I have been working my way through a project to rejuvenate some very old Minifigs Republican Roman 25s. They came my way after the widow of Marius, a childhood opponent of my friend Keith, asked if he would find homes for her husband's figure collection.
Keith knew I already had several Minifigs figures and offered me a big box of Romans, Spaniards and Carthaginians. He remembered gaming with these figures in the 1970s, although they had evidently spent many years on a shelf, replaced by more modern projects.
Rediscovering these old castings has been great fun. I am not expert in the history of Minifigs but I believe this collection is from their penultimate (or original?) range, which had certainly been phased out when I started collecting ancients in 1981. They are even smaller than 'true' 25s, especially the horses, and the detail is superficial. However the proportions and poses are good and I find the look en masse very pleasing.
It turned out on inspecting the box that there were more unpainted than painted models in Marius' collection. I started by rejuvenating the painted models, all of which were of Hastati/Principes holding pilum over-arm. They had shiny blue shields with copper bosses and strips and were based in old style with filler painted green. I made up three new units of 16, leaving one of them with blue shields as a link to their past livery. Most of the repainting was of shields, plus an Army Painter soft tone wash on the flesh and bronze paint on helmets.
After repurposing the painted models I started creating new units to supply a respectable Republican Army for Sword and Spear. I found that I have a huge number of Triarii Spearmen, but no more troops with Pilum to reinforce the front line. I created a fourth Hastati/Principes unit by shortening the spears of a Triarii unit and inserting brass rod in the tops to provide the long shank of a pilum. I am pleased with the result. I will use other surplus Spearmen to create allied legionaries.
I have kept the paint jobs on new units simple and compatible with the older figures. The shield transfers are by Veni, vidi, Vici. I think they look impressive, even with telegraph pole spears, and if wanted to go super detailed, I shouldn't be using 1970s figures in the first place.
I have also completed a unit of Carthaginian Spearmen, holding shields with bosses, as they were portrayed back in the 70s. I know today's thinking is that bosses would have made fighting in a phalanx uncomfortable, but they look good, reflect the received wisdom of the day and that's enough to earn a place on my table.
This has been a really enjoyable exercise and I am glad Keith thought of my interest. I hope Marius would feel that I have kept to the spirit of his army and that he would be pleased to know they will keep on fighting for, I hope, another several years. So here's to the memory of Marius and to the pleasure of getting veteran wargame figures back onto the gaming table.