The box for this set claims a period of third to first centuries BCE, which is fascinating because Carthage simply did not exist for half of this period. Carthage was founded in the ninth century BCE, and built up a considerable empire in the following centuries. In 265 BCE it clashed with the growing city-state of Rome in what became the first Punic War, and over the following decades repeated battles and wars tested these two powers against each other until finally Rome conquered Carthage itself in 146 BCE, killing or selling into slavery all the inhabitants and leveling the city to the ground.
Carthage made great use of troops from her domains as well as allies and mercenaries when she had battles to fight, so Carthaginian armies tended to be very diverse multinational affairs in which each contingent wore its own costume, used its own weapons and fought in its own traditional way. Such a variety of troops could not be adequately represented in 11 poses and to their credit Zvezda have not tried, as this set is clearly limited to mostly the native Liby-Phoenician troops.
Zvezda do not label the figures, except to call them ‘spearman’ and so on. However those on our top row are the heavy infantry, with metal or linen armour. The extent and makeup of the armour is quite varied, but the first three figures in particular display a strong Greek influence, which was particularly appropriate for the early years of the Punic Wars. The first two carry a long pike while the swordsman has something resembling a falcata. After around 217 BCE much Carthaginian native infantry adopted a more Roman appearance, wearing mail shirts and using larger oval shields and short spears, more like the fourth figure.
The second row has the much lighter troops, with no armour and just a simple tunic. The first two are good citizen infantry, while the third looks like a Libyan and the fourth is a slinger, possibly but not necessarily from the Balearic Islands.
The third row is made up of the specialised poses. There we find the officer, splendidly attired like a Carthaginian aristocrat with his highly decorated helmet and shield. Beside him is a standard-bearer, also a man of rank and no less superbly turned out, holding a standard known to have been used during the period. Finally there is a trumpeter, perhaps a boy, who is armed with an Iberian-style dagger but would not expect to get involved in the fighting.
While there are very few poses for each kind of warrior we thought the poses were excellent, full of life and very believable. The swordsman in the second row belies the assumption that figures from a two-piece mould have to be flat, but it is also noticeable that those spearmen holding their weapon aloft do not have it exactly level with the top of their head, which is unnatural yet so often seen in poorer quality sets. Little details like that make this yet another outstanding design job from Zvezda, yet the only assembly required is the addition of some shields.
If the design is superb then so is the sculpting, as we have long come to expect from this manufacturer. Detail is everywhere crisp, clear and beautifully realised. All the round shields have complicated designs engraved on them, and the sculptor has even gone so far as to give the Libyan an earring! Not the slightest hint of flash, yet no excess plastic anywhere, and the shields, which fit perfectly and easily using the same method employed for the Republican Roman Infantry, show how easy multi-part figures can be. Finally the separate pikes, which are about 47mm (3.4 metres) in length, are slender and straight and fit the ring hands well (although we did have to split one hand to force the pike head through).
If we have a complaint then it is that the set tries to cover too many troop types and too long a period. HaT sets cover the individual elements in more detail, whereas this set is more of a taster of all the North African troops at Carthage’s command. Clearly you can’t make a convincing diorama with just one light swordsman or one slinger, but for gamers, who seem to be the target given the ever-present Age of Battles characteristics tables in the box, all the important elements are here, and as an overview of Carthaginian infantry this is certainly the best on the market.