Figure Reviews

Here you will find short reviews for ranges of figures that can be used with Vis Bellica.  If you have any comments to add, or reviews of your own, please send them to the Webmaster by clicking here.  

Likewise, if there are any manufacturers who would like their figures reviewed, please e-mail details to the Webmaster at

  1. Essex Miniatures 15mm Assyrian and Ancient Egyptian ranges
  2. Chariot Miniatures 15mm Egyptians
  3. Tin Soldier 15mm Ancient Greeks
  4. Xyston 15mm Ancient Greeks
  5. Tin Soldier 15mm Thracians
  6. Tin Soldier 15mm Persians
  7. Pass O'The North 15mm Ancients: Range Overview
  8. Pendraken 10mm Late Romans and western opponents
















Essex Miniatures

15mm Assyrians and Ancient Egyptians

In 15mm, Essex Miniatures are the "Volvo" of figure manufacturers:  good, solid figures in boxy, undemanding poses.  They are ideal for the backbone of any Ancients army, and these two ranges epitomize that fact.

The highpoints of both are the chariots:  substantial vehicles with proportionate horses that actually look as if they'd survive the odd bump or two without spilling their occupants out onto the desert!  For the Egyptian two-horse chariots, make sure you get the horses with the feathered crests, as those without don't look nearly as good.  As for the Assyrian four-horse chariots:  best on the market, simple as that.

With the infantry, it's the usual Essex story:  easy to paint, shop window manikins.  I must confess that I don't like the Egyptian spearmen and axemen, but do really love the archers.  The Assyrian infantry is much better:  especially the heavies and, of them, especially the heavy archers and slingers.

Not much Egyptian cavalry to comment on, but the Assyrian range definitely gets a good, solid "B" grade.

As for command figures, both ranges have a good selection of well-posed officers.  I especially like the Assyrian mounted command.

Two final things to say about Essex Miniatures:  their figures have little or no flash, and their customer service is second-to-none, with fast, efficient dispatch of orders.

In summary, use Essex figures for Egyptian and Assyrian chariots, cavalry and command, but check each infantry pose before you buy.  

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Chariot Miniatures

15mm Ancient Egyptian range

The thing about Chariot Miniatures is that some of the figures in their 15mm Ancient Egyptian range are absolutely brilliant, and some are, er, not very good.

Highlights are the spear-armed infantry; both types of archer; and the axemen, who are excellent.  The infantry also size up nicely against the Essex range.

I'm afraid that, somewhat ironically, I don't like the Chariot chariots:  I feel that they are too weedy and just not solid enough to look good on the battlefield.

Chariot figures come with almost no flash, but could maybe do with a little more definition in the relief work:  dry-brushing is sometimes a little more difficult than it should be.

In summary, the superb Chariot infantry nicely fill the gaps I've outlined in the Essex range, above, and a combination of the two gives, in my opinion, the ideal 15mm Ancient Egyptian army.

PS  Chariot also do a small but beautifully sculpted Fantasy Egyptian range.  A base of Jackal-headed Archers or Crocodile-headed Spearmen can be used to differentiate special troops.

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Tin Soldier

15mm Ancient Greek range

Tin Soldier figures are pleasingly chunky:  almost Cubist in their rendering of the essence of a hoplite or javelinman.

As a result, they are very easy to paint:  with relief being significantly  differentiated from its surroundings.  This is the range for the painter who likes to highlight!

One problem with the figures, though, is flash:  especially on the crested helmets of command figures.  I have found that it sometimes requires almost a whole painting session to prepare the figures for painting.  The results are worth the pain, but I wish they'd spend a little bit more time cleaning up the figures before dispatch.

Highlights of the range are the hoplites, the javelinmen and the Greek cavalry.  Disappointing is the lack of variation in the light infantry figures:  given that most Greek armies have at least as many light foot as hoplites, I would have thought that two or three variants of javelinman is not too much to ask.

