'Ancient Germans' is a rather vague title, and certainly in ancient times there was no nation state of Germany, but instead many Germanic peoples who formed numerous tribal groups and migrated over the centuries through various parts of Europe. This set was released at the same time as Caesar’s Roman Legionary, which is dated to the first century, so we shall assume a similar date for this set. By this time Germanic peoples occupied many parts of Europe, and were by no means identical in terms of culture or dress, but the figures in this set would seem to represent those peoples on the northern frontier with the Roman Empire - the frontier that followed the Rhine and Danube rivers.
The usual dress of the German at this time was a long tunic over trousers, with a cloak for cold weather. In the summer months of course the tunic could be discarded and from the looks of these figures the weather is very pleasant indeed. All but the single figure are stripped to the waist - sometimes from both ends - while what we take for the leader is dressed rather more modestly. All the trousers are held by a belt, but there is no sign of the thongs that often held them at the ankle or indeed were tied around the lower leg, although this is not necessarily a problem. More problematic is the nudity. Certainly the Celts were sometimes mentioned as going into battle naked, and it is not a great leap of the imagination to accept that some young Germans may have acted similarly. How common this was is of course far from clear and after so many centuries we will never know the truth of it, but we would have preferred to see some figures better dressed for the cooler northern European climate rather than those with no clothes at all. However it must be said that naked figures offer unlimited potential for some who could convert them into almost any other subject they chose.
Evidence suggests the Germans did not have plentiful supplies of native iron, and at the assumed period swords were a real luxury, with javelins, spears, axes and even clubs being the normal weaponry. As might be guessed from the pictures Caesar have once again provided separate sprues with many of the weapons, as can be see here. Made in a brown plastic, there are five of these sprues in each box, delivering 45 shields and 35 weapons. The shields are of various shapes and designs, some of which are clearly Celtic (and first appeared in Revell's Celts!), but all are quite appropriate for the subject, while the weapons are exactly those which we have said the Germans should be carrying, so a good choice there and even some to spare. From the pictures it is apparent which figures have ring hands to take these weapons and which have it cast with the figure, so in the majority of cases the customer can choose the weapon. However three figures have swords, which is a very high proportion even if no one else is given one, so enterprising hobbyists who want better accuracy (for the first century at least) might cut these off and use some of the separate weapons instead. Finally the leader has something between a sword and a meat cleaver which we could not find reference to anywhere (perhaps some sort of seax?).
The poses are a reasonable bunch, although the common German tactic of showering the enemy with javelins before making contact is only represented by one figure in the act of throwing. Naturally those involved in close combat would be holding their shield in front of them for protection, but the second figure on the top row seems to be in just such a fight yet has his shield as far away from the opponent as possible. Having four copies of the warrior with the horn seems a bit excessive too.
With no uniform details to test the sculptor these figures stand or fall on their proportions and the depiction of human physique, and as always the results are impressive. The most delicate details are in the hair and beards, and these are all very well done, as are the faces. The shields attach to a peg on the arm and in most cases this fit is good enough to not require gluing (although gluing is still advisable). All the weapons fit the ring hands beautifully, with only the spears requiring a slight enlargement of the hand.
While we would have preferred some figures with rather more clothing we can't say that these are inaccurate in dress. The high number of swords is more of a problem, although one that is fairly easily rectified for many modellers. Poses are pretty good and sculpting is excellent as always, so this is a very fine set, and certainly a vast improvement on those that have depicted this subject before. In later centuries the Germans used more swords (but also started wearing more armour), which is worth bearing in mind when using these figures, but however they are used they make a very nice impression on the tabletop.