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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.
So with those qualifications out of the way, onto the 2023 data.
Total Player Numbers
(Numbers are UK based players / UK+Overseas players):
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):
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
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):
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)
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.
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!
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:
First posted on 3 March 2024 | 9:33 pm
In these four all-new YouTube battle reports a brand spanking new Alexandrian Macedonian army in glorious 28mm takes to the field for the very first time, following possibly the most extensive period of pre-game trailing of their assembly and paint schemes ever seen on this relentlessly self-promoting website.
Alexander and his band of merry Victrix men take on an array of opponents from across the world, with the Warring States Chinese, Syracusans, Lysimachids and finally Ptolemy all squaring off against the tarmac-laying Irish navvy and his crew in these 4 widescreen battle-reporting videos.
All of the videos can be viewed on a single page on this website, or can be watched in fullscreen glory in HD on YouTube, allowing you to admire the front of figures that other people have painted far better than I have painted the backs of mine !
First posted on 28 February 2024 | 9:50 am
With far too many competitions in quick succession this January/February I'm going to be dropping a number of YouTube video battle reports over the next few weeks - with 6 reports from Alicante hitting the airwaves first!
These 10-15 minute videos see a Mithraditic army taking on the Warring States Chinese, Hittites, Hebrews, Alans, Kushans and Epirote Pyrrhics in the narrated reports which you can either watch on this website or on YouTube.
First posted on 13 February 2024 | 9:12 pm
A key part of many of the Later Successor armies are the "imitation" Legionaries, where Alexander's marshalls decided to copy Rome's successful pilum+sword+shield formula, and have a tentative go at moving beyond the Greek-originated spear+shield approach. This is pretty neat, and adds variety to a wall of pikes or spears, so adding a couple of units of Imitation Legionaries to my Successor collection has always been a bit of a must.
Other than knowing that these guys were copying Roman tactics however, there's not a massive amount of evidence for where they sit on the "Look like Romans <-> Look like Greeks" spectrum, giving a reasonable amount of leeway for choosing figures for them.
And, in the end, I actually didn't even "choose" which figures, instead finding a couple of packs of Aventine guys in the collection of a late clubmate which seemed to fit the bill.
It turns out on closer examination of the Aventine website that they are techically Thorakitai, but I felt that the spears that they come with were short enough (and chunky enough) to pass for pilum-style heavy throwing spears.
The other consideration (apart from "I had these already") was that having a "Greek" flavour to the figures might actually be better than having "Roman" style armour and helmets - after all, it would surely have been the style of fighting that the Successor generals would have wanted these guys to emulate, not their fashions and haberdashery?
Adding in some head swaps from the same pack of Aventine heads that I'd used earlier on some of the Phalanx greatly increased their variety.
When combined with gluing the shields on at a variety of heights, and posing them at different angles I ended up creating a couple of units where you really have to look twice to notice that there is only one figure pose for the non-officer infantry.
The shield patterns are simple Roman-style black transfers from Veni Vidi Vici - both sets of shields are done with Contrast paints over a white base, which I have found gives a great gradient of texture on a flat surface like a shield, as the paint pools at one side of the flat surface as it dries.
For the "Blue" unit I also did a pale blue (normal paint) background patch where the transfer would go before applying the transfer. This was because the Contrast paint was too dark to really work well with a black transfer. I had considered white transfers, but thought they might look a bit bland compared to black.
I also added in a plastic flag - I'm not entirely sure which set it was from, but it's big, and it has an LBMS transfer in the middle of it that I had to blend in by mixing paint to match the small postage-stamp bit of the transfer.
So, that's pretty much all of the Heavy Infantry for my Successors completed - other than another couple of Phalanxes, which I'm putting off for the time being, as the thought of all that hand-drilling is rather intimidating.
And, of course, being rather lovely Aventine metal figures, these are the "heaviest" of the Heavy Infantry in the army by quite some margin!
Hopefully these guys will make their debut at Beachhead in the ADLG competition this coming weekend (unless I end up playing in the 15mm pool to help even up numbers!)
