The novice wargamer may be tempted to go wild on ebay. It doesn't take long to discover that there are wargames (board games based on historical or hypothetical armed conflict) for every taste being offered on ebay. There are several types of wargames. Some types are:
1. Magazine published wargames
These are wargames that were published as a part of a magazine. These are usually smaller wargames. Usually, these games have around one hundred of the cardboard counters and a paper map along with a set of rules.
The quality of these games can vary greatly. Some are highly sought after. However, some were little more than experimental rules that were later revised and published as boxed games. Some are not worth the paper they are printed on, while others have great playability. Many had extensive erratta published after publication.
Common magazine publications which contained games are "Strategy and Tactics" (often abbreviated S & T) Command, Aries, and Vie Victus (the latter being a French language wargame magazine)
2. Hex and chit based wargames
Most wargames are hex-based, meaning cardboard chits or counters representing military units move through a grid of hexes according to the rules.
Others use point-to-point movmement rather than a hex grid.
Most wargames fall into this category.
3. Block based wargames
Some games use a set of blocks with stickers to represent miltary units. These often use an area-to-area movement. Some designs keep the blocks facing away from the opponent until conflict ensues.
Columbia Games pioneered this system with games like "War of 1812" and "Quebec." Other companies have sought to follow suit, but few with the same successful formula.
4. Card-driven wargames
Some games use cards to "drive" the game. The cards contain events, actions, or a point system to regulate turns.
The first of these games was "We the People" (American Revolution period) which is highly sought after (published by Avalon Hill). It was shortly followed by "For the People" (American Civil War period). Today, GMT games of Hanford, California, is the primary publisher of this type of game.
5. Miniature-based wargames and rulesets
These particular games either come with miniatures or just a set of rules that allow a player to use his own miniatures. Some such games allow a player to slowly build an army.
Johnny Reb is a popular miniature ruleset that allows players to recreate American Civil War Battles.
Warhammer is one of the most popular miniature games, offering various sets for both fantasy and Science Fiction adventure.
Commonly used terms and Abbreviations:
UP = unpunched - i.e. the counters have not been removed from the sheet they were printed on
NIB = New in Box - note, box may be opened, but the game has not been played
Shrink= This game is in the plastic shrinkwrap
Shelfwear = the box has some slight scuffing or crease from sitting on shelf
S&T = Strategy and Tactics- a wargame magazine that has changed publishers several times
AH = Avalon Hill - was the premiere wargame publisher- today, it is just a Trademark name owned by Wizards of the Coast
GMT= GMT games of Hanford, California
GDW= Game Designer's Workshop
SPI = Simulation Publications, Inc. (a defunct publisher)
TSR= Tactical Studies Rules (most famous for being the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons) but they also published a number of wargames
How can I find out about a game before bidding on it?
Search engines often will point to information provided on wargames. Use the title of the game you are interested in or type in grognard to find some specific websites. However, a great website to find information on wargames is web grognards. Ebay policy prohibits linking directly to this page, but any internet search of the term grognard will find this page for you. This is also a good place to find errata, variants, play aids, etc. You can also search and see if there is a company website for the publisher.
Wargames are usually more expensive than other games because they usually have a smaller quantity printed than a popular boardgame like Monopoly or Life. A standard print run of a brand new wargame today would be in the range of 2,000 - 2,500 copies.
Wargames offer a player a chance to learn resource management, strategy, and history. They are a valuable investment. Many of these games are useful teaching aids, even if only the maps are used.
I'll mention several rare games that are sort of Holy Grails because of their rarity. Avalon Hill published "Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage" and this game regularly sells for $150-$200. "Successors" is another Avalon Hill publication that sells for the same. These games are rather rare and because of their unique game mechanics are highly sought after. Prices on these games will begin to fall as reprints of these publications (by different publishers) are currently in the development process. (Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage was recently republished by Valley Games, which will diminish the value of the original Avalon Hill version to some) A new version of "We the People" is rumored to be in the works.
David "the preacher" Wilson