Sunday, December 6, 2020

GWS2020: Game Era Preference Adjusted for Age

As mentioned in the previous post on The Great Wargaming Survey analysis (see: GWS2020: Game Period, Type, and Figure Size, Oh My!), I wanted to explore the effect of adding Age Group into the mix of already scrutinized attributes.  In addition to game period, game type, and figure size; age group is tossed into the blender and given a spin.

Like previous analyses, multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) will be the tool to compute groupings in an attempt to differentiate the various attributes.  How the survey respondents' favorite period, type, and size group with respect to age (and each other) are illustrated in Figure 1 below.  Adding age group into the analysis does not alter the relationships between period/type/size much but adds an interesting dimension into the picture. 
Figure 1
Are patterns easily discernable?  Clusters of attributes appear in Figure 1.  To make sense of these data points, overall results are broken down into manageable chunks to isolate some of the interesting relationships.

Dimension 1 (x-axis): Non-Historical vs Historical gaming
When MCA focuses on Dimension 1, a clear delineation between non-historical and historical gaming emerges.  In Figure 2, all of the non-historical attributes cluster on the left while all of historical attributes cluster on the right.  Only the attributes contributing to the Dimension 1 are denoted by borders surrounding their placement within the grid.  Distance between attributes of the the same class signifies similarity or dissimilarity.  The greater the distance between two points, the greater the dissimilarity.  What does Dimension 1 analysis suggest?
  • Warhammer40k gamers are very dissimilar to Ancients and Napoleonics gamers.
  • 28mm Heroics figure size is very dissimilar to 15-18mm figure size.
  • Age group 31-40 is very dissimilar to the 51-60 and 61+ age groups. 
Figure 2
These results suggest there is clear separation between non-historical and historical wargamers in general and these subgroups in particular.  For example, wargamers in the 31-40 age group hold gaming preferences different from those in the 51+ age groups.

Dimension 2 (y-axis): Big Battles vs Skirmish gaming
This time, MCA focuses on Dimension 2.  Only the attributes contributing to the Dimension 2 are denoted by borders surrounding their placement within the grid.  In Figure 3, the attributes that are boxed in gray did not contribute in Dimension 2 explicitly but are assigned to Dimension 2 as the "Best" fit.  For the major bifurcation here, I choose the dissimilarity between Big Battles and Skirmish gaming.  Notice that Warhammer40k and Sci-Fi are very different too.

The big take-aways from Dimension 2 analysis are:
  • Warhammer40k gamers are very dissimilar to Sci-Fi and WWII gamers.
  • The preference toward skirmish gaming is very different from those preferring Big Battles.
  • Age group 21-30 preferences are very dissimilar to 41-50 age group preferences.
Figure 3
Magic Quadrant Revisited.
As in the prior exercise, (see: GWS2020: Game Period, Type, and Figure Size, Oh My!), Dimension 1 and Dimension 2 analyses are further decomposed into quadrants.  The magic quadrant in Figure 4 shows a similar pattern to the magic quadrant in the previous analysis.  Generally, the attributes present in that earlier work (without age group) remain in similar relative positions to one another.  So, adding age group did not alter the relationships between game period, type, or figure size much at all.  
Figure 4
What general tendencies surface when age is added?  

In the upper left (yellow) quadrant, Warhammer 40k and 28mm Heroics remain as before.  Now we see that Warhammer40k is really a preference shared by the younger gamer cohorts.  Note that the 31-40 age group straddles the Warhammer40k and Fantasy/Sci-fi periods.  Perhaps this tendency suggests that the 31-40 age group is a cross-over age?

In the upper right (green) quadrant, Big Battles, 15-18mm, Ancients and Napoleonics remain as in the earlier quadrant analysis.  With the addition of age group, we find that this combination of gaming attributes are the domain of the Old Guard of the 61+ age group.  Notice that 51-60 age group straddles this grouping and the WWII grouping.

In the lower right (blue) quadrant, gaming preferences tend to concentrate on the combination of WWII, scenario-based gaming in 25-28mm.  Age Group 51-60 is a part of this grouping as well.

