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Strelets

Set 098

Germanic Horsemen

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2007
Contents 12 figures and 12 horses
Poses 12 poses, 6 horse poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)

Review

For the most part the Germanic tribes of the early Roman Empire period were not known for their horsemanship. Most warriors fought on foot and when cavalry was employed it used fairly unsophisticated tactics and was often supported by light infantry. Nevertheless they were a part of some German armies and this is the first set to depict them.

The usual dress of a German, whether in battle or not, was a tunic with trousers and boots, plus a cloak if the weather warranted it. On the whole that is what we find in this set, although some warriors are bare-chested. Many wear cloaks, which is OK except that these are all very short – barely reaching the waist – which while sometimes illustrated would surely not be the norm and therefore much too common here. One man wears some sort of mail armour, and he also wears a helmet, marking him out as particularly wealthy and high status – quite possibly a chieftain. Having only one such figure in the set is reasonable as he could be used as a commander. However the biggest surprise is that no less than one third of the figures wear animal pelts much in the style of the republican velites of Rome’s past. Undoubtedly Germans wore animal skins and furs in cold weather, but these are not coats but simply draped down the back with the animal head worn as a hood. Since they are not for warmth we must assume they were worn as some kind of magic (to obtain the characteristics of the animal for example), but we can find no evidence of this practice, and must therefore consider these to be totally incorrect.

The spear, javelin and axe would have been the main armament of these men during the early Empire and that is properly reflected here. Most carry a shield, the design and shape of which vary but all look reasonable. The poses are a fairly standard lot although we did wonder about the last figure in the first row, who is holding his shield in front of his face and must therefore be defending himself from some mounted foe. The several ring-hand poses help to widen the selection but on the whole these are quite flat poses although still quite useable.

As with many ancient sets fine detail is not an issue here, but the general style of sculpting is adequate if basic. Faces are pretty good and the hair is too, while one figure seems to have some tattooing on his body, which is a nice touch if not really necessary (if you want tattooed figures then just paint them!). The separate weapons fit the ring hands well and there is little flash or other excess plastic, while the figures fit their horses well although they are a bit tight in some cases.

The horses, which were described at the time as small and ugly, are a fair selection but as with the riders it is quite wrong to accept that so many animal skins were used as saddle cloths. What evidence there is suggests a simply blanket served this purpose, although it is interesting to note that the illustration Strelets used for their box shows bare-back riders. One horse has a reasonable blanket, but one has a proper saddle and full harness with decoration, which again is very unlikely for a Germanic tribe, where saddles are thought to have been shunned. Since there is no easy way of avoiding all this inappropriate saddlery it is a very big problem.

The box says these figures are suitable for the whole of the western Empire and beyond, but we would have to disagree. By the later empire the Germans had benefited from more direct contact with Rome and advances in their own technology and prosperity, giving them a less primitive appearance which was captured well in the MiniArt Germanic Warriors set. While half-naked warriors might seem fairly timeless they are far from representative of those later years, so it is only for the early period that these should be considered. Even then the plethora of animal pelts and other accuracy problems makes most of the animals and a third of the figures largely useless, and the set as a whole very poor.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 4
Pose Quality 8
Pose Number 10
Sculpting 7
Mould 9

Further Reading
Books
"Barbarians" - Concord - Tim Newark - 9789623616348
"Rome's Enemies: Germanics and Dacians" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.129) - Peter Wilcox - 9780850454734
"Teutoburg Forest AD 9" - Osprey (Campaign Series No.228) - Michael McNally - 9781846035814
"The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome" - Wargames Research Group - Phil Barker - 9780904417173

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