Home Forums General General Is Wargaming Dying in the US?

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    Avatar photoLagartija Mike

    I’m speaking of Ancients through, say, late 19th Century. It might be my peculiar lacunae of being out of the hobby since adolescence struck heavily in the terminal 80s, but I seem to recall a more vibrant, imaginitive scene.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    I’m afraid I can’t speak for the USA. But in the UK I hear similar concerns now and again. I think it is Balkanised more than the 80s (certainly more than the 70s) and this may skew older gamers views.  There were Ancients (mostly Romans), 7YW, Napoleonics,  ACW and WWII.  (A bit of Renaissance as well). Now there’s all that (and ten different rule sets for each at least) plus Ancients is chopped up more into Bronze Age, Classical, Roman Empire, Post Roman, Dark Age, Early Medieval. Then there’s medieval and what was ‘Renaissance’ is much better catered for in small period slots from Italian Wars through to the War of the League of Augsburg. Musket wars include things like Great Northern War which nobody had heard of let alone gamed and nineteenth century gaming has many small wars covered in detail. WWI is in vogue of course at the moment for bizarre ‘anniversary’ reasons and post WWII gaming, real or imaginary is very big.

    Add to that all the different levels and approaches of gaming all these ‘periods’ and I don’t think wargaming is dying at all – in the UK. My impression from reading about the US is that it is in a similar state, but my knowledge base from the 70s/80s is much less secure (no internet! and little travel there).

    As for ‘imaginative’, I think a lot of the ground breaking innovation of the 80s, getting away from line ’em up slog fests of earlier days, has become so absorbed by commercial rule sets that we don’t notice their good bits so much (although there is a whole weirder vibe still going on about an imagined dichotomy between playability and ‘realism’ which may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater at times – please don’t discuss!).

    I hope your perception is skewed about the States, loads of good stuff out of there in the past – keep it coming!

    Avatar photoLagartija Mike

    Guy, no question that there’s a superabundance of period specific rules, and figure ranges have never been so expansive or so well executed. It’s more that the noise I see generated on the Internet forums doesn’t seem to realize itself on the ground in the form of clubs and associations. From what I can see the US scene, for all its market share, is spread pretty thin.

    Avatar photoPatrice

    (I don’t know about the US, but) the gaming public has probably changed everywhere.

    If I compare the gaming public in my area here (Brittany, France)… 30 years ago some players were wargaming in local clubs in big towns and it was almost unknown of the public. Now most of the public has heard about it; but the clubs do not seem to have more members, and the overall number of gamers doesn’t appear bigger – although many people may game at home without being noticed; and many new rules have a more “boardgame” taste than before.


    Avatar photopiers brand

    I live in rural Ireland.

    Not the best place to look for wargame opponenets… Or so you’d think.

    We have 10 players all within 10 miles of our club and meet weekly. Coming from the UK, I was amazed to be so lucky to drop into such a nest of historical gamers in a country with a small population and an even smaller amount of gamers. That said though, wargaming is certainly on the rise, we are hosting an Oldhammer event in November that may draw in 20 or so people. Its very difficult though to get an overall impression of the hobby. The ‘internet’ seems to give an impression, but its a false one. Of my gaming group of 10, only two or three are active online with regards their hobby in any real manner. Of the rest, half never go online with regards their hobby. Im also the only one who buys a wargames magazine. So I strongly believe their is still a huge numbers of gamers who happily bumble along with no regard the wider hobby community. Their hobby is driven by those they game with and by their own imaginations. Our spread of periods played is wide and traditional. Ancients, through to medieval, then SYW and AWI, onto Napoleonics, Colonials, Wild West, and our biggest which is WW2 played in 20mm. We also have a good smattering of Fantasy and Sci-Fi too.

    So from my perspective, the hobby is vibrant, covers all aspects and periods and seems to be flourishing.

    Avatar photoHoward Whitehouse

    I suspect it may be an issue of ‘fewer game shops, so less visibility.’

    I also think that the massive ‘took me three years to paint all these 15mm Russians’ army is a thing of the past.

    I do all my own stunts.

    Avatar photoSparker

    I was amazed at the wargaming opportunities open to me as a new arrival in Australia, with a small and diffuse population. At least three historical wargaming shops in Sydney, a medium sized city by global standards. A small but thriving wargames club in Wollongong, a tiny ‘city’, and similar cells of regular activity up and down the SE Australian coast from Melbourne up to Brisbane, if not beyond. Amazing really.

    I wouldn’t say the hobby is dying, if anything I think the internet, home publishing, blogging and podcasting, hard plastic technology has all conspired to make our present a golden age of wargaming. Even if you are completely isolated from other wargamers, its still entirely possible to be ‘connected’ and a major contributor to the community online…

    I don’t think its growing, in terms of headcount, but its becoming richer and more ‘enabled’, and definitely not in its death throes…

    'Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall need to be well 'ard'
    Matthew 5:9

    Avatar photoSteve Johnson

    In Bristol there are only a couple of wargames clubs that I’m aware of, and we are the 8th largest city in the UK. There are others spread around the local area, another 2-3 that come to mind. Why so few? A few thoughts:

    • Finding a venue that is cheap enought for a club is tricky. Portbury Knights existed due to the fact that the chairman lived in the village and got a 50% discount. Even then it was £5 per night, which is expensive compared to other clubs I know off. Add in travelling costs (excluding time, which for me was an hour each way) and the odd drink at the bar and it was averaging £20 per night. Many members found this prohibitive in the long run and simply drifted away.
    • Finding a night that is good for most people is another issue. Friday night was the Portbury Knights club night so not suitable for everyone. One local club meets on a Sunday afternoon which for many of my chums is set aside for ‘family time’.
    • Trying to find people to run a club can be awkward. Again Portbury Knights was run by the chairman really and relied upon his energy.
    • Club politics. In the end the club folded due to the weekly squabbles between a few core club members. The chairman simply got tired of it and handed over the reins and the club folded within a year.