Finally, the lower left (pink) quadrant contains the Fantasy/Sci-Fi, skirmishing gamers.  Primarily age group 41-50 are found here but the 31-40 age cohort makes an appearance too.

Adding age into the collection of attributes, while not changing the overall traits and tendencies presented in the earlier MCA analysis, provides an additional dimension into the picture of the hobby.

Do these generalizations of gamer tendencies fit into the common body of knowledge of the state of the wargaming hobby or offer new insights?  

Does this analysis suggest a lifecycle approach to wargaming wherein young gamers tend to be drawn into the hobby through Warhammer40k, grow-up into Fantasy/Sci-Fi, convert to historical wargaming in their 40s, and continue this passion into old age?

Alternatively, perhaps wargamers enter into the hobby at a certain place and time, are attracted to what is popular, and then stick with that genre as long as they remain in the hobby?

When I entered into the hobby in the early 1970s, historical miniature wargaming was foremost.  That is where I landed and that is where I remain.  How many have a similar entry into the hobby?  How many entered the hobby in one genre (or period) and migrated into another?

Well, this is enough of this topic, for now.  I, at least, have a better understanding of the relationships between game period, game type, figure size, and age group.  I am firmly in the green quadrant with respect to Napoleonics but I prefer 25-28mm for Ancients.  Hopefully, this exercise has been useful to others as well.  Next time, I plan to dig into a new topic from the survey.  What next?  Perhaps something lighter.  Please stay tuned.


  1. The addition of age grouping probably sets the scene for what anecdotally has been loosely recognised discussed on blogs and forums for the past few years.

    Some blogger posts give an impression that the old Guard historical big battle gamer is under siege by displacement from a following gamer generation and these stats give weight not only to this view, but that if the trend continues, that commercially the wargame scene will change and perhaps that change has already hit a tipping point.

    In that regard, I suppose what also needs to enter the equation is which of the below 40 group and above 40 group currently spend the most money as this will be central to commercial interests, direction and new product.

    I came across news yesterday that a small boardgame company was no longer actively pursuing historically weighted games, a reflection in a broader perhaps of what we are discussing here.

    In someways, as a hobby, we tend to be a lot of people in small bubbles, so in reality, it hardly matters what everyone else is doing, it should not effect 'your' game or pleasure, other than you might feel some new product is not for you, but never-the-less, some do view an evolving hobby with a sense of doom and dismay. At least they have the figures now to support that :-)

    one thing for sure, we are not a greying hobby that is about to witness our own demise, there is a vibrant vanguard following up, who also like to meet and roll dice.

    I shall stop there, as I am needed in the next room to fight Borodino :-)

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Norm.

      Remember that these series of analyses began as a look at respondents' first choice in gaming period. We are still looking only at first choice here.

      I am no doom and gloomer. Comments from prior postings show evidence that some gamers may, in fact, evolve to historical wargaming from non-historicals. Also recall that there was a fair bit of period cross-over between non-historicals and historicals as a gamer moved from pure non-historical up the scale toward pure historical gamer. There are those in the middle that enjoy both and at many age groups.

      Borodino? Do tell more!

    2. New boardgame by White Dog Games, being played and written up as we speak :-)

  2. You have completed a fascinating analysis of the survey data. As I am in the age group 51-60, I seem to fit some of the generalisations with the exception of a W40K collection which was a common interest with my son.

    1. Peter, glad you found these exercises fascinating and perhaps useful. Thank you!

  3. There is something mildly amusing that the ancient period appears the purvue of ancient (agewise)gamers.

    My first thought when seeing this is what we start with tends to stick even if we do explore other options. Music seems to work the same way.

    However trending movies etc may also play a role in what attracts entry level gamers along with that very powerful social influence of those you play with.

    No big surprises but a very useful analysis. Good work!

    1. Yeah, it is amusing that the ancient gamers prefer ancients. Ancients are a classic for good reason! My music preferences certainly fit your hypothesis as does wargaming interests.

