Dilution Theory – Part II

In my previous article I addressed an email from a listener who, having looked back at my previously stated ‘favourite games’, wondered how Gaming Dilution Theory (as expounded on numerous occasions by Dave Luff on the podcast) had affected them.
In looking back over the list he compiled, it quickly became obvious that games that were still firm favourites had struggled to see table time in the past 12 months – longer in some cases – even when my regular gaming time has actually increased. There are, I think, several reasons behind this, but one of the major factors is the change in nature of our gaming group.

For several years, Dave and I met up and played on our own, which meant that we primarily played miniature wargames and very few boardgames. More recently, we have been joined by two of my other friends, which means that our gaming group of four now primarily play boardgames. I don’t necessarily see this as a problem per se, but rather the changing nature of my gaming experience. I enjoy both boardgames and wargames, so after several years of concentrating on the miniatures side of the hobby, it’s gratifying to be playing boardgames again on a regular basis.

I am still playing miniatures games, but now my most regular opponent is my son (who is back living at home). His interests and tastes are somewhat different to Mr Luff, so with him I tend to play a lot more sci-fi and fantasy, plus games featuring samurai. So expect to see games such as X-Wing, Runewars, Planetfall, Test of Honour and Ninja All-Stars appear regularly in my gaming history over the coming months.

One of the other factors I have found when playing miniatures games is my painting speed, or lack thereof. I am one of those gamers who hates playing with unpainted miniatures, and yet my collection is dominated by plastic, metal and resin which are currently bereft of any colour whatsoever – so my desire to experience a battle where the might of Rome meets hordes of mounted Parthians is somewhat tempered by the fact that both armies are still currently sat in various blisters and zip-lock bags in a box in my spare room. The only chance I have of fighting this sort of battle in the near future is with armies of stickered wood on the Commands & Colors board, which immediately flags one of the appeals of that particular game: scratches the itch of battles in the Ancient period without all that pesky painting!

The honest truth is when I look at my collection of games and miniatures, I don’t actually need to buy anything else – I have more than enough to keep me going for several years to come. Even if my painting output increased dramatically, I have enough projects sat awaiting my attention that I never need buy another miniature – well, maybe just the odd one or two, just to round out particular armies, you understand.

When discussing the need for new armies with a miniatures manufacturer (who shall remain nameless) Dave Luff expressed the opinion that he wasn’t looking to purchase a new army, as he currently had yet to finish the one currently on his painting table, and that he then had two other projects queued up, waiting to go. The response was simple:

“Dave, I’m glad most of my other customers aren’t like you, otherwise I would be out of business”

The harsh reality of the situation is pretty obvious – the industry that supports our hobby is reliant on us, their customer base, to keep buying their products and services. Miniature manufacturers need customers to buy new armies, and providers of painting services need those people who have just bought the army not to have enough time to paint it themselves, so providing them with custom in turn. If we all suddenly decided that we no longer needed that extra unit or new army, that we weren’t going to start that new period, or that we owned enough area control/worker placement/trading/exploration themed boardgames, many of the companies that we currently take for granted would quickly cease to exist. We saw some evidence of that last week when no less than three companies closed their doors on the same day.

Some argue that we are witnessing the signs of a saturated market, and that it is inevitable that we will see more companies close as each fight to survive in an increasingly crowded marketplace. According to BoardGameGeek, there were 4994 new games and expansions released in 2016 – and that’s just the ones that were registered on their website database, which probably doesn’t take into account the myriad of small miniature manufacturers. These releases range from brand new large boardgames such as Star Wars: Rebellion or Scythe, expansions such as the Soviet Starter Set for Konflikt ’47, to individual models such as a new ship for X-Wing. Whilst the gaming market is expanding, I’m not sure whether the current growth in customers matches the output, so companies are reliant on existing gamers buying the ‘new and shiny’. (Although some companies circumvent this, artificially generating their own demand from their customer base by regularly reinventing their games with new editions – cynical, moi?)

It’s an interesting conundrum that we face. As you may have guessed, I am a huge fan of new stuff – I’ve seen at least three games in the last week or so that I would happily sink my hobby funds into. At the same time, I am very conscious of the number of good games in my collection which do not see the light of day. Maybe Sean of “On Sean’s Table” has the solution?