    In the end due to some of the issues above my regular gaming chums decided that we would rather meet up at each others houses as and when it suited us (To be honest the whole gaming experience is much, much more enjoyable all round). With the advent of the internet we no longer needed to attend a club regularly to find out what was going on.

    To be honest I no longer miss going to a club. Solo games and a few regular chums give me my gaming fix on a regular basis. Add in a few shows a year and I’m a happy wargaming bunny.

    Wargaming is still going strong in the UK given the amount of new figure ranges, rules and wargaming books that come out each year. There is still a good show scene, but some such as Colours are now just a one day show, which may be the future for most. The club scene I can’t really comment on given that I’m out of it, but at least there still appears to be one in and around Bristol.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    In the end due to some of the issues above my regular gaming chums decided that we would rather meet up at each others houses as and when it suited us (To be honest the whole gaming experience is much, much more enjoyable all round).

    To be honest I no longer miss going to a club. Solo games and a few regular chums give me my gaming fix on a regular basis. 


    This, more and more. Organised clubs may be growing fewer, and ad hoc assemblies of  a few mates in each other’s homes is becoming the norm (hi Norm!).





    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoAlvin Molethrottler

    I live in the north of England, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a wargamer. But I do think that, if show attendance is anything to go by, our hobby is graying and perhaps that is a result of the traditional channels that drew us into wargaming being eroded by the passage of time. And of course you have the insipid culture of instant gratification that has insinuated itself into society, which means that many of the more time consuming aspects of wargaming are viewed with abhorrence. Afterall few want to spend weeks, months or even years patiently collecting an army when they can just switch on a device and have at it in full colour high definition.

    Avatar photoSam Mustafa

    Isn’t it funny that this is a question about whether gaming is dying in the USA…  and thus far nobody from the USA has answered.   (Too late? They’re all dead?)

    One thing that bugs me about this topic, is that it’s often impossible to discuss it without people accusing you of either Doomsdaying, or blaming somebody. But I’m not interested in either.  These are just plain observations, without value judgment.

    If we’re speaking of historical tabletop gaming, then yes, I’d say it’s dying out in the USA.  My observations are purely anecdotal and personal, but for what that’s worth:

    1.  The average age at game conventions has steadily increased to the point that the average attendee is now easily in his late-50s or early 60s.  HistoriCon and Fall-In look like some sort of pensioners’ rally. This is the result of not really recruiting anybody new in 30+ years.  Do this simple experiment:  Google Image-Search for “Historicon 2015”  and then do the same for “Salute 2015” or any other British convention, and look at the people in the photos.  The differences are striking.   There might be a final mini-boom in attendance because so many of the people are retired now and have more time…  but I doubt that will translate to an increase in sales since retirees generally have less money.
    2. Twenty-five years ago, many if not most of the leading hobby manufacturers, magazines, and game authors were in the USA.  Today it’s hard to name even half a dozen who routinely sell more than a few thousand units per year. The hobby’s most productive and creative new ventures are located in Britain, Aus/NZ, or the European continent.
    3. From the (admittedly limited) perspective of my own business, I’ve seen the size of my American customer base shrink by about one-half in the past 15 years, while my British and Australian customer bases have exploded.  For my most recent game, for example (Blücher) only about 20% of the sales were in the USA.  Nearly half were in Britain.  For the previous game, Longstreet, which is a game about the American civil war (!) I sold as many copies in Australia as I did in the USA.   I now ship 60% of my products directly from the printer to my UK distributor, because there’s no point in shipping to the USA first and having to re-post them overseas.   (Sixty percent!)
    4. Sure, this might mean that for some reason perhaps my products no longer appeal to an American customer base, but…  conversations with retailers in the USA have led me to believe that what’s actually happening is that nobody’s products appeal to an American customer base much anymore.  I don’t know everybody, but of the retailers in the USA that I know, none of them has experienced a growth in sales among their American customers.  (Overseas… yes, but not here at home.)  In fact, I know three of them who either have stopped going to conventions or who are planning to stop, because it isn’t worth the expense anymore.  Attendance is falling and more importantly from their perspective: the American customers aren’t buying much new.  The remaining ones are sticking with the old games that they bought years ago and aren’t interested in new stuff.

    Now, Okay… this is the Interwebs.  That means that somebody will be along in a few minutes with an anecdote that allegedly disproves all of the above. (He went to a recent gaming show in Arkansas and saw that somebody had brought seven young kids there, so the hobby must be doing fine!)

    I can’t claim any sort of scientific proof for this, only my observations, as above.  But I am routinely struck by the fact that whenever I see groups of American gamers, there are a lot of white-haired heads (those who still have hair, anyway), and not many signs of recruitment or growth in membership.

