You can't use wargames without the games themselves, and the experience can be further enhanced with a host of supporting items and services. Here you find out how to get this stuff, or at least learn that a lot of it actually exists.
Because this book is likely to stay in print for many years, I will refrain from giving the names and addresses for specific vendors here, as many companies in this business come and go. Where I do give a name and address, it is either because there is little choice (as in direct mail vendors for people with poor access to retail outlets) or because the company in question has been around for a while and is likely to still be in business ten years from now.
Retail Outlets. This is the easiest way to get your hands on wargames. Most major metropolitan cities have stores dedicated to games and some of these are stocked with a wide selection of wargames (both computer and manual). Most also carry wargaming magazines and related items. Check your yellow pages.
Direct Mail Outlets. If you can't get to a store, try direct mail. Most carry both manual and computer wargames. The direct mail outfits also discount the games, so you save a few bucks. Alas, you can't look at the box or an in-store demo, but service is usually quite fast, with over night delivery available fro most companies. You can get the numbers of current direct mail vendors from gaming magazines. But if you're really stuck (and can't get your hands on any magazines), try Cape Cod Connection (800 328-9273) or Chips & Bits (800 753-4263). For Canadians (and those in the US also) there is Games by Mail (613 523-3699). Games by mail also sells used and out-of-print games, as well as of out-of-print errata for out-of-print games.
Introductory games. GDW has, for over a decade, sold a low cost and very simple introductory wargame to get people into the hobby. The introductory game changes from time to time and is usually carried in stores.
Wargames as Collectibles
Wargames, in many cases, increase with value as the years go by. The combination of games going out of print and high income gamers has created a collectibles market. This all began in the late 1970s when the game conventions began featuring auctions. At first, this was an opportunity for gamers to sell off games they had already played, or were simply unhappy with. But from the very beginning there were out of print games offered and even then these games tended to sell for more than their original list price. As gamers got older, and wealthier, and more games went out of print, the value of some of these games escalated considerably. For example, as of early 1992, these are some of the prices you would encounter. In addition to the publisher and year of publication, the three prices shown are the original price, the original price in 1992 adjusted for inflation and the current price range of the game.
Wacht am Rhein (SPI, 1977, $20/46/300-500)
War in the Pacific (SPI, 1978, $30/65/300-600).
Campaign for North Africa (SPI, 1979, $30/58/150-200)
These first three games represent the most sought after class of games, the "monster games." These are characterized by having two or more full size maps and over a thousand playing pieces. They sell for four to ten times their original (inflation adjusted) price.
Empires of the Middle Ages (SPI, 1980, $18/31/120-200)
Kharkov (SPI, 1978, $10/21/30-40)
These next two games are examples of standard size games. Empires of the Middle Ages, and award winning and much sought after (and played) game gets the highest prices in this category. The current ratio of four to six times its inflation adjusted original price will no doubt go up. Kharkov is at the bottom of the range, being a game originally published in S&T and then later released in boxed format for retail sale. Even so, it still sells for up to twice its original (inflation adjusted) price.
Crimean War Quadrigame (SPI, 1978, $14/30/80-100)
SPI published sixteen Quadrigame sets (containing 64 separate games) between 1975 and 1979. Many of the subjects covered were obscure and these games represent the only time these events ever made it into wargame format. All of these games are out of print and demand is brisk. While the Crimean War quad is one of the most sought after, and sells at 2-3 times its original (inflation adjusted) price, most of the other quads sell for at least their inflation adjusted price and many for twice that.
The current prices gives above are for "mint" condition copies of these games. That is, games as they originally appeared in the stores, with their original plastic shrink wrap intact. In other words, unplayed and untouched by human hands since manufacture. Beware, however, that some unscrupulous collectors are taking a played copy of the game and, at worst, filling the box with junk and then shrink wrapping it again. Pretty neat scam, as they are unlikely to be found out unless the buyer decides to play the game. Note that an already played game (with the die cut playing pieces punched out) reduces the value of the game 20-30%. If the game components are in poor condition or some are missing, value can be reduced a further 10-20%. Thus a played copy of War in the Pacific would go for $200-$500. If some components are missing and the game is beaten up, the value goes down to $160-$450.
There aren't that many collectors, a thousand or so. But their number increases each year. Moreover, some of these games can still be found in out of the way stores or flea markets, usually at very low prices. But that's part of the appeal, and attraction, of collectibles. However, many gamers seek out these games to actually play them. In order to have it both ways, some collectors will make color photocopies of the map and playing pieces (and then mount and cut out the new copy of the playing pieces) and thus retain the value of their collectible and still be able to play it. Some collectors are selling these copies, although this violates copyrights and is illegal.
The games I have mentioned are all SPI games because, quite frankly, those were the only ones I had original price and publication date data for. However, SPI games are the largest single class of collectable games you will encounter, if only because SPI published so many. TSR currently owns the copyrights for most SPI games and republishes some of them each year. This will reduce the value of those titles somewhat, but not entirely. There are games of other publishers, particularly small publishers of the late 1960s, which have value similar to War in the Pacific. SPI games do, as a group, have the highest collectable value. As with any collectibles, this value can only go up as with the original editions of these games, only 5,000-10,000 of each game was published and that was it. Unlike stamps, comic books, baseball cards and the like, where collectors will buy large quantities and hold them until the value increases, nearly all SPI games were bought to be used. No one was thinking about a collectibles market. The mint condition games are usually those bought by a gamer who ran out of time to play, or even look at, the game.