      Much appreciated, Ross!

  4. Very interesting analysis Jonathan, with the age added on helping to make sense of the data. I'm certainly on the border of of the two blue squares which seems to pretty much reflect my gaming preferences.

    Looking back at what was available and affordable when I was growing up, it seems that the Airfix kits and figures probably had a big impact on my generation in terms of what we gamed and probably continue to do today. I remember seeing 20mm figures in a games shop in Cambridge that, whilst they looked lovely, were simply way out of my pocket money range and so therefore never figured as an option. Those ten or more years older than myself may have only had these as an option, as the Airfix ranges had only just begun to appear. Maybe this is why Napoleonics and Ancients feature in the 61+ age group?

    As for the data, I think it will be useful for games companies and manufacturers to tailor their output to the generations that are coming on behind, as our ranks begin to thin and thus our spending falls away. I hope 'classic' wargaming doesn't disappear but as with all things, it will continue to evolve, whether we like it or not.

    1. Steve, I think we were both products of out times.

      When I first became aware of miniature wargaming, my primary interest was in ACW. Unfortunately (or fortunately), a hobby shop in the nearest large city only carried Airfix Napoleonics. Rather than ACW, this first purchase started me down the to a long wargaming career in Napoleonics.

      I hope classic wargaming continues as well. My hunch is that it will.

      Thank you for your continued interest and participation in these series.

  5. I'm not so sure there's a wargaming lifecycle whereby a gamer moves from Fanstasy/Scifi to historicals. Based on no evidence, I feel that wargamers have some reasonably consistent ineterests, which while they change and evolve, are still there later in life. Maybe even some come back with nostalgia.

    I'm in the 51-60 age bracket; big battles mainly. But my main periods (SYW/ECW) and scales (6/10mm) are off the chart. Although I do have Naps and WWII as 'minority interests'. Both of the latter were my first wargaming periods. And Ancients is something I've long meant to do. So to that extent I fit the profile.

    1. It would be satisfying, to me at least, to think that Fantasy/Sci-fi wargamers evolve into historical gamers at some point. We have seen examples from other commenters where this DID happen but it may be an exception, for sure.

      When looking at the data, I was surprised at how little market share 6mm captured with respect to the big boys. 10mm was in a similar position. It might be an interesting exercise to focus on these smaller sized figures and see what is driving interest. Like you, I enjoy 6mm for Ancients and 10mm for ACW.

      Thanks for your feedback!

    2. One example that I know of a fantasy-historicals wargamer personally is my son (in the 21-30 bracket). Though I think he’s more of a gamer (board games, computer games, cards, you name it) than a wargamer. He likes a challenge, but bar the Baccus Prussians I bought and painted for him years ago he doesn’t have any figures now and they’re with me.

      He enjoys Marechal de l’Empire, as well as my homegrown stuff. But really started with Games Workshop LOTR when he got into the books and films. He then built up a collection of figures and played games with me and his sisters at home and at the stores. The LOTR figures ended up in a charity shop not that long ago.

      A semi-convert I suppose.

    3. Another piece of evidence that conversion is possible! Thank you!

  6. I'm in the 51-60 bracket, straddling blue and green, I collected airfix historical figures when I was little but didn't start gaming until I was in my teens,with dungeons and dragons, runequest and traveller,fantasy and scifi, I was interested in historical but no one really fancied it in my group and teaching myself WRG put me off historical rules for a while, started 40k because I was at college in Nottingham when it came out,painted exclusively 40k for over 15 years sometimes with nephews and grand nephews and maybe 10 years ago all 3 of us decided to do historical wargaming, principally because warlord games were doing it in plastic, I only dabble with frostgrave because another grand nephew was interested in it,gateway drug! I don't believe warlord and victrix would be investing so much in 28mm napoleonic plastic kits if they thought all the players were going to die off, warlords plan seems to be to entice players into historical gaming with bolt action (which is very much like 40k) and expose them to other periods. I ran into a former work colleague who was strictly a scifi/ fantasy/40k gamer when we worked together at a tournament that was mainly scifi/fantasy, I think he was playing infinity, and I was taking part in a To the strongest! tournament, I popped over to see him between games and he did the same, remarking on how relaxed and less die hard competitive we were and that he quite fancied that. He hasn't started a TtS army yet but he has now got a bolt action historical force, as do all of his club who were all exclusively scifi/40k types, I know this is just a handful of examples but it's funny that I was in the 41-50 group when I transitioned from 40k to historical in a similar way to what the numbers suggest!
    Best Iain

