For centuries Rome’s military might had been built on heavy infantry – shock troops that were better organised and better disciplined than their enemies, but as the chaotic third century developed the emphasis began to change. Partly it was the need to quickly deploy troops to trouble spots along the enormous frontier, partly it was in answer to the highly skilled Sarmatians and other horsemen that they met in the east, but by the start of the period covered by this set, the fourth and fifth centuries, cavalry was the more important element in the Roman arsenal.
By this time Roman cavalry was a pretty heterogeneous affair, with light troops using javelins and bows and heavy lancers called clibanarii and cataphractarii. This set has them all, which is both good and bad. For those that perhaps conduct wargames and only want a representative figure for a unit then this set largely covers the whole Roman cavalry, which is great, but with only five poses anyone wanting a selection of poses for a particular type will be disappointed. The poses as they stand are reasonable but the cataphractarius has been done as one piece, which is very difficult as his lance is directly to his front. The solution, as has been done before, is to cast him from the side, which only works if one leg is well forward of the other. This makes a rather awkward rider who is not directly facing forward, although here this is not too bad.
MiniArt sculpting has yet to really impress but a recent release suggested things might be improving. This set however reverts to the previous standard, where detail is reasonable but not particularly clear and items like faces suffer badly. Horses have been provided in both fully armoured and unarmoured versions, which is great, but to our eye the armoured horses in particular are remarkably thin and certainly most of the riders merely perch on their mounts and will require gluing, leaving a less than convincing model. Add to that a particularly high level of flash and you have figures that left us pretty cold.
Though they might be nothing special in terms of quality these are at least accurate. The men wear a variety of clothing but all of it fits the typical look of these men, particularly in the western empire, although some seem to have scale armour which may have been more common in the east. All are armoured and have helmets and weapons appropriate for the period, and none have stirrups, which is as it should be. The horses too look fine, with both the older horned Roman saddle and the newer type on display, but it seems fully armoured horses were not as common as this set implies, where more than half have this expensive equipment.
During the period the cavalry grew in importance, and the horse archers in particular became very common, so the actual split of troops will depend on what year is being depicted. With such a limited range of figures the customer doers not have many options with this set, and there is plenty of room for improvement in the quality, but they are at least accurate and help to expand a period in history that has received little coverage before now.