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GWS 2017 - time to tally!

This year's Great Wargaming Survey (GWS) is in the pocket. Going by the number of respondents, it's the 2nd best edition ever with 8655 responses. Not as many as last year and, I admit, that is a bit disappointing after the insane speed with which responses rolled in the first few days. Nevertheless, the fact that 8655 wargamers took the time to fill out the survey is still awesome and I'm very grateful to all of you!

Also gratifying is that SurveyMonkey now indicates the time spent on surveys. It's gratifying in the sense that they confirm that the survey does indeed only take about 10 minutes. Pfew!

Quick demographics

It's hardly a surprise and very similar to past surveys that over 98% of respondents are male, about 32% come from the UK and 29% call the US home. New this year is the share of German respondents: they come in 3rd with just over 7% of the total, followed by Australia, Canada and tiny Netherlands (WSS HQ) in sixth place. 1-2% of respondents each come from France, Sweden, New Zealand, Poland, Spain and Belgium. All in all, the respondents reported they live in 76 different countries, a truly international crop! Considerably more respondents (41% vs 35% in 2016) had taken part in one or more previous editions of the GWS. I suppose that can hardly be a surprise, but it's great that so many new people take the survey each year.


Sorry for the awkward title there, but we may have stumbled on our first trend after four years of running the survey. If you look at the accompanying graph, it's pretty obvious that the group of respondents who have wargamed for a long time constantly grows (from 22.3% in 2014 via 26.5% and 29.8% to 30.6% in 2017). That's what we'd expect to see if the hobby was greying. The two groups with the 'newest' wargamers (having been in the hobby ten years or less) has grown slightly as well, however (from 12.3% in 2014 via 23.5%, 23% to 24.7%). The middle two groups (10-30 years) have shrunk. Obviously, even a stable group of 'new' wargamers would indicate a steady stream of new entrants to the hobby. So perhaps this is good news?

How long have you been a wargamer? 2014-2017

What's going on here? It's of course possible the population of respondents has changed, and it's certainly true that after 2014 we got better at reaching outside the direct audience and readership of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy. It's also possible that the 10-30 year group is the one most likely to drop out: if you started wargaming as a kid, the odds of your hobby going by the wayside between the ages of say 20 and 35 seem pretty substantial. Once you're past the 'danger zone' of finding a steady job, house, family and all such real-life worries, and your hobby is still with you, you might get into the vaunted group of true grognards. Does that make sense?

What questions would you like to see answered (if possible) after this year's survey?


5 thoughts on “GWS 2017 - time to tally!”

  • Willie Bogaerts
    Willie Bogaerts August 26, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Exactly what we're seeing at the club. Over the last 2 years at least 5 young wargamers (varying between 14 and 22 years of age) have become regulars at the clubhouse. Oddly enough most seems to prefer historical gaming as opposed to previous youngsters who definitely preferred fantasy/ Sf style games. Fantasy and Sf is still in a turmoil since a well known company 're- wrote' the books. Several other gamings systems are tried out, rejected and sometimes accepted. Boardgaming and and especially miniature cross overs have boomed.
    Also very glad to be able to say that more and more earlier 'drop outs' are re -joining the club. Exactly what the survey shows.

  • Sagrilarus

    I'd very much be interested to hear the results from questions regarding game length (preference for how long a single session takes) and preferences regarding 2 player games, multi-player games, and team games. There's a lot of innovation coming into the hobby at the moment regarding these issues, I'd like to see how much it appeals to the current market of active wargamers.

    I'd also be interested to know how many different titles wargamers play, either in a 12 month period or throughout their lives. Big wargames tend to be lifestyle games, bringing players back dozens or even hundreds of times. How many players are looking to play something different each session, versus looking to crack out Hammer of the Scots yet one more time.

  • Sam

    Interested to see the breakdown of systems and trends toward system types over time?
    We have a local trend moving away from large scale war games to skirmish level games with a number of players leaving the 'traditional' army level systems due to the commitment of time, cost etc.
    What is the average number of titles played? Do the top titles or game style preferences differ across countries?

  • Peter

    I think Sagrilarus has a good point. My own experience is that the bulk of my wargaming is restricted to certain core rulesets. I may have more than one ruleset for a particular period and use different ones when I want different types of games e.g. Skirmish Sangin v Force on Force v Black Ops.I also tend to favour particular companies because their design philosophy reflects what I want to get in my games. Therefore, I own several Too Fat Lardies rulesets (Dux B, SP2, IABSM and CoC) as their strong emphasis on friction and command and control resonate with what I want from a game. This in turn means that I will rarely look for 'something new' in gaming sessions; in the last 12 months my rules purchases have either been supplements for rules I already own (e.g. Battlegroup Tobruk) or new rules by TFL (SP2). Just my ha'penceworth!

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