REVIEW: ACI Toys 1:6 ROMAN LEGIONARY
First Release In New "Warriors: Total Rome" Series...
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Toy companies are a lot like movie companies in that they both want a piece of the big pie. Take last year's near identical action thrillers - Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down - for example. Coincidence? I think not. In the case of today's action figure review, the latest trend I'm seeing in 1:6th scale collecting is a realistic depiction of the Ancient Roman Empire. ACI and Kaustic Plastik have been leading this themed charge for a few years now, both companies offering collectors awesome 12" figures of savage gladiators and world-conquering legionaries. Like the film industry, this competition in toys is nothing but a win-win situation for fans. Not only are there more figure options to choose from, but collectors are constantly treated to better and better collectibles as the toy companies strive to outdo one another. Accuracy is the name of the game, although we may have crossed that line of having too much realism...
ACI first grabbed my attention in 2012 with their stunning "Spartacus 2 - Gladiator of Rome" (read my review HERE). 2013 continued to amaze with "Roman General" (HERE), a figure that bore more than a passing resemblance to Russell Crowe's character Gladiator. For 2014, ACI continues to capture the Ancient Roman Empire in 1:6th scale action figure form, though this time they are sitting aside the movie undertones in favor of more historical accuracy. The series is called Warriors: Total Rome and it launched late this month with the release of a Roman Legionary, the backbone of the Roman army. Other figures announced include a Roman Optio and two versions of a Roman Centurion. All these figures are available for order in the U.S. through Cotswold Collectibles, the Roman Legionary in-stock and listed at $174.99. For international orders, visit ACI's "Where to Buy" webpage HERE.
Just like last year's Roman General, ACI's Roman Legionary comes packaged in a fifth panel window box that speaks of high quality with its gorgeous presentation. It's a radical departure from their simple closed-box Spartacus II days. The cardboard construction is thick and durable and the hidden magnetic clasp that holds down the front flap a touch of class. The stylized blue art work of a Roman Centurion leading his infantry into battle is an eye-catcher; the pop of red immediately grabbing your attention and carrying it to the back. It is a little bit misleading, however, as the figure you are opening is your standard foot soldier sans a helmet plume. The internal figure tray continues to tease with a designated slot for a plume, but not including one. You'll have to purchase the upcoming Optio and Centurions for that extra. Speaking of extras, ACI is quite informative on the back panel listing all the gear and weapons your figure comes with. Highlights include aforementioned plumeless Imperial Gallic style helmet, sword, dagger and shield, along with a total of TWO styles of javelins.
Lifting the lid reveals more attractive art work, both on the interior flap and on a cardboard insert that covers the stowed figure and gear. It's like opening a present; the multiple layers not only look nice, but they add a level of anticipation in reaching the figure inside. Overall, the Roman Legionary's packaging is sophisticated and worthy of a high-end 1:6th scale release. The only downside is that it appears we'll be seeing this design again for the Optio and Centurion releases. Cost effective, for sure, but a bit of a letdown for mint-in-box collectors.
As mentioned, ACI and Kaustic Plastik are both duking it out in the ancient Roman arena. Kaustic got the jump on the Roman Legionary (read our review HERE), however that hasn't stopped ACI from bringing their "A" game. Both figures offer unique details to fans - along with some questionable downsides - so choosing which Legionary to add to your collection really boils down to a matter of personal taste (and patience). One of the most obvious differences between the two figures is the Gallic style helmet. Kaustic cast theirs in real metal, while ACI opted for plastic. Both feature phenomenal detailing, though I give the edge to Kaustic. The plus side of ACI's plastic helmet, however, is a slightly better fit and less top heaviness on the figure. To help with that better fit, ACI provides a headband, the bandana looking great on the Legionary while he's relaxing between battles.