    This has certainly changed the way that I plan to do business.  Given the extraordinarily high cost of shipping overseas from the USA, and the fact that domestic sales keep shrinking, I’m looking toward partnerships with British or European publishers as a way of reducing costs to those customers, as well as more electronic documents like PDFs.  It just doesn’t make much sense anymore to print hard-copy games in the USA, when you have to ship most of them overseas because there aren’t enough American buyers anymore to justify the cost.

    Avatar photoSteve Johnson

    At Salute this year (our first time of attending) we noticed that there were far more younger gamers than at other shows. When I say younger those in their 20s and below. At Colours in comparison it really is a case of mainly middle aged, white males, balding, overweight, with glasses, poor dress sense and some with hygeine issues. And before I’m berated for my observations I fit into a lot of these catogories and am also not the only one to have commented on this!

    Post Salute we did feel that the hobby was in good health, with at least new blood coming in, and a very strong presence from a variety of traders etc.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    At Colours in comparison it really is a case of mainly middle aged, white males, balding, overweight, with glasses, poor dress sense and some with hygeine issues. 


    Oi! I’m not bald, fat or smelly**. You’ll need to define ‘poor dress sense’ further,  I wouldn’t wear a suit to a show, but I wouldn’t wear a T-shirt and jeans either. 😉




    **I’m 60 next month, so I’m not middle-aged either 🙁

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoirishserb

    Wargaming dying?

    I’m in the US Midwest, and my impression is that the hobby just grows, and has done so continuously since the late 1970s.  I have encountered observations, concerns, and outright fears over the years, that the hobby is dying, but I think that mostly as it grows, it evolves, and that the evolution is often mistaken for dying as the market and community change from what we come to know or expect at any given time.

    I still see plenty of the “old” stuff that I saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s, more of it now than then actually.  But the scope of “the hobby”  (whatever that means) has grown tremendously, so the old or classic hobby subjects make up a smaller proportion of the overall “population”.

    Overall, I find a lot more of everything today, more gamers, games, rules, miniatures, conventions, shops, etc.  Maybe it is a function of population density, and where I live, but there just seems to be more.  I also find that the accomplishments of the more extreme and/or talented of us push the limits of creativity, art and passion farther than ever before.  But with so many games that are ready off of the shelf, or otherwise require less time and maybe personal investment, there is more to sort through to find the portion of the hobby that feeds each of us individually.

    The social infrastructure of the community has changed a lot, mostly due to the internet.  Communication is easy now.  Heck, everything about the hobby is easy now, compared the 35 or even 15 years ago.  Clubs, organizations, newsletters, magazines, etc. are to varying degrees obsolete, or at least not as important now.

    I game less, game with fewer people, and go to fewer shops and conventions than I did 20-30 years ago, but now have more gaming contact, than I did then.  And if I find time, I have the ability to game more and have far more diverse and  direct contact through the local shops, groups, clubs, and bigger and more dynamic conventions, than I did all those years ago.

    Maybe I’m wrong, or my experience isn’t typical, but I have the opposite view.  From my vantage point, there seems to be more of everything wargaming than ever before.  More artistic, more creative, more imaginative, and more numerous, even within just the scope of what I would call classic wargaming subjects.

    Avatar photoMike

    I’m speaking of Ancients through, say, late 19th Century.

    I think so.
    I see a lot of gaming reports across the net about US games, and for sure the hobby is on the rise by all accounts.
    Can’t think of any recent games of the period you mentioned though, however for the UK I can.

    Avatar photoSam Mustafa

    I was limiting myself to the question that was asked. As I understood, it was:  historical tabletop gaming in the USA.


    Maybe I’m wrong, or my experience isn’t typical, but I have the opposite view.  From my vantage point, there seems to be more of everything wargaming than ever before.  More artistic, more creative, more imaginative, and more numerous, even within just the scope of what I would call classic wargaming subjects.


    Across the world?  Yes, definitely.   Within the USA, though?  Are there really more US-based hobby manufacturers than there were 25 years ago?  More gamers? More products?  Coming from the USA?

    We don’t have a lot of hard data to go on, but there are at least two metrics that spring to my mind:

    1. Twenty-five years ago the hobby was dominated by US-based companies who sold tens of thousands of copies.  Nowadays, I can’t think of a single US-based game publisher that sells anywhere near that number.  Of the ten biggest hobby companies in the world (figure makers, game and magazine publishers, etc.)…  how many are based in the USA?   If the hobby was growing in the USA – and by “growing” that presumably means new guys, buying new stuff – then are they buying all that new stuff from abroad?  (Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine a lot of hobby “growth” without a concurrent growth in the sales of products that constitute that hobby.)
    2. If the hobby is really growing in the USA, then where are they?  They aren’t showing up at the big conventions, whose attendance figures are often either stagnant or falling.   Sure, I’d love to imagine that there must be tons of new guys in the hobby who just, for whatever reason, don’t go to the old conventions, but…  Okay:  does anybody have any proof of that?

    In the absence of proof to the contrary, I’d say that the trends indicate shrinkage.  Again: I’m speaking only to the question that was asked:  historical tabletop gaming in the USA.


    I game less, game with fewer people, and go to fewer shops and conventions than I did 20-30 years ago, but now have more gaming contact, than I did then.


    I agree; I can say the same thing about myself, and almost every gamer here that I know.  If we game less, with fewer people, and go to fewer shops and conventions…  and our main contact with the hobby is now far-away people via the internet….

    I think that’s a pretty accurate description of the state of historical tabletop gaming in the USA.





