Perhaps the most commonly used adjective to describe the soldiers of Imperial Rome is disciplined. While tactics could vary as necessary the basic concept was to move together in formation with shields to the fore and swords between the shields, ready to stab at anyone who got in the way. Behind the front rank came men with light spears that were thrown as the enemy came very close so as to cause casualties and some confusion just before the ranks met. Against less well organised and less well equipped foes this steamroller tactic usually prevailed, on which foundations a mighty empire was built.
Most sets of Roman infantry deliver a variety of men using their weapons in the normal way but do little or nothing to suggest this tactic, so with the notable exception of the HaT sets they are not well suited to portray the reality of many Roman battles, at least in the early stages. The Strelets Mini series is designed specifically to portray men in formation, so the Roman legions are a natural and welcome choice of subject.
What we find in this set is what would be the normal stance of a Roman soldier in battle. They are all holding their large shields in front of them and either brandishing their sword (if they are in the front rank) or preparing to throw or thrust with their spears. Some have been modelled face on as can be seen while others are in profile, which adds some good variety. Only one man is actually sticking his sword beside his shield, and we would have liked to have seen some of those holding the shield further forward doing something similar, although this would have been a very difficult pose to mould. However when placed together these figures do make for a nicely irregular and yet formidable shield wall, and therefore a thoroughly natural-looking Roman unit in action.
The dress of the Roman soldier changed extremely slowly by modern standards, and perhaps there was never a period when all soldiers dressed alike, but these figures have been given the 'classic' imperial look of lorica segmentata and classic helmet, which would be suitable for most of the first century CE and perhaps much of the second. They are all armed with a sword, which is carried on the right side, and a dagger which hangs on the left. Those with spears have the familiar pilum, with its weighted shaft and thin piercing head design to penetrate and drag down shields. The shields are of the rectangular pattern, but are almost flat when they should be very deeply curved. That apart there are no accuracy problems for this set.
These figures are about average for those from Strelets, without much refinement in detail but with everything more or less there. In most cases the shield is a part of the figure, but four do have separate shields which fit over a peg on the arm, filling the boss and making a nice secure fit. Three of the figures also have ring hands, for which a separate sword and two pilum spears fit quite well. Flash is not evident and the only excess plastic is round those shields moulded with the men, but since these are too flat there is little plastic to remove.
Despite the box art there are no officers or standards in this set, just the ordinary infantry formed up and ready to conquer another load of 'barbarians'. Despite the poor shield shape and the average sculpting these figures look really good when formed up, with enough variety to make a very believable Roman formation. This is a good idea for a set that has been generally well delivered and portrays its subject nicely.