The box states these figures are for the period 1687 to 1721, but why? By the later part of the 17th century Sweden was very strong. As the Great Power period continued she had taken territory from all her neighbours, virtually making the Baltic a Swedish lake, so was well used to warfare long before 1687. However that year saw the introduction of a standardised uniform of blue coats for most of the army (although it took many years to actually deliver it). Ten years later a youth ascended the throne of Sweden, and her envious neighbours thought they had their chance for revenge. The result was the Great Northern War, which ended in 1721 and led to the end of the Swedish Empire.
As can be seen this set has 11 poses, which is not a large number, particularly for such a major manufacturer. Four of those poses are the speciality figures shown on the bottom row, and while they are welcome they would only be present on the battlefield in very small numbers. The last figure on the second row is a grenadier, and naturally having only one pose doesn’t mean much can be done with him. Equally the man next to him is a pikeman, which is reasonable as the Swedes were amongst the last to withdraw this weapon in Europe, but again one pose, and clearly one that is not in contact with the enemy, offers little to the modeller and gamer. That leaves us with just five regular musketeers, and while those five poses are probably the best ones that could have been chosen it still seems much too little. The poses themselves are OK but we would have preferred either more of them or at least not to have several troop types mixed together.
European military fashions and equipment changed considerably between the dates claimed for this box, and Sweden was no different. How then could Zvezda make one set cover these years? Well, they haven’t – not really. The basic uniform is largely what is sometimes known as the ‘younger’ uniform, introduced between around 1706 and 1709. All the troops have turnbacks, which definitely belong only in the last few years of the period, and they all wear the tricorn hat, an article little seen even in 1700 and only slowly appearing later. We would have liked to have seen some wearing the karpus, which seems to have been worn to some degree throughout the period. The ‘older’ uniform worn in the early part of this period had unturned skirts, much larger cuffs and no collar, so none of the troops in this set are suitable for that phase.
Even assuming dates of c.1706 to 1721 there are still some problems. The pike was fast disappearing by this late stage, so a pikemen in the new uniform would probably have been rare, and in any case his pike is rather too short (although men did sometimes cut their pikes down). We also have doubts about the belly pouch on this figure. He has been given a sword, which is fine, and also a large pistol, which is less certain (although evidence is not complete). We could not find any evidence to support the ammunition pouch on the stomach of the pikemen, and nor for that matter the grenadier, who normally had an ordinary infantry cartridge pouch over the shoulder.
The four speciality figures on the bottom row are nicely done, with the officer holding a half-pike and the NCO holding a partisan, both of which are correct although the half pike seems short. The flag however is too small (it should be about 1.8 metres tall and 2.1 metres wide). As was common a regiment took two flags into the field, the colonel’s colour and the company colour. The colonel’s colour was white with the national arms, but this flag has been engraved as a company colour (regular visitors will know we prefer blank flags). It has the same design on both sides, which is an orb surmounted by a cross within a wreath. The orb is the provincial arms – in this case of Uppland – and the whole design is authentic 1686 Regulation pattern. A blank surface would have allowed painters to choose, but in fact the engraving is so shallow that overpainting is a very real possibility.
The sculpting is very nice but not up to the best that this company has produced. Detail is fairly good but is lacking in some areas such as the muskets, and some of the bayonets (which are mostly socket bayonets, another late-period-only characteristic) are rather too short. Flash is not a problem although there are some areas where the mould joins are quite obvious. Also they are just too tall as every man is 25 mm (1.8 metres) in height.
In short then this is not a set for 1687 to 1721, but more like 1706 to 1721. Our rather low accuracy score reflects that, and would have been much better if Zvezda had come clean and printed a more realistic time span. Nevertheless there are still problems, including the lack of a bayonet scabbard on some poses (including the man with a plug bayonet!), and the sculpting, while good compared to many, is not the best Zvezda have produced. Had they provided 15 poses and saved the grenadier for a later set we would have been happier, but this is a set that is reasonable as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go far enough in our view.