    Avatar photokyoteblue

    OK, here goes, at Game HQ in Oklahoma City Oklahoma, most of the gamers there are Card players, and they keep the lights on for a handful of old historical miniature gamers. In that handful only one is under 40. The hobby has changed over the years and I expect it will continue to change.

    Avatar photoPaul

    Sam, are pure sales figures on rules an accurate measure of the growth of the hobby as a whole? I would have expected lower sales figures for any given rulebook because surely the total spend is diluted – more and more people publishing rules because that is what PDF allows, so theoretically there could be a lot more punters, but their options are far wider than during the pre-PDF era.
    Also digital piracy has to have a further negative effect – there might be less people reaching into their pocket to PAY for your rules, but who knows how many are PLAYING your rules.

    Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!

    Avatar photoSam Mustafa

    Sam, are pure sales figures on rules an accurate measure of the growth of the hobby as a whole?


    No, but that’s why I mentioned several different criteria:  convention attendance, age of attendees, decreasing dealer presence, sales of miniatures, games, and accessories, the disappearance of US-based hobby magazines while they still exist elsewhere, the number and prominence of US-based hobby companies today as opposed to 30 years ago, and so on.


    I would have expected lower sales figures for any given rulebook because surely the total spend is diluted – more and more people publishing rules because that is what PDF allows, so theoretically there could be a lot more punters, but their options are far wider than during the pre-PDF era.


    Sure, but that happens worldwide.  It’s not isolated to products from one country, and therefore wouldn’t explain why US sales are down, but sales in Britain, Europe, and Aus/NZ are all up.

    For example: the internet affects all hobbyists worldwide. If people no longer want hobby magazines because they get their information from the internet, then why have the US-based hobby magazines died out… but the British, European, and NZ hobby magazines are still in print with thousands of readers?

    Again: I’m trying to stick to the question as asked:  the state of historical tabletop gaming in the USA.


    PS –

    I would have expected lower sales figures for any given rulebook because surely the total spend is diluted –

    Consider that observation:  if the hobby were indeed growing, then that dilution would not be occurring. Dilution, as you have observed, means that the number of products has increased, but the number of purchasers has not kept pace.



    Avatar photoLagartija Mike

    A little perspective. I’m 38 years old and a small business owner in a field so removed from the land of toy soldiers that I act on the premise that if my hobby was generally known my income would suffer. And it would suffer because the stereotype of the typical minwar gamer (fat, socially dim and with a political/body profile that’s best described as pungent) is depressingly acurate (please add the insistent drone of third-rate eccentric “scholars” of suspect..or wholly imaginary..credentials). It’s hard to grow a hobby when it’s participants are cultural marginals absent normal hygiene much less glamor, like hybrid Dale Gribble/Bill Dauterives.

    As some someone in the process of starting a hobby-related business I’m going into it as a kind of love letter to the game. If I break even eventually I’ll be more than happy and, as SMustafa, observed above, I’m already sadly aware that most of my potential business will be overseas.

    I’d like to see the hobby grow here in the US, to the extent of being willing to underwrite monthly gaming nights in lieu of the absence of clubs but it’s going to be difficult to bring in new blood. Please don’t take the following to be gratuitous shit-slinging but I think it’s describes a big part of the problem: if you were a young, bright male how enthusiastic would you be to have to play alongside Bill Armintrout, John/Winston, Ralph DeLucia etc..without wanting to bolt.

    Avatar photoMike

    if you were a young, bright male how enthusiastic would you be to have to play alongside Bill Armintrout, John/Winston, Ralph DeLucia etc..without wanting to bolt.

    Let’s keep the insults and personal attacks out of it or your account will be suspended.

    Avatar photoGuy Taylor

    Yet another UK view , you rebel colonists must be getting really miffed.

    I don’t think the historical hobby is dying as much as it is fragmenting and getting very compartmentalized.

    Too much choice, too many different rule systems within a particular niche genre.

    Too much time spent on the internet looking for the’next great battle winning shiny toy’, and chatting ,insulting,foaming at the mouth,etc.

    The greying of the hobby worries me as a lot of IT Native youngsters have an attention span of a gnat (as a father of 2 teenagers  and uncle to 3 ‘men’ in their 20s) and don’t have the patience to paint armies terrain etc.

    Guy T

    (why are so many wargamers called Guy ?)

    Avatar photoLagartija Mike

    Guy, I don’t think it’s an issue of patience, and it’s definitely not a cash problem. I’ve seen young guys with massive Warhammer armies painted to standards considerably in excess of a lot of Napoleonics I’ve seen lately. And if I’m not mistaken the cost for these Bloodplatypus Imperial Weasels Adeptomooks* is considerably in excess on what I forsee spending on Perry’s Confederation of the Rhine stuff.

    *My Secret Scarlet Sin: I want a Skaven Screaming Bell or whatever it’s called.

    Avatar photoSparker

    Deep breath – this is going to be controversial! Is there a correlation to educational standards?

