The armoured cuirassiers were the 'shock troops' of their day, ready to smash through any weaknesses in the enemy line and win the victory. None were more famous than the French, with the image of thousands of them pouring over the field of Waterloo as one of the most instantly recognisable in military history.
This set was awarded 'Model of the Year 1990' by German magazine 'Modell Fan', which perhaps illustrates how much standards have risen in the past few years as many better sets now exist. Not that this set is bad - on the contrary the sculpting and animation are of the highest order as we have come to expect from Esci. The detail is superb and the only problem is with the horsehair mane, which is a difficult thing to sculpt and has not been handled particularly well.
Where this set scores less well is with the poses, which are few and not very lively. It is a case of the usual selection of sword-being-held-at-various-angles, which is not bad but looks very tame compared to the Italeri Dragoons, for example. The honourable exception is the standing figure, a pose unique in this scale. As a wargame/battle piece this is not much use, but it is a real pleasure to see some imagination being shown. Dismounted cavalry are rarely portrayed, so diorama builders treasure such figures as this, which could be used in a camp scene or one where horses are being watered.
When the effort has been put into good clear detail, it is always nice to report that the figures are also accurate, and here we can say that no errors were found. All the figures are wearing their plumes, which were usually removed before battle, but these are easily removed if desired. Most of the men wear a cross-belt and carry a cavalry musketoon, which was issued in 1812. Their swords are a little short as the originals had a blade of 97cm, but weaponry is otherwise OK.
Only two 'action' horse poses is also disappointing. The horse with alternate legs in the air is a very unnatural stance, but both are saddled correctly, though they are missing reigns. The standing horse can also be very useful as a mount for the Italeri Carabinier who is firing his carbine but has not been given a steady horse. As with all Esci horses, these fit into separate bases via pegs, but the fit is good and this presents no problems. What is more annoying is that all the horses have circular mould marks on their hind quarters, which look very ugly and are not easy to remove cleanly.
These figures really look the part, being stocky and quite definitely 'heavy' cavalry. Though a little uninspiring this is still the best French Cuirassier set available and a must for any French Napoleonic army.