Today we'll have a look at the first release from Agema Miniatures: Republican Roman Velites. We all know several manufacturers who make roman miniatures in metal or plastic. The thing is though - these are mostly Imperial Roman Legionnaires. The Republican time, despite being eventful to say the least, is not as well covered in terms of plastics as later periods of Roman history.
This is where Agema Miniatures jump in. They seem to go for this very niche and just started producing multi-part plastic miniatures for Republican Roman armies.
Before we get right into the review I would like to point out that this is a sponsored review. As always with those, I do my dearest not to have this influence my opinions on a product what so ever. In the end, this is left to you to decide. I also would like to point out that I didn't get these minis as "review copies" but rather in return for nice paintjobs to be used on Agema Miniatures' website.
Just so you get a bit of context what we're talking about here - who were the Velites? They were essentially skirmishers. Poor soldiers who couldn't afford armour to join the ranks of the legions. They were armed with javelins (which, like all Roman javelins, bent when they hit the target so they wouldn't be thrown back by the other side), short thrusting swords and small round wooden shields and skin or leather caps or helmets. Velites first showed up during the siege of Capua in 211 BC and soon replaced other kinds of light infantry as regular attachments to the legions. In battle Velites formed a skirmisher screen in front of the heavier infantry to soften up the enemy ranks with their javelins, to generally disorder enemy formations and to partly cloak their own formations' locations and plans of advance. When the Roman armies were confronted with war elephants or chariots, Velites usually were the most effective counter.
After dipping into the background of these guys, let's look at their figure representations we got here. First, as always, let's have a look at the box.
We got the rather unusual high size format on the box. Nothing bad in itself though. Very handy in a way. The artwork is clear and evocative. Very interesting painting style. Usually you get a more illustration style of boxart but this is very much a painting. I like it. It's characterful and if Agema stick to this artist I could well see this style becoming a trademark of theirs. Apart from that we got a picture of one of the models, the name of the models, how many you get and that it's multi-part plastics.
On the back of the box we get a picture of all the minis from the box built, based and painted. There is some background fluff in nice, large letters and a few very niftily designed close-up pictures. Overall the production value is excellent. Good mix of old and new style. The printing is top quality, the cardboard is of the usual thickness, boxes come foil-wrapped.
Now let's open the thing up and have a look at those sprues:
There are 16 models in the box, eight small sprues, two models per sprue. The models are cast in the UK by Renedra in the usual style and quality, which means professional style and top quality. The casting is crisp, clean and there was surprisingly little to do in terms of removing mold lines.
There is something slightly irritating I noticed - a persistent miscast on the crotch area of one of the bodies. Maybe it's just on the sprues I got or on the first bunch of boxes. It looks like a small crack on the cloth.
However, don't fret. Unless you just spray them white and give them a wash, it won't show on the models unless you look hard for it.
On each sprue you get two bodies of individual stances. Arms, shields and heads are seperate. There is not an overwhelming number of options for arming the models. Actually, there are none. Per sprue you get enough arms to have one Velite armed with a thrusting sword and the other one with a javelin in hand, ready to throw. The shield with the additional javelins held in the shield hand and of course the single javelin are meant to go with the javelin thrower. Then we also got two sword sheathes, one with a sword in it (for the javelin thrower) and an empty one. That's a nice touch as often you get models with swords in their hands but either no empty sheathes or ones from which you have to clip off the sword handle and guard to make them look empty.
There are three heads on each sprue, two different ones with helmets each and one with helmet and a wolf's head on top. There also is the option for a wolfskin cloak to add to that. Historically, this was a Velites thing. Some of them were to wear wolf skins so that commanders could tell Velites and heavier infantry apart. It also adds to the character of the unit and adds a nice touch of colour in various ways.
Detailling is very nice as well with metal fittings on sheathes and wooden planks texture on the back of the shields. The folds on the cloth are very crisp as well and look realistic. When cutting the bits off the sprue, take care that you don't snap the sword's handle. Otherwise it's all very save to clip off.
Building the models is very straightforward. There are no ball joints, so posability is very restricted. The upside to this is that the poses all look very natural. The fit of the parts is very good. With little conversions or bits swaps really, the kit is very usable for other armies as well. Replace their helmets, shields and maybe weapons and you got yourself unarmoured Hoplites. Similar headswaps will get you Gauls, Carthagians, Greek Peltasts, bascially any ancient light infantry or auxiliaries or even later things as long as it's located around the Mediterranian somewhat, otherwise it might get a bit cold without any trousers on. There indeed are hardly any limits to their use in Fantasy settings as well.
What I like especially is the way the javelins are held. Not in a whole fist like a thrusting spear but only with two to three fingers. It looks really nice.
As always with multi-part plastics onto which you glue the arms I suggest filling the gaps between shoulders and arm bits with a bit of putty. The fit of the models is very tight but still, it's better to fill up the small remaining gaps.
There are no bases in this boxed set which I always find a bit sad. I hope that there will be some flat bases sprue from Renedra in the next releases by Agema Miniatures because even though the bodies come with some cast-on round stands of about 14mm diameter, they fall over easily on their own. I strongly suggest using bases of some kind. You can order flat 25mm round bases by Renedra from Agema Miniatures' website as well.
For the test models I built I used 25mm round bases of 3mm height.
For painting the models I left the shields off, painted them seperately and then glued them to the finished models, so I could reach any part with ease and without having anything obstructed by the shield. The shields got a few slashes painted on. Not too many because these guys didn't exactly look to get into close combat much at all.
I painted each of the tunics in a slightly different colour and some with additional adornments to create some diversity within the unit. I paid special attention to the skin on the legs. The musculature of the legs is very well sculpted so there's no reason to hide those. ;-) On the skin I also went for slightly different shades just for added realism and variety again.
Although Velites are often described as having worn mostly leather helmets I haven't seen a single miniature painted that way and indeed bronze helmets look way better on the tabletop.
Let's see what they look like in comparison to some other miniatures:
All in all, these fellas are 28mm foot to eye level. Especially compared to GW's models of course, but also compared to Gripping Beast's models, they are rather slim and realistically-proportioned even though I can't help to think that their heads are a bit on the small side.
So what's the verdict? I think that Agema Miniatures made a strong first impression with this kit. Apart from that slight miscast (as I said, virtually invisible after painting) and limited poses this is a very solid kit with a so far untapped theme for plastics. This model kit isn't the most "exciting" one available but if you're looking for affordable (£ 9.60 for 16 models) and frankly great looking models for your mediterranian Ancients army this set is for you.
Velites are a use- and characterful addition to your Republican Roman army and Agema Miniatures already announced working on their next release - Republican Roman Legionnaires. I wasn't really much of an Ancients gamer before (well, aside from an army of Greek Hoplites), but having read into Roman history a bit more recently, I have to say that I feel somewhat bitten by a bug.
I hope that you enjoyed the review and found it useful or even entertaining. If you have any questions, maybe review requests, suggestions or ideas feel free to use the comments section below or just contact me via e-mail or Battle Brush Studios' Facebook page. The same goes of course for commission requests. See you soon! :-)