Sunday, November 22, 2020

GWS2020: Game Period, Type, and Figure Size, Oh My!

In previous installments of the ongoing analysis of the 2020 Great Wargaming Survey, we examined the relationships between game period and figure size (see: Comparison of Game Period and Figure Size) and the relationships between game period and game type (see: Looking at Game Period by Type). This time, we bring the two analyses together to build a picture of the relationships between favorite game period, favorite figure size, and favorite game type.  In a later post, age group will be added into the analysis to examine the tendencies of these four attributes in unison.

The Study Data
Before beginning, the survey data need to be pruned back in order to make the graphical representations manageable.

First, 21 game periods are identified in the survey. For this work, the Top 6 game periods (highlighted Periods in graphic below) will be kept for later analysis.  These Top 6 include three fantasy/sci-fi periods and three historical periods.
Top 6 First Choice of Game Period
Second, ten game types are identified in the survey.  With a clear break point in total counts between Campaign and RPG, only the top 4 game types (highlighted Types below) will be kept.
Top 4 First Choice of Game Type
Third, the top choice of figure size drops off precipitously after 25/28mm sizes but 15/18mm will be included as a viable third choice as counts again fall dramatically after 15/18mm. 
Top 3 First Choices of Figure Size
So for this study, analysis will concentrate on the interactions between six Game Periods (WWII, Warhammer40k, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Napoleonics, and Ancients); four Game Types (Skirmish, Big Battle, Scenario, and Campaign); and three Figure Sizes (25-28mm, 28mm Heroic, and 15-18mm). 

Multiple Correspondence Analysis
Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA), briefly, is a statistical technique from which any underlying structure in the categorical response survey data may be detected.  The results are then presented in graphical form in two dimensional space.  Don't throw in the towel quite yet. Interpretations are understandable and intuitive without knowing the underlying technique.

MCA of Top Game Periods by Game Type and Figure Size
Pushing all of these data through the algorithms produces the graphic shown in Figure 1.   
Figure 1
What do these scattered, labeled points suggest?  Some attributes are grouping near one another (Napoleonics and 15-18mm, for example) while other attributes seem to be scattered hither and yon.  Are there any useful patterns contained herein?  To find out, let's tackle this question one dimension at a time.

Dimension 1 Tendencies
In Dimension 1, only four of the attributes are identified as loading in this space.  Those attributes are 28mm Heroics, 15-18mm, Ancients, and Napoleonics (see Figure 2).  Notice two distinctions in the Dimension 1 space.  Ancients, Napoleonics, and 15-18mm are grouped in close proximity in the right half of the graphic.  28mm Heroics groups by itself in the left half of the graph and far from the AncientsNapoleonics, and 15-18mm groupThese results suggest that 28mm Heroics is very dissimilar to 15-18mm and that 15-18mm gaming tends toward Ancients and Napoleonics game periods.  Also notice that non-historical game periods group on the left and historical periods on the right frame.  
Figure 2
Dimension 2 Tendencies
In Dimension 2, all remaining attributes are identified in this space and encircled to ease identification (see Figure 3).  Notice that Warhammer40k finds itself in the top half of the graph along with Campaign and Big Battle game types.  All other attributes group into the bottom half of the graph.  What inferences can be made in the Dimension 2 space?

First, notice the distance between Warhammer40k in the upper half and SCI_FI in the lower half.  This result suggests that respondents choosing Warhammer40k are very different from those choosing Sci-Fi.  Notice also that Warhammer40k tends toward Campaign and Big Battle gaming over Skirmish gaming.  Finally, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and WWII game periods tend toward 25-28mm figure size and Skirmish game type.
Figure 3
The Magic Quadrant
With tendencies identified in the first two dimensions, does a breakdown into quadrants make sense?  Are more tendencies discoverable?  See Figure 4.
Figure 4
Interestingly, each of the Game Types finds itself in only one quadrant with no confounding or overlap.  Campaign game type falls into the Warhammer40k and 28mm Heroic quadrant in the upper-left; Big Battle game type coincides 
with 15-18mm and Ancients/Napoleonics in the upper-right quadrant; Scenario game type groups into the lower right quadrant along with WWII and 25-28mm; and finally, Skirmish finds itself in the quadrant along with Fantasy/Sci-Fi.  Given the distance between 25-28mm figure size in the blue quadrant and the attributes in the purple quadrant, Fantasy/Sci-Fi and Skirmish tend toward 25-28mm figure size.