    1. Iain, you are the Model Major Miniaturist! You are proof that one can successful cross over from non-historical to historical gaming. Successfully too!

      In many ways, manufacturers and rules designers seem to create their own demand with a steady stream of new products. It must be common knowledge that some wargamers are collectors and hoarders first and gamers second.

      Thank you for your personal story of wargaming evolution.

  7. I also am firmly in the green quadrant Jonathan, although I might take up Warhammer just to make next year's analysis more interesting. Funnily enough I bought my first Warhammer figure in 2020. I think he was a Space Marine attached to a magazine which had a free sample of Citadel paint I needed, the shop having run out of individual pots. I handed him back to the shop manager to use as store stock, rather than see him go to waste.

    1. Yes, I am firmly in the green too. No plans to take up WH40k to mess with the survey results, though! I did recently pick up a box of Star Wars figures...

  8. Great post JF and this time I was able to follow along. Maybe I’m more awake or just paying more attention...

    I don’t know if there is a cycle from sci fy to historical games. I think genre mainly depends on primary interest and most people I know do both anyway.

    But I do think that as gamers age the go from smaller games to larger ones. Collections just naturally grow and even if you start small you tend to want to go bigger. Plus as you get older you tend to get more ‘established’ with steady employment and what not.

    Kids matter too, because the age of when people typically have young children running around is a factor on your free time and how much you can focus on creating big battles. I think I see that Oder folks tend to focus on big battles and usually by the time you hit your 50s the children are much older. It be interesting if on the next survey there could be a question of how much time one is able to devote to this hobby. 😀

    1. Stew, very good to see that I made some sense this time!

      You make a number of good points including primary interest, the size of one's collections, and family/financial constraints.

      The survey suggests, just as you state, that many wargamers have varied interests and game both historicals and fantasy/sci-fi. Do the gamers you know gaming in both genres stick with both or gravitate towards only one as they age?

      Your suggested question regarding time spent on the hobby is a good one. I did ask for the question "how often do you game" to be added to the 2020 survey and total time spent on the hobby would be a useful metric.

      Thanks for your thoughts, insights, and suggestions!

  9. More interesting work Jonathan - I feel I am with the majority view (if I am reading all the comments correctly) that in general, there is not a natural progression from fantasy in your teens to historical in middle age. I started with 54mm toy soldiers then Airfix (as well as 12 " Action Men!) and my interest have always been historical. I did have some Romans once upon a time but generally, my gaming has been mainly 17th century and later. I do have few figures for use in Frostgrave as one of my gaming mates got into it and it was easy to but 20 odd figures for a couple of warbands - and it gave me an excuse to buy some of the lovely Reaper figures I had looked at a hundred times over the years. I had a bit of a hiatus from gaming and painting between about 17-30, so maybe thats why I missed out the Warhammer/fantasy/15mm influences - the only 15mm figures I have is a large collection of FoW WW2 - mainly because I was able to do some work for Mark S at his business in Auckland in the mid 90's and get "paid" in FoW product that we produced and packed there. I am in the blue/green area of the graph and always have been - and most of the group of gamers I play with are similar. None of them have any interest in fantasy/sci fi, as far as I am aware and only the older ones have collections of 15mm historical - although we almost never game with 15mm historical figures. I am firmly of the belief that 15mm had its heyday around the time of my hiatus from the hobby and thats why I never had any historicals in this scale. The guys who are 10-20 years older than me were in their 40's in the late 80's and 90's, the era when I believe 15mm was dominant. I do realise from the blogs I peruse that some people my age still game predominantly with the smaller scales but I feel that 25/28mm is definitely the pre eminent gaming scale at the moment. My own group are certainly 100% committed to this scale and to historical, large scenario based games - well, except for the Western gunfight skirmish games and the current Border Reivers project and...but its the exceptions that prove the rule, isnt it!

