I recently read a thread on TMP which attempted to put a figure to the number of wargamers in the world. Unfortunately I could not find it again just now, they disappear so quickly on TMP. However from memory it was a very large number, perhaps hundreds of thousands.
It is a question I have often pondered, and never came to any firm conclusion about. The main problem is that you first have to define “what is a wargamer”.
On TMP they estimated the number of wargamers based on the number of manufacturers and what their annual turnover might be, divided by how much your “average” wargamer would spend in a year. I would not wish to bet my own money on the answer provided by such a formula. However it is clear that there may well be hundreds of thousands of people who are interested in collecting, painting, researching and just reading about wargaming.
All of this has prompted me to try to define what is a wargamer.
First they would have to be “wargaming”, rather than “playing soldiers”. They would need rules which are based on actual historical performance. I believe that wargaming is an attempt to recreate some form of historical warfare. Any rules used would have to be based on some sort of historical records. Therefore anything else is not “real wargaming”.
I appreciate that a lot of fantasy wargamers would not agree with this first principle. But remember this is MY definition, and I am not trying to convert anyone. I just find it hard to take seriously any set of rules which pits humans against non-humans. I accept that it can make an enjoyable game, but for me it is not wargaming.
Second they would have to involve model soldiers. That is to say figures which attempt to look like historical soldiers. Board gamers are not wargamers, they are board gamers. Nothing wrong with that, but why call them wargamers.
Third to qualify for the title wargamer you would have to actually game with them. Painters are painters, collectors are collectors and historians are historians.
Some time ago I asked this question on TMP. I was amazed to find that people who never have, and probably never will, played an actual wargame insist that they are wargamers. One told me that if you call yourself a wargamer then you are a wargamer. Fortunately this principle does not apply to doctors or airline pilots!
Personally I have gone through periods when I was a collector, or painter, who was also a wargamer. I am now a wargamer who no longer paints nor collects.
So how often do you have to wargame to be called a wargamer?
I would suggest that you would need to play a wargame regularly, perhaps once a month, to be called a real wargamer. The fact that you once took part in a game at a convention back in 1976 does not qualify you to call yourself a wargamer in 2017.
It becomes more complicated if you play a game once every three or six months, or perhaps once a year. I think that I would accept that you are still a wargamer, though I would question your dedication.
I hope that you will appreciate that this is all a bit “tongue in cheek”. No one will ever know how many real wargamers there are in the world. I suspect that using my definition there would be perhaps five to ten thousand.
I am sure that there are a lot of hard core wargamers who never go public, and are content to play one a week, or once a month, with a small band of friends or even alone. This happy group is what I would call wargamers.
I don’t really object to the perhaps hundreds of thousands who will insist it is their right to be called wargamers. It is a misuse of the English language, but so what. However I would love to know how many real wargamers there actually are out there.