Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Taxonomy of Battle Reports

Although battle reports make up a large proportion of all wargaming writings, it has struck this blogger that there has not perhaps been as serious an investigation into the various types of battle reports (or after action reports, if you prefer) as the subject deserves. Having read and written many reports myself, having criticised and been criticised, having ignored and been ignored, having quietly turned away and been quietly turned away from, I feel I am as qualified or unqualified as the next joe to attempt a Summary of the Topic.  

I introduce, therefore, A Taxonomy of Common or Uncommon Battle Reports. Note that these are not presented in alphabetical order.
  • The all-action first-person perspective report. Often quite iffy. Will be striking if done well but potentially cringeworthy if not. Can be uncomfortably florid. 
  • The pictorial report. Lots of pictures but often light on details and the reader must fill in the gaps in the tale himself. This may or may not be a good thing.
  • The faux-historical report. Written as if out of a history book. Often dense, may use period language and allusions. Can be very good or very bad.
  • The dramatic, short story report: The 26th of February dawned bright and chill as the aged centurion drew forth his burnished blade and spat upon the ground. "This day may be our last, old friend; but I swear to you on the ghosts of my ancestors it shall not be our least." Plenty of purple prose, misused semi-colons and attempts at soldierly or heroic dialogue. Either inspiring or not.
  • The wargame magazine report. Orders of Battle, terrain descriptions, general intentions, report of the action, thoughts, potential action points for the future. Usually precise, methodical and informative. May include footnotes.
  • The dual/multiple-perspective report. Different participants each put in a report and these are blended together to tell the story from different perspectives. Often very good, but hard to coordinate.
  • The self-deprecating report. Humorous references to how bad a tabletop general the author is, how he misinterpreted the rules, rolled atrociously and lost or - incredibly - snuck a win against all notions of justice. Seems innocuous and good-humoured but may conceal a bitter and impotent rage the depths of which can only be guessed at.
  • The 'got the band back together' report. Here the main focus is on the characters of the wargamers involved, how great it was to see everyone again, how we should do such things more often, how far everyone has driven, how much less hair people have than before, how waistlines have expanded and a few comments about how the traits of the various players may or may not have altered since the last time all were together. Generally closes with "we must do this again, but sooner."
  • The complaint report. Basically a chance to slam the rules or your fellow players.  99% of the time the writer concerned lost the game.
  • The gush report. Essentially a chance to extol the virtues of the rules and/or fellow players. Everything is brilliant, superb, simple but effective, amazingly intuitive, etc. The players are all generous, modest, wonderful painters and very sporting. 99% of the time the writer concerned won the game.
  • The modestly triumphant report. Author provides game background and politely talks the reader through the steps taken to secure victory, commenting on which were successful and which not. Often accompanied by commiserations, praise for the gallant opponent's sportsmanship, and words of encouragement. The reader infers that the author feels his own actions were hugely influential in the outcome. 
  • The revenge report. Author provides meta-history of previous encounters between the players, sometimes including detailed anecdotes illustrative of his former agonies. Goes on to detail his win and key aspects of the turnaround. May linger. May come back later to linger on said lingers. May or may not involve obvious gloating.
  • The game organiser report. Author explains the preparations made, scenario details, instructions to participants, a report, considerations, elements that were successful, and elements that were not. May come with slight overtones of anxiety, relief, smugness or humour depending on the circumstances on the day.
  • The newbie report. Written from a newcomer's perspective. "Go easy on me, this is my first time and first time reporting on a wargame. Gosh, it was a little confusing, but I'm pretty sure it was fun. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I think our team won or lost. Or maybe it was a draw. I sure want to do it again though. If I want to build my own armies, what are the best places to buy figures online, and what scale do you recommend?" etc. May have a euro boardgaming background.
  • The hearty report. Channels the spirit of famous wargame writings past. Will usually feature 18th century armies, imagi-nations, titled officers with Franco-German names, and exaggeratedly polite expressions / slightly bawdy officer humour. Lovely pictures of large battalions made up of of one-pose miniatures photographed in their one pose. Game will stop after the 6th turn and report will include conjecture about possible results had the six participants had two or three more days available to play. 
  • The tournament report. Writer goes through a series of games played in a tournament setting. Will likely combine elements of several of the reports above. There might be a pictorial first up when the camera battery was still good followed by a self-deprecatory, a modestly triumphant, and perhaps finishing with an overall 'got the band back together' retrospective, a gush or complaint, or even a revenge depending on how the results fell.
  • The solo report. The author writes up a solo game as if it had two or more people involved in it. May adopt a high tone. May be somewhat affected. May even be a trifle precious. May drone on. A specialty of this blog, in fact.
  • The 'what a great game' report. A person writing up a game they've had and trying to convey to others a little of the experience. Honest, engaging, readable, possibly humorous, possibly serious, may involve analysis, pictures, commentary, narrative or bits of the lot. Could be told in any of a number of ways, but the main takeaway is delight in the game and in the spirit of the thing. The oil that brings in new people, spreads the word about new rules, shows off new figures, and keeps the hobby going. Absolutely indispensible.

