The stand-out chaps over at Gripping Beast have graciously given us the chance to review their plastic 28mm Late Romans box. Considering I have something of a love-hate relationship with GB plastics, this could become an interesting review.
So, before I dive into the actual topic of 28mm Late Romans, let me introduce you to my special relationship with Gripping Beast kits.
If you’re into wargaming set in the dark ages period, it’s impossible not to have heard of Gripping Beast. The dark age is a period of historical wargaming that’s dominated by metal figure ranges. Gripping Beast, however, has been consistently churning out plastic kits instead.
Let there not be any doubt about this: I like plastics. I prefer them over metal models, most of the time.
For one, they’re easier to cut up and convert. Second, for some reason I prefer painting plastic. Plastic models are usually less detailed than metals, which makes for a faster paint job. They also don’t have that kind of fiddly, sharp detail that’s harder to paint.
Third, plastic models tend to be (much) cheaper than metal ones.
Gripping Beast kits
Now, having said that: I have not been much a fan of the plastic kits Gripping Beast have put out so far. (But I do think they’re getting better – look out for a review of their new dark age cavalry set soon). My problems with them are mostly aesthetic in nature.
To be fair, I’ve not been exposed to all GB sets. So far, I’ve had “live experience” with the Viking and Saxon sets, the Arab infantry set and the Dark Age Warriors set.
All the models in these sets have a couple of features in common. The figures are all rather stocky looking, stand slightly hunched and all sport a pair of big fists. They are very much “heroic scale”. I would go as far as say that the Viking and Saxon sets could work as Dwarves (*dodges incoming tableware*).
Dark Age Warriors
The Dark Age Warriors, though, receive special mention. The kit is genius, because it fits into so many different periods. I’ve painted through a fair few of these and they’ve grown on me. There is always a place for them, whether it’s as Viking raiders, Saxon warriors or as part of a Dux’s levy back in the post-Roman era.
Don’t get me wrong: none of my remarks about the kits’ aesthetics are actual criticism. It’s a design choice, albeit one I don’t always quite follow. (There’s plastic kits enough out there that show you don’t have to go for heroic scale in plastic, at all.)
But one thing trumps everything I’ve just said about aesthetics and that is: value. Gripping Beast’s kits offer tremendous value for their money. I might hold the opinion that they’re not the prettiest models in the biz: but when you look at the quality of what you’re getting for the price you’re paying, suddenly things look very different.
28mm Late Romans
So, do these Late Romans fit the picture I’ve painted above?
Actually, pretty well. They’re also not going to be my favourite models in the world, but they’re really quite good and you get a ton of them.
The Late Romans box comes with no less than 44 models. Giving you enough bodies to build 16 unarmored warriors, 8 armoured warriors and 16 archers.
In fact, there is so much crammed into there… once I’d opened the box, I couldn’t even fit it back in again! Good guy Gripping Beast…
On to the actual models themselves.
The detail is crisp and all edges are well defined. The curves and folds also look convincing. I even think the proportions are more subtle than they used to be.
These guys definitely won’t have to worry about being called Dwarfs. 😉
For all its quantity, here’s something I’m missing. There’s not a lot of choice on the sprues. All heads are fairly the same looking, all stances are alike.
Sure, you’ve got your choice between archers and warriors, which is great. But that’s more of a “value for money” argument (which, if it wasn’t obvious, GB nails once again). I would have liked to see more various poses and heads that looked a *little* more interesting.
I intend to solve this “problem” with GB’s Dark Age Cavalry box, which has a much more interesting array of period-appropriate heads.
The breadth of territory this box tries to cover is huge. I would not have minded specific bits for, say, British vs Byzantine legions.
Which, in fact, leads me to…
There is this persistent myth in the world that says that everything the Romans did was organized. Organised marching, uniforms, etc.
It’s becoming increasingly more known that this image is more due to Hollywood than being based in actual historical fact.
Sure, they had this drill thing down. But the Romans did not have uniforms, not even the Imperial Legions. Yes, there was some form of mass-production at scale in place, but even then cohorts would buy their own stuff separately.
So imagine what happens when the central infrastructure behind such logistics falls away? That’s the end of standardised equipment right there. Everyone would use what they have and get it fixed locally. You start handing down your stuff to your son again, etc.
And yet, all our Roman friends in this box look exactly the same, There’s no difference in helmets, or weapons or even clothing. I don’t buy it.
I understand this may have been a sacrifice made in the interest of keeping costs low. Which is a valid enough argument, if that’s the reason behind it.
But I would have much preferred different attires and different helmets in the box, just to respresent legions not as well maintained as perhaps those in the East might have been.
Gripping Beast 28mm Late Romans – The Verdict
I think Gripping Beast did well to come up with a box of Late Romans. They timed its release with the latest Saga supplement: Aetius & Arthur. Considering the success of the previous boxes, I’m sure this one is doing equally well.
The competition is scarce. Gripping Beast has their own metal ranges in the same era. Saxon Miniatures (now acquired by Warlord) has their own range of Arthurians (see our review here).
The prettiest range surely is that of Footsore Miniatures, which won’t even break the bank for you (though metal).
Having said all that. If you prefer plastic or getting a good deal, then go get this box over at Gripping Beast right now. It’s absolutely amazing value for money. The figures are good – I’m not in love with them, but I’ll absolutely use them in my own armies.
In fact, if you play anything above the Saga level (say, Swordpoint or Kings of War Historical) you’ll thank your stars you now have access to cheap infantry. Sprinkle in a few metals for flavour and you’ve got a great looking army for cheap!
Comments? Do let me know below!