A quick lesson in Republican Roman infantry types. In battle a Roman front would consist of three lines. At the very front came the hastati - young men of some experience and well armed. Behind them came the principes, men in the prime of life and also well armed, but with more experience. The third line was made up of the triarii, the oldest and most experienced men of all. In front of the line at the start of a battle were the velites, acting like light infantry.
This set contains five poses of hastati and three of velites. The hastati were armed and clothed in a similar fashion to the principes, but these men differ from the HaT principes in that they wear a simple tunic with a square pectoral breastplate rather than a mail shirt. This costume is appropriate for the early part of the wars, but is likely to have disappeared by the Third Punic War. Still, these figures allow a choice to be made as to which costume is to be shown, which is all to the good. In addition these men wear helmets of different types, and one greave on the leading (left) leg. In all respects the costume is accurately portrayed, including the feathers in the helmet to impress the enemy. Armament too is correct, with each man carrying two pila, and once these were thrown he would draw his gladius hispanicus for the close-quarter combat.
At the start of a battle the velites would be in front of the main Roman line, acting as skirmishers by throwing their short javelins at the enemy to break up their formation. Once the enemy came close the velites would retire behind the line and form next to the triarii, thereby acting as a bolster for the reserve. Velites were mostly from the poorest classes, and had little military experience. They wore no armour apart from their helmet, and carried a circular shield for protection. They could sometimes carry up to seven javelins, but would not often expect to have to use the sword that they also carried. Sometimes they wore animal skins to help with identification, though HaT have chosen to provide all their velites with skins - in this case full pelts. This apart, the three velites are entirely accurately modelled.
All the figures are nicely detailed, and flash is very low. The weapons could do with being defined a bit more clearly, since they have no discernible point, but the clothing and animal pelts are quite nicely done, The shields are all part of the figure rather than produced separately, so there are compromises to allow this to happen, but generally the sculpting is pretty good.
The poses are useful and pretty well animated, although they are certainly quite flat. So everyone is holding their shield very close to their body, and the figures about to throw their javelins are holding them directly over the middle of the head, which if you try it yourself you will find is anatomically impossible. Some of the shields are held at unlikely angles - this is particularly true of the velites, who all hold their shields with the edge facing the enemy, thus rendering them almost useless. The first two velites would also have their wrist at a very odd angle in order to hold the shield in the position it is, so the poses have suffered from compromises to make these figures all one-piece. Even without all that, the second velite pose looks odd because he is holding his sword as far away from the enemy as he can, which is easy to mould but not a particularly likely posture in battle. Where the hastati hold their second pilum in their left, shield hand, you have to wonder how they did this whilst also holding the horizontal bar of the shield itself, although since it seems two pila were carried, we cannot say this was not done as shown here.
This is a nice set whose main drawback is that two troop types are included, which is inconvenient if you want to buy just the one type. The poses are too much of a compromise to us - we would have preferred separate shields and perhaps weapons in order to make more natural poses. However the results are not too bad, and these nicely produced figures are certainly good enough to swell the armies of second century BCE Rome as it faces its greatest challenge.