    1. Keith, I have really enjoyed reading your responses to these survey analysis posts. You have maintained a long tradition in the hobby.

      Your observation on 15mm figures and gaming in that size is astute. I fit into that mold as well. When I returned to miniatures’ Wargaming in 1990 from hex and counter Wargaming, it was 15mm that caught my attention. Fighting large ACW and Napoleonic battles is what I wanted and that is what the local fellows were interested in as well. I wonder what factors drove 15mm gaming into the background?

      Thanks, again, for your insights!

  10. No real surprises there I think. I also started way back with Airfix figures, found out about real wargames and dabbled with WWII before leaping with both feet into Medieval for ten years exclusively. Now I play about half a dozen periods, five of which are historical and one sci-fi skirmish.

    1. Sometimes, no surprises are good. If you have been following this series, adding age into the mix would not have been a surprise at all. If you completed the survey, where do you rank yourself slong the Historical (0) to Fantasy/Sci-Fi (6) scale?

  11. A very interesting break down Jonathan and I'm not sure how the effects are over all, but I have noticed an effect on me in regards to scales and types of games over the years.

    I'm over 50 and mostly a historical player and before I used to have no trouble looking at large battles in 28mm but due to influences like TFL for example my sense of scale has changed where now I have trouble doing that. I tend see 28mm now as a skirmish scale(large and small), 15/18mm mid level battles and 10mm or less for large scale battles.


    1. Thank you, Christopher! You make an interesting point on how your sense of scale has changed over the years with respect to both figure size and scope of battle. I still use all three (10mm,15mm,25mm) figure sizes for large battles but your breakdown makes good sense.

  12. Interesting stuff as always Jonathan, and I guess some fairly expected results. After all it takes enormous dedication to collect and game the SYW . I guess it is inevitable that younger folk are keen to game/play with their peers who are already likely to be gaming fantasy. Really the only way into historical is via a club or much more likely relatives. Like many I started young with the only thing available at the time which was historical, then drifted in and out of the hobby through college and early married/work life. Returning properly into the hobby through fantasy when my son reached a suitable age, but gaming much more historical now than fantasy. I could easily be tempted into a game of 40k. I am still convinced that scale is related to space and money, and time to game. Who wouldn’t collect 28 mm Napoleonics if they had unlimited resources and time ! 15 mm is really just a sensible way of saving space, money and time , multiplied by 19 and 6mm. When they had the full scale 28mm Waterloo game up in Glasgow I visited as a spectator. This put a very clear context of scale and whilst as a general we would all like to be Napoleon or Wellington for the day you actually can’t do it in 28 mm !

    1. Glad you find these series of survey analyses interesting. There will likely be many more. Well, at least as long as someone responds!

      Space, money, time are certainly contributors to what is played and in which scale. Your point that collections grow as a wargamer ages is a good one. That certainly holds true for me.

      Thank you for sharing your personal evolution through your wargaming hobby!

  13. I am firmly in the historical camp Jonathan, I only do X-Wing as my son has it.

  14. Interesting analysis as always, Jon. I think it mostly serves to reinforce our perceptions, which I suppose is in part a sort of gestalt check on validity! While I think there is some progression for SciFi and Fantasy to Historicals, I tend to think it is hardly the rule.

    HMGS is in the starting stages of its HMGS - NextGen project, being spearheaded by my friend Jared Fishman. The idea is to introduce gaming, especially historicasl wargames in middle schools, High Schools, and college, whether as part of the curriculum, in club form, or otherwise in a more structured and coordinated fashion than feasible in the past. I think that ages 12 - 25 are the key ones for exposure to our hobby, not that some may not get into it later in life as well!

    1. Thanks, Peter! Please keep us all posted on the progress of the HMGS Conversion Project.