Caesarean Testudo: Part 1

Well this is the start of it coming together but it really all began with a discussion on the Lead Adventure Forum. Nobody makes a 28mm Caesarean period (Marian reform) testudo formation model. There are several for the later Imperial period but none for the civil wars era. So, if you want one you have to build it yourself.
Photo by and of Tyrianhalfman's model used for reference.
During the forum discussion a fellow wargamer and gentleman whose handle is Tyrianhalfman contacted me and sent me a number of images he had made of his Caesarean testudo project. They were superbly helpful. He'd put a lot of thought into how to construct it and his macro photogrpahy gave be something to aim for and emulate. I referred to his model and progress shots throughout my build and whilst I have departed from his concept to a limited extent, I could not have achieved my results half as easily without his guidance. Figuratively speaking, he breached the walls and I stormed through.
One of Tyrianhalfman's centre ranks using all figures to represent a 24 figure tesduo.

My overall approach was to build a testudo model using as few figures as I could. My thoughts were that the visuals are dominated by shields and behind that cube of shields are mainly shadows. Tyrianhalfman's approach was to use one figure for every shield whereas I wanted to compromise and economize in figure usage. To be blunt, I want several testudos for my army and wanted to squeeze out as many as I could per box of plastic soldiers.
Tyrianhalfman's complete 24 figure testudo.

At the very least, I assumed (mostly correctly) that most figures used would be the outside of what is essentially a box formation.
I did have difficulty in imagining where the economies could me made. The model is 4x4 with 4 shields to the front and on both flanks and 12 shields on top - none to the rear. This nicely represents my standard 24 figure cohorts. As you may discern from the first image at the top of this posting the only figures I was sure I didn't need was the third rank centre figures who would have held up four shields. So I started by building 20 figures for my 24 man testudo ... not much of a reduction.
This testudo model is made from the now redundant Wargames Factory set primarily because I'm not as fond of them as the Warlord Games figures and they come with both arms separate which allowed me to swap arms and raise them to hold up shields when needed.

Immediately after assembling the figures, I constructed the shield canopy. I always knew this was how I wanted to roof my testudos and using the shields from the Wargames Factory set I glued the four three-shield files end on end with a slight overlap. I then fixed the files together on strips of plastic card which made for a one-piece shield-roof section.

I then determined to lay the figures out, fixing them to a piece of paper which I drew the base dimensions on (estimated). This proved helpful as I could square up the model as a whole as I built it from the front rank going back. There was a bit of trial and error here. I fixed the figures to the paper using blue-tack.
The trickiest part of building this model so far is getting the front corners of the formation right. Whilst the formation is four figures wide, the shields on their flanks have to overlap the fighting men in the front - the shields must meet in the corners. If you were to base the ranks of this model together, these corner shield bearers would need to be based with the front rank. The carved off arms and as much of the bases as I could to squeeze the miniatures as close together as possible.
Normally I paint my figures on individual stands but I want to minimize how much painting I apply to this model. So much of it will be unseen behind the shield walls. I intend therefore, to paint them in strips - one for each side of the box. I'll undercoat from the outside only to the depths that can be seen and that will be the boundry of the subsequent paint job.
Temporarily fixing the formation as I went, I realized I couldn't squeeze in the fourth rear shield-bearer. When I placed the shield canopy onto the model they didn't align well with the shields. Then I realised that what did it really matter? How often is anyone (including myself) going to peer that closely into the back of this model. In the interests of 'representation' I decided to thin the rear rank further and reduced the centre shield-holders to just two - and I think it looks fine.
They now better align with the shields. The space necessitated including sword arms for the two end shield-bearers. I just need to imagine that the outside roof shields are held by legionaries standing in front of the rear side shield-bearers. As the model was assembled I then realised another happy coincidence.

The shield canopy extends to the helmets of the front rank, completely obscuring the second rank in shadow. I am thus content that I don't even need the centre shield-bearers for the second rank either. I intend to glue the underside of the shield canopy to the heads and upheld arms of the rear centre shield bearers but will stabilize the roof with a centre pillar fixing the roof to the base. It will remain hidden from view.
So, the final count of figures needed for how I will represent a 24 figure cohort is only 14 figures. Using the legacy Wargames Factory 48 figure box-set I should be able to make a maximum of three testudos per box. I may attempt to make one from a Warlord Games box set which might prove more useful to others given their ready availability.


  1. Cheers Dean, much appreciated. I forgot to mention at the end anyone trying this will need to supplement their shield sets with extras. The plastic shields are best for the roof and I bought spare metal shields to save my plastic shields for this purpose.


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