GWS 2022: Favorite Gaming Periods

By Jon Freitag

Having last examined wargaming period preferences in the 2020 Great Wargaming Survey (GWS) (see Favorite Gaming Periods), it's time to re-examine this topic and see if preferences have changed over the last two years.

Changes exist between the way in which the survey captured responses to the question of preferred wargaming period(s). The 2020 survey allowed respondents to rank all choices. The 2022 survey allowed, at most, three choices in the ranking. To investigate the overall popularity of a wargaming period, up to three choices per respondent are aggregated across all responses. The results are shown in Figure 1.

What the survey shows is that World War 2 is the top wargaming period across all respondents with the rank order of the top 5 as:

  1. World War 2
  2. Science Fiction (excl WH40k)
  3. Fantasy (excl. WH40k/Age of Sigmar)
  4. Warhammer 40k
  5. Napoleonics

In the 2020 survey, we saw that the Top 5 periods were:

  1. World War 2
  2. Fantasy (excl. WH40k/Age of Sigmar)
  3. Science Fiction (excl WH40k)
  4. Warhammer 40k
  5. Ancients

Again, WW2 comes in at the top spot in the survey with non-historicals dominating ranks 2-4. Still, the top 4 remain the same in 2022 as in 2020 with place changes as noted. Science Fiction swapped places with Fantasy in the 2022 survey while Napoleonics edged out Ancients for (5) spot. Of course, aggregating across five places rather than three could make some difference in rank order. 

Can any useful inferences be made by examining period preference by a few select attributes?

Primary interest

One noticeable tendency when looking at Primary Interest is that wargamers considering themselves neither primarily historical nor non-historical are satisfied in playing almost any period. These typically "Mixed" wargamers make up between 40-60% of each period.

From Figure 2, primarily historical wargamers tend to stick to historical periods and primarily non-historical gamers tend to remain with non-historical periods.  The two do not often mix in large numbers.

Age Group

As has been reported in other analyses, period preference is dependent upon age.  Here again (see Figure 3), there is a clear demarcation between historical and non-historical wargamers. Historical periods tend to see heavy interest by older wargamers (51+) while non-historical periods are the realm of younger age cohorts.

In between these contrasting swings in preference, WW2, Ancients, Medievals, and Dark Ages tend to see interest from all age groups.

Group Size

Looking at Group Size and Period Preference (see Figure 4) produces an interesting result. Historical wargamers are more likely to game solo than are their non-historical counterparts. For all periods, about 60% of all respondents game in a group of four or fewer players. Notice that wargamers having a preference for the American Civil War are more likely to game solo (18.6%) than any other group.  Why?

Figure Size

From survey results, 25mm-32mm figures dominate the non-historical periods (see Figure 5). Periods often considered well-suited for skirmish gaming (Old West, Pulp, Age of Sail/Pirates, Colonials) are also dominated by these figure sizes.

While 25mm-32mm figures take at least half of the market share in all historical periods, 15mm and smaller figures still maintain a solid foothold in these historical periods. For historical periods, 15mm commands the under-25mm figure size.

While WW2 continues to hold its place at the top of the charts with broad appeal as favorite wargaming period, drawing in primarily non-historical wargamers to historicals appears difficult. Perhaps a better avenue to crossover from primarily non-historical wargamers is through Medievals and Dark Ages gaming. Considering that 40-60% of wargamers fall into the "Mixed" classification (somewhere in between the two extremes), perhaps there is little need to actively recruit primarily historical or primarily non-historical wargamers to the other side.

Other attributes may affect period preference including the type and size of game enjoyed. Does any particular result stand out from the reader's perspective?


A little hard to infer relationships without asking questions directly. For instance, I play old-style “horse and musket” in 28mm, ACW in 10mm and have 6mm and 2mm ACW, Napoleonics and SYW, but given limited responses, some of this doesn’t show up at all, and nothing in the survey suggests playing different periods in different scales. You can’t ask all questions of course, But a straight “What scale(s) do you play Period X in?” for the major periods might be informative.

Robert Piepenbrink

Thanks for the comment, Peter.

Old West has ranked toward the bottom of the heap in prior years too. Keep in mind that the survey asked for the top 3 periods. While Old West may not be in many top 3 choices, it still may see action on the gaming table. For me, a Western provides a more light-hearted, filler game than a major period.

Mr. Jonathan Freitag

I’m quite surprised by the low numbers for Old West. I’d be interested if that has dropped from previous surveys. I’m guessing as a period it has gone out of fashion somewhat.

Peter Brian

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