Learn How To Call Your Table Top Battles From the Front Line

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Many people turn on a football or baseball game for their competitive entertainment.  We enjoy the unpredictability of a sporting event, but I prefer watching the strategies and creativity of a tabletop game.  Thus, I’ve been drawn to war gaming battle reports.

There were certain elements of battle reports I wanted to see more, so I began making my own on a channel called Command Combat Battle Reports.  Over the years, I’ve developed several techniques to making them exciting and entertaining. Battle Reports help me not only figure out the strategy behind the game, but bring more people into the game.

First and foremost, these videos are meant to be entertaining for everyone, not just those who understand the game.  That means keeping the pace moving, making it as visual as possible, and making sure everything that’s happening is as clear as can be without slowing the action too much.  Make it feel like a football game.  This gives it familiarity, as well as entertainment value.

Capture the choices that players make.  This really defines what any game is all about.  What happens on the table is merely the result of those decisions.  Use interviews before and after the game, and try to capture and emphasize those critical moments.

Begin with an overhead shot to establish all the terrain and the situation.  Show all the pieces and where they’re set up, and describe what each one is capable of; much like the introduction of players at a sporting event.  Then, as the game progresses, make sure to provide a healthy mix of long establishing shots to reveal where everything is, and close-ups for a better view of the pieces.

Edit between the long and close-up shots in a manner that’s most clear and visually appealing, but keeps the action moving.  Record narration such that it sounds like you’re commenting on the game as it happens, with the same energy and excitement of commentators at sporting events.  It’s best to have two people that can bounce off one another, one who knows the game and can describe what’s going on, and one who’s funny.  After that, a sprinkling of music and sound effects brings it to life.

The specifics of how you put your videos together depends on the type of game you want to play. Here are three examples of battle reports that you can make yourself.

Miniatures:  Set up on large tables with beautiful terrain. These can be incredibly cinematic, except the pieces don’t move or fire.  Have one of the narrators to describe what’s happening turn by turn.  Shoot with two cameras, one capturing the whole game in time lapse while the other gets close-ups between turns.  I give verbal notes while grabbing close-ups so I can narrate afterward, making sure to describe the action while my partner throws in jokes short enough so as not to slow everything down. It’s also important to talk about the paint jobs, as it’s a major part of the hobby. If it’s a collectible game, though, it’s more about the combinations of units purchased, which are usually pre-painted.

Computer:  Games like the Total War series are great for battle reports.  You can save the battle, then go and watch it later.  This provides an excellent opportunity to record yourself narrating while recording without the stress of having to win at the same time.  You can also get multiple angles and edit them together, even making slow motion replays.  These are the easiest to narrate because the audience can see what’s happening, taking some of the pressure off the commentator, who is freed up to make other comments about the action.

Board:  Much like miniatures games, the pieces are still at any given moment, and the narrator has to describe what they’re doing.  However, you lose the strength of beautiful terrain and miniatures, and you gain the benefit of more artwork on cards, as well as other pieces that make several elements clearer.  I make sure to shoot those during production.

Here are some other great game choices you may want to look at:  https://nerdist.com/tags/table-top/

What kind of games would you like to see with a battle report? Let us know in the comment section below.

Image credits: Command Combat Battle Reports

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