Strelets have now done a number of 'on the march' or ‘before battle’ sets, which expand a given subject and depart from the usual combat poses to provide something of a fuller picture of military life, and that is undoubtedly a good thing. Strelets have also shown great commitment to the periods they have chosen, and this set is an addition to their Norman and Saxon range. Since all armies have to be on the march at some point, indeed most of the time, this sort of set is both valid and very interesting.
The down side to such sets is the phrase 'on the march' can mean different things. Armour is heavy and uncomfortable, so was worn only when necessary, and a major source for this period - the Bayeux Tapestry - shows many warriors on the march holding weapons and shields but not armoured. All the figures in this set wear armour and look ready for battle, so here a battle or some serious trouble is clearly expected, for otherwise armour and some weapons would be carried in wagons, on pack animals etc. This means the figures are also very usable for the hours leading up to battle, when the armies are getting into position and generally preparing themselves.
Strelets have made several sets of Normans now, and these conform to the same formula in terms of dress, with most of the men wearing mail but a few with scale or quilted armour, which is fine. Less fine are the poses that seem to wear a padded gambeson over a coat of mail. These are nor surcoats, which came later, and seem very out of place. Certainly tunics, sometimes padded, were probably worn under the mail, but not over it. Most wear helmets (another item that might be left off if well away from danger), mostly of the classic conical design with a nasal guard as might be expected. The weapons on show are reasonable (the questionable lugs on the spear can easily be removed), although axes were not popular weapons with Norman horsemen so the two examples here are excessive. Most of the shields are of the familiar kite type, although there are a few round examples which would date the figures to the early Norman period.
No one here is actually using their weapons but several have them at the ready, which again suggests imminent action rather than a leisurely march, as does the holding of the shield in several cases. Others have no weapon drawn, and seem very relaxed as they carry their helmet, which makes for a better figure well away from battle but makes them difficult to place next to the first type of figure - either danger is imminent or it is not.
The horses have seen the light of day in several previous sets (see below), so our views on the unnatural poses (that is to say the two in row four) are already documented. All the horse furniture looks good, including the high pommels and cantles on the saddles, but our main criticism of them is that two thirds of them are clearly at the gallop (row five) or what Strelets probably laughingly call a canter (row four). Why so many of the horses would be moving so fast when 'on the march' we will leave you to consider.
The Strelets style of sculpting has been described as raw, and that is a pretty good word for it. Fairly unsophisticated, with bulky detail and some exaggerated items, these are not particularly attractive figures, although clearly much effort has been made to reproduce such things as the armour. All the figures come with shield and weapon in place, yet there are two extra shields and a spear/lance. The shields attach to a peg on the rear left side of the last pictured horse, although this interferes with the rider, while the spear has no obvious home. However the figure pictured next to this carries nothing and could perhaps be holding the spear across his body, although to achieve this a good deal of drilling and trimming would be required.For a long time now Strelets have produced clean figures without flash, and these are no different.
These figures match the rest of the Norman range perfectly, but as we have said they mostly make more sense approaching battle than on a general march, unless some ambush is anticipated. This still makes them useful, and there are some nice ideas here, but putting most of them on any but the bottom two horses looks ridiculous, so it is these animals that are much the weakest element of the set, and as a cavalry set that counts for a lot. Better mounted however and this is not too bad.