This week it’s been too cold to go outside and spray-undercoat any new figures to add to the painting queue, so that inevitably means I have had a little time to work out how on earth to produce my once-traditional end of year snapshot of how many people have been playing each of the most widely seen rulesets on the UK Ancients competition scene in this first full post-Covid-impacted year.
As usual I’ll start with the ground rules and caveats.
These “2022” stats count players at UK events held during 2022 for which results (or runners and riders) have been published online that I’ve been able to find and make sense of. Every ruleset in this list is very good at doing this with most also producing their own annual rankings as an additional reference point to double-check the data. The odd player might be missed (or included) at an individual event, especially where nicknames have been used, but other than that unless any events have somehow been publicised, organised, played and concluded during 2022 without leaving an online footprint of any kind on any of the mainstream forums used by the players of the rulesets concerned (I mean, really…?) you can safely assume every competition that has happened is included.
I have omitted a number of the smaller circuits, adopting an arbitrary cut-off of 30 players taking part in the calendar year for inclusion. Of the other sets being played Swordpoint appears to be closest to meeting this criteria at the moment with 25 different people taking part in the 5 events staged across 2022, so in future years it may well be added to the list.
Normally a key part of this summary is comparing attendance trends with those seen in the previous years. With organised play across the UK ending abruptly early in 2020 and only really starting up again midway through 2021 both of these years are a rather tricky to include in any comparison, especially as the different circuits were impacted in very different ways by the shutdown and restart. To keep things clean therefore I’ve used 2019 (the last full year of events) for the headline comparisons with 2022 – it’s not perfect, but it feels like the least-worst option for creating as close to a true like-for-like scenario as possible this year (thank you Covid..).
Whilst some players appear in the stats twice because they played two rulesets over the course of the past year this is 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 !
The final thing to bear in mind is that for all bar one of the rulesets in this analysis the total number of players falls between 30-70, so the absence (or presence) of as few as 3 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%. A car not starting, or two-lines on the driver’s Covid test one Saturday morning is all that it takes, 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 similar stats from the end of 2019, 2018, and 2017.
So with those qualifications out of the way, onto the 2022 (and 2019) data.
Total Player Numbers
(UK based players / UK+Overseas players):
- ADLG 172 / 185 (2019: 189/210)
- MeG 71 / 75 (2019: 62/71) *
- DBMM 69 / 78 (2019: 73/84)
- DBA 57 / 58 (2019: 67/68)
- DBM 39 / 40 (2019: 43/45)
- FoGAM 34 / 35 (2019: 48/48) **
- TTS! 32 / 33 (2019: 64/66)
- * Rolling 12-month attendance for MeG in 2019 peaked at 71/75 in April 2019.
- ** Rolling 12-month attendance for FoG in 2019 peaked at 59/59 in January.
After the first full calendar year of events post-Covid ADLG has comfortably retained the top spot in terms of popularity, seeing almost 25% more UK-based competition players than the next two sets combined. MeG has in turn climbed up to second place partly as a result of DBMM dropping a handful of UK-based players compared to 2019.
At the other end of the scale FoG has continued to shed significant numbers of players between measurement points, only avoiding becoming the least widely played set in this ranking as a consequence of TTS!’s even more dramatic fall (driven in the main by the still as-yet unresolved dateline issues around the scheduling of its biggest annual event).
In %age terms this gives the following picture:
%age Change 2019 vs 2022
(UK based players / UK+Overseas players):
- MeG +15% / +6% ( -/- : no change compared to 2019 peak)
- DBMM -5% / -7%
- DBM -9% / -11%
- ADLG -9% / -12%
- DBA -15% / -15%
- FoGAM -28% / -27% (-42%/-42% : compared to 2019 peak)
- TTS! -50% / -50%
All sets bar MeG saw player numbers decline to some degree between 2019-2022, with even MeG’s apparent year-on-year increase not quite managing to exceed that systems’ previous high water mark for participation reached in April 2019 (after which the rolling 12-month player count began to tail off towards the end of that same year).
