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I discovered the upcoming Victrix Macedonian Pikemen a few months ago and was horrified when I saw that they have modelled them with sleeves/couplers on the pikes.

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An object was found in a Macedonian tomb and it was theorised that it served as a connector between pike halves. This is a very problematic/moronic theory and I cannot understand why Victrix would hang on to it. See for instance this discussion over at Roman Army Talk and the comment by JJartist at the bottom of a thread about competitor Warlord Games Macedonians at TMP. Some great arguments for pikes without these connectors and some arguments for the connectors. The discussions I have seen (as well as my own experiences in handling physical objects..) weight heavily in favour of pikes without sleeves. I mean, just the fact that no other pike wielding cultures have ever used pike sleeves should say something.

If they really believe in this theory they should at least respect that a lot of folks do not believe in it and make the pike sleeves optional parts. It would be waay easier to add a pike sleeve than to remove the existing one. They are immediately pushing folks towards their competitors if they go on with this design. And that is a shame since the counterweights on the Victrix pikes look way better than those on the Warlord pikes. I might even have to register a Facebook login for this blog so I can comment directly to Victrix.. Or if anyone else wants to comment about this please feel free to use the links I provided. Otherwise I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that the sleeves will be optional.

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One of the factions that are completely untouched by the plastic virus is the Scythians (of any variety). Here I take Fireforge Games Mongolians and use them as Scythian light/medium horse archers. I scraped away the stirrups as a way to shave off 1500 years. The rest of the horses harness/tack/saddle/whatever does not look Scythian but its close enough for me.

I took the separate quivers and bow cases and combined them into so called gorytos. Used some Victrix hoplite heads that I will probably never use for their intended purposes since they fall outside of my time period. The smurf-style hats are not really correct for Scythians at this time either but they resemble the Scythian/Persian/Thracian felt caps (diadem) enough to give the right feel. One helmet I scraped off the rim over the eyes to give it an older look.

Also modded a hoplite shield to give it the look of a big crescent shaped shield (pelta). Not really correct either but a nice look. Not really visible in this pic though. Will follow this up when I have more troops assembled.

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I published this earlier (14 June 2011) at another blog under the title: The Thorax So Far. I have also included  some content from one or two other previous posts. Its a lot of text that may or may not be interesting for war gamers but if nothing else this post illustrates why I get rather passionate when reviewing hoplite miniatures.

Ancient Greek body armour of the tube and yoke shape is often called linothorax. For the period and places I’m interested in there are many reasons to avoid that term and its connotation, i.e. that Archaic/Classic thoraces were made of glued linen. There are good arguments that Athenian corselets in the tube and yoke shape were made of leather, sometimes reinforced with metal scales and plates, and referred to as spolas/spolades or thorax/thoraces. Any tube and yoke corselets made of linen were most likely quilted rather than glued together. I decided to experiment by making a composite of four materials. The foundation is quilted linen and the outer layer is leather and, when I get a hold of the material, bronze scales. Will also have steel plate inserts

One of the inspirations for my tube and yoke corselet is this Achilles and Patroclus imagery.

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Here is one of my concept sketches.

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I carved and stamped the leather breast-piece. The flower pattern is pretty historically accurate although I have never seen it on a breast-piece. I nevertheless went with this as I liked the idea.

SAMSUNG Thorax tooling

I painted the leather white. To avoid brushstrokes I painted several layers of very thin acrylic paint. I applied it so liberally, and filled the brush so regularly, that there couldn’t be any strokes at all. It however took me a while before I learnt this trick so on the first leather painted some brush strokes can still be seen through the outer layers of paint.

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There are no archeological evidence of steel plate inserts from this particular time and place (see the Vergina cuirass though for a later example of plates under fabric). I am however experimenting with plate inserts. I still need to roll the bottom edges of this thin steel plate but you get the idea. Will cut plates for the yoke also.

