I was looking into Magic the Gathering as a easily-transported game to play with my wife, and while researching it a bit, it triggered a few random thoughts, relating wargames to CCGs:
*Warmachine has, for me, a real card-game mentality. With its emphasis on special attacks and combos is certainly not my favourite wargame, but if I view it as a card game with minis it is pretty cool.
*MtG has a "collectibility" that Games Workshop would envy - players seem to obsessively spend hundreds if not thousands on pieces of cardboard* (*an even better return than finecast!), and talk casually of "budgeting" x amount of $/week to stay "competitive."
*Skylanders has mixed miniatures and videogames; admittedly only in a shallow, gimmicky way (you scan your miniature and 'import' it into the videogame as a playable character.) Could this be expanded on in a more meaningful way?
*Most CCGs have a resource management aspect, which seems to be filtering through into wargames (I'm certainly seeing an increase in the number of wargames that have it).
*The fun of "deck building" can occur even when you are by yourself, and it is an outlet for creativity and competitiveness - a game-within-the-game, of sorts. Players hunt down bargains of special cards on eBay and trade amongst themselves. You can discuss and share deck ideas online - it even has a social aspect.
It's the latter point I'd like to focus upon - the concept of having fun outside of the actual 'sit down' gameplay of a wargame.
Painting & Modelling
Obviously most wargames share the painting/preparing of miniatures. I'd point to this as a key differentiation from boardgames where everything tends to come "preprepared" in box ready-to-go; which is why I find it mystifying when players field completely unpainted metal armies week after week. The modelling aspect is quite important - nearly every "big" rules set has heavy reliance on selling shiny toys, and the shiny toys themselves help "sell" the game system. Though the increase in prepaints and the presence of "clix" style games blurs the line a bit, and you perhaps rename this category "cool toys". Assembling them, painting them, or simply "having" them. (Remember the wargamer's litany: he who dies with the most toys, wins)
....Army Building - aka "List Warriors." Made popular by Warhammer but arguably perfected by Warmachine (where finding broken combinations of units/abilities is actively encouraged). This occurs where players have an army builder. An example might be each army can have x points (say 2000). Each unit is worth a set amount of points - for example, a squad of 10 grunts might be worth 10, and a uberwtfbbqpqwn mech-of-doom might be worth 200. This army building usually further refined by "capping" certain types of units. For example, this might restrict an army to 1 HQ unit, 1-3 "core"(standard), units, 0-2 support (heavy/vehicle) units, and 0-1 "special/elite" units.
Players are then free to exercise their creativity within these strictures to "maximize" their army to create the optimum combinations, and "build" their armies toward a specific strategy. In more extreme examples, this can create a situation where games are won and lost in this "list building"stage; there is an obvious winner before a dice has even been rolled.
Unit Building aka "Stat up your random models". This tends to be a points system allowing you to create stats for a specific model or group of models. Ironically, although the potential for min-maxing is even greater, this tends to be less likely to be abused. The reason is that as the models created are not "official" it's harder to claim players are taking a legitimate strategic advantage rather than simply being a powergaming douche. This is far more common in indie games (Song of Blades and Heroes comes to mind as a prime example) where they are not trying to "sell" a specific miniature line.
Historical Interest. Obviously this is particular to historical games, but learning about a particular historical period can be very enjoyable. Wargaming can inspire historical reading, and historical researching can inspire wargaming. For example, I bought some 1:600 PT boat models, and while reading a rulebook came across reference to "The Battle of the Narrow Seas" (Peter Scott) - which is now one of my favourite books. In the reverse, reading the historical novel The Religion (Tim Willocks) inspired an interest in wargaming the Ottoman empire. You could perhaps lump this whole category together with....
....Fluff. In the more extreme cases, this can spawn a publishing house (The Black Library) with hundreds of titles, or perhaps consist of few novels alongside RPGs (The Iron Kingdoms). Sometimes it is simply included as a section of the rule book - or even as an "art book" (Infinity). In some cases, the 'fluff' is historical - WW2 games like Bolt Action/FoW can draw on a colorful selection of factions and units.
Anyway, I was thinking that most successful "games systems" tap into most of the above points. (The usual suspects - Warhammer, Warmahordes, FoW, Bolt Action, Infinity, etc). Even the most rabid 40K fan seldom holds up scintillating gameplay as the main attraction of the game - rather they praise fluff, army building and cool models. Even indie hits tend to follow aspects of this formula. For example "Tomorrow's War" and "Gruntz" are tapping into the increasing growth in 15mm sci fi to source their 'cool models.' Gruntz does 'unit building' well and kind of relies on the different models lines and the players themselves to generate "fluff." Tomorrow's War is more directly developing fluff in concert with independent 15mm mini manufacturers like GZG.
Looking at the "most popular wargames" I'm wondering - is deep, interesting gameplay even necessary for success, as long as you have a good "out of game" experience?
Anyway, I was thinking - are there other ways to create a better "out of game experience?" - since this seems a key factor behind popular wargames. I can see "e-rulebooks" with inbuilt video being useful, but wonder what place mobile devices (like smartphones) might play in the out-of-game experience. I've seen a few games with "apps" but so far, mobile devices seem an untapped resource. It's almost like they are a solution in search of a problem.
Anyway, are there any other "out of game" aspects that are enjoyable?
And more broadly - What else could wargames learn from CCGs? Are mobile devices a way forward?