As for the WH40k and Campaign relationship, notice that 'Campaign' is situated near '0.0' along the Dimension 1 axis (x-axis). Being closer to the axis signifies a less strong relationship.  so, I suggest the relationship between WH40k and 'Campaign', while present, is not a strong one.  'Campaign' simple tends toward WH40k with respect to the other game types.

Now, to me, the analysis is remarkable in that data from the nearly 11,000 surveys can be distilled down to produce these results and conclusions.  This exercises demonstrates the possibilities of data analysis and the insights attainable given some effort. 

What, in this MCA analysis, stands out of interest to the reader?  Are there surprises or are these results accepted, common knowledge?

Next time, I plan to toss age group into the mix and see if any clear and insightful tendencies surface.  Will age muddy the insights gained or contribute to a more meaningful interpretation of relationships between game period, game type, figure size, and age group? 


  1. I suppose the biggest surprise to me Jonathan is that thos choosing Warhammer are different to science fiction, as I would have thought there would be overlap between these groups. That may be because I don't know a lot about the Warhammer world, other than the paints which I have used. The age grouping will be interesting.

    1. I do not know much about the WH40k or Sci-Fi worlds either and the result surprises me too. there appears to be very little cross-over with respect to first choices in game period for these two groups.

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. Within the warhammer/40k the hobby is purely defined as GW product, anything else is anathema, so it's not really a surprise that scifi gaming is somewhat distant from 40k!
      Best Iain

    3. Thanks for the explanation on the dichotomy between WH40k and Sci-Fi.

  2. Fascinating stuff Jon. I must learn more about MCA.

    The picture that emerges seems to make sense. I’d expect Napoleonics, 15mm and Big Battle to be close. I would have expected WWII and Skirmish to be a bit closer, but if respondents had to choose between Skirmish and Scenario I could see why (I can’t remember if this was a ‘pick the best fit’ question or ‘pick all that apply’).

    Throw in age to the mix and I’d predict that 50+ would appear in the top right quadrant (towards the bottom so midway between Napoleonics and WWII.

    1. Thanks for your insights and interpretations.

      WWII and Skirmish may not be closer since Skirmish is a common and well-chosen game type for many of the top game periods. WWII gaming sees activity in a broader selection of game types while Sci-Fi and Fantasy are more associated with Skirmish gaming.

      As for survey construction, if you recall, the questions asked for rank order.

      On your age prediction, you've been paying attention!

  3. Complex stuff indeed and hard for me to see any real trend. I guess what we all do is then analyse ourselves relative to the findings. Considering the vast range of scales in almost every period is it not inevitable that the results only show the tip of the complex iceberg. Let’s use napoleonics as an example. There are fantastic ranges of figures ranging from 54mm down to 6mm (I will exclude 2/3mm) all these ranges have very active collectors and gamers. What then influences the scale we each collect. Money, space, painting time, scale of battle skirmish through to grand scale, enthusiasm etc etc..... I suspect if you could eliminate some of the constraints more people would collect several different scales. In my own collections this is best seen in WW2 where my enthusiasm outweighs the constraints and I have three different scales, i genuinely couldn’t choose a preference they each have real benefits, who would play Pegasus bridge in 6mm and Kursk in 28 mm is pretty silly. Sadly the survey doesn’t really go into the human factors as to why and what we collect and game. What we are left with is compromise !. I guess my final thought is the data as analysed shows some interesting correlations but I feel the underlying complexity of ‘us’ where perhaps some really interesting analysis could be done ?

    1. Yes, complex stuff, for sure but useful I think. As you mention, these analyses are a good way in which we can measure ourselves against others. Are we typical or lurking somewhere down in the tails of the distribution?

