The 16th century had seen the Ottoman Empire remain at the peak of its power, despite occasional defeats such as Malta. The 17th century however was to hold many more difficulties, and many now see it as the start of the long decline, albeit with moments such as Vienna in 1683 when it briefly looked like the empire might become stronger than ever. Part of the problem was the continued dominance of cavalry in Ottoman armies, which were increasingly vulnerable to the widespread use of firearms in the West, but the Ottomans also had plenty of infantry. The janissaries are by far the most famous type, but these were mostly light troops, as indeed was much of the Ottoman infantry. By the start of the 17th century the Ottomans had abandoned armour for their infantry, with the sole exception of the kazargand, a mail shirt, which was worn by those leading the assault, especially against a fortification. It would seem there were not large numbers of this kind of foot soldier in the 17th century, but this set seems to depict such men.
Most modern works on the Ottoman armies of the time speak first of the cavalry, then the janissaries, followed by the guard and provincial units, but do little more than mention the armoured troops, presumably because they were few in number and so uncommon. As a result this is one of those reviews where we were not happy we had enough information on the subject, so have to use what scraps there are along with some guesswork to form what inevitably is an opinion with soft foundations. The figures in this set are pretty diverse, with nothing common to all. The majority wear armour, mostly mail but with some circular breast and back plates and some possibly lamellar plates on the chest. With so little evidence for infantry armour we must study the cavalry, and would say that all this looks to be fairly typical of cavalry styles, so might seem reasonable for infantry too, with obvious adjustments like the length of the mail shirt. Most wear helmets of some description, all of which again largely reflect cavalry styles so would appear appropriate, but some wear the characteristic Janissary headdress. These worried us since we could find no evidence of janissaries wearing armour, but again with so little evidence it is impossible to argue against it. Everything here seems appropriate for the Ottomans, but whether they were seen in these combinations, and at this time, we have been unable to ascertain.
In our photography of these figures we have grouped the men by weaponry, starting with those carrying firearms. Both are firing their weapon, one with body armour but the soft Janissary headdress, and the other with a helmet but no other (visible) armour. Both are in the act of firing, but there is precious little definition on the weapons so it is impossible to say precisely what they are using, though they are significantly different lengths. The armoured man is a particular concern, since mail is fairly heavy but of little use in deflecting bullets, so this man must have a reasonable expectation of coming face to face with an enemy, which was not the prime activity of musketeers, so the combination looks odd to us. This man is also very flat and awkward around the left arm, but otherwise the poses are OK.
The two bowmen worried us even more. The Ottomans retained use of the composite bow long after Western Europe had given up archery, and did so in this century, so in themselves the bows are fine. However bowmen don’t normally get counted as 'heavy' infantry, which this set claims to be, and again, if they are missile troops then why are they both wearing hot and heavy body armour? The first man has his bow at maximum pull, yet is aiming well down, so presumably must be on some fortress wall shooting down on assaulting troops, which limits the uses to which this figure can be put. Again both figures are quite flat, so in particular the ends of the bows are nowhere near in line with the back of the arrow, which would be impossible to achieve in reality.
The second row starts on firmer ground, with one man carrying a spear and another a bardiche. The spearman is quite nicely done, leaning well into his weapon as if delivering a blow, but we were not convinced by the second, who holds his axe as you would a guitar, so is certainly not delivering any sort of a blow. In fact this is a contender for worst pose of the set, though the two swordsmen in that row provide some fierce competition for that title. Both are typical Mars, with absurdly flat poses meaning they both hold their swords with the flat of the blade facing the enemy, and holding it directly over the centre-line of their body. This is possible anatomically, but under no circumstances would you ever want to do such a thing. Flat, flat, flat, and pretty horrible too. True they have some life to them, but far too silly a posture to be taken seriously. Also two in this row have been given what looks like large triangles by the knee. We assume this is supposed to show the common habit of tucking up the corners of the kaftan to aid movement, but here they are far too large and simply do not look at all plausible.
Row three is a little better than row two, though not by much. The two axe men have similar problems to the swordsmen - weapons with the flat of the blade facing the enemy and being held directly next to the ear in the case of the second man. The first actually has some angle to the way he is holding the weapon (hooray!), though the only sensible action he can be doing is a long sweeping stroke to strike the enemy in the side, which is odd (perhaps to avoid an upraised shield?). The last two men we are assuming are officers, with one carrying what looks like a simple mace and the other a sword. While these two also hold their weapons in line with their ear, they at least have an excuse, as they are presumably not actually using them in anger, merely waving them for encouragement.
We don’t need history books to rate the quality of the production for these figures, and it is not good. The sculpting has reasonable detail, but the general look of the figures is very clumsy and the very flat poses are far from natural in appearance. All the shields are part of the figure, which some customers like, though inevitably this means more compromises as everywhere the shield is held pressed hard against the body. The spearman has no sword, but a short dagger scabbard, though we suspect this is just poor quality and it was meant to be a sword, and the scabbard of the axe-man at the start of the third row simply melts into his leg in a vague mess (though we could use the words 'vague mess' a lot here). On our example the bow of the first bowmen is incomplete - there is a gap in the lower part where the plastic has not filled the mould. Faces are poor and there is quite a lot of flash, though this fluctuates wildly, with some areas virtually clean and others with large blobs to remove.
So these are quite poor sculpts in some awful poses and a lot of flash. Sadly we cannot say enough about the likely accuracy, so we have skipped that score, but there is one more factor that perhaps makes all the other problems pale. At an average height of 26.5mm these men would be considered notably tall in Turkey today, and for the 17th century they are fanciful giants. No amount of trimming, converting or clever painting will ever be able to hide that, even assuming the tallest men might be chosen to lead an assault, so in conclusion we found nothing to love in this set and plenty that disappointed or was at least historically suspicious.