FoG’s and TTS!’s relative declines stand out as the clear outliers in this list suggesting more was going on with both of them here than just the mild post-Covid hangover that most other sets seemed to be experiencing.
Total number of entries made
- ADLG 703 (2019: 699)
- MEG 338 (298)
- DBMM 291 (311)
- DBA 204 (189)
- FOG 185 (221)
- DBM 123 (143)
- TTS 57 (92)
These figures are driven by a number of factors (most notably number of events held) in addition to the number of active players on each circuit, with both ADLG and MeG registering increases in the number of entries made to events on their respective circuits across the year.
%age of players who appeared in 2019 but not 2022
(UK based players / UK+Overseas players):
- TTS! 70% (45 / 45)
- DBA 37% (25 / 25)
- FoGAM 33% (16 / 16)
- DBM 33% (13 / 13)
- ADLG 32% (60 / 76)
- MeG 31% (19 / 26)
- DBMM 23% (17 / 18)
Pretty much all of the rulesets saw close to 1 in 3 players active on each circuit in 2019 fail to reappear in 2022. This sounds dramatic, but taking into account these stats span a 3-year period this level of churn is probably to be expected, even had Covid not intervened.
As a comparison, the 2018-19 equivalent stats showed most sets experiencing annual churn rates in the mid 20%’s across that one-year timeframe.
Current Players first appearing post-2019
(UK based players / UK+Overseas players):
- ADLG 41 / 48
- MeG 25 / 28
- DBA 13 / 13
- TTS! 12 / 12
- DBM 6 / 6
- DBMM 6 / 6
- FoGAM 1 / 2
These figures only include players taking part in at least one event in 2022.
Total UK Player numbers by system in 2022, new and returning
A very healthy 104 players across the UK have used the opportunity of the Covid-imposed break to take up a new system game and joined a new competition circuit over the timeframe covered by these stats, with ADLG chipping in the most new recruits with over 40 new players picking up the (new v4) rulebook post-Covid to play at an event in 2022, a feat achieved achieved every (non-Covid) year since the ADLG ruleset first hit UK shores back in 2015.
MeG’s heavily promoted PSC-produced hardback edition helped draw in 25 new UK players to its circuit post-Covid, an increase of 12 on the number of new MeG recruits in 2019. At the other end of the scale FoG’s lone new UK-based player in 2022 joined a circuit where 33 of the other 35 UK-based players were already played FoG competitively prior to the adoption of FoGAMv3 back in 2018.
6 year trends in UK player numbers (omitting 2020 & 2021)
* DBM uses July-July figures for 2015 and 2016 as these were readily available, all other figures are calendar year.
The clearest trend in the period since 2015 has been ADLG’s rapid rise to replace FoGAM as the most popular and widely played rule system in the UK Ancients competition scene. In the 6 years since its launch MeG has managed to establish itself in the “second tier” group, all of which consistently draw somewhere between 60-80 players annually, with FoG now joining DBM in what might best be described as the “legacy” category alongside the small but loyal DBM community, each system being almost exclusively centred around a small number of clubs.
Coming out of the other side of Covid ADLG has retained its place as the most widely played ruleset by some margin with a record 38 events (yes..) held in the UK during the year. 7 years after its first appearance annual UK player numbers for ADLG appear to have finally topped out to settle somewhere in the 170-190 players band, having first attained this level in mid 2018.
The huge global following for ADLG (over 600 players took part in competitions held outside the UK in 2022) means the UK’s ADLG circuit has always enjoyed a more international flavour than that of any other system, with overseas visitors uaually adding in 20+ extra players over and above UK-based curcuit members each year, pushing the total UK pool close to or just above the 200 mark.
The period 2019-2022 witnessed the launch of ADLG v4 (which English-language distributor North Star called this their biggest Ancients ruleset launch since WAB!), a change which seems to have barely moved the dial in terms of overall ADLG competition attendance. The 2019-22 net fall in player numbers of 17 can almost entirely be accounted for by the absence this year of 10 players whose sole 2019 outing was at the geographically challenging Elgin one-day event (which did not take place in 2022, but is slated to return next May) and the loss of 4 players who have sadly passed away in the intervening period.