      Keep in mind that this analysis focuses only on a gamer's first choice in Game Period. The responses to the Game Period question were given in rank order on the survey. To make sense of the relationship between period/type/figure size, I constrained the analysis to first choice only.

      For a study of the human factors and psycho-analysis, that is the purpose of our blogs. We can learn a lot about our fellow hobbyists from their blogs.

      If you recall the 2020 survey, there were a few questions from a professor attempting to gather wargamer perceptions on the human factors defining our make-up. It will be interesting to read his results once complied and published.

      Thanks for your contribution to the discussion, Matt!

  4. Interesting and I guess it makes sense that ancients and Napoleonics are closer to 15/18mm than 25/28mm I suppose I'm more of a painter than a gamerso I stick to 28mm, the smaller sizes are more sensible, I just don't want to be sensible!
    Best Iain

    1. Iain, you are funny today! When did sensibility ever become an attribute for wargamers and collecting figures?

  5. The results of the analysis seem sensible to me, while the raw data better show the incredible diversity of scales, eras, and game styles that people collect and play. Of course, that's part of what, for me, at least. keeps the hobby new and fun!

    1. Sensible to me too, Peter. The more I slice and dice the survey data, for more my confidence grows in its integrity even though it was not drawn randomly.

      We are diverse bunch, for sure. We are niches within niches.

  6. No wonder I feel so out of touch with the hobby! (I don't get reflected here anywhere! Except that I used to do 15mm Fr Rev & Naps - still get to play with some of those when their new owner runs a club game )

    Interesting though, not what I would have predicted 20 or 30 years ago! (Now, where's my rocker.....)

    1. Ross, your interests comprise a small piece of the big picture. I think many of us, over time, have developed our own niches and specialties that may not appeal the the broad, unwashed masses.

      Looking back 20 or 30 years ago, we would have been lamenting the graying of the hobby and the impending death to historical wargaming. Wait! Some things never change...

    2. All true, but its also a reflection of the impact of the net where one can be a part of a vibrant community of, lets say Colonial gamers or big figure gamers and it feels like popular because that's what everyone on THAT forum is "talking" about and playing but its actually a few score amongst thousands of unseen, unheard gamers doing other things and chatting on other forums or threads and who are out of your sight and mind.

      Internet + conventions changes the experience from the days when all of the local gamers you know were playing something other than what you wanted (keeping in mind that one's interests often change over time ) so you join in to be part of it or go solo.

    3. Quite right! Today it is easy to find wargamers of similar interests with which to share your common style of gaming. Your primary interests, no matter how esoteric to the mainstream, seem to garner much attention and remain very popular to a few. That is an interesting observation, Ross.

  7. "Notice also that Warhammer40k tends toward Campaign and Big Battle gaming over Skirmish gaming."
    I find this statement rather interesting. I think that possibly 40K players define 'Big Battle' differently than historical players. For them/us a Big Battle could be 300 figures aside on 4 by 6 table whereas a big Napoleonic battle could easily exceed a thousand figures aside on a 6 by 12 table (or simultaneous action on three or 4 tables).
    Really, for me, regardless of figure count, based on the nature of the rules, 40K is a more like a skirmish game on steroids than a big battle game.

    1. You could be correct about WH40k players viewing big battles differently than historical gamers. The survey defines "Big Battle" as having hundreds of figures per side. To me, that is barely a skirmish!

  8. An interesting way to present the stats into something tangible. Like several commentators here, the Napoleonic 15/18mm relationships seems quite natural, but the WH40k v Sci-Fi gap surprised me.

    I like Iain’s thoughts that this might be demonstrating the GW fan base as much as anything, but it does (for the first time) make me appreciate the importance of the proper questions being asked in the first place.

    I can’t remember now whether the survey was more biased towards definitive either / or answers or whether they had a smoother ‘what are your top 3 favourite flavour’ type question, with the later perhaps producing more data points, but giving a more smoothed out result.

    My biggest surprise is the absolute dominance of 25-28 / heroic, which if rolled into 1 total figure (and why not because there must be a mindset coalescence of sorts compared to other scales in the same way that 6mm and 10mm are kissing cousins) would be incredible dominance of the scale scene.

