Friday, January 29, 2010

Writing a battle report worth reading.

Da Masta Cheef of Da Long Wayz Dezert Groop recently tried his hand at writing a battle report and was honest about it being a "learning experience". I swung by and was giving some tips, got long-winded (as I'm wont to do) and decided to spin my tips into a new post for all to read.

So how does one go from this:
to this?

Well, focus and figs helps, but clicking on the links will tell you even more...

Now I've also written a battle report here or there and think they're fairly easy reads. Here's a few tips I've picked up over the years:

1. Fiddle with your camera before the game. Take the time to read the manual, adjust the auto-focus, set it for the right lighting mode, etc. Nothing can ruin a good report as quickly as bad pics.

2. Don't try to photograph everything. At the start of each player's turn, take two only pics of the board. One is for posterity and the other a backup. Then put the camera down! Don't try taking more pics unless there's something particularly epic. Too much camera time slows down the game, write-up, and reading.

3. Use images. If you forget to take a pic, have a cheap camera, or otherwise don't have an image? Make one. Use something like Vassal or Powerpoint to recreate the battlefield. (Though asked to C&D publishing by GW, the Vassal 40k module is still around if you do some creative hunting.) Many people are visually inspired and it will help break up the "wall of text". Even if you're just posting a funny "FAIL" pic, it's better than nothing.

4. Write down notes. Don't expect to remember everything, especially if you're writing the report days or weeks later. At the end of each player's turn, document the BASIC items that happened. Keep it simple: "X shot Y, 6 dead. Z had fail and broke. Right flank push looking weak." Remember that these are also just notes, not an outline. You don't need to publish every single little detail, just the critical or spectacular ones.

5. Involve your opponent. Documenting a game will slow things down until you get good at it. So make sure your opponent is okay with the process from the start. Better yet? Get them to help! You'd be amazed how many people are willing to help out on something like this. When they're a participant in the process they can help with notes, remind you to take pics and otherwise not be bored with the process. Also, you're taking an hour or more to play a game against them... why not take an extra 5 minutes or so to get their post-game analysis? Not only will it help your report, it will also improve your game.

6. Be honest. Win, lose, draw... don't let the outcome or a bad ruling change your report. Admit it, accept it, learn from it and go on with life. Try to keep a fairly neutral voice when writing. Compliment good gambits from your opponent. You don't need to gloat and you never know who might be reading. It was a heck of a surprise when I found out the owner of my FLGS and some of the guys there read this blog...

7. Don't sweat the little stuff. The real reason you should be there is to play game. If you get a little behind, bored or otherwise find it impinging on the game experience? Maybe you're trying for too much detail. Forget about it, enjoy the game and fill in the details later. We don't need a blow-by-blow recounting of things anyways.

I'm sure I could say more, but I think those are the main points... Cheers and see you next time!

***Pics above courtesy of Toy Master's War Journalist, DLWDG's report and SandWyrm's stellar battle report.***


  1. All good advice. I only wish I could get my opponents to write a follow-up aftermath on my blog like they do in White Dwarf. That way you'd get the premise of what both of us were thinking in the game.

    In time, I'll inspire everyone around me to start a blog. Until then, I'll just keep on keeping on.

    By the way, I've also decided that I'm going to start referring to you as "pony-boy". That is all.

  2. I've gotten to where I wait until the end and recreate and take one picture of the turning point in the game or the most dramatic moment.

    When I write it up, I make sure to say the points, mission and deployment and then give a couple sentences about what happened.

  3. @Warhammer 39,999: Well, I'd be happy to post my thoughts if you had the good sense to live in the "real US" rather than the stepchild state. You're a little far away for convenient gaming...
    As to pony-boy, FEAR THE RENDING PONY! (My Little Sleipnir still amuses me, but it may be time to switch back to Hello Cthulu...)

    @Ron: An excellent suggestion. The real key is to keep the game moving, however you do it. Your reports are a little on the sparse side for my tastes, but still quite good. (And some of the armies at your Old Timer's Thursday are just great.)

  4. Mmm, redning pony. It DOES have the Icon of Chaos Undivided on there, if you look close enough.

    Past that, I pretty much agree with everything said here. The report's a PART of the game, but shouldn't be the sole focus.

    Pictures are critical if you want to do anything other than offer some reflections on how a unit went.

    I try to do no more than a picture (and a backup) at the start of the turn. You can always add arrows or something to indicate movement and the like; it's not hard to add with paint or photosop or what have you.

    Talking to your opponent after the game is beneficial anyway. It gets you a buddy, and it gets you a different viewpoint on the game. Different viewpoints are your friend; it's easy to get locked into your own biases and assumptions about the game; it's one of the reasons I have multiple armies.

    Your opponent can tell you something valuable: how THEY see the game, and WHY they did what they did, brought what they did.

  5. @Raptor1313: "The report's a PART of the game..." Yeah, that's EXACTLY what I was trying to say. Thank you, as always.

    @Vizlani: Glad to hear it was appreciated. When you post a batrep, let me know if it helped.

  6. Thanks for the good advice, especially #5 - "Involve you opponent."

    It's good for your report when an opponent feels free enough to say "Now, that's worth a photo."

    As an aside, I find it easier to write about the airplane games we've been playing, as opposed to 40K games. The rules don't seem to matter (Check Your 6! or Wings of War). Probably it's a function of the missions and the limited number of units per player.