First posted on 7 February 2024 | 8:31 am
Disproving the old adage that the best things in life are worth waiting for, the 100th episode of the Madaxeman Podcast thunders onto the airwaves with an epic, 6-handed special all the way from Spain, as myself, Dave From The Podcast & Aussie Simon are joined by Gordon, Revolutionary Dave and Mark to discuss and digest the lists we all used at the recent Alicante competition.
This whole podcast is also available on the Madaxman YouTube channel where you can see pictures of the lists, some of the games and troops, as well as our tourism and eating exploits too.
The list covered are : Ancient Britons, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Mithradatics, Warring States Chinese and the countless hordes of Aztecs, and all of this vague insight is shoehorned in among some tourism discussions, culinary observations, and frightning expose's of the contents of Spanish motorway service station vending machines - plus the first ever advert break to ever feature on a Madaxeman Podcast!
The video version allows you to see not only the lists as we discuss them, some of our holiday snaps, and in a Madaxeman first, little video windows of the people on the podcast actually talking (so you may prefer the audio only version...)
The army lists can all be found in the ADLG Wiki on the Madaxeman Website
First posted on 3 February 2024 | 6:11 pm
The Successor army moves on apace, with the latest addition being 3 units of Cataphracts, making the later version of the Seleucids an option to use at a future event.
I already have some Gripping Beast fully armoured horse troops, which I painted up as Arab Ghilmen cavalry quite some time ago - however those figures were very wide, with the horse armour making it impossible to do the "wargames-standard" 4 figures to a base.
It was therefore with some trepidation that I picked up a box of GB's new Roman Cataphracts, only to be pleasantly surprised to find that they appear to have thinned-down the horses so it is almost - with caveats - possible to squeeze 4 of them together on a standard DBx-style 60mm wide base.
This feat of engineering was achieved with a bit of careful arrangement, slightly deeper than usual (50mm) bases, and some judicious use of the sprue clipper to remove any lower legs that were keeping the horses in the middle of each block too far apart.
It's surprisingly hard to notice the missing legs in this solid mass of metal.
Where I had cut the legs too high up the thigh, I also filled in some of the gaps with wood filler, painted it black and then drybrushed it to match the rest of the guys - which made an already hard to spot thing even harder.
This happy chap is yet to find a suitable shield transfer to go onto his standard. I have a feeling I may end up buying a sheet of white 25mm Successor shield "stars" from Veni Vidi Vici just to drop one on this standard (so if anyone has a spare please let me know!).
If you look really closely you can see that the standard bearer's demeanour appears not to be adversely impacted by the loss of one of his legs just above the knee, which is rather reminiscent of the legendary Peter Cook & Dudley Moore "Tarzan Audition" sketch!
I also used a lot of head swaps from the bits box for these - leaving the "Roman" heads out and adding in very "Greek" ones from Phalangites, Hoplites and Companion cavalry to emphasise their Greekness.
The second rate unit will be this one in bronze - the painting is a simple black spray base coat and drybrish with Vallejo Weapon Bronze, with the spears and faces undercoated in white before painting the colurs onto them.
The spears have a barbership sort of effect which is enhanced considerably IMO by the fairly simple addition of extra "rings" that break up the blocks of colour.
These are a dark brown initial ring around the lance, with a ring of ochre brown then painted inside it.
This breaks up the bit between the blocks of colour nicely, and also gives you a bit of leeway to even up the lengths of the blocks of colour when you've painted them by painting the dark brown ring over a bit more of one colour or the other in each case !
There is also a barely-visible coloured bit of cloth at the bottom of the horse armour - this too adds some subtle hinits of colour to the units
The final bit was to do some colour on the joiny-bit at the back of the horse armour (which may just be there ot hide the join line in the two halves of the horse !).
This also adds more subtle colour on what is an otherwise potentially rather one-tone figure.
So, 1 dozen cataphracts, all of which actually fit together in a solid block on 60mm frontages, and all for a very decent price too!
First posted on 26 January 2024 | 10:23 am
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