Below I firstly outline my general impression of the different sculpts and service of the manufacturers, and secondly, compare the same types of gladiators from the different ranges. The names of each manufacturer are clickable and should take you to the said gladiator range. At least the links worked at the time of posting...
Donnington's gladiators fall within their 'originals' range. This can be either a blessing or a curse. The figures can be bought individually which is great, but the sculpts are quite variable in size and quality. This range is set up for slave/gladiator revolts and so several of the figures are equipped in captured Roman equipment rather than for the arena. I only ordered two of the slave women and the hopolomachus figure. I liked the slave woman with spear; she'll be used in one of my factions in Antioch. The other two were a bit rough.
Museum have perhaps the largest range of gladiators with 12 different types. However, Museum figures are quite stylised; very tall and quite.... Germanic looking. Look at 1930s German propaganda posters and you'll know what I mean. They are only available in packs of eight identical figures or a bag of two of each sculpt (24 figures). As I wasn't sure that the sculpts would suit the rest of my figures I contacted Museum about the possibility of just buying a small sample with two or three figures. I was very much put in my place and told I could buy the mixed bag of 24. This is the only range I'm aware of which didn't make it into my collection.
Mick Yarrow (UK)
MY miniatures are OK. Some of them are a bit too chunky for my liking and there was a bit of flash. Mick is really approachable and great at answering any questions you might have. I bought a pack of eight mixed gladiators with weapons attached (they also do a pack with seperate weapons - not sure if they are the same scuplts though) and they threw in a few extra samples as well including a really nice mounted gladiator (Spartacus?). I'll happily use quite a few of these lads and also the gladiatrix who was included in the free sample.
Outpost have five gladiators. Their service is very fast and the sculpts are nice. They are a bit on the fine-featured side and look quite slight alongside the others. This is most noticeable when viewed side-by-side their colleagues from Rebel miniatures.
Stategia Nova (Italy)
These guys were a bit of a late runner in my search but I think these are my favourite 15mm gladiators. They have two packs of six gladiators so 12 different sculpts in total but several are the same types (two or three retiarii etc). The sculpts are a little chunky, akin to the MY figures but with a bit more character and less flash. They are a bit smaller than the Rebel figures but that's not such a problem. The website is of course in Italian, but a little bit of intelligent guess work (followed later by google translator) will see you right.
Rebel miniatures (US)
Rebel only do four gladiators. They state that they are 'heroic' 15mm figures and indeed they are a bit buff. Lovely sculpts but huge against the Outpost gladiators, they seem to look only slightly large alongside the Mick Yarrow and Strategia Nova figures.
Highlander Studios (US)
These guys only do a single gladiator - or more correctly, a gladiatrix. She is confusingly listed in their post apocalyptic range under the name Carolee. She is a dimachaerus and looks nice on the website. In bare metal she looks quite mannish but I'll certainly be using her.
Now for some shots to show the size comparison between ranges - all captions list the figures in order from left to right:
|Murmillones by Mick Yarrow, Outpost, Rebel and Strategia Nova|
|Hoplomachi by Strategia Nova, Rebel, and Donnington - I include the armed slave woman too as she might pass for a gladiatrix hoplomachus?|
|Retiarii by Outpost, Mick Yarrow and two from Strategia Nova|
|Strategia Nova thraex, Outpost thraex, Mick Yarrow thraex, Highlander dimachaerus, Rebel dimachaerus|
|A general comparison with two Xyston figures for scale (I'm using them as a sagitarius and a velite); Strategia Nova retiarius, Outpost thraex, Rebel dimachaerus, Highlander dimachaerus, Mick Yarrow thraex|
And two shots showing my 16 favoured gladiators. I'll paint all these up as my pool of recruits for gladiator bouts and campaigns. I probably have more than this again in unused gladiators who will fester in the lead pile until such time as I need them; perhaps a Spartacus themed DBX army in the future?