The lattest issue from Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy (issue 84) has a nice opinion article by Warwick Kinrade. It's titled "The Four Pillars of Wargaming", and describes what makes a good wargame.
Let me give a few quotes:
"Fundamentally, wargaming is a hobby of collecting and painting."
Very true. I also wrote an opinion piece about this some time ago - "It's the figures, stupid!" back in WSS 78. Miniature wargaming is a very tactile hobby, and no matter how academic you want it to make, it's essentially still about playing with toy soldiers. Your figure collection will still be with you 20 or 30 years from now, but rules and the type of games will change over the years. It's the collection that forms the backbone of one's wargaming life.
I therefore do not understand one aspect of the current trend towards smaller games - warband-style, that only need a dozen of figures a side. I'm okay with smaller games, but I'm not okay with people selling off their forces when they switch games. It's probably less of a barrier to do that if it's only a few figures you're selling, but if you're constantly switching, buying, and selling armies, are you truly a wargamer?
"Even more than collecting an army, collecting terrain requires a long-term commitment to the hobby."
Again something I agree with completely. A good collection of terrain - both the "underground" and the terrain pieces that go on top of it, is a question of years. My own terrain collection has slowly been upgraded over the years - buying new (sometimes expensive) pieces, and out-phasing lesser quality pieces. It also takes some time to know what sort of terrain fits your style of play. A mat? Tiles? Hexagons? What sort of visuals do you like? Also, a good collection of general purpose pieces that can be used in wide variety of settings (and sometimes scales) is worth spending some money on.
"I want drama and tension and to feel as if the game rewards me for making good tactical decisions."
This particular quote is about the rules. I strongly believe a wargamer should write his own rules. Perhaps not for all periods, but you should have at least one period for which you write your own house rules. It forces you to think much more about the flow of games, and to sharpens your senses about what you like and don't like in wargames. And it's okay of this is different for each and every wargamer.
"... you have a responsibility to your opponent to lose with good grace and not ruin their enjoyment."
Wargaming is a social activity. What happens before and after the game is as important as what happens during the game. You need opponents that share a common view on wargaming, and with whom you can spend an enjoyable few hours pushing toy soldiers.
In my gaming group we have an abbreviation "DDZAB". It's somewhat difficult to translate from Dutch, but it roughly means "Always be the one who disadvantages himself". It implies that whenever there's a discussion about the rules, don't be the one who drags out the argument, but graciously give your opponent the advantage (a die modifier e.g.) in case of doubt.
Anyway, I really liked reading this piece. Recommended.