Issue: 31

An Interview With ... Dean Edwards of Harlequin Miniatures

The second in our new series of industry interview places Dean Edwards, head honcho of "Nottingham's 'other' company", Harlequin Miniatures in the black leather chair. Having just secured the rights to produce Babylon 5 and Lord of the Rings miniatures, Dean certainly had a few things to say!

Rag: When and why did you set up Harlequin Miniatures?

Dean: My brother Vaughan and I set up Harlequin Miniatures in 1994. We did this because we knew that if we approached the market with a level of professionalism coupled with quality, we would make a good living. It was a matter of survival, The last two companies I'd worked for had gone bankrupt in a so-called 'dying market'. I knew this was not true.

Rag: What experience did you have in the miniatures industry prior to this and how did it influence your decision to set Harlequin up?

Dean: I've worked in the games industry since 1986. My CV would include Games Workshop, Marauder Miniatures (a sister company), Grenadier, and Fantasy Forge. When I left GW I thought I would be able to take my skills to a smaller company and help it build up. I then discovered that this was going to be very difficult, as most of the people running games industry businesses were part timers or one-man-bands trying to make ends meet, and were in no position to employ me. I got lucky when a friend of mine suggested that I work with him for a chap called John Robertson at Fantasy Forge. I met John, he gave me a job, and I had a great time while it lasted. The day Fantasy Forge went down, I was given an interview with Grenadier Miniatures. I got the job. Three months later I was told the company was in financial difficulties and was again made redundant. I then talked it through with my brother and we started Harlequin Miniatures.

Rag: Harlequin's first entry into the wargames rules market was Raven, which doesn't seem to have really caught on. Where do you think you went wrong, and what lessons have you learned?

Dean: Raven sold a value of over 55,000 and then dropped in attraction because it wasn't supported by the retail outlets and subsequently couldn't be supported by us. This wasn't what anybody wanted, but we feel we learnt a lot. Manufacturers should keep trying to create games to add choice to the industry but should maintain a direct contact with its players to help build stronger support. A strong mail order department is vital.

Rag: Your fantasy miniatures range appears to lean very heavilly on GW's Warhammer Fantasy Battle in look and inspiration and is not very innovative. Is this just case of sensible economics or are there other factors?

Dean: Our fantasy range sells very well, and you can use them in many game systems, including GW's Warhammer. Most fantasy figures can also be used with other systems, but very few are of a high enough quality these days. People are more demanding and buy the best they can. We are one of the best - GW, Heartbreaker, and GZG are in my opinion the others (I don't mention wargames companies because I consider them to be in a different market, so don't be insulted if I didn't mention your company). We design the way we do because retailers, distributors, and mail order customers want it that way. While they pay our bills, we will give them what they want.

Rag: What future plans have you got for the Doctor Who range? Have you agreed any other license deals with TV shows?

Dean: Our future plans for Doctor Who are to support the game 'Invasion Earth' with further rules and miniatures, complete the limited edition range, and then start on the 54mm pewter collectables series. It's non stop.

Our Babylon 5 collection is already started, and the game is in progress. The figure range will cover all the five seasons and the films over a period of two years. The range is to be limited to 5000 worldwide, so if people are interested they had better get in touch fast.

Lastly, and by no means least is our five year, 1 million contract with Tolkien Enterprises for The Lord of the Rings. What can I tell you, we're totally going to town on this, we're going to do it all.

Rag: There are references in the Compendium to a you producing a new fantasy Battles game. How will this differ from Raven?

Dean: Harlequin Miniatures are working on a new fantasy tabletop wargame, and importantly it will be the base for the Lord of the Rings tabletop wargame. It will bear no resemblance to Raven, in fact the writers have not played Raven, so any resemblance to persons living or dead will be purely coincidental. The writers have been given a very different brief, the most important being we want this system to be based on single figures as opposed to the multi-basing of Raven. This of course means totally different command and control and combat mechanisms. It is our aim to produce the best fantasy wargame ever. Every fantasy system up to now has always had some unsatisfactory element to it, most usually a lack of any real battlefield tactics (one biggest selling game being the main culprit here). For this reason we are interested in pulling in as many playtesters as possible. Anybody interested in working with us should contact Daniel Faulconbridge at the Harlequin UK office.

Rag: Other than the TV license deals and Fantasy Battle range, what plans have you for Harlequin in the future?

Dean: (1) Create more games and a mini-mag. But we need more writers and are looking for people with computer skills to piece them together. (2) Improve our position in the UK market. As it stand now, it's only 3% of our business. (3) Grow and grow.

Rag: What do you think of the current state of the hobby?

Dean: The fact you're even asking this question should say something and you're not going to like my answer. The current state of the hobby is 'self denial'. It needs a reality slap. A tablecloth covered in second-hand junk, and games being played with spray painted miniatures on top of unpainted hardboard, is apparent at most shows as the face of our industry. This is not going to do any of us any favours. The industry needs to raise its standards. In short we look bloody awful.

Rag: What do you think about the hobby's future development?

Dean: This is a huge question, so I'll make one suggestion to get a reaction. The talent is here, we just need the organisation to work together. We need some kind of union of manufacturers to give us a voice with the show organisers and distributors. A properly organised and professionally run organisation like GAMA in America, open to everybody and with democratically voted chairman and board, whose job it would be to better promote and improve the hobby. We need clubs to spring into action and join us in a campaign to better present ourselves (this is vital to help with the costs). the clubs could, for an exchange of goods for talent and enthusiasm, become our 'show biz' boys on the front line, helping our games and miniatures to look fantastic. If every show was packed with exciting, great looking games tables, with enthusiastic people willing to show novices how to play these games, think what we could achieve.

If we look fantastic, people will get interested. If people are interested, the money will come pack into our business and when it does we can make better products and around we all go again and again. We need better organised shows (twelve really good ones), better cooperation, better marketing. If all this could happen, the UK market would turn itself around in less than three years. Has anybody asked the public this question? I think we should.

Rag: What periods interest you/do you play, outside of your business?

Dean: I'd play anything, but I love WWII 25mm.

Rag: What was the last game you played? Did you win?

Dean: Football and yes I did. Oh you mean 'games' games? It was Doctor Who 'Invasion Earth' against some of the staff and I did win. I think they let me.