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The biggest stumbling block that remains is to buy bronze plate and cut, drill holes, and shape scales. The main issue is that the type of tin-bronze that I would prefer is difficult to get a hold of unless I buy a big roll which I can’t spend money on right now. Trying to figure out which shape the scales should have by working on some brass scales.

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Will also use bronze for any visible metal borders etc.

The main defensive equipment of a hoplite was the shield and helmet so I try to make the corselet light and easy to wear in a warm climate. In hindsight I believe the end result might be a bit too fragile and I’m not really happy with my short-cut of painting the leather white rather than sourcing leather that is tanned white naturally.

I have benefited greatly from seeing other reproductions and from receiving comments at forums but I also have a couple of contributions of my own. My primary contribution is that the thorax sits snugly and tightly around the waist with a waist-line that appears horizontal when standing straight. This fit is further improved by cutting the pteruges in a corresponding manner. Many reproduced linothoraxes/spolades I have seen are cut more like straight tubes with too long back sections, with the result that the waist-line ends up too high at the front, making all but the thinnest reenactors/martial artists look more pot-bellied than they really are.

I think that people want to achieve the sort of boxy appearance seen on vases by cutting the material boxy. However, the human body always distort those types of straight edges so the end result is often not what intended. By taking into account the human body when cutting the pattern I think the end result can look a lot tighter. My inspiration for my pattern comes from making medieval armour, which is always taking into account the shape of the human body.

A minor contribution, which others might have already beat me to, is cutting the individual pteruges tapered. This gives a nice shape that is true to some of the ancient illustrations (but probably not the majority of the illustrations).

A lot remains to be done. I would even like to start making another corselet to take into account what I’ve learnt from making this. For instance the linen around the waist need to be cut tighter and made stiffer so it doesn’t fold so easily. Most likely I will continue with this and aim to complete it in another year or two.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss wargames and I don’t want to stray too far too often. But if you do like the occasional post about armour or other related subjects, like historical martial arts, let me know in the comment section.

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UNARMUORED HOPLIITE BOX web

Some brief comments about one of the new Victrix plastics. First of all: Note that there are waaay fewer archers than unarmored hoplites. (I will count and edit the numbers in below.) I can’t recall reading this somewhere so was a bit surprised. Luckily I made that trade with Nobby so I have enough archers, just very little variation as there are only two bodies of archers and some more arm variations.

On to some details. I already own the Athenian hoplies plastics and can make some comparisons. If I recall correctly this recent set was made with a combination of physical sculpting and digital modelling. Below the new unarmored/archer sprue is to the right and older Athenian sprue to the left. The new set has better spears (dory) with longer end caps of the spears (sauroter) that look more realistic. I’m glad to see this improvement as this is something that has bothered me.

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In the pictory below the unarmored hoplites are to the left and the Athenians to the right, sorry for switching sides. The heads and helmets in the new box are smaller than those in the old box. An improvement is that there are more old helmet options (Persian War period towards early Peloponnesian War) in the new box. The designs are a bit different but both have benefits and drawbacks.

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Below is an unarmored hoplite to the right, a partially assembled Athenian hoplite in the middle and an archer to the left. The most annoying part about the new figures is that they have really short necks. I don’t mind the smaller heads but the problem is that the unarmored hoplites look slightly broader then the Athenian armoured hoplites so the difference in head sizes becomes clearer. Not a huge problem though. Not a fan of the clothing folds as they look too soft. Compare to Immortal/Warlord and you can see where Immortal/Warlord put some more effort into sharper more detailed folds (not pictured in this post though but Google is your friend).

edited to add: there are 48 unarmored hoplites in box of 56 so only 8 archers if I got my counting right.

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It’s finally official — I’ve gotten my Ph.D! Since I want to try to keep up a resemblance of anonymity I won’t tell you the subject except that it has to do with contemporary warfare. With that little detail out of the way.. I have started updating my own wargaming rules and hope to playtest them within a couple of months. Also ordered a box of victrix archers and light hoplites and a box of fireforge games mongols that i will convert to scythians. In other news the figure swapping i did with nobby went well and we both got what we wanted.