    I know nothing of US education, other than what was accepted in 2008 as common knowledge around the 5th Fleet O Clubs , the US Navy was struggling to fill the higher end of its enlisted ranks with suitably educated high school grads. – No shortage of smart kids, when it came to aceing educationally neutral tests, but a distinct lack of kids able to demonstrate basic elementary maths and physics understanding sufficient to be able to succeed in technical trade training, without receiving considerable elementary remediation training. Manipulation and substitution of formulae sort of thing, not calculus, and basics of electricity, what is meant by voltage, current, resistance etc. This was really impacting the engineering, communications and electronic warfare trades, despite lean manning…

    I just wonder if trad. historical wargaming, with its requirement of basic English and arithmetic, might now present a barrier to entry to the average US High school graduate? Whereas in the UK, the implosion of the education system in the 70’s, after the damage of the 60’s, resulted in a return to core values in the 80’s, which has now paid off, at least in terms of very basic knowledge…Before you scoff, consider – to wargame at the very least you have to have an inherent understanding of scale and ratio, probability, and often be able to cross index charts and even, god forbid, if playing Empire V, apply a flow chart…

    'Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall need to be well 'ard'
    Matthew 5:9

    Avatar photoSam Mustafa

    I just wonder if trad. historical wargaming, with its requirement of basic English and arithmetic, might now present a barrier to entry to the average US High school graduate? …Before you scoff, consider – to wargame at the very least you have to have an inherent understanding of scale and ratio, probability, and often be able to cross index charts and even, god forbid, if playing Empire V, apply a flow chart…


    Actually, math and science are the only things that US public education does reasonably well.  Our kids routinely score pretty well in those fields compared to other nations.  We are disastrous when it comes to teaching languages (including English), Geography, the Humanities in general, and we regard the Arts and Music as fluffy non sequiturs that no one could possibly want to waste their time on, but American kids can generally put 2+2 together.

    And interest in military history is very high in the general populace, at least among men.  Sure, it’s the silly, dumbed-down, über-patriotic Hollywood version of military history in which Americans always figure as heroes, but that’s enough for wargaming!  Interest in World War Two, for example, has never been greater in the general populace than it is now.

    In other words: I don’t detect any educational or literacy factors that would mitigate against Americans taking up tabletop wargaming.

    And in any event, I don’t think that teenage boys are particularly math-averse.  Older men, on the other hand, certainly are! Who the hell wants to do all that math anymore to play a game? We did that when we were kids, but now we want faster, easier games that don’t make our brains hurt after spending a week at the office filling out reports. Consequently, most games today are very math-lite.  Nobody is trying to introduce a 13-year-old by getting him to try Empire IV.  The games that most new players would encounter today won’t require him to do any fancy math.

    What I have seen in the US, though, is a hobby that became insular like some medieval religion, more concerned about arguing over simulation or which rules are “historically accurate” rather than trying to build a broad church that would interest a new generation of hobbyists.  Indeed, games that were pitched to a broader audience were usually panned and insulted as being insufficiently historical. (If you want to experience the white-hot hatred of total strangers, try releasing an introductory Napoleonics game!)  Even now, as convention attendance is falling, there are passionate complaints about too many non-historical games being allowed into Historicon and the other conventions, as if now would be a good time to deliberately make the hobby smaller!

    Consider the state of the US hobby 30 years ago:  Avalon Hill & SPI were still in business, making games that people all over the world wanted to play. To use your example of Empire – that game sold something like 25,00o copies globally (!)  There is no American rules publisher today who would dare to dream of such numbers.  Those are the kinds of sales figures achieved today by the best-selling non-US games like Black Powder, Flames of War, Bolt Action, Field of Glory, etc.

    About a year ago, there was a thread on TMP in which somebody asked who the best American game designers were, and it was striking that the majority of those named were either dead or no longer publishing.  Then somebody praised me as an example of a “young, new author…”    Umm, thanks, but I will be 50 this year!   You know the scene is in trouble when a 50-year-old who has been publishing for twenty-five years is considered “young and new.”



    Avatar photoNorm S

    UK opinion here. The Airfix generation has ridden the wave that is and has been the wargame explosion since Charles Grant, Tony Bath and Don Featherstone first showed us what we could do with our toy soldiers. It has brought us from A to B, an amazing journey that has seen the professionalising of hobby, but still largely within a cottage industry environment. That baby boomer generation is getting older.

    Like many areas in life, over the intervening 40 plus years, choice has massively increased, so have incomes (generally), though free time has probably decreased (we do actually have a lot of free time, but too much of it is spent in front of a computer).

    What is following in our wake. Well for many years the young blood has been investing their time and money with Games Workshop, who did court them, while the historical side of the hobby did not court them quite frankly.

    Recently though, there seems to be a sign that this young blood is spreading its wings and looking at other systems, other companies and this includes flirtations with historical. I think Flames of War has been quite attractive to that group.

    In the UK, convention numbers have probably been holding their own over the past few difficult years. Three magazines are on the shelves in the high street and one of those magazines has just gone under new ownership – so there must be confidence there, even in this digital age.

    At the same time, against a background of shop closures on the high street and our hobby outlets under fire. A number of new wargame shops have opened up around the country, with gaming tables, plenty of plastics and plenty of choice – so again something feels vibrant and good.

    I’m not sure that the US was ever the hot bed for figure gaming that Sam suggests, I have always thought that the boardgame side of thing was really strong in the US but that figure manufacture (and supporting lines) have always have been strong in the UK. Although the US has a population 5 times greater than the UK, it’s land mass is much greater than that ratio and so perhaps there is an effect of dispersal – as there would be if I looked at the European scene rather than just the UK.

    The UK is quite small, so I can reach half the yearly conventions within a 2 or so hour drive, I do not need to stay over and I tend to ignore those shows in the other half of the country, so in this regard all the shows get quite a bit of support because the encatchment areas substantially overlap and spend can be spread throughout the year, rather than a single hit at the ‘one’ show you go to.