    Did the survey ask whether a person was a wargamer or collector or painter? It wouldn’t be a surprise which scales those groups gravitate towards, but the raw numbers of the groups would be interesting as would the interplay on favoured period.

    1. Norm, the questions addressed in these analyses all had choices with a ranked order. That is, "Rank your choices from 1 to n." In this study, I looked primarily at a gamer's top choice to (hopefully) provide the most meaningful and cleanest result.

      The dominance of 25mm/28mm/Heroic is always a surprising one to me too. Given that I enjoy many different figure sizes dependent upon the level of game being played, having much of the respondents with most of their eggs in this one basket is a revelation.

      The survey did ask a related question to the "Are you are wargamer/collector/painter?" by asking the respondent to rank the top three things most enjoyed about the hobby. At some point, I will dive into that question keeping your thoughts in mind.

      Thanks for your comments!

  9. More great analysis Jonathan. A couple of things "surprise" me I guess. Firstly, as mentioned by others, the fact that so many respondents obviously draw a distinction between 40K and Sci Fi! What do they think 40k is - the real future?! Anyway, Iain has probably supplied a pretty valid reason why this is so. Personally, and looking at most of the blogs I check out regularly, I am surprised 15mm leads in any sphere. To me, it will be interesting to see if this is age related. 15mm was really in vogue in the 80's, when a lot of people appreciated the economic value of large armies of smaller scale figures - I even had a small force of Minifigs ECW at that time - but apart from that, the only 15mm figures I ever owned are a large ish WW2 collection of FoW and Command Decision - which have been only very rarely used. I know you for example have the Revolutionary France period in 15mm and possibly others too, but I dont see a lot of evidence on the blogs that 15mm is still a popular scale - I wonder about whether its tied to the type of gaming (large battles) or the age of the players? Of course, it may be hard to tell for sure. as I seem to remember large scale historical gaming was the preference of older gamers, so those two may very well tie in to indicate older players prefer 15mm - but do they prefer the scale, or the larger battles that the scale enables them to fight? Some people are pure gamers, and happy to use wooden blocks - which is anathema to me - thats why I am not particularly interested in board games - I want toy soldiers to play with, and the prettier the better, so larger scales allow for more aesthetically pleasing armies....

    1. Good to see you continue enjoying these seemingly, never-ending look into the survey results, Keith. Trust me, topics will not run out anytime soon.

      As we have seen in previous analyses, age plays a role in which game period one chooses as well as figure material. Age affects much in the study. Are you suggesting gaming with 15mm figures is an old man's game? I know I am getting up into the "old man" category and have a number of large collections in 15mm. One of which is FRW but I have at least five others including Empire-period Napoleonics, SYW, AWI, Feudal Japan, WWII, and Franco-Austrian War. Did I leave any out? Probably. Mine are meant for big battle gaming something that seems to be falling out of favor.

      Thanks a lot for your contribution to the discussion and your insights!

  10. More very interesting analysis Jonathan. I think it once again confirms the massive dominance of 28mm gaming in our hobby, or certainly of those that chose to respond, which is something to consider of course. This was a surprise to me at first, but seeing skirmish gaming is so popular (and I would include Warhammer 40K in that category) it is no longer a surprise.

    The split between Warhammer 40K and Sci-Fi is a surprise, but as explained above, it is almost a case of 'East is East' etc.

    As has been discussed before, the questions this year I thought made it harder to give an accurate view of my hobby in terms of periods gamed, figure sizes used etc as I couldn't give them equal weight.

    Despite this it is a useful snap shot of our hobby, but I do think the questions could be better for next year and, in an ideal World, kept the same year on year to get a proper view of trends, or not, in our hobby.

    Keep up the good work as it's always interesting to read the breakdown from the data.

    1. Steve, there certainly could be responder bias built into the survey responses but the analyses, thus far, suggest that the narrative being built is a reasonable and believable one.

