About Me

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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Polybian Romans - Essex vs Magister Militum

For about a month or so I had 4 bases of primed Magister Militum (MM) Republican Romans sitting about my painting area and really just getting in the way. Once I finished the gladiators I decided to just slap some paint on them and get them out of the way, but as I started I soon found out that these wee figures really, really take paint well! In all honesty I wasn't trying to be particularly neat and tidy and was painting faster than I normally do, but they seemed to come out really nicely!

When I originally decided to do 15mm ancients I didn't really know which manufacturers were out there, but I had seen Magister Militum at Claymore and was highly impressed with the quality, so it seemed pretty straightforward to buy from them and I ordered the equivalent of a couple of FoG battlegroups (in mixed poses and with both pila and gladius) to get started. I was pretty happy with the figures, but they got shelved as something else came up. I then spied an Essex Roman DBA army on eBay and got it quite cheaply and endeavoured to paint it all up (as seen on this blog before). Once I'd seen the finely detailed Essex figures I thought the MM looked a little rough around the edges, but painting really brought them to life. So, I thought I'd take some comparison pics to illustrate the differences and maybe help anyone thinking of using these manufacturers to decide which they like best.

First off, the Hastati. The most obvious differences here are the different stance and the lack of a bronze plate on the back of the MM. The plumes on the helmet are also somewhat different and the shields are slightly different, but not by much. On close inspection, the MM are beefier than the Essex and would actually stand a bit taller if it weren't for the more dynamic pose, but from arms length they mix with no problems at all.

Essex on the left and MM on the right

Essex still on the left

This shot shows the tunics off quite well

Next are the Principes. These are the figures that are the most similar to look at from a distance. When you get a bit closer, though, I think the mail looks more finely detailed and regular on the Essex than the MM, which is what drew me to the conclusion that MM were a bit rougher round the edges than the Essex. Also the tunic and mail are a bit shorter on the MM, but the shields are again quite compatible despite the MM being a bit more oval. Both sets model the Montefortino helmet quite closely to the pictures I've seen, but again, the MM have higher, more impressive feathers on the crest. As with the Hastati, the MM are bulkier then the Essex, but will mix and match OK on the tabletop. I suppose that comes as no surprise!

Just to mess with you the MM are on the left in these pics

This angle shows how the Principes will mix well

This angle shows the difference in texture of the mail. The Essex are a
bit dull, though, due to slightly too liberal application of matt varnish!

My personal preference for the Hastati lies with the MM due to the more action-like pose and the lack of the back-plate which shows off the tunic a bit more, but that is not to say I suddenly dislike the Essex. The Principes I am less inclined towards a preference due the similarities, but I think the MM slightly win out due the pose and the somewhat more imposing crests. If I had to only buy one of these ranges I would probably go with MM, but I think Essex are maybe a shade cheaper and are by no means a poor alternative. Also, Essex often have 3 for 2 sales on DBA armies. The ratio of troop types in a DBA army mean that this would be a very cheap way of putting together a core force and is how I gained at least half of the legionaries I have!


  1. Very nice job here. As I mentioned on the TMP thread, I also have MM Rep. Romans, but your paint job looks much nicer than mine! I might have to steal your paint combination next time I paint some up... Cheers, and I'll look forward to reading more of your blog.


  2. I completely underestimated the MM figures. I may have to look at these for a 3rd FoG legion.

  3. I'm currently painting a BG of the MM figures with gladius rather than pilum, so watch out for pictures of them soon. Might help your decision a bit further. I'm doing them in red too, so you'll see them in a different colour scheme.

  4. very nice paint jobs, I always wonder how big the MM figures were compared to others.

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