Of course, this is written with tongue in cheek, but to be serious, please feel free to comment, to agree or disagree, to add ideas of your own, to talk about the kinds of reports you like or don't like, and the kinds you aspire to write yourself. Also, if you want to, please feel free to include a link to a report of your own that you enjoyed writing or are pleased with in some way, and if you would like, a report of someone else's that you think others might like to read. My own view is that battle reports are a wonderful thing no matter how they are written or presented. Each one is an individual's contribution to the hobby, and should be applauded, even though as readers we will naturally have our own particular preferences.

27 comments:

  1. Aaron an enjoyable read and looking through the categories, I imagine that many of us dip in and out of several of them, even in the same post!

    I am going to add another category for how many of my posts often end up ….. Wordy :-)

    I follow quite a lot of blogs, thank you all for sharing your content freely and for enriching my own enjoyment of the hobby.

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    1. Haha, wordiness, like everything else, has its place! Your reports are a model of excellence, Norm, and in a category all of their own.

      Cheers,
      Aaron.

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  2. I think the worst to read are the ones that moan about the dice being against them. Every game.

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    1. Ha, yes, I must confess to having written one or two of those!

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  3. Objection! It's still the 11th here!

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  4. Aaron! Your "A Taxonomy of Battle Reports" is quite a comprehensive treatise! I would not have been able to come up with nearly as many distinct classifications as you. I suppose my Battle Reports move around among a few of your classifications. A few I hope to have avoided! Some of these BatRep classifications I have either never read or only rarely come across. You are much better read than I.

    For your next academic exercise, I suggest, "What Makes a Good Battle Report" as a survey that would certainly interest me.

    Very interesting topic!

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    1. Hi Jonathan, the only category I have not delved into personally is the hearty report - but that's because I don't have any 17C figures!

      The what makes a good battle report topic is appealing but probably beyond me :)

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  5. That was a fun read, thanks! Two reflections on myself, and an observation:

    1) I've now written and published hundreds of battle reports. I hope they're all in the "What a Game!" category, but I'm sure they're not, but that's not my reflection. My reflection is on the why I do it: I write the batreps because I want to catalog my efforts, because for me wargaming is about the story, and batreps let me tell the story, and because I hope I can inspire at least a gamer or two to go the blogger route, start their own campaigns, and share their batreps, the same way I was inspired by others.

    2) What do I most enjoy in others batreps? I think the reason I like to read other gamers' batreps is a little to learn about rules, a little to see pretty toys/terrain, a little to read the results from a winner/loser standpoint, but mostly what I enjoy is seeing the creative elements in other wargamers, to see what cool/crazy ideas they've come up with that I might be able to emulate to get even more joy out of the hobby.

