How to write a good battle report... read on!

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How to write a good battle report... read on!

Postby Vincent of Vega » Tue May 31, 2005 10:24 am

When we decided to create this new forum for your Battle reports I remembered reading an excellent article on the WPS forums that explained in great detail the three main types of battle report, along with some examples of each . The article was well written and very interesting even if you didn't want to write a battle report. I attributed the article to our own dear Mike Marshall (MikeM) and contacted him about it, lukily he had a copy! (thanks Mike) Turns out that the article was actually written by Chris Will for Total Power who sadly no longer plays. So without further ado here's the (unedited) article for your perusal.

Many thanks to Chris Will
Battle Reports : Who? Where? Why? What?
by Chris Will

Battle Reports. Without doubt one of my favourite things in White Dwarf are the Battle Reports. I even read battle reports for the games I have never played (Gorka Morka for example). So why would anyone, other than a GW employee write battle reports. The first thing that springs to mind is "someone who is a complete nutter and has nothing better to do". Well this is probably true but not enough to deter me. These tomes would record the deeds of our might armies and add a great deal of flavour to future games. The battle report between my splendid Orc and Goblin ladz and them dirty stinkin High Elves would often inspire a scenario for our next engagement (revenge, recovery of pride or possession).

So how do you write a battle report. Well, I don't claim to be the worlds authority on the subject, but after writing several dozen and reading several hundred I do have some insights to share. In my opinion there are three basic types of battle report :

a.. The 'BBC World Service' report - Factual, detailed and analytical

b.. The 'Around the campfire' report - More of a story, but still revels in the mechanics of the game

c.. The 'Tolkein goes to Hollywood' report - The author, completely emerged in the world of Warhammer, writes a fantastical tale of battle.

There are variations on these three, some add humour, others debate house rules, perhaps a set of predetermined scenarios (Idol of Gork, Siege) are the precursor. Each type of report can give the reader different information, but all if written well, will enrich your Fantasy Battling.

To expand :

The 'BBC World Service' report.

This report would open up with a detailed, rules based description of the army limitations (2000pts, no magic items costing more than 50 points etc.) A diagram or basic description would detail the terrain and deployment. Each army would then be listed, with its characters, items, attributes. for example Black Orc Big Boss, Extra Hand Weapon, Jade Amulet 96 points). The report itself would then be more of a record of events based around the
rules expressed and dice rolled. For example :

Turn 2 O&G:
Both Goblin Chariots charge the skellie cav having passed their fear test. The Savage Orcs must charge the unit of Wraiths on the left flank, their frenzy means no terror test is required. The wolf-riders fail their fear test and refuse to charge the main block of skellie foot-troops. The Black Orcs and Night Goblins march move forward. The Orcy Xbow Boyz roll a 1 on their animosity test and miss this turn.

Hand2Hand:
The skellie cav get 8 wounds from the chariot impact, dogs and crew. The Wight Lord manages to wound a chariot and a crewman in return. The entire unit is destroyed as a result of the 8-4 combat res (skellie horse have rank and banner). The wraiths are unharmed by the savage orcs mundane weapons and the boss, rolling all 1's and 2's to hit with the rending sword fails to wound. In return 1 savage orc is killed by a the +2 strength bonus of a scythe. The Savage Orcs still win combat but the Wraiths pass their leadership test The Savage Orcs at to frenzied to notice (within 12" of General and Battle Standard bearer). The Necromancer in the main skellie block passes his panic test for the nearby destruction of the skellie-horse.

Magic (WoM cards 3):
4 extra cards for night gob (mushroom) who passes waaagh test 1 extra card for shaman with savage orcs. A hand of gork is Destroy Scrolled by the Necro Lord, the spell survives with a 1 to destroy being rolled. A Mork Wants Ya picks up the Necro Lord despite a powered up dispel attempt. With all the Undead WOM cards used up and unopposed Waaaaaghh is cast. The Orcs retain Drain Magic. Note : Can a magic user who has been Mork Wants Ya a) be effected by Waaaghhh ? b) retain a WOM card ? We played no in both cases.

Turn 2 Undead:.........

So you can see in the 'BBC World Service' report we retain the drama of the battle, while providing all the gory detail that allows the reader to ascertain exactly what went on. A great reporting style for tacticians to chew over, chuckling at the poor use of frenzied troops as they are lured into an almost unwinable fight against wraiths. Its also a good way of recording rules questions that you and your group may wish to resolve. It also allows the reader to spot mistakes in how you played the game. For example they may note two destroy spell scrolls used by the same side,
or comment that a goblin boss with the crown of sorcery is a risky point expenditure on a one-wound weak combat trooper.

This report type is the quickest to write and read. although to do a good job requires quite careful note-taking.

'Around the campfire' report

The intro to this report will be more lavish, the author will explain why the two exponents have met to do battle. Perhaps references to previous battles or future scenarios (siege, home-made scenario's etc.). The unit descriptions may well have characters names and units names, we may now see Grimgutt Stinkbringer, Black Orc Big Boss wearing a Jade Amulet wot he knicked off a dead elf.

