TESTUDO! 30k Ultramarines Shield Wall

If you have an interest in history, or even just seen Gladiator, or Last Kingdom, or even one of the many other similar films or shows, you’ll probably have come across the Testudo, or shield wall. As a means of defence in days gone by it was as close to well protected as you could get, short from being behind a big stone wall or in another country when it’s all kicking off.

The Forge World Legion Breacher Siege Squad is a really nice looking unit in Warhammer 30k, ideal for boarding actions, or just looking cool with a big shield very similar to a Roman scutum. With the Ultramarines, you get the option to arm them all with a power sword rather than a bolter, giving them a more historic look than usual, and loving the Dark Age game Saga, I wanted to use them as more of a shieldwall/testudo. With that in mind, I built a few torsos and legs and glued them to the plastic 32mm bases to see how they’d fit together, and, they wouldn’t. The size of the miniature on the base and the position of the arms means that the shield is definitely for an individual and not for shielding the squad. The sword arms were also in a variety of positions that meant they wouldn’t stand close enough together.

Safety note – I use a craft knife in this to slice all the bits apart. ALWAYS cut away from yourself. I sometimes don’t, which is foolish and results in having to wash blood off miniatures. Don’t be foolish, be careful, and cut away.

No with the 7th Ed/30k ruleset, template weapons go by miniatures covered rather than a set/random number of miniatures in the squad, so cramming them in together may well result in their untimely death, but I couldn’t stop that minor inconvenience get in the way of making them into a tighter knit formation.

The below shows the end result where the bases need to be changed out for some trimmed down Sector Mechanicus bases (the next post on this squad).

The first order of the day is to get all the pieces you need for each breacher marine together.

The main thing that needs doing to get them looking nice and tight, is to readjust the sword arm. Most of the arms hold the sword out to the right so some can either be made to have the sword raised a little, or ready to strike. I wanted them to be through the gap in the shield as though they would be ready to stab out at the nearest enemy in the traditional Dark Age style. This was achieved by cutting the arm apart just below the shoulder. I found that I was able to simply rotate a few of them so they were in the right place, while others I needed to file off a little of the upper arm to get it to sit right.

With a bit of blutac and a lot of patience, I managed to position it so that it sits in the gap. Ideally they’d be holding the sword so that the blade’s cutting edges were up and down, but as they are will be fine for me. Changing the sit of the blade would have involved readjusting all the arm joints and the hand, and I’m probably not skilled enough for that.

Once in position, glue together and do the same to the rest of your front rank.

The rear rank are similarly tricky, but you’ll mainly be altering the shield arm. So, gather your pieces together!

Again, I chose to cut the arm just below the shoulder and simply rotate the arm. By angling the shoulder into the right position then rotating the arm, you can find a pretty good fit. The reason you’re doing these guys second, is that you want them to have their shield over as much of the guy in front as possible. DON’T ATTACH THE POWER PACK YET! I had wanted the shields to be entirely interlocking, but those Romans didn’t have the awkwardness of a huge powerpack on their back, or legs like tree trunks, so they had more space to move about in.

Positioning is a little trickier, and it’s where most of the base slicing occurs. You’ll need to get them right tight into the guy in front, which will leave a fair amount of the front rank guy exposed, but some positioning is better than others. Once you’re happy with the position, glue the shield arm in place.

Once the shield arm is in position, you want to adjust the sword arm so that it is going alongside the guy in front, ideally without going outside of the front guy’s shield. By this I mean it doesn’t poke out further than the right hand edge of the shield so it’s not encroaching on the space of the next guy over. You can get this sitting right by putting the next front ranker in position and making sure he’s not going to slice off anyone’s legs.

The final thing to do is attach the power pack. It’s big, and so is the shield, so you may need to cut notches out of some of the powerpacks so that the shield fits up there correctly, and the power pack sits in position without hanging off at an awkward angle. Once set up, it starts to look good.

Below you can see how the bulk of a space marine doesn’t quite allow for the interlocking shields, UNLESS, you do cut the arm in multiple places. As someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of hobby time/skill, this was out for me. I am pleased with the way they fit together though.

You can see from the below that, now the miniatures are all built, the standard bases are an absolute train wreck. I’ll be changing these to Sector Mechanicus bases soon, so will post about how I cut them.

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