Afghanistan is a hard country which is populated by a variety of tough peoples and tribes skilled in the art of war, and it was no different in the last decade of the 19th century. Their tradition was of frequent raiding and skirmishes between tribes, and also raids into neighbouring India, at that time part of the British Empire. Britain sent several expeditions into the country, partly to counter perceived Russian ambitions in the area (the 'Great Game'), but experienced soldiers knew to respect these fearsome Afghan warriors, not least following the destruction of a whole British army back in 1842.
While the country had many ethnic groups and tribes there were more similarities than differences in their appearance. The usual costume was a loose tunic (angarka) with a cummerbund, and loose trousers. On the head was a turban of some description, sometimes wrapped round a pointed cap called a kullah, or a more simple skullcap. Some tribes preferred particular colours, but this is irrelevant for unpainted figures, and those in this set capture this costume pretty well. The clothing is reasonably well done and the mix of styles is realistic, with one man apparently wearing a poshteen coat in deference to the often biting cold. However footwear cannot be made out on these figures (sandals were commonly worn).
The nature of their society made virtually all men (and many women) very familiar with weapons. An assessment made at the time estimated that perhaps a little over half the warriors bore a firearm, with the rest having edged weapons, and this split is properly reflected in this set. The level of detail does not permit precise identification of weapons, but some seem to have the very old and traditional jezail rifle while others have something more modern, probably the Snider or Martini-Henry. Basically the wealthier tribes had the more modern weapons, so in places the jezail was rarely seen by the 1890s. The edged weapons are again difficult to make out, but should be from a variety of swords and a much-feared weapon called a chora (the third figure in row three may be holding this long-bladed knife). The small round shield is another feature of some Afghan warriors that has been reproduced here.
As rifle technology developed so the tribesmen came to respect its power, and were less inclined to charge a well-armed enemy with sword and knife. This would however make for quite a dull set, so it is not surprising that plenty of charging swordsmen have been included here. The choice of poses is not too bad although the swordsmen do not display much imagination or variety. Still they do the job well enough although they are not particularly elegant or well balanced.
The sculpting is of about the same standard as the companion set of Colonial British Army, but whereas that set suffered badly from poor detail the nature of these figures means detail is much less of an issue. The clothes are baggy and well done, but where detail is needed, such as on rifles and faces, it is quite poor. Some poor distinction between flesh and clothing makes some of these quite confused, with occasional lumps of plastic whose purpose we cannot even guess. The positioning of arms is not always particularly realistic, and we were less than convinced by the way some of the weapons are held. Flash is quite variable too, with some very noticeable areas contrasting with some very clean seams elsewhere.
The old Esci set of Muslim Warriors has been a well-used source of turbans and other items for these kinds of soldiers, and a set to complement this was long overdue. While nowhere near as well produced as the Esci set, this one does at least partly get away with it because of the unregimented nature of the subject. By no means a good set but should still prove useful for the intended subject and perhaps others too.