Collectibles are where you find them. Some vendors sell them, at prices somewhat above the prices discussed above. The game conventions have auctions and swap sessions. The computer services (below) enable gamers to buy and sell electronically.
Speaking of computers, there is also a market in computer wargames collectibles. This market is a bit different. You need a specific type of computer to play a computer wargame on. Ten years after a computer wargame is published there are few gamers who still have the type of machine needed to play the old game. There is also less in the way of physical components in a computer wargame. There's one or more diskettes, a box and a small manual. As a result of this, the collectibles market is not developing into quite the robust creature the paper wargames market is. Currently, ten year old computer wargames are lucky to bring half their original list price (without any adjustment for inflation). There's some value in that ten year old computer wargame that cost you $20 in 1980, but not nearly as much compared to a 1980 copy of Empires of the Middle Ages that originally cost $18.
Largely because wargamers are such a well educated and literate lot, there are a disproportionate number of magazines serving the hobby. Most are edited and published by wargamers. Quality is generally high. All of these magazines can be obtained by subscription from the indicated publisher. Many of them are available in bookstores, hobby stores and toy stores that carry wargames.
Command magazine (published by XTR Corp.); bimonthly. Similar to Strategy and Tactics. A history magazine with a game in it.
Courier- For miniatures wargamers.
Computer Gaming World. (published by Golden Empire, 130 Chaparral Ct 260, Anaheim Hills, CA 92808); monthly. The premier magazine of reviews and analysis of computer games. Good coverage of computer wargames, by wargamers.
Fire and Movement (published by Decision Games ); bimonthly. Fire and Movement is primarily a magazine of reviews. It has done very well at this since there are so many new games coming out. The reviews range from very brief mentions ("capsule reviews") to lengthy multi-article pieces on one game. It's well worth reading if you want to get a better idea of what some of the games coming out are like.
The General (published by the Avalon Hill Game Company, 4517 Hartford Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21214); bimonthly. It alone among all of the other wargame publications is devoted solely to Avalon Hill games. Most of the articles have to do with tactics, variants, additional scenarios and the play of Avalon Hill games.
Moves magazine (published by Decision Games); bimonthly. Moves is the magazine of gaming theory and technique. It covers all games in the hobby and has articles of opinion, theory, technique, reviews.
Simulations Online Magazine. Prepared by a bunch of wargamers on the GEnie online serves (the "Games RT") and distributed in electronic (ASCII) format over many other systems. If you are a modem junkie, you should be able to find it. Lots of good stuff for the wargamer,
Run 5. House organ of the Strategic Simulations Group (SSG). Carries material on SSGs own computer wargames.
Strategy and Tactics (published by Decision Games ); bimonthly. It contains at least two military-history articles and a complete game (usually with a 22 by 34-inch map sheet, at least 200 playing pieces and eight to 12 or more pages of game rules). One of the history articles is on the same subject as the game and in addition there are reviews of games and books, other features and a fairly lengthy column detailing what is going on in publishers's game R&D department. Also a reader response (feedback) section.
Strategy Plus. British version of Computer Gaming World. Features shorter reviews, done in a uniquely British style.
Game Assistance Programs (GAPs)
These are computer programs to assist in the play of manual games. GAPs keep track of the detail of complex manual games. There was never a significant market for these items, although a few were published in the 1980s. Several can be found on eletronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) and the national on line services.
Compuserve and GEnie are two publicly available computer services that you can reach with a PC and a modem (over your telephone line). Both have very active wargaming sections were gamers can exchanges information and download (transfer) to their systems all manner of material. This includes text files explaining various aspects of games (how to play, reviews, and so on) or a large number of shareware (you pay for it if you like it) computer wargames. The shareware games are, in general, not as good as the commercial games but many shareware products are quite worthwhile. You can also download demonstration versions of commercial wargames. This is a good way to get a look at a game before you play it. Call 800-638-9636 if you want to sign up for GEnie. Compuserve has start up kits in most computer software stores.
Many independent Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) also have facilities to run games on line. Get a copy of Computer Shopper (available in most large manazine stands) for a listing of some BBSs in your area. All you need is a PC and a modem. Not as slick as the commercial services, but their are thousands of them all over the country (and the world, even Russia). Watch out calling any of them long distance. You tend to lose track of time, but the phone companies billing system doesn't.
Most large metropolitan areas have one or more groups of organized (or semi-organized) gamers. Finding the group can be tough, though. Some of the game magazines list groups regularly or from time to time. Computers bulletin boards (BBSs) often provide an opportunity to find such groups. Game conventions are another way to make contact.
Game design materials
For those who want to get into designing games, you'll need some raw materials (blank hex sheets, blank counter sheets, etc.) One of the best sources is Zocchi Enterprises (601 863-0215).
My Game Bibliography
Paper Wargame Publishers
Table of Contents
List of Appendices