I have primed my fireforge Swedes and have continued painting my perry mounted men at arms. Will show some progress pics soon.

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Llama likes to spread the fruit of his hard labour around. This time I was on the receiving end. With the recent Hobbit releases Llama realised he couldn’t fit his historical works in progress in his housing so I got his Immortal/Warlord minitures. All assembled and primed, with most of the basing done. My hoplite collection just took a big leap forward.

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I have already done a few previews of the Victrix Hoplite endeavour. One contrasting Immortal/Warlord to Victrix in terms of historical accuracy. One note on a site comparing the size of Immortal/Warlord and Victrix. And a rant about how weirdly they have decided to package hoplites from different times and places.

Now I’ve had a box for a few weeks and have been able to put a few of them together and can wrap up my opinions in this rather quick and dirty review (the pictures are even more raw then the text as usual). I have loosely tried to stick to the review formula of the Plastic Soldier Review.

Quality of Sculpts and Poses 9/10

The sculpts are well done. Although I am normally attracted to less chunky styles these pass my esthetic barrier. I really like the sculpting of the faces, the solid breastplates, the arms and the excellent poses. The tube and yoke corselets look fine as well in terms of quality of the sculpting. There is at least on hand that looks a bit weird and one helmet that looks bad as it has no nose guard but otherwise a more Corinthian style. Not sure if its sculpted badly or badly researched. The “skirts” could have been sculpted even better to match more closely depictions on ceramics.

Quality of Molds 9/10 

The molds work fine and the figures are easy enough to clean up — probably a bit easier then the Immortal/Warlord hoplites. Unlike Immortal/Warlord the sprues are however very sparsely populated. A benefit is that its possible to really get a clipper in there when removing pieces from the sprues but there are other downparts.

The Number of Parts 7/10

The sprues could easily have included a few more heads to make this box more useful for those of us that want to pick a time frame that is more narrow than two hundred years. Its incredibly annoying to be stuck with two to three heads that I have no use for while having to improvise heads for the bodies without heads. And also to have to use the unarmoured heads for such a big proportion of the figures since the bare heads are a part of the eight available for the eight bodies per sprue. It really wouldn’t have taken much for them to just include a few more heads.

There are plenty enough of arms and weapons and other paraphernilia, at least for me that focus on equipping the figures with spears.

Historical Accuracy 6/10

Since this set covers a wide period of time that alone means that the historical accuracy can’t be top notch. I don’t care if the historical accuracy is top notch but I really don’t want glaring errors or issues that makes it hard to use the figures. Due to the already mentioned problem of too few head options I will have to modify heads from this or other boxes in order to use all the included bodies. I have already made a head with a pilos helmet from what I recall was a Fireforge Games sergeant head. The Corinthian helmets have better overall shapes than most offerings out there but the nose guards are pretty untypical — either too wide or non-existent (if that Chalcidic looking helmet is really intended to be a Corinthian..)

Given that the bodies are meant to cover a wide period of time they work fine. The belt-like waists do look a bit too unhistoric. Although I have mentioned a historic presedence for them they are sure not typical. The greaves look really good — better than a lot of reenactors’ greaves. There are some form of wrist bands on the arms. I don’t understand why they are there.

The weapons are not that historically accurate. I have no real problem with the swords when seen from a distance but the sauroter (the spearpoint at the back end) looks like crap. I just can’t see how they could have designed it that badly. I don’t really like that the midpoints of all spears have handles. Ok with handles on a few of them but why put it on all of them. That issue is not so huge though.

I perceive the shields to have more typical proportions than the Immortal/Warlord ones. They are well-shaped and the shield drapes look great.

Total score: 31/40

Edited to add: In total I can definitely recommend this box. There are some obvious problems but I will buy more of the Victrix hoplites. I’ll just wait until most of them have been released so I know which boxes give me most of what I want. If you are most interested in historical accuracy and slender sculpts then Immortal/Warlord might be best. But if you want a good blend of decent historical accuracy, great poses and good sculpts then Victrix is your thing.

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