The Waving Flag: Northern League – 2015 Review Extra

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Northern League – 2015 Review Extra

One of the most interesting replies I received following the publication of my 2015 review of the Northern League was from John Graham-Leigh.  He runs the DBM Doubles League based in the South Western UK which was known as the South West Doubles League until 2011.

He kindly provided me with comparable data for the DBM Doubles League covering 2008-15.  I couldn’t resist running a quick comparison not least because in the South West they remained true to DBM whilst in the North they moved away from DBM running DBM, FOG AM and DBMM competitions as early as 2008. DBM last ran in the Northern League in 2009.

Before comparing the two leagues I wanted to look at the combined trend; not least because it will say something about the national scene as far as regional leagues are concerned.  To compare the attendance data I’ve summed the numbers playing in all the Northern League’s ancient & medieval competitions regardless of the rules used.

I think the trend is clear.  Ancient & medieval wargaming in the two Leagues has declined significantly with a drop of over 50% since 2008.

2008 was a significant year. This was when DBM stopped being the “only rules in town”.  For those not steeped in the history of wargames rules April 2007 saw the launch of DBMM and Feb 2008 saw the commercial release of the Field of Glory: Ancient & Medieval (FOG AM) rules.v The impact of these events was significant for both Leagues but not to the same extent as this graph shows:

Looking at the transition years of 2008-09, the switch from DBM to DBMM and FOG AM did not affect the number of players in the North at all.  In contrast there was a significant drop in the South West.

The difference is that after this initial set back, the league in the South West then stabilised as a “single rule” competition while the Northern League fragmented and from 2011 ancient & medieval wargaming went into decline.

In the North numbers declined solely because of a significant drop in the numbers playing FOG AM. DBMM has steadily attracted one or two additional players each year but nowhere near enough to compensate for the numbers lost by FOG AM.

A couple of events contributed to the decline in FOG AM in the North:

  1. The release of FOG AM V2 in late 2012 which did nothing to halt the decline and may in fact have hastened the decline as it was so badly handled by Slitherine.
  2. At the same time, and in response to player demand, the Northern League introduced a Field of Glory: Renaissance (FOG R) competition which has run every year since.

The timing was crucial: just as people were exploring the delights of FOG R Slitherine launched FOG AM V2.  It looks like the new rules, when they finally appeared in print, didn’t really appeal. It could have been the not inconsiderable cost; it could have been because players were just burnt out.  Some stopped playing in the League while some switched to FOG R.  I’m an example of the later: I switched exclusively to FOG R in 2013.

In my latest review I highlighted the introduction of themes in the North as one possible contributory factor in the continued decline of FOG AM in 2015.  The themes were mostly based on one of the FOG AM army list books.  It could be this was just a coincidence but adding restrictions when a competition is in long term decline strikes me as the wrong thing to do.

John tells me that in the South West there are three open rounds and the two remaining rounds have very broad themes.  In 2015 the “themes” were 1000-1 BC (Book 1 only) and the other was simply date restricted to 500-1071 AD.

Since my initial post it has been pointed out to me that the 2015 Northern DBMM competition was, for the first time, also partly themed:  four themes and one open.  The themes however were very broad with simple date restrictions.  Encouragingly, the numbers playing DBMM increased ever so slightly. Perhaps this is the way forward?

As to the future, John reports that numbers for the South West’s first event of 2016 at Usk are up from 12 (2015) to 18: a good sign.  The first Northern League event isn’t until 20 March at Triples (Sheffield, UK) so it will be a while yet before we know if there’s going to be a resurgence in FOG AM in 2016.

Finally, if any other league organiser is reading this and would like their data added to this analysis please do get in touch.  There’s a contact form in the page footer.

Index of Northern League reviews.


Drew Jarman said...

DBM failed to run this year at Roll Call for the first time since 2011. Low numbers killed it off this year. the main problem being the date in April around the school holidays for a lot of people.

Vexillia said...

I suppose if numbers are close all it takes is 2 or 3 not to sign up and the competition is sunk.

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