    As an aside, I am always surprised at the vigour behind the opinion that the wargame community are big, fat and smelly. That has not been my experience as a generality. When I go to a show, it has a good family feel and they are generally friendly and buzz because people are in ‘their zone’. Everyone who knows me knows what I do and that doesn’t seem to cause any problems. It’s not sexy or cool, but so what, neither are a ton of other things, sometimes I feel wargames hit themselves too hard.

    I think the only thing that annoys me is an occasional sense that some gamers think that the wargame part of the internet is just a owned by the UK and US and that a conversation can go on that frankly can be either rude or offensive to others in the rest of global wargame community, sometimes  I would just like to see a little more consideration.

    I am obviously in no position to know whether the US has a dying wargame sector, but I look at boardgamegeek and there are a huge amount of US posters, likewise at consimworld and TMP. I run a fairly well supported blog and would say that the US visitors compare to the UK visitors on a 5 to 3 ratio. While that seems substantially bigger audience, when comparing population levels, it may well be that per head, there is a higher percentage of wargaming going on in the UK, since internet penetration is probably about the same.

    In anycase, the number of active gamers in the US seems significnt, whether they are spending at a level that commercial interests need to see would be a different question.



    Avatar photoLagartija Mike

    Norm, that’s essentially my point. The noise on the forums doesn’t seem to translate to an on the ground gaming community. My time is divided between NYC and LV and in neither of those untrivial towns is there much or anything in terms of clubs, associations or brick and mortar venues. When I was a kid NYC could boast at least two Complete Strategists, I’m no longer sure even if it’s main branch is still open. Yes, I’m aware that the Internet carries wargaming traffic that dwarfs the Strategist at it’s best, but it had social.and subculture functions that I don’t see the internet providing.

    I got into the hobby with rules that seemed written by wilfull obscurantists so I’m not sure that producing e-z rules is answer. I stand by my statement that, in the US at least, the hobby’s greatest impediment toward growth is the it’s culturally reactionary and loudly vocal largest public face.

    Avatar photoPatrice

    I don’t detect any educational or literacy factors that would mitigate against Americans taking up tabletop wargaming.

    Um, that is not easy to answer to. I had some guys telling me that “wargaming is too much complicated if you don’t like maths”. OTOH, some members of the (French-language) wargaming forum I run don’t like maths and don’t like spelling and when they write on the forum they make spelling mistakes (in French although they are native speakers) in every line; but I know them, they like gaming and they can deal with charts and maths when they want to (and one of them did set up in a few minutes an old cupboard that was in spare pieces and did belong to my great-grandmother, I was totally unable to do it; and an other one is a very considered and effective gardener for a City council).

    I think the only thing that annoys me is an occasional sense that some gamers think that the wargame part of the internet is just a owned by the UK and US

    Do you mean: native English-speakers UK + US (and probably + some Kangaroos and Kiwis). Yes probably; but as a French + Breton I am not shocked by this: it’s so natural in Human behaviour, because the main language on forums is English.


    Avatar photorepiqueone

    I think historical wargames are dying out in the U.S.   I think wargaming may be ok if you only consider fantasy, GW, and sci-fi.  Boardgames seem to be doing quite well, as are RPGs.

    The overall hobby has changed from a historically based, larger scale figure, mass army gaming accent, to nonhistorical, smaller scales, and largely skirmish level gaming. It has done this for many reasons, but among them are vastly lowered barriers to entry.

    No need for a library and extensive reading, less gaming space required for smaller scale figures, less storage required, and coupled with skirmish tactical scales only needing a couple dozen figures vs several hundred means that BIG barrier of cost is kept very low.

    The joy in the playing of the games is not that much different.  So you get a similar payoff for less time, space, effort, and cash!  No wonder!

    Americans, in general, have never been as interested in history as most Europeans, and we have a long history of being far more interested in the flashy, new, trendy, and recent, than we do in historical subjects and concerns.  What history many Americans learn is pretty much word of mouth and repetition of movie versions.  ( just listen in to conversations around historical wargames tables at any convention and you’ll hear some very imaginative history.)

    The historical Wargames that are played in the U.S. Are dominated by WWII, and very tactical and “movie inspired”.  WWII land wargaming and sci-fi gaming are pretty interchangeable, blasters instead of machine guns, and a lot of space warfare is generally simply WWII naval ships moving in three dimensions rather than two.  Not much of a jump.

    Really problematical now is the total lack of a U.S. historical wargame press.  It just doesn’t exist.  Gone. There are several European magazines of high quality such as Miniature Wargames, Wargames Ilustrated, Wargames Strategy and Soldiers, and the beautifully produced French language magazine, Vae Victis.  The main outcome of all the press moving to Europe is American voices are heard far less frequently, and the coverage of American Historical Wargames is very slight in print.

    It is somewhat better in the Internet as blogs, forums, and a wide range of sites provide a number of U.S. outlets, but they are not a common “Watering Hole” and scatter interests instead of focusing them.  The only U.S. widely viewed forum is not always the best representation of wargaming, and certainly not historical wargaming, as it has some instrinsic “problems” which are hard to always ignore.

    Forums also lack a true form of the extended article, which historical gaming absolutely needs.  Exploring history, as well as discussing historical wargames and their designs, are not served well by Internet to and fros and two sentence reviews and listings of best and worst of this and that.  It is particularly difficult for anything meaningful to break through the clutter of “comments.”