The battle location, terrain and lay of the land will be described in greater detail, with reason given, rather than just 'a small village lay on the Orcs right flank' we would get, 'To Goregash's left, the Black Orc General could see the huts him and the lads had been stayin in before the undead invasion of the shire, they weren't much, but they were his'.

This type of report, I think, is the most typical battle report. Very much like the reports done in White Dwarf. It will contain enough information to reverse-engineer almost every dice throw, but will be less sterile and more flavoured. I have re-written the example turn from the 'BBC World Service report' :

Turn 2 O&G:

Goregash ordered the first wave to engage, two goblin chariots, spurred on by their leaders orders, got over their fears and struck the Skellie Cav. A Total of 10 impact hits and some rather pathetic gobbo swordsman ship saw 8
unsaved wounds hit home, the Wight lord responded by killing a gobbo crew member and a wolfie, but the size of the victory saw the remains of the unit crumble into dust.

Bragga-blueskin couldn't help but drive his boars against the thin line of Wraiths. The boars and rank and file Orc attacks wasted on the wraiths (who are immune to mundane weapons). Bragga himself, showed that frenzies dice
can be as poorly rolled as 'level-headed' dice and missed, four times. The Wraiths, despite having a +2 strength bonus for their to handed weapons managed to fell a single savage orc, tattoos, shamans and Mork protecting the rest. Despite being the only side to loose a trooper, the ranks and banner of the Savage Orcs won them combat. The Wraiths, fortunate to be within their Lords leadership 12" arc held, just (damn those dice).The Savage Orcs didn't make the terror test as their frenzied state negated the need for a test.

Fraggle, ignored his masters orders to charge, he was nearer the skellies than the Orc and their fearful sight was slightly more imposing than the distant rant of the fat orc boss. Rolling an 11 on their fear test, the wolf-riders were content to sit still.

Grimgutt urged the Black Orcs forward the Orcen elite would be ready to charge in turn 3, protected from the charge by Red-eye and his fanatic bearing goblins who marched along-side them.

Gudeye, despite his reputation couldn't control his ladz and they squabbled, forgoing the chance to shoot stuff as was their purpose.

Krazul the bonemaster, ignored the skellie-horses demise, his high leadership not even under question (rolled a 3).
The winds of magic blew gently, the orcs, despite getting quite excited, concentrated their efforts and yielded an extra 5 cards from mushies and the bonus savage orc/shaman card. Krazul stopped a Hand of Gork with a destroy scroll, but wasn't lucky enough to take it from Izzie's hand. The Night Goblin responded by summoning Mork, who picked the Necro Lord up and dangled him above his confused army.

A Waaaaaaghh was cast, unopposed. Note : How does waaaghh effect morked characters ? can a morked character retain ?

Turn 2 Undead:.........

So, we see in this battle report, the same action is described, this time we have more detail on the motivation of the Generals. More flavour has been added to describe the characteristics that led to actions taking place. Less useful for perhaps determining the exact effects of certain weapon combinations, but far better for joining up scenario's. For
example, we could assume Krazul never gets released from the Mork Wants Ya. The regrouped skellie army, under a different leader, could have an assassination mission, to take down Izzie, in the hope their famed leader will re-appear.

The addition of creative narrative has opened the door for future follow ups. The main difference between this and the first report is the flow, no longer constrained by the exact mechanics of charge, move, shoot, hth and magic, each unit can have its story told, still in basic turn sequence.The notes needed to write such a report need not be as detailed as it is the general outcome that matters. It take longer to write these reports, but if done as part of a campaign or for the enjoyment of non-combatants to read later, it is time well spent.

The 'Tolkein goes to Hollywood' report.

This report is getting more towards the role-playing genre, it is almost a standalone piece of literature, a short story of sorts. The introduction, apart from some rule clarifications, is almost indistinguishable from the report. The armies are perhaps described readying themselves for battle and in doing so the basic army-list is passed onto the reader. But the exact number of Black Orcs is not needed, just that it is a large mob. The deployment and terrain set-up is similarly interwoven into the tale. Perhaps we hear how Bragga-blueskin and Grimgutt Stinkbringer squabble over who gets the Jade Amulet and who gets the fancy sword what hurts enemies more. The general then sends each big boss and his unit to alternate flanks to keep them apart. You write these battle reports for the fun of writing, they take ages to write and are as rewarding on their first read as they are three years later when you stumble on them again. I wouldn't advise writing every report this way, if you have that much time, well maybe now is the right time to try that fantasy novel you have always wanted to do

To demonstrate the difference, again I have re-written the same exert from the battle report used for the 'BBC World Service' and the 'Around the Campfire reports'.

