Time Commanders, the BBC game show where contestants order around someone playing Total War, returns to British screens tonight. Imagine a blind Let’s Play of Rome: Total War directed by teams who didn’t know what Total War was but did between them share a Desmond in classics, a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, experience leading their university rugger society, and four awful haircuts. After eleven years away, Time Commanders is back tonight with Gregg Wallace off Masterchef pitting board gamers against wrestlers in a recreation of 202 BC’s Battle of Zama. Have a butcher’s at this:
Time Commanders always fascinated me, a show about playing video games which refused to acknowledge that. Contestants didn’t actually play the game themselves, instead issuing orders to a technician who was controlling a military simulation. Which is also weird because of how game-y (and wonky) a simulation Total War is. They didn’t even name the game (basically a customised Rome: Total War) because of BBC rules. But it was a TV show with a range of people (from students to parents with their kids) taking a video game entirely seriously – boringly seriously, even.
I’m guessing the contestants who applied for this modern revival are a little more familiar with the idea of Total War. I’ll be delighted if someone tries issuing orders to exploit a known glitch. Scandal erupts as a contestant sneaks in a cheeky mod replacing Hannibal’s elephants with manticores from Total Warhammer.
Time Commanders will be on BBC Four at 9pm tonight or, y’know, just on the iPlayer afterwards. Season 3 is only three episodes and does tweak the format, pitting two teams facing each other and going modern-ish with the Battle of Waterloo.
Auntie did recently unveil a concept for a future video games show with contestants playing from their own homes but that’s very much them floating an idea rather pitching a specific show.
Gregg Wallace, by the way, is not just any old friendly BBC presenter rolled out for this. He’s big into strategy games, going by years of tweets about crushing Napoleon: Total War, getting annoyed with Civ IV (imagine his face as he’s beaten to a wonder by one turn!), not enjoying Total War: Rome II and trying Europa Universalis, and returning to Medieval: Total War. Though it seems unlikely we’ll see him shouting “GIT GUD SCRUBS!” and grabbing the mouse to win Time Commanders himself.