There is no doubt that the ‘new and shiny’ seems to drive the hobby. Whether this is sustainable in the future is another question.

12 Comments on Dilution Theory – Part II

  1. I would love to be able to afford every new shiny game that came out and it feels like at some point in my life I have tried to do just that (sadly glances at fully stacked shelves of unplayed games). I have recently got into card based strategy games that let me jump right in and play more games and worry less about painted miniatures, I do realize that this must seem like heresy to some but the sad fact is there is only so much hours in the day and I would find myself missing out of a lot of other things in llife…


  2. Not pitching for work Neil and I know you prefer to do your own painting but if you did rein in your spending on new unpainted stuff you could divert the funds to getting your existing projects painted. Yes I am a painter but I have occasionally used others to get a few of my own ‘less fun to paint’ things done.

    Box arrives, I do the bases and they’re ready to go. Very cool. I can see why so many of my customers do it.

  3. Alex Woodrow // August 31, 2017 at 15:19 // Reply

    Last year I downsized my gaming collection massively. Although getting rid of some OOP stuff I had painstakingly collected was a bit jarring, the end result was massively worth it. With less stuff on the go I actually paint and game more because all that extra stuff isn’t vying for attention and time.

    I notice your and Dave’s promised SP2 project seems to have gone dark. Was it a dilution too far?

  4. I’ve found a reliable and relatively inexpensive painter to help me get through rank and file whilst I concentrate on characters and generals and terrain. It really helps.

  5. It’s often been mentioned that ours is a ‘graying’ hobby. Perhaps we’re an older demographic which means we’re a cohort that’s in it’s maximum earning years with the corresponding work and family commitments that go along with middle-age.

    On average, a common complaint boils down to having more game buying power than game playing time; however, all is not lost. Those with burgeoning collections, hold the course! Think of your game collections as a retirement nest egg on par with a healthy pension. Both to be enjoyed at leisure down the road…

  6. Mervyn's taxi driver // August 31, 2017 at 21:49 // Reply

    Luffie has a fair point as gamers are plagued by the desire to have the latest figures/games/rules. This is fine if you play skirmish games (within reason ) as a gamer should be able to paint 200 28mm figures a year (4 a week) or pay for that number to be painted. The problem is the mass battle games in 28mm (or even 15mm) which take years to paint and several set of rules later, but the key here is to keep on trying. I have a 15mm Russian Napoleonic army that has taken years to paint and finally we have a set of rules Merv is happy with so good gaming times will finally begin 30 years after I started building that army!

  7. “a gamer should be able to paint 200 28mm figures a year (4 a week) or pay for that number to be painted”…is Neil going to take up this challenge? It sounds very achievable, stated like that.

  8. Mervyn's taxi driver // September 1, 2017 at 20:26 // Reply

    Yes john I think 200 a year is doable but to be fair to Neil the podcasting must take up several hours a week

    • I try to ensure that I play every week, and the podcast editing is something of a constant, so the one hobby related activity that suffers from being squeezed out of the timetable is the painting.

  9. Yes, you are quite right. I guess for all of us it is knowing about what we can realistically achieve, so that we buy accordingly, or buy pre-painted, or buy second hand, or employ someone to paint some for us.

  10. BTW, thanks Neil for the shoutout! I was wondering why my blog traffic had a huge spike.

  11. mcdouglas2015 // September 3, 2017 at 21:33 // Reply

    Taxi driver indeed…..competition averse best opponents I would say more like!
    I do think that broadly Mr Luff has a point; we have thought through the various rulesets we have “on the go” at the moment and realistically figure we can play around 40 games a year. I think we identified somewhere between 12 and 15 different games (eg Conan, Dungeonquest and sets of miniatures rules) that we want to play, so each set would only get maybe 3 or 4 games a year! We thought it would be a good idea to maybe play the same rules several weeks on the trot, to give us a better chance of really getting to grip with them etc etc.
    Any new purchase we make is obviously going to impact on the number of games we can play with each set of rules.
    There definitely seems to be a move in the hobby towards more skirmish games and we (at least the royal “we”!) are really looking forward to trying GdA – I dont think I’ve seen a single large scale Napoleonic game in all the years I’ve been at the club. So get on with those Russians – I’ve got the Frenchies ready and I’ve done a load of Austrians while I’ve been waiting for the Tsar to mobilise!

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