Painting a Republican Roman Army 1

With the review and nearly finishing the 2nd unit I was reflecting on how I want to record the development of the collection. I thought about just doing what I always do and put up posts with pictures of completed units, however, I already do that on forums and Facebook.

Part of the reason I restarted the blog and moved it was so that this time it was more than just a series of photo’s.  Late last year I wanted to begin writing about my hobby and my experience in it and share for those who read it (all one of you) the way I go about planning, building and painting my collections.

So with that in mind, I’m going to start with the Romans, I am sure I’ll do this for the other future collections but this is the flavor of the year so where better to start.

28mm Republican Roman Army 1: Planning and Research

legionary 1

Truth be told this was not the army I originally planned to do for a roman collection. I have in my lead mountain a whole (very subjective term “whole” for a wargamer) late roman army from Footsore Miniatures.  It’s still on the cards to get started later this year, I am still considering  what rules system and basing method I want to use.

However, the Republican Romans are the here and now and the reasons are simple, I think the period is a brilliant period to game. You have successor state armies like Pyrrhus of Epirus and the Seleucid empire as well as Celtic nations from Gaul to Spain and North African nations such as Carthage of course.  Importantly the Romans are not always the dominant force and that means you have a variety of armies that can equally lose and to and beat them. There are also great Characters here as well, Hannibal and Scipio of course but add in the Seleucid, Numidian, and other Successor generals and you have also a rich background to work with. I am not saying the other periods of the empire have no merit but for me, it is that to me this period is rich with options and different armies.


When I began to think about this project the key consideration was first and foremost basing. Basing, basing, basing and even more basing!! My chosen rules of Hail Caesar by Warlord Games is pretty simple from a basing point of view, yet the group I play with use a modified basing which is roughly 2/3rd of standard basing – so what would be a small unit frontage in the normal game (120mm) is now standard size unit.  For Romans, the Manipular Legion list has all Maniples as small units. Easy right? the frontage then becomes 80mm and bob’s your aunty, yet how to base them, multiple bases? Single bases? And what if I want to scale the size back up for a larger game? It might seem pedantic… and honestly it is, but when considering a collection that will be as big as approximately 400+ models I really don’t want to go back and rebase and with predominantly plastic models. That meant I had to be happy with the outcome and be able to imagine what it looks like and feel comfortable with that idea.


There was a range of discussions with the group I game with, initially there was a conversation about what you would want to try and achieve on the wargames table. A manipular legion had 30 maniples as well as Velites, with potentially 2-4 citizen legions plus allies you could have up 120 maniples as well as the associated allied cohorts.  There is no way that’s going to happen in 28mm, that level of megalomania in 28mm is truly special and I am sure there is someone out there doing that but it’s not me.  The question then, that needed to be answered, is what current thinking is there on how the legion actually fought? Why that is important as it can then infer how you would go about basing the models and how you want to build the collection.  Regardless of what pictures show you, once combat is closed it will generally by one long continuous line, and while most modern literature and theory I would say correctly postulates that it’s very difficult to maintain continuous hand to hand combat for very long, it is hard to believe that maniples would operate with exposed flanks in this environment. Polybius, Livy and other historical writers all engage in some description of how the Hastati and Velites would operate and how the Principe and Triarii also supported the main line of combat.  There are a couple of trusted resources that I have used:

  • Osprey Roman Republican Legionary 298-105 BC
  • Osprey Roman Battle Tactics 390 – 110 BC
  • Osprey Roman Centurion 753 -31 BC
  • Greece and Rome at War by Peter Connolly
  • The Republican Roman Army: A Sourcebook by Michale M. Sage
  • The Making of the Roman Army by Lawrence Keppie

In my opinion, the above titles should set you in the right direction, then when you have time and the intent you read the ancient texts of Livy and Polybius and then you can branch out into journals etc. I also strongly recommend the Ancient Warfare Magazine as a brilliant source of information for all thing classical warfare related, and I find much inspiration from their articles and themes.  As to the question posed, the approach I have taken is that the formations did operate in the manner described, yet you would see the maniples operate together in a line, you see allot of descriptions of battles where generals will use the different maniples in varied ways that would not always ascribe to the parade ground method as outlined by the historical sources, and battle in general never goes according to the drill book.

2016-04-03 19.10.01

So with my reading mostly completed (there will always be more to read) I planned to each component legion in the army roughly in line with what the Hail Caesar army book suggests with only one change.  Each legion will have 2 Triarii, 2 Principe, 2 Hastati and 2 Velite Light infantry units, a total of 8 small units.  The Triarii will be 2 ranks (10 Figures) on an 80mm wide base and 60mm depth, while the Principe and Hastati will be 3 ranks (15 figures) on an 80mm by 80mm base and Velites will be 8 models per unit with 2 models on 40×40 bases. The total number of the division plus command base will be just punching on 100 models.  The change is the number of Triarii as in the book it allows for only one per division. As to the basing that is to give an illustrative effect of the different size between the Triarii and the Principe/Hastati, 60 men to 120 men respectively.


Army plan wise I want to legions + one allied legion as well as some allied Celtiberians, cavalry, and a few other specialty items etc.  So in total, we are talking 500+ models easy.  This will be by and far the biggest 28mm project I have attempted and will take I think at least 2 years to complete……. Yeah committed or should be committed ( I will leave it to you to decide 😛 )

Next Post will be 28mm Republican Roman Army 2: Painting the troops  

2 thoughts on “Painting a Republican Roman Army 1

  1. Hi
    Perfect timing..
    Doing very much the same as we speak.
    Not as well read as you ..mostly Osprey and Ancient Wargames Rules related ie Warhmmer Ancient Battles..and the Hannibal Army List.

    Love the Victrix & Little Big Men transfers combo.
    Again same.
    Lovely painting!

    Will follow.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s