Going to have to say that when I was growing up the only thing we could afford was spit wads on graph paper - small graph paper at that - we did move up to a battle mat with markers.
And then as I dropped D&D for Decades the game had some impressive changes.
While I prepped some of my kids for strategy games... The new basic D&D Box was available and I played a game with my very young children with decent minis for the very first time. I don't think the draw would have been there for them without the board like quality - but as they played the creativity and the imagination came out. Because I included encounters outside the box.
After a taste of using their imaginations and problem solving they were hooked. There are lots of games now that use figures - and some of them use tactics.
Having grown up playing with none of that - and now having my son DM for me - (lucky dad!!) He has not only converted me to 5th Edition his ability to adapt to Rangers (for Wilderness Encounters, Thief(like) characters makes having a 3D Map with figures and features essential.
Because I have characters who can climb, and sometimes fly. And because my character has the "Sharp Shooter Feat." And because my characters use stealth. Graphic no argument combat and move actions have greatly enhanced the game.
As my Ranger has used line of sight and fought from the high ground or the perch - or my Monk uses a "Walk of the Wind" the 3D along with altitude elements have brought the game twice the enjoyment I had when I was a kid.
With low cost multiuse landscape tools as simple as randomly cut shapes of plywood - not even painted and cut out buildings and a few model trees we have added an incredible dimension to the game - that I had never known.
As a Player and not a DM I hoked at building terrain features that he can use in the adventure. We have assembled armies of minis. And I have spent some money on art supplies.
Some of the most challenging areas in the past - Dming thieves and wilderness encounters were hard to communicate. We role play but somehow the role play with figures has totally enhanced both of our engagement.
I teach my son the Role Play and he concocts better worlds for the play and the combat to take place.
I have taken on Trees - to the point where I will be building different species
I am going to undertake mountains next and have already built buildings and walls and towers. One of the points that really came into play was my Ranger's ability to with the Sharpshooter Feat in 5E pick off opponents without penalty to 600 feet. We built just a basic wall with no other terrain and using the movement rules calculate range and movement and even distances off a 60 foot wall.
That is all it took for me to get hooked.