In summary, a decent little range that would be much improved if the figures were more flash-free.   One point in their favour is that their cubist nature means that they are an extremely pleasant change from painting your average 15mm figure:  and it's worth having at least one Tin Soldier army in your collection just for that!

Vis Bellica player Matthew Kirkhart adds:

I agree with everything that was said about the Greek line.  Actually, I think the entire Hellenistic line from Tin Soldier is excellent.  For the Greeks, there are two "classic" hoplite packs available from Tin Soldier, each with 3 variations in helmet/head with some variation in posture and armor (bronze and linen corslet).  That gives the gamer 6 different hoplite poses and when they are varied on a base, they look great!  My only complaint is that the shields are separate, which does make the figures easier to paint, but it is a bit of a challenge to attach the shields.

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Xyston (I-kore)

15mm Ancient Greek range

Somehow the people at Xyston have invented an incredible shrinking machine that turns 28mm mini's into 15's!

This is a range of exquisitely proportioned figures with animated poses that really make a unit come alive.

The detail on these figures is extraordinary, and the relief work deep enough to allow a good highlighter to bring it out in spades!  If Foundry made 15's, this is how they'd make them.

Not much more to say really!


However, Royston Boss adds:

Much as I admire the Xyston figures (especially the hoplites) they are big and you need to be sure what you are mixing with.  Secondly they do have problems where the horses are too thin for the space between the riders legs.  Its best to put a Xyston rider on an Essex horse sometimes.



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Tin Soldier

15mm Thracian Range


Matthew Kirkhart writes:

Although a small line, I think you can put together an entire Thracian army with it if you get a little creative.  The sculpting alone, especially for the infantry, makes the effort worthwhile.

 There are 4 packs of Thracians available from Tin Soldier.  One cavalry pack (which can serve as either Thracian or Thessalian light cavalry) and three infantry packs (the classic Thracian peltast with spear and shield, another peltast pack with rhomphia and shield, and a final pack of archers with fox skin caps).  

There are also some heavier armored Greek cavalry packs that work well as Thracian officers.  Whether you are trying to put together an entire Thracian army, or just want some mercenaries for your other armies, Tin Soldier's Thracians are worth a look.


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Tin Soldier

15mm Persian Range


Matthew Kirkhart writes:

The strength of the Persian line from Tin Soldier lie in the later period infantry figures.  The slinger, archer, and Cardaces infantry packs are all excellent: providing pleasant looking and relatively easy-to-paint miniatures for the gamer.

However, the biggest weakness is in the line also lies in its infantry figures.    What is lacking in the line are Sparabara troops and/or Immortals:  which is unfortunate because the available line of Persians is quite good.  In fact, the lack of Sparabara is my only complaint about the Tin Soldier line of Persians as the Bactrian light cavalry pack and the scythed chariots are also very good. 

One of the more interesting things about this line of miniatures from Tin Soldier is that the gamer can get quite creative in adding conscripted troops to his Persian army.  For example, Tin Soldier also offers very good packs of Skythian horse archers, Numidian light infantry, Galatian infantry, and Indian archers which all supplement the available Persian troops quite well.  Its even possible to pull in some of the later period Arab troops as conscripts as the dress and weapons of these troops are appropriate for a variety of periods.


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Pass O'The North 15mm Ancients

Range Overview


Matthew Kirkhart writes:

The Pass o' the North 15mm Ancient figures are in my opinion very, very good.  

In general, they possess great detail and a "smooth" appearance and texture that is similar to that of the newer 28mm Foundry figures.  This smoothness really adds to the figures appearance when painted.

I ordered the Numidian Psiloi and Carthaginian Auxilia packs and found them to be wonderful.  Jeff Caruso (the owner of the company) also included a number of sample packs of Roman and Gallic figures free of charge.  These figures, too, had exceptional detail.  I would definitely use these figures for a 15mm Roman army.

The only downside to the figures is the relatively few number of poses available in each pack, at least the ones I ordered, although the poses that are available are dynamic.  

