When a manufacturer covers a subject with a large number of sets, it is possible to produce command sets such as this to supply the officers and specialists for which there is no room in the normal sets. This idea was successfully used in the HaT Punic War range, and with ever more Imperial Rome sets being released, it was natural that a similar set should be produced for this range as well.
In some ways a set like this ties up a number of loose ends rather than have a consistent theme, so we will deal with each piece individually. The first figure on the top row is a centurion, clearly identifiable by the traverse crest (horsehair in this case) on his helmet. His sword is on his left hip - the opposite side to the legionnaires, and he wears greaves strapped to his legs. All these are correct for this rank, though he is missing the staff, which is also associated with a centurion, as he is clearly in battle. He wears scale armour, which is fine as it often took a different form to that of the men, and his chest is covered with phalerae as decoration - nine in this case. All this is accurate, but we did not like the ugly pose or, to be more exact, his sword arm.
The next man is a tubicen. Musicians and standard bearers often wore different armour to the men to help pick them out, and this man has mail armour and an animal pelt. He would have stayed near the standard, and it is thought he would sound his tuba (much like a modern trumpet) to call attention to the standard before some signal was given. This is a very nice pose, though one hand should be further along the instrument to allow him a better grip.
The remaining two men are holding the standards which are described below. We have omitted the standards here to allow a better view of the figures. The first man wears mail, and has his sword on his right hip, which suggests a date before the mid second century CE, though such dating is not an exact science. He carries a small round shield, known as a parma, though other types of shield, or none at all, are also thought to have been carried. Both his hands are cupped, which means he can carry the standard in his right and the shield in his left, or the standard in his left and a sword (from another set) in his right - standard bearers were also fighters. His colleague is in more formal pose, carrying the standard before him as if on the march or on parade. He has scale armour and a sword on the left hip - an arrangement that suggests a later date than the first man. He also wears a splendid lion skin, which may identify him as from the Praetorian Guard (wolves and bears were the norm).
The first man on the second wears the Imperial-Gallic type helmet which covers the neck, mail armour, and his gladius sword hangs from a baldric. He is an auxiliary optio (second in command) as denoted by the feathers, and is meant to go with the set of Imperial Roman Auxiliary Infantry. Next is a legionary optio, wearing the iron plate armour now referred to as Lorica Segmentata. His sword is still on the right, so is appropriate until around the mid second century CE.
The third figure is particularly interesting. He too seems to be of the later first or early second century CE, but his helmet and armour are unadorned. His appearance brings to mind the campaigns of Trajan known as the Dacian Wars, which were illustrated on Trajan's Column and elsewhere. His appearance is unusual, and has been specifically modified to meet the threats encountered in that war. The segmented armour has been replaced by a long mail corselet, and he wears bronze greaves. His arms are specially protected with overlapping strips, much in the style of Gladiators, and his helmet displays strengthening bands. HaT tell us that this is meant to be a tesserarius ('officer of the watchword'), and matches set 8064. However due to a production error he is missing the intended crest.
For obvious reasons the standards are moulded separately from their bearers, as are the shields, except in the case of the last figure on the second row, which comes complete. The standards were considerably bent when on the sprue, but the plastic is soft and releasing them soon allowed them to be straightened. The first two are models of the aquila, the famous eagle that was to inspire so many military men in centuries to come. Both the designs here are reasonable, but many others would also have existed. The third standard is a signum, and the precise design of this is believed to have varied between each unit, possibly to aid identification. The one in this set is perfectly representative, and seems to have been modelled on one shown on the gravestone of Lussius Faustes, dated to the last quarter of the first century CE. Next there is an imago, with a bust of the reigning emperor on the end of a pole. All these standards were used at some point during the Imperial period, and all are accurate.
The shields pretty much speak for themselves. The three types on offer cover all the main styles used by the Imperial armies (the oval ones were mainly for auxiliaries, and can be used on the centurion to make him an auxiliary), and each fixes to the figure via a peg on the hand that is inserted into a hole in the centre of the shield, which protrudes slightly to form the boss. This is a very good fit, and a very satisfactory way of attaching such things. The standards simply rest in cupped hands, but there is no means of holding them there so they must be glued.
For a set with only seven poses there is a great deal to say about it. The sculpting style is good and the detail well done. There was some flash to be removed but this was not too serious. Along with the other HaT Roman sets, this set allows the formation of a complete Roman legion for the first time, including standards, music and catapults.