Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Guest Post: Writing a Battle Report

For all that I wrote up and posted the final turn of the Hel Fenn battle report today, it is now the better part of 2 weeks since the game itself was played. During this time I had a number of people regularly querying where I was at with the report. One of these people was Owen the Puddingwrestler (from over at Terrain for Hippos). I think I must have snapped at him at some point about giving me time to get it ready, because he took it upon himself to write the following piece for me, to help explain why it is that these things take a little while to prepare. If you're a little baffled by the hippo references, head over to his blog and all will become clear. Or infinitely more confusing, depending upon your state of mind...

Writing a Battle Report

A lone hooded figure sits crouched over the dim light of a laptop screen in the dead of night; completely still save for the fearful flickering of his fingers over the keyboard. Occasionally he lets out an insane giggle. He is watched by a silent mass of small, grey hippos, all waving banners bearing messages of support. Every now and again, a woman will come over and place a supportive paw on his arm or offer him a glass of Coke. A child is pushing a Thomas the Tank Engine around his feet. Outside, fiends and wild creatures howl and batter at the windows, demanding that the manuscript is completed at once. The figure types on, doing his best to blot out the gibbering of the creatures outside.

He is Greg the Hoodling, and he is completing a battle report.

While the teeming hordes who read The Hoodling’s Hole may only devote half an hour or so to reading a battle report, for Greg and his crew, it is a much more time consuming task, and not one to be undertaken lightly.

A battle report usually starts as a mad gleam in Greg’s eye. This is often followed by extensive conversations over MSN with his associates, which tends to culminate in a Hippo egging him on, but trying to avoid playing in the actual game by pleading incompetence as a general.

Eventually, a date is decided, and army lists drawn up. For a really special battle report (like Hel Fenn or the fabled Battle of the Gates of Kislev), scenarios are developed, terrain built, and logistical problems solved. While a small report usually only involves two players and a scribe/photographer, Hel Fenn required six players, two scribes, and the combined armies of at least six people (not all of whom actually played in the game!)

When the great day arrives, it is time to play the game. But this is no ordinary game, this is a battle report! Notes must be written! Photographs taken! Huge quantities of Coke drunk and junk food eaten!

Notes are taken by a designated scribe during the game. The scribe must pay close attention to the game in order to get everything down, and must type at lightning speed for fear of being left behind. For the battle of Hel Fenn, two scribes were employed – one typed the results and collected them for the right flank, while the other took notes on the left flank, which were added to the typed notes at the end of each turn.

While a normal battle flows from turn to turn quite smoothly, there is always a break between battle report turns for the taking of photographs and the updating of notes. Photographs of details of the game are often taken during play, but each turn ends with a general over-view photograph to assist the making of maps for the report. This is taken from the end of the table – sometimes from both ends!

When finally the battle is complete, the work is not yet done. Not only are top-down photos taken of each terrain piece so they can be used to make the battle maps, but the huge task of collating and writing has not even begun!

Photographs are taken constantly during battle reports. Not all of them will be used, and they must be sorted. The Battle of Hel Fenn generated some 700 photographs (there were five different photographers!) and these had to be sorted for duplicates, blurred photos, or just plain boring shots, which could not be used. This task usually falls upon Greg’s shoulders since he will be writing the report.

Speaking of writing the report… that massive task is now underway. The notes must be converted into a reasonably readable report (or if they’ve been taken by a Hippo, left as they are and published to the great amusement of the public!) and as often as not, colour text written for before and after the battle. Generals must write explanations of their army selections and their plans, followed by excuses for their failures after the report. And the report itself must be written, and epic task involving many thousands of words (over 17,000 in fact). This must be checked, proof read, and checked again before publishing, or certain pedantic members of the Hampton Games Club, not to mention the great unwashed masses of the wargaming public will complain.

And what of the battle maps? These too must be created. Fortunately, software exists to make this a somewhat speedier process, but the photographs and notes must be consulted for each turn to ensure accuracy.

At last, the work is complete. The hooded figure clicks the ‘Publish’ button and the report appears on The Hoodling’s Hole. He takes a celebratory sip of flat coke. Thomas the Tank Engine is driven past. The massed hippos rise in a standing ovation. And the fiendish apparitions attempting to break through the windows say “About time. What took so bloody long?”

Of course, lest you should think that it was all nagging and no support, allow me to share with you the message of encouragement that Owen sent me during my labours.
Never let it be said that I felt there was a lack of support from hippos everywhere.


  1. ARG! I've just noticed the 'G' has gone missing from the 'Greg Roolz' banner! Now some guy called Reg is getting all the support! Curses!

    1. Reg Roolz does have a certain ring to it...

    2. Aye, but who is this 'Reg' and why is he stealing your thunder?

  2. Replies
    1. HAHAHA!!

      Oh, the irony. You fail at pedantry, Drew... :P

    2. I am glad he teaches numerical subjects...