The Parthians, occupying land which today is in Iran, were superb horsemen and warriors, and most used their long-practised skill with the bow when they were called to war. However the wealthiest nobility could afford something more prestigious and turned out as cataphracts, heavily armoured lancers that could smash an enemy in the right conditions. In the past there have been several sets of these horsemen, but none have been particularly impressive. Can HaT do better with this one?
The cataphracts was heavily armoured, but there seems to have been no uniform way of achieving this, and in any event styles must have changed over the centuries. All the figures in this set have differing armours but all look authentic from what we know. Two also have small cloaks – cloaks being mentioned in texts as being used to disguise the heavily armoured nature of these horsemen from the enemy. Helmet shapes too are many and various, and again all look perfectly likely.
The main weapon of these troops was the kontos, a lance of approaching 4 metres in length which has handled with both hands or sometimes thrust down from overhead. That makes it a difficult weapon to model, which has provoked manufacturers of previous sets to make a lot of figures with other weapons, but HaT deserve credit for sticking with the main weapon on most poses. However only one pose is actually using the kontos, while the rest are merely carrying it, so while the poses are pretty good there are not enough in the act of using their weapon for our liking. HaT point out that wargamers prefer such figures with lances pointing up as otherwise they interfere with each other on the table, and that the split of poses here is a compromise between the needs of wargamers and modellers, which is reasonable.
The two horse pieces are well posed, with one trotting and the other perhaps walking or stationary. Both are almost completely covered in armour, with head and neck protection as well as their full-body trappers. It seems not all the heavy cavalry rode such well armoured horses, but these two are perfectly correct. Such horses were bred to be large and strong (they had to be), but these don’t particularly give that impression, even under all that armour.
The sculpting is pretty good, with the various armour textures being quite well done and no flash at all. The set includes enough of the kontos lance for everyone, with each being 53 mm (3.8 metres) in length to the tip of the head – a good length. They are also very slender and well produced, although the fairly soft plastic does mean they are quite flexible. However they look very good when attached to the figure, which is easily done as they are well engineered. A small number of swords have also been supplied, as has a piece that can be cut to produce one of two different types of mace. Both are useful and accurate weapons, which could be placed on figure or saddle as well as in the hand. Also the draco standard from the light cavalry set could be used on these figures.
The single foot figure is there because DBA rules need one, but dismounted warriors did not always figure much in Parthian armies. This is easily the best set yet produced for the heavy Parthians, complementing the set of light cavalry very well. Yes, HaT have definitely done a lot better than the competition with this set.