Battle Reports are not a new thing. From White Dwarf battle reports in the days of yore with a picture of the board and arrows showing you where things went, to the heyday of the written batrep on places like DakkaDakka and the various blogs. Today though, the bat rep has changed to a video-oriented format for the most part. While this is superior to the written battle reports in many ways, not all Video Battle Report formats are created equal.
Twitch and other streaming sites plus the ability to upload long videos to YouTube have ballooned the length of the miniatures Battle Report. However, is longer and more, really better in this case? Well, I think that depends. I think it is important that I state up front that I find watching games of Warhammer 40k or Age of Sigmar for 1-3 hours pretty boring, the exception being games that are contentious, have players who are good personalities, or have shout casters that are funny. Really, the content needs to be entertaining! So that’s criteria number one, entertainment value. The second criteria would be educational value, for the viewer on the game. In terms of format there are uploaded Live Streams, long-form battle reports, and short-form battle reports. Long-form battle reports come in a further two types, edited and unedited.
As someone who has streamed games, and been asked to shoutcast games I know just how hard it can be to make a game between two limp fish opponents or a lopsided battle entertaining to watch. Those are also games that are hard to make educational for the audience. If the players don’t interact much, or well, and the game is completely lopsided then finding teachable moments can be just as difficult as making it entertaining. For this reason, the uploaded Live Stream format is sometimes really hit or miss. Because so many streamers just automatically upload every game they live stream from an event you can end up with some extremely boring and/or unhelpful content. In my experience, the only time uploads of Live Streams get a lot of attention is when something highly controversial occurred in the game. Someone cheated, got a penalty live on stream, was a poor sport, had their models pulled live on air for not being up to the painting standard etc. The only way to make the majority of Live Streams relevant after the fact Battle Reports would be to comb through, edit it down to key moments, and do a voice-over to link it all together. For anyone who knows what they’re talking about with video editing and production you know that’s a lot of work for probably minimal payoff. This is why most Live Streamers just smash that upload button on YouTube and put the whole 1.5-3 hours up. If you look at video game streamers, like Dr. Disrespect, they put in some effort to cobble together highlights of their streams and post them to YouTube, for them this is easier because the action in FPS, TPS, or even SC2 is self-explanatory as you watch. With 40k, AoS, or the more popular historical games, that just isn’t the case.
The next kind of Battle Report is the long-form batrep. These I define as videos over an hour in length. They come in two forms the unedited and the edited. By unedited I mean the batrep is basically a series of long video shots of turns, usually from a single camera angle, that might be edited together. They are very similar to Live Stream games. Edited means they either filmed specific parts of the game on purpose or went in and heavily edited and produced the footage for best effect. With these, the edited form is almost always going to be better in terms of entertainment and educational value. It’s especially nice when you find long-form batreps that have/had a clear purpose in mind from the outset and they produced the video in an entertaining and educational format on purpose.
I define short-form battle reports as videos that are under an hour. Short-form batreps are the best in my opinion. They can be concise and to the point. Due to their shorter run time, they both keep people’s attention and can be made entertaining and educational more easily. They also benefit from providing a lower barrier to entry so to speak. For example, Little Wars TV is a YouTube that puts out great short-form content for historical miniatures games and even if I don’t play the games I can still find those interesting to watch, something that I can’t say about an hour plus video of a historical miniatures game.
The “40k in 40min” series from Play On Tabletop is probably the best example of great short-form miniatures content out there. The videos are relatively quick, they are edited together beautifully, and the players have interesting games and interactions even when it might be lopsided. The other kind of short-form battle report is the ultra-short kind. These are usually between 8-30 minutes long and are really focused on giving broad overviews and focusing on key elements in a game. They run the gamut from high production quality to almost guerilla, early YouTube, style videos.
The ultra short-form is my personal favorite because it can be made to be entertaining, educational, and concise. Which in my opinion is great because even if you queue up a dud, it’s over fast! Leave your choice(s) for best miniatures battle report creators in the comments! I am always looking for good content, and I know other players are as well.