We did it.
I never thought I would be able to make a video battle report, or even enjoy making it. But we (that’s me and our Amsterdam6shooters wargame club) did it, and here’s the result.
I made the clip for the Little Wars TV Quick Strike After Action Report challenge.
If you like the vlog, please copy the link above and nominate the video here. I hope the jury will pick it up.
Do it! Watch the video and tell me if you liked it!
In the comments below or via Facebook. I need your review to see how I can improve future clips. In return, I’ll share my experiences and thoughts about wargame after action reports in general and this one in particular. Many AAR’s that I read on the web are plain boring, sorry, my friends. They lack background, good pictures, a story arc.
Often they’re written as a quite dry battle diary, for personal enjoyment, the opponent of a very small group of friends who played that particular wargame. I like the format, but as a reader and hobbyist, I prefer to read blogs written for the general public or the interested wargamer
I recommend bloggers who, (like me) prefer a different approach, to buy cheap Comic Life 3. A graphic novel is a very creative, action-packed way to present your battle reports. See my tutorial here and a recent Napoleonic wargame AAR here. A filmed version of a graphic novel report (not mine) was a LWTV nominee last year:
- Vlogs, like blogs, are a good way to present your wargames in this multimedia era.
- But a) for your personal pleasure is not enough. You must know what your purpose is, with the vlog. I wanted to promote historical wargaming, the Amsterdam6shooters wargame club, and join a challenge
- b) you need a format: how will you present your battle? The LWTV format (background, game, aftermath, in ten minutes) is a good format. They often present a ‘problem’ or pose a question in their intro, and they advise in their tutorial to show pictures of miniatures (what I call ‘wargame porn’) in the first minute of the clip. I copied that style. I like it.
- Watch programs like The Great Model Railway Challenge and Time Commanders. These programs tell you how to tell a story around a miniatures table or a wargame. Study the full three piece long tutorial from LWTV.
- Keep it light. Wargaming is about mostly obese men, playing with toy soldiers. Don’t take yourself or this hobby too damn serious. Besides, you’re ugly. Be aware of that before speaking in a grave tone into the camera.
- Keep it short. 10-15 minutes is enough. Really? Really.
- Again: the 1-2hr vlogs with long static shots of neckbeards rolling dice are horrible to watch. Forget it. Eye torture. Against the Geneva Convention. The Chinese secret service use these video’s to force dissidents to give up their subversive ideas.
- A good vlog episode is a sh*tload of work, in my experience. Prepare for a learning curve. I had no experience with videocamera’s and video editing until this year, I admit. So I first experimented with IMovie ($33) and now use Adobe Premiere Elements (95 Euro). A part of the blood, sweat and tears is self study of the editing program.
- IMovie is OK for most reports but Elements is better. I use the ‘animate objects’ feature of Elements a lot, move a tank or army along a path on a map, that’s not possible in the simpler IMovie. Elements is more subtle.
- I invested in a tripod/blog/lenses set for cell phones ($40), a map maker program ($40), a good mic ($50). Also voice over software for YouTube video’s, Speechelo. ($40) Technically the clip must be perfect. Home made, heavily accented voice overs by non-native speakers will chase your viewers away.
- Vlogs are better with more than two players, because you have a more diverse action and interaction. And more fun.
- Preparation is the key. You want a smooth game, so either the players must thoroughly know the rules of the game (my players didn’t) or you must have a good quick reference sheet and at least one experienced player in the room. I playtested the scenario three times and made for my players a detailed description how to use special weapons like mortars or how to shoot with AT guns at tanks and vice versa. You don’t want that discussions during filming.
- Interview your players before and after about their tactical plan. Ask them to make a plan and show it on a tactical map. The map that I showed several times in the video helps the audience to better understand the maneuvering, and what’s going on, the big picture.
- I upgraded the short range power of the sixpounder with three extra dice. Before autumn ’44, Tiger armour was inpenetrable for sixpounders, but the British developed better anti-tank-grenades. I think my home rule reflects that situation. Otherwise destroying a Tiger (as happened several times in the Arnhem assaults) is impossible.
- Filming took about 5 hrs, but plan a full day with the players.
- I was cameraman AND referee, next time I’ll try to split the two functions.
- I made short clips, 30s -2 minutes, from different angles.
- Music is from the YouTube audio library, as recommended by LWTV. Free (greenscreen) videos and useful pictures can be found at Pixabay. Copyright free news reels can be found in archives, from the USA for example.
- Think about a story arc. Your battle has more focus if it’s centered around a ‘character’ on the table. I didn’t deliberately plan that for this vlog, but it worked out that way. Baskeyfield is my main character.
- Think hard about scale and terrain.
- I deliberately chose 28mm because that’s easier to film than 15mm or 6mm. If you film 15mm or 6mm, use more miniatures than for a 28mm battle, for mass effect.
- I made eye level shots of the miniatures for a more cinematic effect, a trick I already used in my graphic novel AAR’s. Take time to look at the table, find good camera angles
- I researched the Oosterbeek terrain and made sure that the table looks ‘Dutch’. Polder. Dike road. Don’t use Normandy houses for a Market Garden table.
- Every minute of the clip took me a full evening of editing. At least. I don’t know if this is because of my lack of experience or my perfectionism, but I warn you: don’t underestimate the time you need to order and reorder the clips.
That’s it, for now. I hope you enjoy the clip, and my points of view. Try it yourself. Have fun and be proud – in wargaming, and most of it, in life!
The revised vislardica scenario, below: