al Andalus, the name given to the Muslim states in the Iberian Peninsular and parts of what is today southern France, had a complicated political and military history during the best part of the eight centuries that it existed (711 to 1492). At times united, at times fragmented, these states were at the frontier of the great Islamic Conquest, which also meant they were under the greatest pressure following the resurgence of the Christian powers. Placing the name 'El Cid' in the title of this set focuses our attention on the 11th century, which saw the end of the splendid Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba, the creation of the many smaller states known as the taifas, and the reunification of most of these states at the hands of the Almoravids. The fighting men of al Andalus were a cosmopolitan mixture of races and creeds, making this an ambitious subject for a set of figures.
Although their links with the Muslim heartland remained strong their distant location meant that by the 11th century the major influences on al Andalus were from North Africa and, to a lesser extent, the Christian kingdoms to the north. The debate over how much influence these sources exerted is still ongoing, but some soldiers would have been almost indistinguishable from their northern neighbours. Sensibly HaT have concentrated on the more distinctive troops, and a pretty fine bunch they are too. We find a good variety of modes of dress, including some elements from both Berber and north European sources, and very typical clothing including turbans and some face veils. All look great and between them they do a good job of representing the various elements that most Andalusian armies would contain. Perhaps the only missing element is the more lightly clothed negro troops, but this is a very minor point.
The spear was the most common weapon along with the javelin, and we find plenty of spearmen in this set, with some that could be cut down to represent javelins. Bowman were also a feature, and so was the very popular crossbow, so again it is good to see these weapons properly represented. Despite seeming to be anachronistic by this date the slingers too are quite valid, so this is an excellent range of weapons.
We really can have no complaints about the poses, which are lively and all look natural. Some of the figures have ring hands to take separate weapons, but even some that are moulded as one piece still have a good three-dimensional feel. Even the crossbowmen, which are notoriously hard to do as one piece, look good despite inevitably having the crossbow at an angle. Perhaps most importantly, no-one is holding their weapon directly over the middle of their head, which is always a sign of poor figure production. Great work here.
Although the detail is plenty good enough the real test of this sort of figure is in the way the loose clothing has been represented, and these figures pass that test admirably. Again everything is perfectly natural and simply looks right. Faces are nice and where there is a need for a specific texture, as on some of the mail armour, the result is subtle and perfectly to scale as it should be. One can look in vain for any flash or indeed any kind of ridge marking where the moulds join, and the few separate weapons fit into the ring hands beautifully.
The amount of mail armour and helmets is about right for the El Cid era, and little details such as the fashionable tassels on one of the shields have not been overlooked. This is quite simply a great-looking set, and while any set could always use more poses this does a good job with the 16 on offer. An ambitious subject certainly, but one that has resulted in a first-class set of figures.