Friday, March 18, 2011

Battle Chronicler – Battle Reports made easy?

Yesterday I posted a battle report that was done using Battle Chronicler – A free tool that allows you to make battle reports documenting you glorious battles. The application can be found here:

Here are my experiences with the application:

Installing the application:
I had a little trouble upgrading my .NET framework to match the v4.0 required for the Battle Chronicler installation file to run, but after a few attempt I managed to install the application. I also installed the additional terrain components found on the Battle Chronicler home-page.

Opening the program for the first time:
The application was relatively easy to use, but I strongly recommend that you watch the two introduction movies in the Help section of the web-page, to avoid suckering around the application making a wrong start of your battle reporting! If you miss the concepts on template lists and setup of components, then you’re going to spend many hours doing something that is not reusable.

Making terrain components:
I noticed that it was possible to integrate pictures of own terrain, so I wanted that from the start. After photographing all the terrain and cleaning the background I started setting the terrain components up. Basically it is just a matter of selecting a picture and entering the dimensions of the terrain - Easy but boring when you’re doing 25 pieces in one go! Luckily this is supposed to be a one-time exercise.

Setting up army templates:
For the battle report I prepared two lists – One for Imperial Guards and one for Space Marines. The program is suited for any system, and this quickly became a limitation, as it did not support units with models of varying base-sizes (e.g. IG infantry squad with a heavy weapon team). It was quite simple to set up the lists, and make workarounds for the inability to mix base sizes in a unit. Make sure that you get the base sizes and details correct, or you’ll regret it later!

Starting a new battle report:
Setting up a battle is easy – IF you have done your homework, and if you have made it right! I set up both armies using templates, so that was manageable, and that made it easy to go straight to terrain setup.

Setting up terrain:
I had some minor problems with wrong measurement definitions of the terrain components, so I had to go back to components and correct that before setting up the terrain. Setting up terrain took about 15 minutes, to get the 22 pieces aligned correctly on the table. I had two pictures to work from, and as advice you should place markers to guide you. I marked the two center lines (using some of the red plastic measures from the w40k starter kit) before taking the photos, making it easier to align the pieces correctly.

Again working from two pictures, one from short table edge, and one from the long, with guide markings on the center lines, and using terrain as a guide I managed this relatively quickly (15 min). The deployment was made a bit cumbersome, as the application is (in my opinion) best suited for rank and file units. This meant that I had to manually place every trooper. A few times I dropped some troopers too close to the board edge, making the unit behave oddly. That meant that I had to completely remove the unit and start over.

Recording the turns:
Drag your minis around, and drop them – In theory easy in practice hard! I wasn’t doing the reporting real-time, meaning that I had to work from a few notes and pictures. Battle Chronicler requires you to do the reporting sequential, meaning that previous turns are locked – So if you forget to move a unit, then you have a lot of refactoring to do!  I would say that it is manageable to do the reporting, but for Warhammer 40k you have our work cut out placing the troopers, and aligning the units and vehicles. One of the biggest problems was that moving and turning a vehicle wasn’t quite intuitive, and caused a lot of frustration, before getting it right. I think that I spend on average 20 min / turn, making the report.

Finalizing the report:
I wanted images for my blog, so for terrain, deployment, turn 1 player 1, turn 1 player 2 … turn 6 player 2 I had to make a picture – BORING! None the less manageable, but it took 5 minutes, bringing total reporting time (not counting terrain definition) up to more than 2½ hour – more than the time it took to play the game!

The bugs!
Components being corrupt – Two of my terrain components were corrupt, causing me to have to redo them every time I opened the battle report. That was very annoying, and would have been quite a problem had I not been able to do the report in one go.
Units not remembering the facing set by the user – I had several vehicle units that refused to accept the facing I set for it. A general trend was that they positioned themselves north-south after being moved. Manual button bashing, allowed me to rectify the worst problems, but it almost made me abandon the application.

Being free puts this in its own league – Many thanks to the developer. That being said, I do find that the result looks nice, but is extremely cumbersome to produce. I think that it is likely to work much better with Rank and file armies and that w40k is not well supported. All in all a good application, but a tad too cumbersome for my liking.

/Nicolai aka Atoom

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