The absence of the Elgin event also contributed to the proportion of players taking part in just one event dropping materially from 38% down to 30% – another indicator of the maturing of the ADLG player pool perhaps, and also a trend which was seen across most rulesets in this same period as those players who were keen to do so took full advantage of the opportunities presented to get out and play again after Covid.
15 players accounted for 25% of all competition entries in 2022 with 39 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 29. Only 2 players managed to make it to even half of this total, giving ADLG players the most diverse mix of potential opponents at any given event seen for any other ruleset.
309 different UK-based players have now taken part in a UK ADLG event since the circuit started in 2015, 56% of whom were actively playing in 2022. In that time 53 overseas-based players have also take part in at least one event on UK shores.
The size of the DBMM player universe across all UK events slipped only a little in 2022 compared to 2019, as the UK circuit slowly ground fully into gear again after the Covid break. Even with a 2-year gap churn remained relatively low with the strong club-based support for DBMM seeing the dropouts largely offset by a trickle of new players and the reappearance of several others who had skipped 2019.
Total DBMM player numbers have usually hovered in the mid 80’s or 90’s over the past decade, with 2022 marking the first time DBMM has slipped below 70 UK players since 2008 (according to the excellent rankings site at dbmm.org.uk). However, the fact that the Milton Keynes 1-dayer (traditionally the largest event in the MM calendar) took place in January of this year at a time when much of the UK was operating somewhat under the shadow of Covid, and as a result recorded a dozen fewer attendees than 2019, is almost certainly the key factor in the shortfall.
8 players made up 25% of all entries, with 19 making up half of the aggregate field. The maximum number of events it was possible to enter in 2022 was 16, and 8 players managed to attend half or more of these with the keenest player making it to an impressive 12/16. The proportion of players who took part in just one event also fell slightly to 31% (from 36% in 2019).
DBA has seen a decline in unique attendees post Covid, despite staging a 14 events – the busiest calendar for DBA since 2015 – with an also 2015 record-matching average attendance of 16. DBA has historically seen relatively high rates of churn with many players joining and leaving the circuit each year, and that continued with 13 new faces in 2022. With average attendances holding strong, the %age of “one event only” attendees unsurprisingly fell to just 19, one of the lowest ratios for DBA in recent years.
6 players made up 15% of all entries, with 14 making up half of the aggregate field across the year. The closest anyone came to entering all 14 events was to attend 12, although 8 players managed to turn up to half of the full circuit this year. Since I started collating these stats in 2015 (with the kind assistance of Dennis Grey and the DBA rankings team), 126 individuals have attended at least 1 DBA event in the UK, 45% of whom played in 2022.
To The Strongest!
TTS! had its best year even in 2019, and so comparisons with 2019 are always likely to be somewhat unflattering, especially as the biggest event by far in the traditional TTS! calendar (the “Worlds” at Chalgrove) has yet to really get back into a predictable and stable dateline post-Covid, and Glasgow is yet to return at all. Add to that a new version of TTS! in the pipeline and 2022 was always likely to be a challenging year for numbers.
20 of the TTS! players entered only 1 event in the year, with 6 people making it to more than half of the 5 competitions staged, one of whom attended all 5. Since the start of 2018 (when I started collecting data on TTS! events) there have been 98 different players who have attended at least 1 UK event.
The period 2019-2022 witnessed the extensively promoted launch of PSC’s hardback MeG rulebook (replacing the “pizza box” ring-bound and much-updated set of 2016-19), and this new format and extra publicity saw the number of UK-based players taking part in one of the 18 MeG events held across the UK in 2022 increase by 9 over the 2019 year-end total, coincidentally exactly matching MeG’s previous high water mark of 71 active players (which the system attained over the 12 months prior to April 2019).
The 25 new players drawn in more than offset the 19 who didn’t elect to continue their competitive MeG careers into the hardback rulebook era, with just over 1/3 of these new faces being recognisable from the UK Flames of War circuit – a pathway into MeG which has now been trodden by more than half of the current crop of MeG players.
