Even before the popularity of 'Cowboys and Indians' in the 1950s, native Americans had been a common theme for figure makers, although it was usually the Plains tribes that were depicted. Waterloo 1815 have already produced such a set of Sioux, but this one focuses on an equally famous people but one that is much more rarely seen in popular culture. The underlying story - of encroachment of their lands and lifestyles by European immigrants - is similar to that of the Plains tribes, although for the Apache the problems began with the Spanish and then the Mexicans. The Apache were both feared and sometimes admired by those that came into contact with them, and the fame of their most famous leader, Geronimo, has lasted to the present day, but until this set saw the light of day all there was in small-scale plastic were the thoroughly unsatisfactory toys from Atlantic.
In almost every way this set is a vast improvement on the old Atlantic sets, not the least being the attention paid to historical accuracy. By the time of Geronimo a typical Apache warrior's costume was heavily influenced by contacts with successive Europeans. He would have worn trousers or drawers with a shirt and/or jacket and quite possibly a waistcoat too. More native elements were the cloth headband, the breech-clout and the long moccasins. This pretty much describes all the figures in this set, which have some variety in clothing but all look completely authentic. Those with firearms also wear cartridge belts, which is fine, as is the hat worn by one man. However it should be noted that warriors often wore only the minimum of clothing when going into battle, leaving the western garments behind, so these figures are dressed more as if on route somewhere rather than in battle.
There is nothing tragically wrong with any of the poses in terms of anatomy, but for the most part they are just dull dull dull! The third figure in the top row firing his carbine is certainly the stand-out pose here, and very well done, but all the rest are stiff, straight-backed and just not really doing very much. Now it is true that the Apache generally rode to battle but fought on foot, so in a sense you could argue that these are mainly men travelling to a fight rather than being engaged in one, but that is surely not what most people will want from this set, and presumably not what was intended. Everyone has a passive expression on their face and their mouth shut, suggesting a relaxed demeanour, which is all very well but most people will want their figures looking like they are in some action. The archer in the second row is actually worse than boring - he is positively poor. He has drawn his bow to its maximum extent, yet is making no attempt to aim it, and seems about to lose his arrow from the hip (his left arm isn't even straight). Even against a large body of close-packed men this would be a highly optimistic action - in a raid or skirmish against a small number of spread-out targets it is a waste of an arrow.
The horses are not particularly natural poses, although there are plenty worse in this hobby. All the manes are bolt upright in a bizarre fashion, and there is something not quite right about the shape of all the animals - particularly the bareback one. Most have a simple cloth or skin in lieu of a saddle, which is OK, although some with proper saddles would have been good too, and all have a full bridle. Despite the very relaxed and nonchalant poses of the men, all the horses seem to be at the gallop, which is sub-optimal in our view.
If the figures are uninspiring then at least the quality of the sculpting is very good. All the pieces are very clean (free from flash) and the men fit the horses easily. Finer detail such as the faces and hair are delightfully done, and apart from a little hidden plastic on the figure with the hat there is no excess plastic, yet none of the poses seem particularly flat. The one down side in our view is with some of the hands, which are surprisingly weird in some places, in sharp contrast to the rest of the figures. Overall however these figures are very much on a par with the best recent sets from Waterloo 1815 and Italeri.
The broad impression of these figures is that they are well made and accurate, but are not going to get the heart racing. The mix of rifles, carbines and bows is OK, although naturally that varied over time, but we were surprised to see no visible knives or ropes on any of the belts (there is however one revolver). We should point out that our box effectively contained 2.5 sprues as pictured above, so it is reasonable to assume that any given box may vary as to which poses are present twice and which three times - treat our stated quantities with caution. For all its faults this is an interesting set, and we very much hope that one day it will be joined by equally well-researched and presented sets of dismounted Apache and Mexicans, although with a bit of luck they will have more life about them.