Sultan Mehmed II (1432-1481) was a remarkable man who achieved much more than his most famous exploit - the capture of Constantinople in 1453. Although he ruled briefly during his youth his reign proper began in 1451, and during the following three decades he expanded the Ottoman Empire both east and west, and left it stronger than ever.
As with many imperial armies that of the Ottomans was complex and its structure varied depending on where the campaign was being fought and against whom. Vassals of various kinds were frequently called upon to provide troops, so it would take a great many figures to adequately portray such an army, with particular attention to the all important cavalry and artillery. This set, with just 10 poses, cannot hope to achieve that goal, so we must instead consider what soldiers have been included to see how well it provides at least a representative cross-section of the Sultan’s forces.
The inspiration for these figures is not hard to find - one plate in the Osprey Men-at-Arms title listed below tells you all you need to know. The first three figures pictured above are all heavily armoured in appropriate Ottoman style and carry large shields and no bows. These are the Sultan’s heavy infantry, and are an elite part of the professional Kapi Kulu. They were amongst the best troops, but were expensive to train and equip and were relatively few in number. Nevertheless those depicted here look to be accurately done.
The next three figures are more regular infantry, although despite the turbans these have quite a European look to them and are therefore likely to be Balkan vassals of Christian origin rather than Anatolian. One man is an archer but the other two carry spears or javelins and no bow. The javelin seems to have a bag of incendiary material attached below the head, which would be useful when attacking wooden structures such as ships or siege engines, although whether these were much used in ordinary battle is open to doubt. Nevertheless there is nothing wrong with these three figures.
The first grey foot figure we found hard to identify, but with his short quilted jacket and remarkable headgear he does not have the look of an Ottoman soldier. The final figure, by contrast, is an absolutely typical Ottoman officer, although he lacks the long false sleeves usually associated with such a costume. His decorated robe, turban and bow all look authentic, making him much the most Turkish of the whole set.
While these figures are all very well this set lacks the basic infantry that made up such a large part of any Ottoman infantry force. Known by several names, these men were native Anatolian infantry raised when required, and wore long robes (sometimes tucked in to facilitate movement) and a turban. They were often poorly armed, with some having no more than a club, but the bow was an important weapon. That none of these men are present in this set is a great disappointment because in our view these should constitute the majority in such a wide-ranging collection of figures. Also absent are the Janissaries, although these are at least available in other sets.
The cavalry was a very important part of most Ottoman armies, and sometimes constituted over half of the total fighting force, yet this set contains just two poses. Both are dressed identically, and are heavily armoured and armed with sword, mace and bow. The bulk of Ottoman cavalry were the sipahis, of which only the wealthiest would have had armour on this scale. Therefore again while these two figures are not inaccurate they are hardly representative of all Ottoman cavalry. Equally their horses, which are also quite heavily protected, do not represent the normal Turkish mount.
These figures bear all the hallmarks of coming from the same stable that produces Caesar figures as many have complex poses yet there is no excess plastic nor loss of detail, and there is no assembly required. Another hallmark is the excellent detail on these figures, which is nowhere better illustrated than in the beautiful Persian-style armours of the heavies. Proportions are perfect, and the faces are superb, making each figure a little work of art in its own right. There is absolutely no trace of flash, and the riders fit their horses very well, although gluing would still be advisable, particularly for whoever sits astride the rearing animal.
Given the nature of the figures we thought the poses were extremely well chosen and extremely well executed. Each one is very natural and the multi-part mould means the designer has not been forced to produce somewhat flattened figures as so often happens. We really couldn’t pick a favourite from this very strong line-up.
The figures you get in this set are great, even superb, but it is what you don’t get that seems to matter more. Much of any Ottoman army would be made up of lightly armed Anatolian Turkish infantry and equally light Sapihi cavalry, and there is nothing of them in this set. We do not have a score for appropriate choice of unit, but if we did this set would score quite poorly. Certainly this leaves plenty of scope for other sets to fill the many gaping holes, although what it does provide is certainly top quality and well worth having. Like some other Lucky Toys sets this is no more than a taster for a large subject, so it is to be hoped that many other sets will step in to fill the ranks with what is missing here.