During most of the period covered by this set, the first half of the 17th century, Spain remained the dominant military power in Europe. The Thirty Years War and the on-going conflict in the Netherlands were major areas of activity for Spanish troops, but ultimately it was the conflict with France that would be the most decisive. During that time (1609 to be precise), previous attempts at standardising their artillery were enhanced with the announcement that in future there would be just four types of gun, the full cannon (a large siege gun), the demi-cannon (24 pdr), quarter-cannon (10 to 12 pdr) and the eighth-cannon (5 to 6 pdr). The quarter-cannon was to be the main field artillery piece, and although this standardisation was far from perfectly implemented, it helped greatly with the efficiency of Spain’s artillery arm and was the model which others would later follow.
This set follows the formula Mars have used before of supplying guns with six crew figures for each. The gun has a barrel of 31mm (excluding the cascable), which at 2.25 metres is rather long for a standard field piece, though it could pass as a 24 pdr. The carriage is about the same length as the barrel, which is wrong as carriages for light pieces tended to be between one-fifth and one-third longer than the barrel. Perhaps this is a barrel placed on a carriage meant for a lighter piece as a temporary measure, but we would have preferred a smaller barrel to match the case, as this would have been the typical size for a field piece of the day. The barrel is quite nicely done, as is the carriage, which is of the most typical design. The wheels needed extra encouragement to fit on the axles, but in the end the model is nice and robust.
The costume of all the crew figures is in keeping with civilian working man fashions of the day, which is good, and the only signs of military involvement are the helmets and swords some wear. The first pictured man wears a tabard, which would have been more unusual at the time, and we also could not work out what he is doing. His left hand is too high to be pushing the carriage or wheels, so by himself he makes a strange impression. Beside him is a gunner holding a powder scoop and covering one ear, and beside him a man carrying a bucket - one of the essential jobs in serving such guns was to make sure water was available to swap the barrel, and if necessary to cool it too. The last man in row one holds a lighted match to fire the piece, and he has his hand up to his face to shield himself from the ignition. The second row has a man carrying a ball, and another holding a swabrod (sponge) while also covering one ear. In total they depict the moment a gun was fired, so make sense when placed together.
Apart from our first man, all the poses are quite well done and realistic, but the sculpting is fairly basic. Detail is there (though such figures do not require a lot of that), but in places it falls short of acceptable, so for example our first man has something on his right hip which is not a sword but is too featureless to identify. Generally there is quite a roughness to the look of them, and the way the clothing has been sculpted is only adequate. There is some flash, but mainly on the gun barrel, where it is easier to remove. We found no excess plastic otherwise, so by Mars standards these are quite clean figures.
Although we have misgivings about the matching of barrel and carriage of this size, the continued use of older guns, even after standards were set, means it is not out of the question that this might be right. On balance the carriage would probably break more quickly with such a powerful gun, and something more typical would have been better, but we can live with this. The crew are the usual rough Mars sculpting standard, which is never attractive, but there are no historical problems and the poses are appropriate, even if we can think of no particular use for that first man! Spain had a large artillery park, and made significant strides in making their guns more effective on the battlefield, but this set could adequately depict field artillery of any western European army during the period.