By the 15th century Europe was well endowed with many superb castles, and much ingenuity and craftsmanship had gone into the construction of these ultimate status symbols. However their importance was already waning thanks to the introduction of gunpowder in the previous century, and this set from Zvezda amply demonstrates why. While siege engines had existed for many centuries, none could match the wall-bursting ability of these new weapons of terror - the bombard.
The box states that this weapon is suitable for the 14th and 15th centuries, but in truth bombards of the size of this one only started appearing very late in the 14th century. This is a real whopper, with a barrel length of around 65mm (5.2 metres) and a bore of 8mm (576mm), making it capable of throwing some of the largest stone balls. Indeed the very sight of such a weapon being set up was sometimes enough to induce a garrison to surrender, as no wall could stand such a bombardment for long. Such a weapon generated considerable recoil, and it was normal to absorb this recoil with a number of wooden stops much like those in this model. While there was no uniform pattern or system to such weapons, everything about this one looks perfectly authentic to us.
Since this bombard does not have its own carriage it sits on a large base, which allows Zvezda to make a more complete emplacement. Over the mouth of the gun there is a hinged shield which was raised for firing and lowered at other times to give some supposed protection to the crew. The model in this set, which does indeed hinge, is quite typical. Either side of this shield are smaller, more moveable examples, and beyond these are wicker panels, making something of a continuous barrier along the front of the emplacement. As with the gun, all these items seem quite typical and appropriate for the period.
In our picture we have shown the crew separately, but in truth this is not a set of figures in the traditional sense, but rather a model of a gun with a few figures to bring it to life. As a result none of the figures have a base - they all have pegs beneath their feet that fix them to holes in the base. This means you have no choice as to how the figures are positioned, which is a pity, and we would have liked to have seen separate bases provided for those that might like to use the figures away from this gun.
As for the figures themselves, they are pretty typical of a gun crew in that they have no armour, despite their enforced proximity to the enemy. The costume is entirely civilian, and is more typical of the 15th century than the 14th, which matches the realistic dating of the weapon itself. They are nicely poised and mostly quite lively, and while seven poses is not a generous number still it is about adequate. We liked the two men carrying the bundle particularly, but all of them are quite useful. One interesting feature of this set which perhaps should be more common than it is - it is made in two different compounds of plastic. The parts to construct the gun and the emplacement are in a hard plastic that takes glue well - the ideal kit material - while the figures and accessories are in a softer plastic - again better suited to that subject.
As well as the gun and crew this set contains a number of accessories. At the end of the second row is a barrel, while the third row contains a bucket, bag, ball, hammer and ramrod. The powder measure held by the man in the top row is moulded with him, so there is no option to swap this with the ramrod. However everything looks authentic and is nicely done.
We have come to expect very good levels of sculpting from Zvezda, and this set does not disappoint. Detail is everywhere nice and sharp, while the many textures on this model are also very good. Flash is at a very low level, and where pieces need to be assembled, as with the arms of the third man in the second row, they mostly fit very well without need for glue. There are a couple of exceptions that that however, so a small amount of gentle filing is occasionally required, but overall it is still very well made. One exception is the base. This is very large (about 22cm in length), and has recesses for the gun and wooden bed plus holes for the figures. However it lacks any such positioning for the various elements of the shield, which is not critical but a little annoying. Also we found the gun and bed fit fairly imprecisely in their allotted recess.
As we have said, this is really one big model rather than a set of figures, so to see it at its best advantage it must be viewed all together. As you can see, this is quite a large model, so it will inevitably be the centrepiece of all but the very largest dioramas. The lack of flexibility that it offers might put some people off, and we would have preferred based figures and no holes in the main base, but it is completely authentic and makes for a very impressive model which will undoubtedly terrify the defenders of any of the many 1/72 scale medieval castles currently on the market.