Just 7 players chipped in with more than 25% of the aggregate entries across the 18 MeG events held during 2022, with 18 players making up half of the total aggregate field. Those same 7 players all managed to enter half or more of the 18 events held, with the most dedicated MeGGer missing out on only one competition in the full calendar year. 17 of the 71 UK-based players only attended one event during 2022 – achieving between them the same number of competition entries as the most active single player!
In 2023 MeG will again see a significant update and change of format, moving away from the PSC-distributed hard copy rulebook to a direct-sold PDF with an option for print on demand. With a series of events using some of MeG’s various “lite” rule variants also now being promoted for next year it will be interesting to see how this revised edition, new distribution model, and the new formats for competitive play impact competition attendance across 2023.
Since the first UK MeG event held at the BHGS Challenge in 2016 121 UK-based different players have entered at least one competition in the UK (59% of whom were still playing this year), and they have been joined by 15 overseas-based players in that time as well.
2022 saw a further decline in the AM circuit, with almost 1 in 3 players who played in 2019 not returning to FoG post-Covid as part of a competition circuit that also reduced from 14 to 11 events in the year.
Just 5 players chipped in with 28% of the aggregate entries on the 2022 FoGAM circuit with 10 making up just over half of all entrants. 16 players attended more than half of the events on the circuit, with two committed FoGGers managing to take advantage of every opportunity to play offered throughout the year. FoG has just adopted a totally free, PDF-only approach for its latest v4 edition as of the end of 2022, and so it will be interesting to see if the version change and new free distribution model has a positive impact on player numbers across 2023.
Of those who have departed the FoG ranks since the end of 2019, 3 now play ADLG, one plays DBMM and one currently plays DBA, the rest not appearing in any other data set. Since January 2017 (when I first started compiling FoG stats) 97 UK players have taken part in at least one FoGAM event, 35% of whom are still playing.
Numbers for DBM wobbled slightly between 2019-2022, off the back of a record rise (of +6) in 2018-19, meaning that with some lapsed returnees and a few new players at the events held in 2021 the year on year fluctuations in the DBM figures remain very much in line with those seen in more normal times – unsurprising for a circuit strongly centered around a handful of local clubs.
10 DBM players only attended one event this year, with just 5 players making up 25% of the total entry across the year and a dozen making up half of the aggregate field. One player managed to get to 8 of the 9 events held, with 8 grasping more than half of the opportunities to play DBM afforded to them during 2022.
Since I started compiling DBM attendance stats at the start of 2017 there have been 59 different players who have taken part in at least one event.
The Conclusion (FWIW!)
In summary as 2022 draws to a close these 7 popular Ancients rulesets have attracted 474 UK-based players and a further 30 international visitors to make 504 different players in total taking part in a UK Ancients competition in the last 12 months.
That total is 76 down on the 2019 full year UK player count. Even taking into account the fact TTS! and FoGAM are responsible for 2/3 of that shortfall (both sets seemingly experiencing unique, and not entirely Covid-driven factors influencing player numbers) it appears that there is still a limited degree of “residual hangover” from the Covid hiatus of 2020-21 affecting player turnout at competitions across the UK in 2022.
Taking those two sets out of the equation a circa 5% fall in unique attendees in this first full post-Covid year is probably not as significant as many might have feared or indeed expected.
Covid may now seem a long time ago, but we were in semi-lockdown as recently as last Christmas, meaning those events held in the first couple of months of 2022 were being planned and promoted very much under the shadow of Covid, so 2022 was by no means a completely year free of its influence.
My suspicion (“hope”?) is therefore that once each circuit has enjoyed another full, uninterrupted year there is every chance we will be completely back to “normal” again – provided there are no more pandemics of course….
(and don’t forget, I have similar stats from the end of 2019, 2018, and 2017, as well as an immediately post-lockdown report compiled earlier this year)
Gertrude is a research journalist working performing her duties as chief editor at this news station. She is a talented writer and comes up with facts everybody wants to know.