The Romans return

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What have they ever done for us?

I haven’t really had a chance for any actual gaming during the past week – work and other commitments have been taking up my time. However, I did attend a local wargames show, Broadside, in Sittingbourne on Sunday, and I’ll write a little about that when I’ve managed to upload the few photos I took.

Meanwhile, at least the assembly line has still been running quite efficiently. Newly joining the painting queue, I have generals for my 28mm Early Italian Wars collection, and in 15mm for my Thirty Years war armies of Sweden and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. And there are now Romans, quite a lot of Romans, in 15mm.

I didn’t plan to acquire so many Romans. The truth is that I’m not really an enthusiast for Roman armies. If anything, I still regard them as imperialist oppressors and haven’t forgiven them for invading Britain; one of my wargaming friends summed up my preferences, within Ancient wargaming, as “Hellenes and hairy barbarians”, which is more or less accurate. But they do keep reappearing in my collection.

In my very early wargaming days, that was pretty much inevitable. I “officially” came out as a wargamer at the age of 14, in 1974 (in other words, that was when I realised there were such things as wargame rules that were more sophisticated than lobbing marbles at a line of Timpo toy soldiers). At that time, and on my pocket money budget, the only options for starting out in Ancients were plastic Airfix figures that I could pick up from the local model shop. In other words, Romans and Britons. Hence the Roman connection was made.

Their numbers grew rapidly until, once I had worked out how to convert figures – for instance glueing the top half of a legionary to the bottom half of a US Cavalry figure to produce a Roman cavalryman – and once I had started to buy my first metal miniatures, I was able to field a complete legion. They represented Legio I Minerva, to be exact. I’m sure I still have their Legion standard, somewhere.

The demise of my original collection of miniatures is a long story for another time. However, when I started building up my second collection in 15mm, Romans popped up again, although this time in far fewer numbers and as an impulse buy when I stumbled across a few packs of 15mm Minifigs in a model shop while I was on holiday in Wales, circa 1979. They were so much of an impulse buy that I never got around to painting them, and they stayed dormant in a box of random miniatures for decades. Until…

Fast forward to Broadside, around this time last year. In the bring-and-buy sale, I came across a box of miniatures. The obvious contents were a substantial number of English Civil War types, already painted, in 15mm scale, and a lot of unassembled Napoleonic warships in 1/2400, plus assorted bits and bobs that I honestly didn’t bother looking at too closely. At £10 for the box, the ECW and ships made it a great bargain. It was only when, at home, I explored the contents properly, that I found the packs of 15mm Romans, presumably their former owner’s abandoned project. Enough to form a couple of legionary cohors, an auxilary cohors, plus cavalry and a ballista. Fair enough, I thought, may as well get them organised and based.

Then, more recently, our local hobby shop began to stock the excellent 15mm “War and Empire” Ancients range being produced by Forged in Battle. And the thought crossed my mind, “All I need is one pack of legionaries, and some more ballistae, and those Romans are another complete army in the collection”.

Which, now, they are. Having brought those very old Minifigs out from their tomb at the bottom of the metal-and-plastic mountain and pressed them into service at long last, I seem to have half a legion, including the double-sized First Cohors. Only another five cohors to go…

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