    In Denver, wargaming has widely fractionated between groups .  Those groups tend to form and remain together over extended periods.  The people in the groups self-select for everything from the politics, to which periods, fantasy or historical, the figure scales, etc.  They remain islands and there are very few canoes.  Right now a very few are historical and even fewer venture beyond WWII, ACW, and  Napoleonics( simply because they are so readily available and “Codexes” which simplify history, tactics, and uniforms are cheap and also plentiful).

    All this means is that the hobby has substantially changed in the last 50 years.  That happens.  In the U.S., the historical scene is much diminished and is likely to remain a niche within a niche.  The caravan has moved on.

    That does not mean that those of us that enjoy the exploration of history, and are fond of some of the less played periods (mine is the War of Spanish Succession) need not enjoy our gaming intensely.  We just can’t kid ourselves that we are the “Normal” ones. 😜

    Avatar photoSam Mustafa

    Avatar photogrizzlymc

    Any wargamer who wants to be “one of the normal ones” needs to get out more.

    Avatar photoirishserb

    A lot of interesting points made above, and it would take pages of post to respond to all of them.  I won’t do that to you, but will offer  the grossly abbreviated (and still too wordy) thoughts below.

    I became critical of the “greying of the hobby” fears some years ago.  I was involved in running a number of conventions over a 17 year span, working most often as convention director or event coordinator, sometimes for my HMGS chapter, sometimes not, sometimes funding the cons out of my pocket, sometimes not.  During that entire 17 years I was warned of (and for the most part believed) the concerns about the greying of the hobby.  I recorded a lot of data at those cons including hourly attendance numbers, hourly fill rate of events, which periods/ rules/ scale/ etc were well received, etc.  I also recorded estimated aged of the majority of the attendees for most of those cons (ranging from 140 to 350 attendees).  What I found is that all of the convention populations were made up by at least 60 percent of what I qualified as “older guys”.  There was a total of about an 8 percent range of variation in this number through those years.  In time I became convinced that whatever the year, the greying guys always were concerned with the greying of the hobby, but that nothing was really changing much.  Maybe that is no longer true, but I haven’t been able to see it yet.

    I don’t travel to game nearly as much as I used to, as the economic downturn of a few years back hit me hard, so I spend my gaming dollars on figs , rather than gas, meals, and hotels.  Additionally, things that I used to have to go to conventions to experience, I can now do at home.  Maybe I am the problem.

    The comments about Denver gamers seem to me to be true of those in Ohio and generally those in the eastern portion of the US.  I eventually became frustrated with it during my time working for HMGS.  My experience has been that generally, the more public the group is, the harder it is to actually work with.

    I would argue to some extent that the location of manufacturers may not be an indicator of health of the hobby, but that is very much from my personal purchases and those of my gaming groups over the years.  I (and we) have always bought more rules and figs from UK sources, than from US.  Over the last 17 years, the internet has increased my non-US purchases.  I would guess that isn’t uncommon, but a sampling of one or a few doesn’t make a good survey.

    US magazines?  I’ve bought maybe seven of them in 40 years.  UK and French publications, more like 150.  Why?  Mostly color photos and real publication schedules.  I realize that there were US exceptions to this, but given my experience working in the hobby business, I’m pretty sure that others shared my view regarding some of them.  Though there are exceptions, most magazines articles just don’t offer good return for the money, and to me, a good photo is usually worth more than four pages of written inspiration.  So UK over US was usually a given.

    While the American gaming community may be something less than a community, in the last ten years, my opportunities to game with other groups and at shops have been far more numerous than in any other ten year period back to the mid 1970s.  In my area, informal groups are everywhere, and there are a fair number of shops with gaming.  My job and income limit me, but the hobby doesn’t.  My experience is simply different from what Mike shares above.

    And, I’ve met John/Winston.  In person, I think you’d find him to be good people.


    Avatar photoMcLaddie

    While everything that posters have written is probably true at the moment, this too shall pass. I think that like any hobby or community-based activity, Golf or coin-collecting. It is a sine wave.  H.G. Wells lemented the decline of wargaming interest in the 1890-1900s when his book stopped selling and the U.S. military lost interest.  Supposedly, Kriegspiel exercises were dying out after WWI and the German defeat, but the 1930s U.S. Navy began using wargames in a big way.  In the 1960’s both board and miniature gaming was just getting with the public in the U.S.  But it it boomed in the 1970s-1990s in the US. All the U.S. miniatures magazines and major companies are gone now. The Great Recession has taken its toll. The millinials don’t have jobs and are living with their parents.  You need money and space to do miniatures.  Etc. etc. etc.

    In my area, Sacramento and the Central Valley of California, several clubs have sprung up and are doing just fine, with at least four mini-conventions or conventions a year.  There are even new game stores opening in the area with lots of room for gaming. [Yes, miniatures]  The number of ‘younger’ gamers under 4o have a strong presence.  Does that mean that wargaming isn’t dying?  I don’t know. A lot of British game rules are popular.

    The economy, computer games, the internet all have had an impact, but I am sure none of them will kill minature wargaming.  There will continue to be highs and lows in popularity and populations of gamers.  It was always thus.  Taking a historical view, I am pretty confident that historical miniature wargaming will survive and grow again.  In the meantime, I will focus on my little corner of the wargaming world. You can’t worry about the entire world. Life’s too short.