    3) And lastly, the observation: regarding the "batrep vs AAR" issue, I'm (obviously) firmly in the "batrep" category. What we (or at least I) publish on my blog are reports of tabletop battles, and I don't understand the "AAR" concept.

    I spent some time in the military and am well familiar with after-action reports, at least in the western military sense of bringing key personnel together in the wake of an operation or exercise in order to identify aspects of said operation or exercise that went well or didn't go so well so that existing doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures can be edited to take into account and accentuate or remedy the appropriate 'lessons learned.'

    So I re-read that and realize how stuffy I must sound, and I certainly don't mean to sound like a pedant; honestly this isn't that important to me, I just thought it would be fun to throw out in a discussion of batreps/AARs ;)

    V/R,
    Jack

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    1. Not stuffy at all, Jack, and thanks for your very interesting perspective and observations. Your reports (particularly those using Ivan Sorenson's rules - I remember your series on TMP very well) are very much in the 'what a game' category.

      I agree and salute you as regards point one and two. For point three, I have not been in the military, so have not gone through real AARs, and apologise if I have not recognised the distinction between batreps and AARs correctly.

      I personally enjoy all kinds of battle reports, and think that anyone who can be bothered to take the time to write up their experiences - for whatever reason, and in whatever format - is to be commended.

      Perhaps though on reflection, writing this with smart-alec accompanying observations was not the best way to encourage more report writing or report sharing!

      I probably should have dropped the exaggerated commentary and stuck to the basic forms. Oh well, we live and learn!

      Thanks again for your thoughts,
      Cheers,
      Aaron

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    2. Like I said, Aaron, it was a fun read, nothing wrong with your commentary! There’s a fine line between smart Alec and tongue in cheek, and you did it right from my standpoint.

      V/R,
      Jack

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  6. I enjoyed the humorous exploration of types, and like most other authors of same, I have certainly penned reports from and/or spanning multiple categories.

    Considering the effort involved, another related topic to explore would be the various motivations for writing Battle Reports...

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    1. Good idea Peter, but it would probably be presumptuous of me to attempt it!

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  7. The solo report.

    May drone on. A specialty of this blog, in fact....

    Hahaha, I cracked up on this one. Don't be too hard on yourself sir, I've enjoyed reading about your drones;)

    Cheers
    Kevin

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kevin, I can now retire content! ;-)

      Cheers,
      Aaron

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  8. Nice read, Aaron. Having just posted a battle report myself, I am reluctant to see where it fits in to your excellent taxonomy (is there one for "oafish and self serving?"). I will say that mine do tend to vary depending on the time and energy available (they do take effort) and the context of the game.

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    1. You're right, Ed. I shall have to add another category!

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  9. What a great idea for a post Aaron, that must have taken some time to write!!
    I'm sure I fit into several of those category! Infact I know I do!

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  10. Very good Aaron! Who woudl have thought there could be so many styles?

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    1. Thanks Simon - there are a few more I need to add, too!

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  11. Hi Aaron,

    A great list and well done for putting it all together. I recognise my blog posts in there, considered almost all of my posts are battle reports! I think I am only 2 or 3 of the types though.

    I am also glad Just Jack pointed out what he sees is AAR Vs batrep. I tend to call mine battle reports but occasionally call them AARs as it is quicker to type the latter. Now at least I know there is a difference.

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    1. Hi Shaun, great to hear from you, as always. I need to add a category for your style of report as well!

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  12. Well put together Aaron. I'm afraid I clearly do the "solo" while thinking I'm doing the "What a great".

    Why do we do battle reports??
    For me its because of how much I enjoyed reading them in the original Wargames books I read. :)

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    1. Hi David, and thanks for dropping by! Yes, I agree. Those early library book borrows have led us to where we are today!

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  13. "Seems innocuous and good-humoured but may conceal a bitter and impotent rage the depths of which can only be guessed at."

    Dammit. You have found me out....

    ReplyDelete

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