      I am surprised by the dominance of 25/28/Heroics too. With the never-ending stream of new products and figures in these sizes, they sizes must hold popularity among the masses.

      You make a good point about the difficulty of ranking one's interests in a strict monotonic way. I know, some topics hold high interest. One benefit to changing to ranked ordering in 2020 is that relationships over preference across different facets of the hobby can be measured. When I first began examining the data in the 2019 survey, you would be surprised how many respondents rated many questions with high (or low) ratings across multiple categories. This change was an attempt to refine and clarify any information coming out of the survey. Certainly something to consider how to approach in the 2021 survey.

      Thanks so much for your continued interest and contributions to these topics!

  11. This one I had a harder time understanding and I’m not sure if I totally got it. I still enjoyed the post very much as I do all these data dives and I think these are useful for just letting us talk about the hobby intelligently. (Just not me in this particular case but I’ll allow that I haven’t finished my morning coffee). Reading the comments of others helped a lot. 😀
    Next time I’m gonna have to record my answers to the survey so I can remember what I did, so I can compare myself to these trends and know if I’m a sheep or a goat.
    Keep up the great job my friend. 😀

    1. Stew! Very pleased to see that you enjoy these data dives even when I fail in my attempt to make the analysis understandable. That shows determination on your part! Good to see that the discussion helps in clarifying pieces of the work. I try to lay out the groundwork in the hope that reader comments will help drive an interesting and insightful discussion. Readers have not let me down yet.

      Don't hesitate in asking for clarification or a better explanation if what I present fails to make sense. I will try to do a better job in my explanations.

    2. Don’t worry about it Jonathan. I’m sure I’m just being dense this time around. It’s not the fault of the writer but the reader. 😀
      It wouldn’t be the first time that I wasn’t the smartest person in the room. Happens quite a bit actually...I’ve admitted too much! 😀

    3. Given that you made it through the analysis without tossing it aside suggests no density on your part but curiosity.

  12. Interesting thanks Johnathon,

    For me no real big surprises.

    I think the bias comes in some ways from the questions, the skirmish one being the main challenge, what dictates a skirmish number of figures figures or the figure ratio? Skirmish for me is under 30 figures, anything over is tactical, and I guess most wargamers would say up to 60 is skirmish. Skirmish is popular predominately because it is a cheap option and room, as many people live in apartments now, so a 4x4 (1.2x1.2m) table can fit on a regular dining table.

    The second question Is for Sci-fi, it should be lumped in with the 40k universe there too, so if you take away 40k as a response it would give a better reflection of where the scifi period really sits. Personally I think Star Wars figures and ships really has moved it up the charts ( yes I purchased both these shiney products)

    For me as I play across most genres, but predominantly historical in 28mm because I like to paint and have the luxury of a 5m table in my dedicated "Salon de Guerre" wargames room.

    Interested to listen to the WSS podcasts with thier thoughts.


    1. You are welcome, Matt!

      A agree with you that the questions could be improved by some tightening of the verbiage to reduce ambiguity. I do not know much about the non-historical side of the hobby so I cannot say combining Warhammer and Sci-Fi into one category makes sense. My hunch is that Star Wars figures are moving the Sci-Fi genre up the charts as you say. I even picked up a core set!

      We will see if this topic makes it into a WSS podcast. The Plastics v Metal debate did!

  13. Enjoyed this topic Jonathan and your analysis is intriguing.

    I find myself sitting between scales, periods and game styles for most things.

    As we have discussed I originally started painting in 1/72nd scale with Airfix then moved up in scale for a while then the settled on 25/28mm for years. Then the move from fantasy to historical games and with that a return to 20mm for WW2 and new scales to suit different periods. That said I have some periods in multiple scales as I enjoy both the difference in gaming and painting these periods. Both are also affected by other gamers/painters and their availability in the local area.

    My varied interests are reflected in your analysis of the survey as are my intrepretations of skirmish, scenario and big battle. Often a skirmish game will be scenario based as can big battles be and yet both can be just for the fun of it.

