When Warlord Games first announced their upcoming range of Late Republican Romans last year, I got quite excited. The era from Marius to Augustus has actually been my first love in Ancient history, and here’s a chance to get gaming.
To my surprise there haven’t been that many ranges out there covering this particular period – at least not in my preferred scale of 28mm. Among them the sculpts by Mark Copplestone are most prominent – and, yes, they’re ham-fisted and short-legged models with oversize heads, but I love ’em. Unfortunately, most of them are marketed by Wargames Foundry (therefore out of my budget for army building), while an expansion done for Companion Miniatures has been OOP for years now.
Warlord‘s not the first company trying to fill that gap with plastics. In 2007 Wargames Factory (see what they’d done there?) started out with a set of Late Republican (henceforth LR) Romans. Thereby, despite causing a lot of gripe, they (re)introduced plastic sets onto the historical market. Quality-wise plastic sets seem to get better and better ever since. So I was eager to lay my hands on Warlord’s latest offering.
Closer Look: Box
Here’s what I got. A standard-size card box, evocative artwork on the front by Peter Dennis (available here for download) and the ubiquitous Hail Caesar label – although, I’ve heard the figures would be compatible with other rulesets as well?!
The back of the box is decorated with an image of all the contents assembled and ready for battle as well as a to-scale photo of a pro-painted legionary (don’t miss EinarOlafson’s blog for better shots). Furthermore, there’s an introductory text, a bit brief and a bit cheesy for my taste, but never mind.
Closer Look: Contents
Out of the box, there are five frames containing four bodies (torso, legs, left arm in one piece) and six heads each as well as a range of weapon-arms and four large oval shields. The soldiers are clad in sleeveless tunics, wearing chainmail armour with shoulder pads and simple Montefortino-type helmets, which represents the common image of Roman legionaries of the 2nd and 1st century BC (and a bit beyond).
On a sixth frame there are bits to ‘upgrade’ three regulars to a leader (centurio), a standard-bearer (signifer) and a trumpeter (tubicen). The centurion is to wear a fashionable Apulo-corinthian helmet and greaves, while standard-bearer and trumpeter are sporting fur capes and bucklers in place of a scutum. The straight trumpet (tuba) is an unusual choice, which makes for a nice change to all those curved horns (cornua) we’re used to see.
The standard-bearer is wielding – single-handedly! – a pole with a bull on top instead of the traditional eagle. However, the bull seems to have been a pretty common symbol among Roman legions. Most likely it’s a leftover from the old allied contingents which became amalgamated by the so-called “Marian reforms”, a process of levelling and standardisation during the late 2nd and early 1st century BC.
A box of 24 models comes at £18.00, so actual figure cost is £0.75. Sure, that’s about half the price of a metal figure from most competitors, yet that’s no fair challenge. To get a better balance: a comparable plastic set from Warlord, the all-plastic, no extras EIR Praetorians, gets you the same number of models for £21.00 (thus, about £0.88per figure). However, the Praetorians come with shield transfers, which have to be purchased separately for the LR Roman set. A sheet of 13 decals (12 scuta, 1 small shield) cost you £3.50, and by design, to cover a box you’ll need two sheets anyway. Hence, I paid £25.00 for a box+decals, which lifts the figure price to £0.96.
Even at basic rate, though, Warlord Games takes the lead if compared with other recent 28mm historical plastic sets on the market. A few examples: The Greek hoplites by Victrix are 48 models for £22.95 (£0.48 per figure), Perry provides you with 36 AWI British infantrymen (+2 casualties) for £18.00 (£0.50 or £0.47 respectively per figure), and the upcoming Gripping Beast Dark Age warriors cost you £20.00 for 40 miniatures (£0.50 per figure).
Added to that, most manufacturers provide their customers with some extras like transfers, bases or even a leaflet with painting guides, flags or whatever. Warlord cuts down on that as well.
Assembling the Troops
Assembly is straight forward, given that there are only four parts to be stuck together. The glue points are clearly defined, so it’s an easy fit. In turn, customisation is limited. Apart from a selection of head variants you’re down to build up to ten soldiers equipped with slings (along with purses) and/or repositioning the sword arm. The latter can result in some awkward poses (built here on purpose) as the arms are rather fitted to stabbing moves. Lastly, if you don’t believe in theories of his soldiers mounting their crests for battle, you could also cut these off.
You will need a cutter anyway, since all the models come with swords in their scabbards. This is due to the optional slings or more so, I assume, to the other set’s pila. To get rid of those hilts was rather annoying, and it left the models with some odd-looking, flat areas on their sides.
The figures are 28mm from sole to top of head, stand and crest are another 3–4mm. They’re obviously designed to complement the aforementioned Copplestone’s sculpts (see below 2nd right). Therefore mixing them with Warlord’s Early Imperial Romans (1st right), which are definitely on the wispier side, is a stretch – if still possible, at least with metal figures. Most noticeable would be the bulkiness of those new Romans (2nd left), and for a mix of armour (likely in an Augustan/Tiberian army) I would rather look at other manufacturers. Also included in this comparison is a Wargames Factory model (1st left), since they pair off well enough if lacking in definition.
Raising the Colour
Overall, casting is crisp and details are well pronounced, so the models take paint easily. There are a few details to be picked out, e.g. the straps on the helmet, but not loads of that. As one would expect, when painted up most differences to other models are blurred.
Regarding colours I chose a reddish brown (Foundry Chestnut 53) for the tunics and off-white (Foundry Base Sand 10) for the undyed or bleached horsehair crests. The Foundry centurion and his Warlord optio received a few red (VMC Carmine Red) and blue (Foundry Deep Blue 20) spots: The partially dyed crest has been inspired by a cover illustration of Ancient Warfare magazine (in turn, after an Etruscan wallpainting), and blue stripes (clavii) are a feature of Roman tunics known from finds and depictions alike. The centurion’s armour of alternately tinned bronze scales is conjectural, though both designs existed, anyway.
The LBM decals provide a good variety of patterns and fit the Warlord shields perfectly. I also applied one to the optio’s rectangular scutum (lent from an Aventine figure, since the ones provided by Warlord are a tad small for my liking), no issues there. I reckon that the decals would fit Foundry shields as well, but I wanted a custom design here. Probably, I’ve overdone the ‘gritty’ effects this time. But these were (are?) meant to be used in a game of certain aesthetics, so going a bit OTT was in order.
All in all, the new Warlord set delivers what you would expect: a relatively cheap way to build up the bulk of your 28mm Late Republican Roman army. The sculpts are decent and historically accurate with some nods to more ‘experimental’ or ‘cutting edge’ views (the inclusion of slings and the centurion’s helmet are nice touches, for example). Production values are high as well, so no complaints there.
You sense a “however” coming? Rightly so.
First off, price and packaging are mildly disappointing. There would’ve been enough space in either the box or the frames to cover all weapon options in one single set. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to provide your customers with some sort of extras. As it stands, the contents appear a bit meagre.
Then, for my taste the sculpting is a tad too exaggerated and coarse (faces, crests, chainmail), the figs come out a tad too animated (bodies bent over, shieldarms stretched out). These features are suited to making the miniatures stand out on the tabletop when fielded en masse, of course.
Ultimately, though, that’s at the expense of character. I know that’s a very personal notion, but if assembling and painting becomes a dreadful task for me, chances are it’s down to bland, uninspiring figures. Maybe I can bring myself to paint up a few more at some time, but for now I’m back to saving up funds for a purchase from Foundry’s…
There you have it, my first in-depth review. It’s turned out quite lengthy and maybe controversial, but the more I’m looking forward to comments & critique. 🙂