The latter part of the 17th century saw the widespread introduction of uniforms for national armies, and Sweden was no different, so that by the outbreak of the Great Northern War in 1700 her troops were kitted out in mainly blue uniforms similar to those of other European powers. The war would ultimately see the end of Swedish dominance in the Baltic and the rise of Russia as a major power, yet for a long time it was ignored by figure producers. Thankfully with the rise of several Eastern European manufacturers this situation has changed and this is the third set to depict the infantry of Charles XII.
They say that pictures are worth a thousand words, and that is something we firmly believe here at PSR. Our pictures of these figures speak as loudly as any, and seem to say, well, ugly! These are not a good advert for the art of the figure sculptor, with some pretty clumsy poses and some very unattractive design. To begin with detail, this ranges from the pretty good (the officer holding his hat, which has some very nice decoration) to the downright appalling (the muskets, which are thick and often entirely lacking in even basic detail – no more than anonymous strips of plastic really). The first figure in the second row is holding what would appear to be a pointed stick (or is it a sword – who can tell?). He holds the bottom in his right hand and rests it on his left wrist. Extend the ‘stick’ by several scale metres and have him hold it in his hand and you might have a pike, but what was going through the designer’s mind when this was created we cannot guess. The next man along in this row is handling a pike, but this is clearly absent, and the box suggests we use thin metal wire to create one. Apart from weapons other areas too suffer from being overly thick or lacking in much detail. Faces in particular are never going to win any beauty contests, and perhaps they shouldn’t, but we do like them to resemble that of a human, which is a struggle for some of these figures.
Having been seriously unimpressed by the general sculpting we felt that the choice of poses was actually quite reasonable. The three musketeers are firing and advancing, which are the most useful poses, and both the other ‘hat men’ are in active poses too. Two grenadiers are using their grenades, while a third is using his sword and a fourth advancing with musket (?). The grenadier officer is holding his sword at an angle both unnatural and physically impossible – no-one here could twist their wrist enough to duplicate this pose, and why would anyone want to? The last officer is much better, as is the wounded man. Sadly again the execution lets some of these poses down, with the firing men having the butt of their musket embedded deeply into their chest while the advancing figure on the top row has his weapon sticking out from... well lets just say his lower abdomen! The last figure in the second row reminds us of drill manuals of the time for throwing grenades, which you might think would be great, yet we still can’t accept this pose as natural in the real world.
With really poor sculpting and some unconvincing poses we are left hoping that it can score better for accuracy, and here at least there is some good news. On the whole accuracy is pretty good, although it would seem that the designer has tried to cover the entire period, meaning we have figures with characteristics of different periods during the war. Some have coat skirts pinned back and others do not, which is OK. However some of the older, non-turned coats have collars, which is wrong, and at least one figure seems to have lapels, which may well not have appeared at all during this war. The grenadier mitres are quite good, and we were pleased to see the karpus cap on some figures, but a couple are missing the sword that all infantry wore. Luckily some carefully trimming will resolve most of these problems, so on the whole accuracy is a strong point of this set.
Surprisingly these figures suffer from very little flash. In a few places it is apparent, while there is a noticeable ridge along the seam of many more, but you would not describe this as a particularly badly made set. Excess plastic too is quite minimal, although as we have said that is achieved by blurring the distinction between man and equipment, and in some cases such as the musket slung on the back of the grenadier the item is immensely thick without any good reason.
Viewed from a distance in massed ranks with an expert paint job these figures would look OK, but then so would almost any figure. Viewed up close these leave a lot to be desired, which is a pity as the general idea was a good one. Splitting the set between hat men and grenadiers reduces the variety of both, but at least it is a fair reflection of the army as a whole. Still these are figures that it is very hard to love.