    Avatar photoNorm S

    Just one further point, using myself as an example. I am a fairly prolific gamer. I have a relatively substantial internet presence (running a blog and website and being a forum contributor). I generally game weekly with a gaming friend and have done so for nearly 30 years. I visit some game shows. I tend to buy from a narrow range of producers (so there are a load of producers who do not know I exist). A few months ago, I counted 11 games played in one month – though that is unusually high (a record for me) and included a lot of play testing games. In the past 12 months I have written twice for a major UK wargame magazine. I have a published boardgame and another one on the way.

    But despite all of that, I have never belonged to a club. This does tend to make me largely invisible from a ‘counting up the numbers of wargamers’ point of view or the ‘vibrancy of the hobby in my area’ consideration. We are basically just two guys who game behind closed doors and I wonder what percentage of the community are doing the same, making the hobby actually bigger and stronger than many of us might guess (though I am part of the greying group), but just not being visible to anyone counting up the number of wargamers around.

    Also, at any one time, it is likely that a percentage will be having some time out from gaming, only to return in a few years time and thus becoming another addition to the ‘invisible sector’.

    I do know that the number of wargame magazines on the shelf in the high street down has substantially dropped from around 18 copies of each to about 6. I don’t think this reflects a drop in the number of gamers, just that many are getting their ‘fix’ free on the internet, so again this physical way of measuring the number of gamers (magazine circulation) is not accurate and a drop in sales does not equal a drop in gamers.

    Avatar photoOtto Schmidt

    Hardly.  In fact as far as I can see it’s growing quite steadily. As for the hoary old chestnut of “The greying of the hobby” I got into War Games in 1962 and they were singing that song back then. Now, here it is 53 years later and it’s going strong.  Go to any US wargame show and you’ll see lots of youngsters and kids playing, and when they put on “snowball fight” at an HMGS con, or Walt O’ Hara puts on one of his games, it’s standing room only for a dozen or more kids.  Walt by the way also runs a “Wargaming Camp” as a “class or activity” each summer at a local summer camp, and has dozens of kids sign up where they learn about games, paint, get all the basics and have a whale of a time. Walt was told by the camp administration his event is the most popular one they have.

    As far as this or that period “dying” these things come in and out of fashion as time goes on.  One thing might be forming your opinion across the pond is that American conventions are quite different than yours. Over here in the States there’s virtually NO demonstration games, or static exhibits, and people settle in for three days at a hotel to play games, so there’s always a huge influx of all types playing and having fun, and there you see gamers from every age group and interest group, and people will more often as not play anything, even way out of their period.  Also of note in America is the growth of many small regional conventions which in no way seem to impinge on the popularity of the big shows. People go to them all, and the emphasis is on gaming. Oh to be sure there are dealers, but that consumes about an hour and then everyone goes in search of something to play. This is significant because you see a lot of people around and you don’t just meet the same old guys.

    One thing that hasn’t changed is that recruitment from the hobby seems to be the same old way. The most successful is when a buddy at work, or from your church, or up and down the block invites people to a game.  Most of the people I see coming into the hobby get into it through that vehicle. People who see it on the net or in an advertisement  are much less likely to catch on and stick around.  But to return to the main question? Dying in the us? Hardly.

    I’ve found it ridiculously easy to get people interested in the hobby.  This isn’t just kids. It’s all types. Moms, dads,  adults, everyone.  My favorite example, is a woman I met on the net through a group on religion we were both involved in. We both got tired of that group and continued to keep in touch. She was going on a family summer vacation trip up north and would be passing by and wondered if we could meet in person.  About two weeks before the trip she asked me what I liked to do besides talk about politics and religion and history, and with some trepidation I told her. She was instantly interested and wondered if we could play a game. I said sure, and set up a nice big 18th century Battle. Her, her husband, their 9 year old son and their 15 year old daughter were instantly hooked. They’ve been wargamers, all of them ever since. In the first battle I remember vividly Mom saying to daughter.  “Don’t you think we should push some troops up there…” Daughter to Mom “Oh Mom! Rolling her eyes– keep your eyes on the Victory condition! We have to prevent  him from getting units off this road, so forget about going forward and opening up the objective!  Here we were, first battle out, and the kids had gotten it. Shortly thereafter I heard the 9 year old whine  “DAD!!! I lost the hill because  you didn’t support me on my flank!”  (Oh how quick they learn!)  Well that was a decade ago and they still go to conventions, paint and play as much as jobs and dates allow.  The 15 year old grew up to be an extremely attractive teen who eschewed a modeling career for one in IT.  I’ve had other  recruits too, from a friend who’se a civil war re-enactor and finding his knees are getting old and now lets the little guys do the re-enacting for him, to his daughter and wife who game too, and a co worker whose now 15 year old  joined, along with her husband, always interested in the Civil War, and just the other day my next door neighbor said he told his daughter about my collection and she wants to come over and play the next time.


    Dying?  Hardly! It’s just getting started.


    Avatar photoLagartija Mike


    Avatar photoMike


    I don’t follow, could you explain what you mean by that please?

    Avatar photoNick the Lemming

    Presumably some reference to the mendacious magniloquent misogynist who’s just joined the forum, I presume. Shame, this place was doing fairly well until this point. At least we have the Ignore User thing, though.

    Avatar photoMike

    Name calling is not cool.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    I had to Google magniloquent

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

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