 / 13
  • MeG        10 / 15
  • DBMM     6 / 6
  • FoGAM    3 / 5
  • DBM        2 / 2

These numbers underline the fact that the strong showings by DBA and TTS! were driven in the main by significant numbers of UK-based players joining each circuit for the first time in 2023.

All of the sets bar DBM saw around 10% of their total player numbers made up of new recruits in 2023, with MeG notably drawing in as many "first time in the UK" overseas players in 2023 than all other sets combined.  

ADLG meanwhile saw 5 of its 26 "first-timers" last year coming from the ranks of players of other rulesets, with MeG also recording 2 inbound recruits as well. These are still tiny numbers in absolute terms however, underlining how few players have been drifting between rulesets in recent years.

7 year trends in UK player numbers (omitting 2020 & 2021) 

  • DBM uses July-July figures for 2015 and 2016 as these were more readily available, all other figures are calendar years.  
  • 2020 and 2021 have been omitted as all circuits were dramatically curtailed by Covid in these years

The clearest trend in the period since 2015 has been ADLG's rapid replacement of FoGAM as the most widely played rule system in the UK Ancients competition scene, with ADLG first exceeding  the "100 active players in the last 12 months" benchmark in early 2016, a benchmark no other set has managed to reach since then. The last few years (Covid excepted) have seen this position solidify (ossify?) with the UK's ADLG calendar consistently witnessing more players than the next 2-3 biggest sets combined in recent years.

7 years after its' launch MeG has now doubled-down on its position at the head of the "second tier" group alongside DBA & DBMM, all of which draw somewhere between 60-80 UK-based players annually (with DBMM and MeG both adding to this through their material overseas contingents too). 

After a rather erratic start, the TTS! competition circuit is now seemingly coming up on the rails, with both of the "free" rulesets, FoG and DBM both showing stable numbers in the 30-40 range made up of a core of longstanding supporters.

Ruleset-specific commentary

ADLG (L'Art de la Guerre)

Not much has chnaged for ADLG in the last year, with again 38 events across the UK, and player numbers hovering in the 180-200 band throughout the year, as they have done ever since mid 2018.

16 players accounted for 25% of all competition entries in 2022, with 42 making up half of the aggregate annual field. The 38 events held included some competitions some taking place in parallel (in different scales) at the same venue, and with date clashes as well the most events anyone could theoretically have entered in 2022 was 32. 

Unsurprisingly no players managed to make it to even half of this total - a symptom of both ADLG's uniquely wide geographic spread of events across the UK, and the sheer number of ADLG competitions now available to enter each year across the length and breadth of the UK.  

52 players appeared at the 6 ADLG events held across Scotland in 2023, just over a dozen of whom hailed from south of the border (with a good number of the Scottish players making the reverse trip to play in England as well). 60 different players also took part in at least one of the eleven 25mm events staged (with half of these 60 only wheeling out the big toys the once in the calendar year).  Either of these "circuits with a circuit" would sit mid-table in the popularity stakes in their own right, underlining the importance of both in ADLG's UK-wide popularity. 

64 players only took part in one ADLG event in 2023, including all 8 overseas players to grace the UKL circuit last year. At 34% of the total attendance pool this is a fractionally higher "one off" figure than seen with many other sets, with a couple of events staged at extreme opposite ends of the country (Elgin and Brixham) accounting for much of this variance.

MeG  (Mortem et Gloriam)

MeG saw it's third format shift since its launch in 2016, moving from a traditional hard copy rulebook to PDF + Print on Demand formats, and this has coincided with an uptick in player numbers which has seen the UK MeG circuit hit its highest ever rolling 1-year total of unique attendees at the end of 2023. 

The number of events also surged in 2023, up to 22 from 18 in 2022. Half of the 2023 MeG calendar took place in the East Midlands, with Derby and Daventry alone playing host to 9 competitions, and both Nottingham and Burton also chipping in to help deliver more than half of MeG's aggregate attendance to venues that fall within 25 miles of Leicester Forest East Services. Knowing wargamers this may well suggest that one of the M1's better "Full English" breakfasts is on offer in the cafe at this particular motorway service station!

8 MeG players chipped in with more than 25% of the aggregate entries across the year, with 19 players making up half of the total aggregate field. Those same 8 players all managed to enter half or more of the events held in 2023, with the most dedicated MeGGer making a phenomenal 18 appearances in the calendar year, more than anyone playing in any of the other sets in this survey. 28 of the 89 players (31%) only attended one event during 2023, with 9 of these unsurprisingly being overseas players.

2023 also saw the first 28mm events using the reduced-scale MeG Magna format competitions (DBMM's and ADLG's circuits also both feature reduced-scale events) included in the stats and rankings. These two 28mm events attracted 19 different players, only one of whom (an overseas player) did not make an appearance at any of the other 15mm events across the rest of the UK circuit in 2023.


The DBMM player universe has dipped below 80 in both of the last two years and now stands almost 25% below its 2012 peak of 97. 

In 2022 the DBMM circuit was more adversely affected by the tail end of Covid than other rulesets, with one of it's traditionally best-attended events taking place in very early in the year. Despite this Milton-Keynes based January behemoth roaring back with 38 roundabout-loving attendees in 2023, overall DBMM numbers continued to slip across the rest of the year, with total player numbers falling for the 4th (Covid excluded) year in a row.

