Review of Imperial Romans

The following review was written by Rich Jones (formerly editor of Wargames Journal) for the Warhammer Ancient Battles forums.

I like hard plastic, always have. For years I have secretly wished for a range of historical figures in the vein of GW plastics … suddenly at the end of last year the buzz was that a few groups of well known manufacturers were busy with various projects – Valiant and the Rapid Fire/Chiltern crew had slaked my desire for WWII figures in 1/72 scale, the ever green Perry brothers were responsible for my gaming buddy earmarking enough recycled wargames cash to outfit the biggest table we could muster (12×6) in ACW figures, and then there were the ancients …

Two companies seemed to be jockeying for position – in one corner was the newly formed (mainly ex GW) luminaries Paul Sawyer and John Stallard in the shape of Warlord Games and in the other corner was a new US company who it appeared had slipped into bed with Slitherine and their new Field of Glory rules. Both companies had lots of news releases, Games Factory shocked that part of the wargames world who hadn’t thought about it, when they showed their computer sculpting off and the pictures of the ‘virtual’ greens – not only were the figures plastic, they were untouched by a human hand; could the world cope? Meanwhile Warlord went one better and showed pictures of a sprue and then gave a sample away; gamers everywhere were by this point drooling like a pack of dogs who had been visitors to Pavlov’s house for a few months. Snippets of info were leaked from both and the race to get them out was on … and now it is over! Round 1 definitely to Warlord, so what do you get?

I opened the review package like a kid at Christmas, first off I must say I love the packaging – the front takes me back to my early days of 20/54mm Airfix, the artwork is different of course but in the same kind of colours, slightly pastel wash type of thing. The actual Warlord logo hits that part of the brain conditioned to get excited as it is very reminiscent of my old favourite comic of the same name! Retro memories are quickly displaced as you flip the box over and see the tried and tested GW type layout, a painted unit and information about the contents! But on to the insides …

For your £17 you get 30 plastic figures with a good supply of ‘alternative’ ‘bits’ to customise them with including empty helmets, spare pila and the face plated cavalry helmet. 27 multi-pose Legionaries are commanded by a classic three man command group consisting of a Centurion, Signifer and Cornicern. Thankfully from the painting front you also get a sheet of shield transfers, which considering I am likely to be looking at painting a fair few up in the next months was like manna from heaven. You can be sure if they were not in there I would not get round to buying any and would default to painting them and adding time and certainly not looks to my figures! This sheet must be worth about £4-5 if you had to buy it separately which takes the figure price down to around 45p – suddenly my dreams of having a huge Roman army will not incur the wrath of ‘her indoors’ or the bank manager!

The Romans are Imperial and this means of course they have the famous Lorica Segmentata (segmented armour) and carry the rectangular scutum shield, these Romans are what most people who don’t wargame and/or wear anoraks tend to think of when you mention Roman Soldiers. Childhood conditioning it may be but I admit they are my favourite looking ‘Romans’. The figures can be assembled with either their short-sword (gladius) or the heavy throwing spear (pilum).

Their size has been a bit of a debate point on the forums – they are what we call in the ever confusing world of figure scales, small 28mm. This means that they are 28mm to the top of the head instead of the ‘normal’ (but possibly wrong depending on who you talk to) 30+mm of most manufacturers 28mm! What this means in reality is if you wish to mix and match then do your research first. For me it is no problem my Romans are going to be Warlord plastics supplemented by their metal range. From what I can glean the Warlord figures match in well with the Perry-sculpted Foundry Romans but are small compared to most other manufacturers. Warlords next box the ‘Celts’ are bigger, which is historically correct as most Roman writers of the time tend to comment on how big the Celts were, but will also ease the few niggly moans as well I suppose.

The actual sculpts and sprues are in my opinion superb, the multi-pose idea makes it easy to customise the unit on the table. The fears about plastics and the lack of being able to produce a decent undercut are not born out as the sculpting cleverly avoids any of the potential deep pitfalls. The sprues have no real flash to speak of and the joining points are well laid out so that any clipping/cutting doesn’t leave you with another job. They go together easily with some good plastic glue and are robust when finished with a good blend of ‘anatomical correct’ versus ‘look on table’ dimensions.

There will always be people who berate even hard plastic, for me they are far superior as I can convert them easily (on top of the multi-pose options), they weigh less to carry and store and of course are cheaper to start with. Warlord have not forsaken metal as this is I suppose cheaper and more feasible to do less ‘needed’ figures in. Their superb metal ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ archers will be the subject of a separate review.

All in all Warlord have jumped out the starting gate with a product to excite! People can argue/moan about the size, the fact that only a small amount have empty scabbards (isn’t that what clippers and files are for anyway) and the lack of instructions (again a bit odd as surely my 10 year olds in my class could figure out what to do) … for anyone starting out or with the Perry sculpts already then Warlord is going to appear on your next card statement believe me!

How do they compare with Wargames Factory – well we will still have to wait as yet another ‘delay’ has been announced, with not a plastic in sight from WF at the moment. Warlord has won the first round and have come out swinging some good haymakers in the second … stay tuned for more!

Rich J