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GWS 2020: So you call yourself a wargamer?

After a break over the holidays, I return to analyzing results from the Great Wargaming Survey. The start of a New Year ushers in a new topic. This installment examines Question 15 from the survey which asks respondents to rank what they like best about the hobby.

There are many facets to the wargaming hobby from gaming, painting, collecting, hanging out with friends, and many more. Are we gamers foremost or do other facets of the hobby drive our engagement and motivation?

Top Rankings - Overall

To begin with an overview of the data, the top three choices from each survey respondent are aggregated and presented in Figure 1. When totaling the top three choices across all survey results, Gaming finds itself in the top position. The results are close, though. Painting is in second place and not that far distant from Gaming. From Figure 1, a definite break occurs between the top four choices and the remainder of the field. Anecdotally, I frequently see "hanging out with friends" as a top reason for enjoying the hobby. From this summary, Friends comes in at fourth place. Research comes in at #5.

Top Rankings by Primary Interest

As seen from many of the previous analyses, overall statistics may hide or mask underlying tendencies. To dive into these contributing attributes, let's see if a gamer's primary interest has a bearing upon top choices. Recall that primary interest is divided between Fantasy/Sci-Fi (ie. non-historical), Historical, and Mixed groupings. Figure 2 illustrates these tendencies by Primary Interest for respondents' top choice. This is confined to only each respondent's first choice and not the top three choices as in Figure 1.What do we see in Figure 2? It seems there is a difference in favorite wargaming activity between primarily historical gamers and primarily non-historical gamers. Counts for historical gamers put the top three choices as (1) Gaming, (2) Painting, (3) Collecting Figures. Non-Historical gamers tend to rank their top three choices as (1) Painting, (2) Friends, (3) Gaming. Those gamers somewhere between primarily historical gamers and primarily non-historical gamers (ie. Mixed) count their top three choices as (1) Gaming, (2) Friends, (3) Painting. Each group presents a different priority grouping exhibiting some subtle differences between the groups. What do these differences suggest (if anything) between each of the groups?

Top Rankings by Age Group

One result that remains consistent throughout all of the analyses on the 2020 survey data is that tendencies differ by age group. Earlier work has demonstrated that age group tends to correspond to primary interest. Does age group influence wargaming facets as well? To explore this question, examine Figure 3. Are any tendencies spotted? One tendency I notice is that wargamers in the 40 and under groups prefer painting to gaming, while gamers in the over-40 groups prefer gaming to painting. Are the younger age groups spending a disproportionate amount of their hobby time painting, while the older age groups maintain sufficiently sized armies to focus on gaming?

In Figure 2, the graphic illustrates that historical gamers hold gaming as a top choice and non-historical wargamers hold painting as a top choice. Given that younger gamers gravitate toward non-historicals and older gamers tend toward historicals, these results are consistent.

Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA)

Now, consider the interactions between wargaming facet, primary interest, and age group. Considering only the top four wargaming facets (Gaming, Painting, Friends, Collect_Figs) from the analysis shown in Figure 1, Figure 4 illustrates these interactions given the survey data. What does the Figure 4 graphic suggest? Well, it suggests that collecting figures and painting are more closely associated to one another than to "hanging out with friends". Gaming is more closely associated to the collecting figures/painting group than it is to the “hanging out with friends” group but still somewhat in a neutral zone with associations to both groups.

Since these wargaming facets all cluster near the center of the MCA graph, primary interest and age group do not bear significant influence over wargaming facets. While the clustering of collecting figures and painting makes intuitive sense from the perspective of individualistic endeavors, the separation between gaming and friends is somewhat surprising. Intuitively, the clustering of gaming and hanging out with friends seems a natural pairing. Perhaps, gaming is more of an individualistic undertaking than I thought?

Do these results reinforce your own rankings given your primary interest and age group? Are your favorite facets of the wargaming hobby different from these broad generalizations compiled from about 10,000 responses of wargaming peers? I would enjoy reading your thoughts on these results.

8 thoughts on “GWS 2020: So you call yourself a wargamer?”

  • Gerry O'Shaughnessy
    Gerry O'Shaughnessy January 28, 2021 at 4:55 am

    Re painting in younger age groups. I would add smaller disposable income and good eyesight as intuitively strong reasons for younger people (enjoying) painting. When you have saved some money and your eyes are failing, contract painting is a more viable option. I agree with your point that the army collection tends to be smaller for younger people.

  • Jim Lucas

    Proves it, i am just a lonely old git with a paint brush and a pile of lead and plastic, but I have a lot in common with so many.

    • Jasper Oorthuys
      Jasper Oorthuys January 28, 2021 at 7:24 pm

      It's good to know you're not alone, and fortunately there are many ways to share the hobby online with others who are similarly afflicted with this hobby!

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag January 28, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    Gerry, Thanks for your comments. While my eyes are no longer young, I enjoy painting more now than when I was younger. Today, the activity is as much for relaxation as for anything else. Besides, to produce HUGE armies, one must start young.

  • Jonathan Freitag
    Jonathan Freitag January 28, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    Jim, you may be lonely but you are certainly not alone. There are thousands of "old gits" just like you (and me!) lurking about.

  • Paul Howard

    I was always curious about wargaming, but didn't formally get into it until I took a tour of a military base and somebody from the US Army ordered me to start a Warhammer army. I built a big Wood Elves army, and later some Orks, and started a couple of Blood Angels armies, and some Tyranids that became a runaway success. I guess I have a tendency to seem more harmless than I really am, and the US Army uses GW games to teach basic strategy to enlisted personnel, and twelve-year-olds. :-)

    For my birthday this year, my brother is buying me some Victrix Vikings and glue and painting supplies. I've been interested in Ancients and Dark Ages for a while now, but as I'm disabled, I never had money to pursue the hobby. I'm also working on writing a simple ruleset, maybe two pages, for historically implausible skirmishes like Vikings versus Mongols. My eyesight is going now that I'm in my forties, but I wouldn't let somebody else paint my figs for anything.

    • Jasper Oorthuys

      You might want to take a look at Ravenfeast - it can be downloaded for free from, or you can get a printed copy from us. And totally agree on the painting! :-)

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