A couple of weeks ago Paul (the boss) and John (the bigger boss) must have been feeling a bit under the weather as I managed to get out of the office and spend the day down in Oxfordshire on the set of the TV show, Midsomer Murders. Either that or they figured that I’m expendable although I’m arguably the most important person at Warlord Games (I argue it all the time…).
Yup, Midsomer Murders. Not your usual miniatures haunt but it turns out this particular episode features a character who is quite the wargames fanatic. Of course television companies don’t tend to keep armies of soldiers in their prop rooms and so it fell to us at Warlord Games to save the day. Or rather our good friends the Perry twins saved the day by pointing the production company in our direction. Then we saved the day.
Fortunately over the years we’ve amassed quite a collection of painted figures and the chance to show them off to millions of viewers was simply too good to pass up (you don’t make the best historical miniatures in the world by being modest).
And so I sweet-talked (bought bacon butties for) Paul into letting me borrow some of our showcase models (Paul doesn’t like letting the painted miniatures out of his sight – he’s not big on sharing) and then filled up the car with hundreds of our demo models and a selection of weapons and armour liberated from John’s collection and off I went.
One of the things about Midsomer is the beautiful, isolated countryside. While I’m sure this would make for a great place to retire it’s not so good if you’re desperately trying to find a house in the middle of nowhere and you can’t get any signal for the maps on your iphone.
As it was I overshot by 3 miles – not the best start when I’m trying to present the impression of a professional. It did mean I saw plenty of the countryside though. Too much maybe.
When I finally got to the house I was very impressed – the character in question is an incredibly successful stockbroker and so has a suitably impressive abode. It had recently been sold and so was empty of everything and therefore perfect for filming. There were props people dressing the house to make sure it looked lived in – only dress the parts of the house that you will see, with most rooms were empty but some would only have the one wall dressed up that would be visible to the camera.
The largest room of the house is a magnificent living space with a massive curved glass wall overlooking the valley and village below – a view that is completely wasted as all the scenes in that room will be set at night so curtains were being draped on the outside. This was where we were going to set up our displays, on three 7′ square tables that the props department had made especially. Tables that were due to turn up at 11am. And didn’t. Still, it gave me ample opportunity to have a nose around!
The tables finally turned up at 2pm and they were certainly worth the wait. One table had been made to represent Naseby, the key battle for the plot of the episode, and there were two more tables for other displays. As you can see from the pictures these have sweeping valleys and forests – any gamer would be delighted to have one of these in their gaming room. Did I mention the production company let us have the tables once the filming was over…
The delay didn’t leave me long to get the miniatures set up. I’m sure you’ve all experienced games where you’ve started setting up at a reasonable time and then found that you’ve had to rush your game as you’ve spent more time putting miniatures on the table than you have to push them around. This task was three tables of probably six hundred plus models each and needed to look good for television. I only had three hours to set it all up in. I also had the additional worry of explaining to Paul why any of the models were damaged when they returned, not a conversation I wanted to have!
The first table I set up as a border guard of Roman legionaries fighting a horde of barbarians – most likely Ancient Britons from the amount of chariots we had.
The second table was a mix of Napoleonics. John has thoroughly briefed me the night before with which troops where which; information that immediately left my mind as soon as I opened the first figure case. Several phone calls later and John had talked me through the basics (not easy as when I’m describing the ‘blue ones’, ‘light blue ones’, ‘red ones on white horses’, etc.) and we had quite the battle going on.
The final table was for the Battle of Naseby itself. The table was crucial for the episode filled with Warlord Pike & Shotte miniatures. As anyone who’s ever gamed with me will tell you I’m not really one to let history get in the way of a good game. Fortunately I was prepared – or rather I was prepared by John. I had two maps of the battlefield ready with all of the characters marked in place. As you can see from the pictures the final result is awe-inspiring!
There was also a hobby room in the garage that we filled up with Army Painter and Warlord hobby supplies (have you seen our paintstation – it’s very nice…) and I’d also brought along a selection of John’s artefacts to display around the house. Keep an eye out for: –
- English Civil War Cavalry Helmet
- English Civil War Breastplate
- WW2 Japanese Katana
- Cavalry Sabre
- Zulu Shield
- Wars of The Roses Arrows
Of course I’ve not seen the episode yet but I’m sure it will be brilliant – it’s going to be the first episode of season 15 so we should see it early next year.