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How to Write a Battle Report
FB Battle Reports is one of my favorite sections on LO, and although I haven’t contributed much of late, I thought I’d write up a few observations of what makes a battle report stand out.
Length is less of a concern than readability:
Paragraphs are one of the great inventions of modern writing. Long blocks of texts wear out a reader’s eyes, so including a line break makes your report much more readable. Use paragraphs for a turn or phase, depending on the level of detail you’re writing.
Transition words help your reader follow the battle and visualize the action. Use headers such as Turn One and Shooting Phase, again depending on the level of detail and how you’re organizing the material. In the text itself, sentences such as “I deployed my last unit of Glade Guard to my far left, just beyond the Tree Kin” give your reader a clearer picture of where units are situated.
Words and phrases like behind, across, next to, right flank, and so forth add much-needed visual markers for readers. And time words assist the reader in following the sequence of events: after the archers had loosed their deadly hail of arrows, following the failed charge by the Black Knights, etc.
Also, standard grammar, punctuation, and spelling help a lot, especially in longer reports. No, you don’t need to proofread it as you would a term paper, but help your reader out a bit. At the very least, use capital letters to begin sentences and periods or other closing marks to end them. And there’s always that handy spellchecker.
Use of boldface and italics to mark turns and phases makes texts much more readable.
When posting yours and your opponent’s lists, keep it brief. Long, vertical lists of the units can make even the most veteran forum monkey scroll-weary. Plus, readers are likely less concerned with double-checking your lists than they are in the army lists forums, so you can leave points out. If you do include points, follow the same army list rules you would elsewhere.
Here's an example of one I posted.Sometimes, I'll even arrange them horizontally to save on space. I've seen reports where the army lists consumed more lines than the report itself--not exactly the most engaging read, I'd say.Treeman ancient with four different spites
Spellsinger, lvl 2, scroll, calaignor's stave
Spellsinger, lvl 2, spite which does nothing to demons
Wild Rider noble, dawnspear
2 x 10 archers
1 x 6 glade riders, mus
1 x 7 wild riders
3 warhawk riders
9 wardancers, mus, champ
Some people like to describe a turn phase by phase. Movement, magic, shooting, and combat. If that's to your liking, go for it.
Other people like to intermingle the action and go for more of a narrative feel. Some people find this harder to pull off, but it's totally up to you.
Whatever you decide, make sure that your readers can follow it, and if they can, you're gravy.
To Fluff or not to Fluff
Some people are great at weaving stories into their reports. eagletsi is a great example. In fact he does a bang up job all the way around, so check out some of his reports for a worthwhile example and a thoroughly entertaining read.
People who do this also tend to organize their reports not phase by phase but as an integrated turn, working in the personalities of characters and even special units.
One general writing tip is to use active verbs. The cannon blasted grapeshot into the charging harpies. The Waywatchers darted into the nearby forest. The bolt caromed off the thick plating of the Steam Tank.
Another pointer is to appeal to the senses. Thomas noticed the scent of sewage and signaled his captain to ready the troops against the still-hidden Skaven horde. The Vampire Count filled his mouth with the tangy blood of the fallen captain.
Pulling off the organization required and adding the narrative element can be tough, but when done well, you'll know it as the responses and praise accumulate.
If you want to impress people and almost certainly earn some rep, spiff up some graphics. Here's a nice example from Fat_Badger. And an even nicer one from him. Sure, it's no White Dwarf report, but this guy spent some serious time making nice visuals to go with the text.
Prepping the Report
Some players who are really into reports talk about using digital cameras to aid their memories. Others take notes during the battle. Other players print extra copies of their army lists so that they can exchange them with people. If you tell your opponent that you'd like to write a report, he probably won't mind sharing the list with you in its entirety, though he might make you wait until the battle's over.
Myself, I work from memory, and if you read my reports closely, you'll find errors where combats or movement seem out of order and I've patched it together the best I can.
In the end, there's no set way or guidelines, despite my efforts. What I believe is that if a writer has fun writing it, then a reader will have fun reading it. Just help them along a bit by organizing your text, and you can't go wrong.
Some Terrific Examples
- Fat-Badger's aforementioned Slaanesh vs Dorfs. Check out the graphics!
- eagletsi's 7th Edition Battle Report 2000 Pts. High Elves vs Dark Elves Bloody River. Great narrative and notice all the visual cues he gives readers.
- Hard Aun's 2000 points Ogres vs. Dwarves (LO/#Fun Meet 2006)
- Arklite's Dwarves Vs Empire. A good example of a briefer report showing that you don't have to spend an eternity composing an enjoyable report.