Also, the figures are a bit big (probably more like 17mm figures) and their heads are also a bit large:  similar but not as big as the heads of the Hellenistic Tin Soldier miniatures.  In fact, the Pass o' the North figures mix quite well with the Tin Soldier ones, even on the same stand, and also look good with Essex figures as long as they are not on the same stands together.   

In summary, these minor problems are more than outweighed by the quality of the sculpting and the casting of these fine figures.  I highly recommend them.  If you go to the Pass o' the North website, there are a variety of other reviews of these figures along with painted examples from customers.

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Pendraken 10mm


Late Romans

Christopher Catenwolde writes:

The new packs, while only three, are very useful indeed.  They are:

 ARL1: Unarmored Infantry with Spear and Shield.  

A single pose, with helmet, tunic, trousers, long spatha type sword at the belt, and large oval shield.  The spear is held at about 3/4, which makes for great rank placement.  The helmet is of the common spangenhelm variety, with cheek pieces and a small crest along the top ridge.  The crest is very useful, as depending on what unit you want, or whether you believe they had them, you could clip it off, leave it metal, or paint it red or white.  This is a very useful pose for unarmored auxilia, or for rear ranks of armored formations.

ARL2: An armored variety of ARL1, with chain shirt and spear held at close to horizontal, but still high enough to allow second ranking.

I use three variations of basing for my Army of Gaul: unarmored Limitanei units get two ranks of ARL1, regular Comitatensis units get a front rank of ARL2 and a second rank of ARL1, while well-equipped Palatina units get two ranks of ARL2.  The difference stands out, and gives a nice feel.

ARL3: Armored Horsemen with Spear and Shield.  A very typical period figure, with chain shirt and spangenhelm, and spear held upright.  The shield is a small circle.  I think I'm going to use these for the lighter types of Dalmatae and Illyricani cavalry.

The Other Figures

Other packs in the various Pendraken lines are very useful.

ARP7: Unarmored Archer.  A civilized looking fellow that can paint up well for a generic archer.

AR5: Armored Roman Cavalry.  With a chain shirt, larger circular shield, and spear set to charge, this is a great figure for the heavier Roman cavalry.  The helmet has a small top-knot plume, but a little snip and file work and it looks like a late period heavy helmet.

AD2: Cataphract Lancers on fully armored horse.  These guys look the part, and also have bowcase  and quiver that can be snipped or not depending on what you are painting.

AD3: Armored Light Lancers.  These are probably a better figure for later lancer/bow types of cavalry, and could be mixed with AD2 to get a more motley cataphract look to a unit.

Command Figures

AR4: Imperial Roman Infantry Command.  Not suitable for everything, but for some officers on foot and vexillum carriers, etc.

AR6: Mounted Roman General.  He is in "Classical Roman" gear, and will do nicely for your higher officers.

AD1. Mounted (Dacian) General.  Really just a fellow in armor and cape on a half-barded horse.  I can't believe I forgot this one, because with a little work he can be given a lance and used for half-barded cavalry too.

AD5. Dacian Foot Command.  Officer with sword, and Draconarius, obvious choices for conversions.

Aside from this, slight modifications to cavalry figures will work, esp. if mounted singly or small settings on a round base, versus the larger number of figures on rectangular bases.


The Barbarian Horde ("Hairy Guys with Spear and Shield").  Putting together several packs from various ranges gives a range of 9-20 unique poses that can be crammed on a base for a great warband effect.  The packs are:

AD6 (3 poses of spear and shield)

AR12 (1 pose of spear and shield, shirtless)

AS4 (3 poses of spear and shield)

AS3 (3 poses of armored wariors in chain, helmet, and shield, sword, spear, and great axe)

AD9: Unarmored Hairy Archer with Cloak.

AG6: Another cavalry choice, spear but no shield, at rest.

AD4: Hairy fellow charging with spear and shield.

P3: A Polish horse archer, but a great fit for a Mongol at this scale.

That's it!  The variety available makes it easy to do the "Fall of the West" type battles - more work needs to be done to fit in the East, Sassanids, etc.  


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Copyright 2002  Robert Avery. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 31, 2004 .