In 1622 a military unit of the French King’s household were given muskets, thus creating the King’s Musketeers. That rather dry fact may not rank as one of the best known in history, but those King’s Musketeers can claim to be amongst the most recognised of military units even today thanks to one novel, ‘The Three Musketeers’, first published in 1844. The author, Alexandre Dumas, was telling a fictional story but the dashing adventures of D’Artagnan and the rest have spawned many films and even a musical, and it is surely this success that brings us to the subject of this article, the first figure set from GerMan.
The King’s Musketeers were his personal bodyguard outside of the royal residences, but they also fought in pitched battles, both mounted and on foot. At this period uniforms were still largely a thing of the future, and for the most part these men are dressed much as any other musketeer of the time, with broad brimmed hats, tunic, breeches and rather substantial boots. Their status was signified by their casaque or tabard (the surcoat), which was of a uniform colour and decoration. Shortly after their creation, another unit of musketeers was created for Cardinal Richelieu, and these were dressed in the same manner apart from the design and colour of the coat. These figures are all correctly dressed, and therefore would serve equally well for either body of men.
While they were termed Musketeers these men were also highly skilled with the rapier sword, so the high number of swordsmen in this set is perfectly reasonable. Several also have a dagger, which was often used in tandem with the sword, so again this is all quite accurate.
There are a decent selection of poses, with just a handful carrying the matchlock and the rest with their sword drawn. These latter are almost all in the act of fighting, or fencing, so there is no figure simply advancing or on the march. This makes for lots of great action poses but some customers will have preferred a wider choice of activities on offer. Having said that the swordsmen poses are both lively and quite authentic in posture, and work very well together, which inevitably recalls the many sword fights seen in some of the film adaptations of the Dumas novel. Indeed such images seem to be the main inspiration for the poses in this set, which for many is perhaps no bad thing anyway.
While the style may not be to everyone’s liking these are remarkably attractive figures. While limbs seem to be rather thick this can be explained by the lose clothing of the day, and where slender items are called for, such as the rapiers, slender items are what you get. Swords and musket rests in particular are very finely done and look great. Detail and folds in clothing are also very good, while the faces are full of character, even when they are in profile to the mould. Technically too these are excellent, with no flash or unsightly extra lumps of plastic anywhere. The mounted man fits his horse extremely well, so in general the picture is rosy.
However we must make mention of the material used in this set. The plastic is quite soft, yet does not suffer from the bending often associated with this. Definition is very sharp and the figures are even nice to touch! However the plastic is not at all strong, and while normal handling is fine we found delicate parts like swords were quite easy to break. Indeed even thick items such as legs will readily pull away from the body with a firm but hardly massive tug, and one figure was sacrificed for our review as we literally pulled it limb from limb without great effort or need of a blade. The makers assure us that any breaks can be repaired with any glue, but they recognise that this is a problem and future output will attempt to address this. The bottom line is these figures are fine if handled with a little more than the usual amount of care, but will not last beyond two seconds in the hand of a destructive child, for example.
While popular fiction may have been the original inspiration for this set it represents an important period in the history of Europe, when Spain’s dominance declined and was largely replaced by France, most notably at the battle of Rocroi in 1643. This is a really nice set of figures, and a great start for this new range. Wargamers may not be too pleased with some of the poses and the otherwise good material has one important flaw, but there is much that is positive about this product. Also included is a sheet of French flags for Louis XIV (the Musketeers themselves would have served under a royal all-white flag), and it should be noted that like BUM products this is only a limited edition, but for the collector in particular this is one that is well worth considering.