Plate armour is expensive and does not offer much protection against musket or cannon fire, so little wonder that most nations phased it out after the late medieval period. Breastplates and metal helmets had come and gone since, but by the time Napoleon seized power there was little of either on the battlefield. Yet the self-made Corsican saw value in both and from 1802 equipped more and more cavalry regiments in this manner, until by 1810 there were 14 armoured cuirassier regiments in the French army (as well as two of carabiniers). For all their disadvantages they were an impressive sight and gave their wearer a greater sense of invulnerability, as well as adding real weight to the heavy cavalry.
This is the first traditionally presented plastic figure set from Legio (previous products having been essentially kit figures), yet the kit element has been retained to a certain extent. Gone are the extremely fiddly separate items such as canteens and bayonets, and now we have bodies with separate back plates, heads and arms, as can be seen from our image of the sprue. All bar the trumpeter therefore require some assembly, but as a consequence there is considerable scope for variety. The bodies vary only in whether they face forward or to left or right, while the back plates are separate merely to improve the detail around the shoulders. It is the separate heads and arms that offer the most customisation, with all being positioned at any angle. Those pictured above are simply one or many possibilities, and in our case were chosen for ease of photography. The heads differ mainly in the position of the main, but the arms are grasping a number of different weapons, and the ball joint of the shoulder allows much freedom of movement. All the pieces fit together well, and those so inclined can further improve the options with a little knife work, but just taking the pieces as supplied allows plenty of diversity.
The sculpting of the pieces is first rate. The cuirassier has quite a complex uniform yet this has been very well done with good detail on complex areas such as the cuirass itself. One perennial problem - that of producing finely detailed helmets when facing the mould - is of course resolved here by the separate heads. The proportions of the figures are excellent, while there is virtually no flash. Given the separate parts it is for the customer to decide on poses, and of course they will suffer none of the flatness usually found in one-piece figures. The only complete figure - the trumpeter - is not using his instrument yet is still a fine model.
Cuirassier uniform changed relatively little throughout the period, particularly when small details such as those on the coatee can be discounted as they are covered by the cuirass. Where such details did change this set, which claims the period 1812 to 1815, gets everything right. All the men wear overalls which are buttoned down the outside of the leg, and all have the mercifully short coatee tails introduced in 1812. In the same year the cuirassiers lost their pistols and gained musketoons, yet this set contains only a handful of the latter as separate items to be added or not as required. Clearly not all troopers had these items all the time (particularly during the 1815 campaign), but we would have liked to have seen more available on the sprue. One arm holds a pistol, which is a nice option to have, and with more arms than figures customers do not need to use it if not required.
The officer pose has no cartridge pouch belt, which is correct as he was not issued a firearm, and the trumpeter is similarly lacking this belt. The trumpeter seems to wear the new standard imperial livery, which again was introduced in 1812 although not universally worn by all of them. One of the optional right arms holds an eagle and standard, which is seven millimetres square - a little small but nothing too noticeable. We felt the angle of the flag - straight out away from the figure - was a bit unnatural, particularly if the figure is moving forward (as all the horses are), when the flag might be expected to fly behind. There are two such arms in the set, which is overkill but again there are plenty of spare arms so the customer can choose to give an eagle to two, one or none of the men, which is great. One omission however is that all the scabbards are empty, which means that those figures not carrying a sword (particularly the trumpeter) are missing this item entirely. Including the hilt and allowing the customer to remove it as required would have been a better idea.
All the horses seem rather long in the leg to our eye, and we were not much taken with the pose of the bottom animal, which is for the officer. However all have correct saddlery, including the squared portmanteau, and the saddlecloths have the later grenade device, which is correct. The riders fit their mounts comfortably, but do not grip so gluing would be advisable.
Those that are averse to assembling their figures might be put off buying this set, but the putting together is easy enough and the results are well worth the time, both in better detail and much improved poses. The flexibility that this approach offers is a great feature, but then we really liked almost every aspect of this set. For cavalry sets in particular this is a great way to deliver a wide range of poses, and with this level of sculpting it is to be hoped that this company follows up this product with many more.