The Waving Flag: Rules War :: Two Years On

Saturday 6 December 2008

Rules War :: Two Years On

There’s a lot of discussion on the Yahoo! DBMMlist about health of the new rules.  It is clear that many DBM players have not taken to DBMM.  Lots of reasons have been put forward for the state of affairs.  The most cited seem to be:
  • Competition from Field of Glory (FOG).
  • The difficulty DBM players face in making the transition to DBMM.
  • The difficulty new players face in learning the game unaided.
  • The need for clarifications for some basic game mechanisms.
Recently, some posters have expressed a concern that DBMM may be heading for niche status rather than replacing DBM as the most popular rule set.  This is a worrying prospect as DBMM has the makings of a great game. It’s just a  swine to learn and reach the stage were you can play with fluency.

Anyway, I thought I’d do a bit of research and see if there’s anything that could paint a quantitative picture of the state of play regarding DBM, DBMM and FOG.  I came up with this from the Northern DBM League:

Bearing in mind that most DBM and FOG games were doubles and DBMM were singles, this shows:
  • The overall number of players dropped some 20% in 2007-08 compared to 2005-06 with a steep decline in 2007. 
  • In 2008 FOG has proved more attractive than DBMM with nearly three times as many people playing FOG.
  • Even in decline, DBM is more popular than DBMM even if the DBM average of 18 players hides a mixed year with 32 and 20 players in the first and second rounds compared to 12 in each of the last three rounds.
This analysis confirms the decline of DBM in the Northern League.  Clearly, DBMM has failed to supplant DBM and remains the rule set with the smallest number of players. 

I posted the bare bones of the above on the Yahoo! DBMMlist and Jim Gibson kindly provided some further figures culled from three major UK competitions at Warfare, Roll Call and Britcon.  I analysed these in the same way as the Northern League figures:

What’s interesting here is:
  • The total number of player registrations increased by a third (75) from 227 to 302. This has to be a good thing.
  • The 2008 DBMM:FOG ratio above is the same as the Northern League at roughly 1:3.  So I suspect this pattern is UK wide.
  • FOG grew really strongly in 2008 attracting players 5 times faster than DBMM.
  • FOG replaced DBM as the dominant rule set in just one year despite DBMM release a year earlier.
  • DBMM and DBM were minority rule sets in 2008 (same as Northern League).
  • DBM lost 83 players whilst DBMM gained 26 suggesting that most DBM players switched to FOG which gained 132.
So, both data sets show FOG as the rule set attracting the most players leaving DBM & DBMM, as some have feared, as niche rule sets in 2008. I hope this improves in 2009 but only time will tell.

Index of Northern League reviews.


James said...

That is very interesting information to me. It is very rare to see hard comparative data about wargames rules.
I haven't played any of the 3 rulesets. Although I did meet Phil Barker and watch part of a game of DBMM when it was being playtested at an SOA Battleday about 4 years ago...he also gave out a printed article about why he had developed DBMM, which was later published in a few magazines.
So I have followed this with a mild interest.
I guess the verdict has to be that DBM was a succsessful ruleset of notable longevity that has now been superseded by FOG. DBMM is a failure.

Vexillia said...

Posted on behalf of James Hamilton:

Possibly more interesting is the fact that a lot of the DBMM tournament players were not active tournament players of DBM.

The analysis would be quite complex especially when you also consider Flames of War which has taken a number of former DBM tournament types.

Just from general observation I would say that no more than 1/3rd of the current DBMM tournament players are former regular DBM tournament players.

FoG has taken the majority of players who have left DBM and also brought in a small number of new players (probably a similar number to the number of non DBM players playing DBMM).

Flames of War has taken more DBM players than DBMM has at BHGS events with at least half a dozen former DBM regulars playing FoW at BHGS events.

I don't see DBMM as a failure, just a ruleset that has not caught the imagination of the DBM tournament player base.

Personally I think that DBMM has 'fixed' a lot of 'problems' in DBM that simply didn't exist in the first place and introduced a whole raft of things that I really loathe in the process.

Madaxeman said...

I can add some extra stats that are different but relevant I hope. On I have both FoG and DBM army list pages. The relative amounts of traffic to each can be seen here:

DBM Army Lists (280 lists, going back to 1999, last added to in Nov 2007) : Traffic stats here :

FoG Army Pages (a WIKI for FoG armies, with lists, created about 2-3 months ago). Traffic Stats here:

FoG battle Reports and other related pages: Stats here :

OK, my site now has much more "live" FoG content and is promoted more to FoG forums as well, but the DBM lists were once easily the most popular part of the entire site and still are (I think) the biggest DBM resource on the web. It's now very quiet in DBM terms...

(PS - The one thing that seems to have slipped below the radar here is DBA. The DBA community seems still to be very active based on the amount of blogs and websites devoted to people painting and collecting DBA armies.)

Unknown said...

It is hard to argue with the stats. However I do think that as many of the movers and shakers in FOG have strong BHGS ties then it is little wonder that it has taken off so well. The same can not be said is every country and my own experience would be more like 2/3 DBMM v 1/3 FOG with DBM having died off completely.

Although I played DBM, I must confess to enjoying DBMM much more. The things that used to frustrate me and basically ruin my day have been eliminated from DBM (particularly those stupid recoils that I was never good enough to avoid).

The real question is in the rules longevity. Personally I feel that DBMM has more to give than FOG. What has been good to see though is the fact that both rule sets have brought new players into the mix.

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