The use of detailed plastic continues on the ACI Roman Legionary's upper armor - "over 40 pieces of individual segments and parts". It's an extremely complex and realistic getup - each armor plate looking every bit like real metal. You'll want to be careful when dressing the Roman Legionary not to disturb the clasps that hold the upper body armor to the lower chest armor. I had taken a few photos before realizing the two halves had come undone. Pinching the clasps down for a tighter fit did the trick. Real metal does come into play with detailing on the Roman's skirt and weapons. Like past ACI blades, both the Legionary's gladius (sword) and pugio (dagger) are constructed of a nice thick and durable metal. ACI also uses real metal on the two javelins, my favorite being the one with a (metal) ball towards the end, I would assume for more balanced throwing. The bladed weapons come with sheaths which attach to the Legionary's belt (more on that in a bit), while the two javelins come packed in two sections that must be connected together via a peg and hole system. A problem I discovered here is that the connection was not a tight or secure fit, the two javelin halves falling apart with the slightest touch. A touch of superglue to bond the sections did the trick, but it's a step I should not have had to take.
The Roman Legionary also packs a hard plastic scutum (shield), the large, curved retangular line of defense beautifully designed in red with gold wings and arrows. I've always been a huge fan of the Roman's decorative shields and their brilliant use in combat.
To hold all these accessories, ACI includes numerous hands. Removing these requires a hairdryer to soften the post and plastic (it's even listed in the instructions), a cumbersome process that I hope ACI can correct in future releases. The wrist posts, while short and sturdy, come pre-attached to the arm requiring you to push the hand's hole onto it. This requires force, which as we all know can lead to a snapped wrist peg. The solution would be to have the pegs pre-attached to the hands. This would allow for easier swapping, and in the case of a wrist peg accidentally snapping, a second chance. As is, no extra wrist pegs are included, so exchange hands at your own risk. The hand gestures all get the job done, especially for grasping the javelins and shield. However, I found the hand grips a tad loose for the sword and dagger, a bit of a bummer considering how well my Spartacus II Gladiator gripped his gladius (read: extremely tight and secure, the way a weapon-grasping hand should be). Perhaps design the sword with a removable pommel - that way you could slide the handle in a smaller hand hole and reattach the pommel for a tighter grip (similar to what Sideshow did with Darth Malgus HERE)?
The rest of the Roman Legionary's outfit is a mix of well-tailored soft goods and faux leather. There's a red hooded cape that adds a whole new look to the figure, hanging quite naturally off his armored back and shoulders. And then there is the belt and sandals. Unlike the Roman General, thankfully collectors don't have to go to the trouble of placing the Roman Legionary's upper body armor on. Like the Roman General, you WILL have to unbuckle the figure's belt, remove it and slide the dagger's sheath on (as well as placing his over-the shoulder sword sheath). Why this step wasn't taken in production is beyond me. The least they could have done is leave the belt off. As is, unbuckling a belt buckle the size of a pencil eraser was a nightmare and sliding the dagger's sheath on was problematic in that one of the openings was not large enough to loop through the belt. Ah, but my frustration has just begun. Take a gander at those sandal instructions below...
This is what I was referring to earlier by having too much realism. It is one thing to tie the laces on a 1:6th scale shoe. It is a whole different monster to actually BUILD a 1:6th scale shoe. My eyes about bugged out of my head when I came across the sandal instructions. An exercise in madness, ACI requiring collectors to assemble the sandals on this figure is simply uncalled for. We all love 1:6th scale action figures, but we all have varying degrees of skill when it comes to projects that require tweezers, an electron microscope and bucket loads of patience. Having no other option (unless I wanted my soldier barefooted), I accepted the challenge - a task that took me over an hour packed with cursing and frustration. The end result is far from horrible, but certainly not the tight hyper-realistic result shown on the instructions. And that's the problem: by trying to increase the realism of this figure with build-it-yourself sandals, ACI actually brought the realism down (unless you're a pro at these kind of things, which I would argue not many are). The solution? Have someone in production assemble the sandals on these figures.
Belt and sandals aside (especially those sandals), ACI's new Roman Legionary truly is a remarkable 1:6th scale action figure. The level of detail and love put into this project is readily apparent from the class act packaging, incredibly intricate armor and weapons, life-like body and head sculpt. Like Hollywood's multiple movie options, it's great to see so many toy companies step up to the plate and give the ancient Roman Empire the respect and collectibles it deserves.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Sample Courtesy of ACI Toys