The non-appearance of the Guilford event in 2023 undoubtably affected numbers, however attendances appear to have reduced across a range of events in the MM calendar in 2023, with only 2 events exceeding 20 entries last year. For comparison, 5 events hit this mark pre-Covid in 2019, and 4 achieved it in 2022.

7 players now make up 25% of all entries on the UK DBMM circuit, with 17 making up half of the aggregate field across the year. The maximum number of events it was possible to enter in 2023 would have been 17, and 8 players managed to attend half or more of these with the keenest two players making it to 12/17. The proportion of players who took part in just one event was 34%. 


2023 saw DBA reverse a post-Covid decline in attendee numbers, with some new events and some returning to the calendar generating the busiest year of events for DBA since 2015, helping generate a notable uptick in overall players numbers as well. 

7 players made up 25% of all entries, with 15 making up half of the aggregate field across the year. The closest anyone came to entering all 15 events was to attend 11, with only 6 players managed to turn up to over half of the full circuit this year. 

TTS! (To The Strongest!)

As has been previously noted, the TTS! community are currently making a concerted effort to promote "organised play", and this seems to have paid off in 2023 with a notable increase in overall attendee numbers - even when discounting attendees at a number of TTS! "events" in the last year held under a decidedly "non-competitive" banner, which were therefore out of scope of this analysis.

With 8 events at present spread across a map which has seen events take place as far afield as Cardiff,  Glasgow and London, the TTS! circuit still clearly has more room to grow, with just 9 people making it to more than half of the 8 competitions staged in 2023 

FOGAM  (Field of Glory Ancient & Medieval)

FoG adopted a totally free, PDF-only format for it's v4 edition at the end of 2022, and this helped bring in 3 new UK-based players in 2023, seemingly all drawn from the same Wessex club which (with the demise of the Reigate club which saw the remaining players absorbed by the "Surrey Spartans" club) is now the epicentre of the UK's FoGAM community. 

Aside from that Wessex-based influx, the total number of FoG competition players in the UK remains stable at just over 30, with the 12 events drawing an impressive average of 17 players. That equates to over half the total UK community taking part in each event, with an astonishing 31/38 taking part in the biggest competition of the year (held in... you guessed it, Wessex!).    

Just 5 players chipped in with over 25% of the aggregate entries in 2023, with 10 making up just over half of all entrants. 16 players attended more than half of the events on the circuit, with three committed FoGGers managing to take advantage of every opportunity to play offered throughout the year. 


As is now almost traditional, numbers for DBM wobbled slightly but stayed very much in line with those seen in previous years in a roster of events which continues to be concentrated in two hubs, one in Essex/Norffolk and one in the West Country. 

The 10-event UK DBM circuit had 2 ever-present players last year, with just 5 players making up over 25% of the total field across the year, and 11 making up half of the aggregate field. The calendar features a mix of singles and doubles, with some 25mm events as well. 

All bar one of the events on the circuit are stand-alone DBM-only affairs, with the competition taking place at Attack! in Devizes the only time in the calendar year that DBM players get to rub shoulders with gamers using other Ancients systems. 

The Conclusion (FWIW!)

In 2023 the 7 most popular Ancients rulesets saw 498 UK-based players and a further 34 international visitors taking part in a UK Ancients competition in 2023.

The balance in numbers between all of these rulesets continues to be broadly stable, with very little migration of players between sets happening to upend the existing picture. 

In 2023 68% of all UK competition players were also still getting their Ancients "fix" using one variant or another of Phil Barker's "DBx" paradigm, with DBA, DBM, DBMM and ADLG all very much direct descendents or successors of the original DBA which first hit the shelves some 34 years ago. Who said historical wargamers are creatures of habit eh?!  

Encouragingly however, headline numbers are still creeping ever closer back towards the pre-Covid 2019 full year count of 549 UK-based players, and are already well ahead of the equivalent 2018 year end numbers - all suggesting that ancients competition gaming remains stable, but also very much in rude health across the UK right now, no matter what form or flavour of rules you personally prefer! 

Previous Years

I've been repeating this analysis every year since 2016. 

Previous years are available here:

Check it for Yourself!

With almost all of the information used to generate these stats being drawn from a handful of "rankings" websites it's relatively easy to eyeball the original data sources for yourself and sanity-check these stats (should you so wish). 

The main sources I have used are as follows: 

  • ADLG - The BHGS Rankings Page (PDF's of year-end rankings can be found by scrolling down the page)
  • DBMM - The DBMM Rankings database (select "GB" and "2023")
  • MeG - The MeG Rankings at Draco Standard (this is a global ranking system including overseas events, and sometimes seems to run for more than 12 months as well, so you may need to manually exclude attendees at non-UK and non-2023 events to get to the 2023 UK-only numbers) 
  • DBM - John Graham Leigh's DBM page (The DBM rankings year runs July-July, so for 2023 numbers you'll need to look at the results from individual events too)
  • DBA - The Fanaticus Forum (The DBA rankings year runs November-November, so as with DBM you'll need to do a bit of a manual adjustment using individual event results to get a 2023 full-year set of stats )
  • TTS! - The TTS! Forum "Events" section (No "rankings" as such, so  you'll need to comb through the results from individual events)
  • FoGAM - The BHGS Rankings Page 


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