.......
Goregash knew if he was to seize the initiative then now was the time to strike. He was in danger of receiving skellie cav to one flank and the dreaded wraiths to the other. His plans were already beginning to look haggard as the wolf-riders to the centre, to far away for his direct control refused to engage the advancing necromancer and his legion. He didn't expect the wargs to win, but if they could delay for one turn perhaps he could turn his Boarboyz to the necromancers flank. That was his other problem, Bragga-blueskin, so impressed with his new wounding sword, had manoeuvred himself into charge range to soon. Now Goregash could do little more than shrug a knowing-shrug as his frenzied cousins threw their attacks at the mist-like wraiths. Only Bragga had the magical assistance necessary
to wound these shadows, but he was more intent on brandishing his new sword in an impressive-looking way than a deadly one. At least they were still clouded in their frenzy and oblivious to the terrors they faced if touched by one of these life-sapping devils.

The only part of Goregash's plan that was working was his assault on Krazul's left flank. The goblin chariots had wrecked havoc on the skellie horse, and despite their best attempts, the bone cavalry was doomed and fell apart, Krazuls will was strong, but not unshakeable. Goregash pointed an extended finger at the Necromancers unit 'There's da target ladz, dats were da day will be wund'. Gudeye, without doubt the tribes most reputable exponent of all things shooty understood the importance of his bosses order. Prior to unleashing his hail of bolts, he walked up and down the ranks of Orcy Xbowmen, regaling them with tales past of brave and true Orc ballistic deeds. His ladz, having heard these tales a thousand times and despite the ever expanding grandeur of the stories, decided it was time
to play a joke on Gudeye. The whole unit feigned a sleeping attack. It would take Gudeye a good part of the battle before he could bang enough heads together to remind them of the importance of their task and then bang enough heads together to stop the laughter at their own joke.

Izzie, the night goblin shaman however, had more cunning about him than an entire Orc regiment, risking a mushroom he swelled his charged mind with the power for magic, there was little magic in the skies today, the risk was worth taking. First he did the obvious, he tried to hurl the savage orc boar boyz at the Krazul's unit. Krazul knew he couldn't allow this and read allowed from an old decrepit parchment in an older language. Izzie felt the
knowledge of his magic tested and resisted. In doing so the spell failed, but Izzie could always try again. This time he summoned Mork to stifle Krazul and his foul magics. Krazul mustered all his remaining power and looked like snuffing out the weak goblin magic again, but the fall of his skeleton cavalry was still niggling him, he was not concentrating and the cost of this slip was great. The clouds parted and a might green hand appeared, Krazul's brow furrowed in confusion, he was lifted high above the battle field, like a toy in a man's hand

With that Izzie looked at Goregash and smiled, they both simultaneously raised their arms, looked to the skies and bellowed 'Waaaaaaggggghhhh'. Every Orc and Goblin with a Giants throw felt the surge, the electric tingle run up their backs, their swords truck harder, their shields parried faster, their spears found their target, fear and terror were less of a concern now, it was Goregash time.

.......

In the 'Tolkein goes to Hollywood' report we care little for dice and rules, we are telling a tale of good and evil of to and fro. The events are the same, the order is irrelevant, the outcomes unchanged, the pace listed. This is almost useless tactically, what it does lead to oddly enough is 'better' army design. Now when I say better, I don't mean the ultimate killing machine combo's, but 'better' in the sense that each unit now has character, there is no way you would give the savage orcs the banner of defiance in their next battle, indeed after this performance you may well take magic items off them, to teach them a lesson, next time, they will follow orders and not needlessly charge a unit of wraiths. I find these reports great fun to write. Unfortunately, the trade tends to be sleep and it is a little unnerving when Snotling Sean (my 5yo son) catches me telling off a bunch of 'toy soldiers'. But then again, he will forgive me when I read his bedtime story 'Goregash the bonecrusher'.

Variations

If you are completely mad (like the GW boys) you can take mid-biffo photographs and pin / glue / scan-import them to your battle reports.

With the 'Around the campfire' report it is easy to get each side to write their own turns up and chuck in cheeky comments on each others recollections.

A string of reports can be used to form a tournament report or the official history of a Campaign. Enduring characters can become special characters, perhaps imbued with abilities displayed during the campaign. Gudeye the
Harpy Slayer, the Orc Xbow Big Boss whose unit held against four separate Harpy Charges, for example. Those who keep regiment histories will have a more consolidated archive of their units performance.

Warning

When handing over the responsibility of a battle report to your opponent, you grant them one of the greatest powers a scribe can have. The ability to write history (albeit made-up history, but that's not the point !), all the events of the battle, what you thought was luck may well become their great leadership, what you saw as calamitous will be recorded as glorious, your greatest moments will be lost in the clamour of detail. The pen is mightier than the sword, unless someone is hitting you with a sword, then the pen is pretty useless

Summary

Battle reports aren't everybody's cup of tea (certainly not the writing bit of them). If you try something small, say a 500pt siege scenario or one of your own 'skirmish' battle scenario's you may well release a yet untapped creative daemon within. If this happens, I take no responsibility, I hate Deamons.
Alex

"You do not stop playing games when you get old; you get old when you stop playing games."

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