Bob Cordery was kind enough to make a comment on my last blog about how he enjoyed my battle reports (or "AARs" - After Action Reports - as they are becoming known). As I don't get that many comments and as I have an hour on the train this morning it seemed to me that it would be an appropriate subject on which to pen a few words.
Well, when I say "pen" I really mean pound the keyboard, but you know what I mean.
The first piece I ever had published in a wargaming magazine was a battle report written by me and my friend Derek when we were probably 14ish. It was for the Wargamers Newsletter, and was a skirmish level WW2 game using Hugh Walter's Paragon Group rules. We played the game specifically to write it up for the magazine. Many of the German soldiers names (all the figures had names) were made up from selecting words at random almost from a German/English dictionary. If I recall correctly one of them rejoiced in the name of Leather Armchair, or something similar.
I don't know if anyone got anything out of the article, although I believe it got us on the list of contributors to WN that ultimately led to the Moor Park invitations and hence our memberships of WD.
It was a move by move, blow by blow, account, typical of that period. The only exceptions to that approach were the Old West Skirmish write ups written by Ian Colwill, Steve Curtis and Mike Blake. They were dignified with a unique type face and beautiful hand drawn maps and character portraits.
Battle reports tend to be characterised by a severe lack of literary style. There was a fashion for "From the Annals..." type cod-saga style writing in Slingshot which it has to be said were toe-curlingly awful. These days it is more a case of a move by move account so that you can almost set the figures up and re-fight the game like a chess problem. Once you look at blog-based battle reports these tend to be of this type, lavishly illustrated with move by move photos. A publishing friend of mine remarked this sort of thing is completely unpublishable on paper simply on the grounds of cost, so this will continue to be an internet phenomenon. For those of you who follow links you'll be aware of Phil Steele's P.B.Eye Candy blog, where he does an excellent job of annotating the pictures so you can really tell what is going on. Plus they're often of my toys, so that aways cheers me up.
On the whole I'm not a big fan of move by move battle reports. It's sort of putting a biological text book up against Shakespeare's love poems. One tells you exactly what is going on, whilst the other makes you know how it feels.
Actually I could never write poetry, and I'm not a big fan if it doesn't rhyme, but hopefully you know what I mean.
So what I try to write is a battle summary and get into a couple of paragraphs what both sides overall ideas were and a quick outline of how both of these came unstuck. The other thing is that despite my best intentions I always forget part way through to either take the picture or make the appropriate notes. It was so much easier when we all used order sheets.
So I don't entirely approve of the mainstay of most wargaming writing. I suspect I may not be alone in this, but I fear I may be. Am I, metaphorically, a cricket fan who doesn't like match reports?
Perhaps, except when we're stuffing the Aussies.