    Change the scale within the period and the results are very different. Big battle Shieldwall games can be seen as the scrum of warfare rather than dashing movement and rapid movement of other troop types in other periods. That said skirmish based Dark Age gaming is a different beast and whilst the shieldwall can be used, the difference in scale changes the style of gaming.

    An interesting point here in my restricted opinion is when someone uses a different scale than the recommended for particular ruleset, for example SAGA played in 6mm with each base having more than 1 figure eg 4 Harthguards per base, has a very different visual feel. 32 figures becomes 128 plus and the warband has grown without a substiantial change in rules and playing area required.

    Plastic versus metal will come into this in the future especially with plastic 15mm ancients on the market and when will the 15/18mm plastic Napoleonics follow?

    My last comment on both scale and game type lies firmly rooted in time. The time you have to paint, game and hobby in general versus the time you have spent on this earth. With my half century in the former is limited in that if I paint I don't game and vice-a-versa. Regarding how many more years I have on this earth; it should be plenty as the last figure of the lead pile ain't been painted yet.

    Thanks again Jonathan your analysis is more detailed and specific than my ramblings.

    Cheers, Ross

    1. Thank you, Ross! Very good to see that you enjoyed this installment of the survey analysis.

      You have many varied interests. As you attest, the variety in game types, game periods, and figure scales all combine to make for almost endless gaming possibilities. One reason this is such a wonderful hobby.

      As for the debate over plastic v metal, we may begin seeing a change-over to plastics in the smaller scales although 20mm and 1/72nd have always focused on the plastic as a material theme.

      Like you, I likely have more time behind than in front of me but I still have the drive to tackle new periods on a regular basis. The enjoyment derived from painting, for me, it a large part of the hobby. I really strive to get more gaming in, though.

      Finally, seeing that you began in 1/72 and returned to 20mm WWII, I plan to pull this figure size out and look at it in isolation. While it is not the most popular by today's standards, many have lamented the absence of 1/72 or 20mm in these analyses. It might be very interesting to breakdown the responses for those wargamers choosing this figure size as their preferred scale.

      Ramble all you want! I enjoy reading every word detailing your interesting journey through the hobby. Others do too!

  14. Thanks for the work Jonathan, interesting reading.

  15. Some of the results surprise me still. 11,000 is a big sample size, but I do have a concern that WSS does skew towards bigger figures in its articles and readership, as far as I can tell, so there is self selection going on. For example, my experience of WW2 gamers is that they favour smaller scales, 15mm and so on, with 20mm at the top end. The subset of WW2 gamers, those who play Bolt Action, for example, use 28mm figures and play skirmish games is quite large, but in the total population of all wargamers with WW2 toys in the cupboard are they significant. I will admit to not being an expert on consumer surveys, but I know in other product research there's a need to "normalise" the respondent base so results aren't skewed by an asymptomatic sample base, and I don't know if that is possible here.

    1. Thanks for you comments and furthering the discussion, Graham!

      WSS may skew towards the 25mm-28mm size of figures but figure manufacturers seem to skew in that same direction. Much of the new historical releases are coming into the market at these sizes. One needs only look to at Warlord or Perry (to name a few) to see this trend.

      Self-selection is unavoidable in this type of survey where all-comers are invited to participate. Given that WSS has a primary focus on historicals (from what I see) and that about half of the survey respondents classify themselves as primarily non-historical gamers, there is a lot of cross-over that may counter any selection bias.

      As for WWII gaming, examining the survey responses suggests figure size for gaming this period is definitely driven by age. Old wargamers like you and I grew up wargaming WWII primarily in the 20mm and under figure size. Well, at least I did and it sounds as if you did as well. You will likely see this manifest itself in the follow-up to this post when I throw age into the variable mix. There is a good sample of respondents from these older age groups so they are not getting missed in the survey.

      Given the number of respondents with questions and comments about gaming in these under 25mm figure sizes, I think digging deeper into these less represented sizes or scales is worth a look. I imagine you would be interested in seeing how your 20mm or 1/72 plastics fit into the hierarchy of the hobby. We may discover that our hobby interests are in the tail-ends of the "normal" curve.

      Again, your insights much appreciated.