In recent years sets of figures from Russia’a medieval past have been quite plentiful, and the most spectacular of all these are those depicting the druzhina. The druzhina were the elite, a Prince’s personal retinue of mounted knights who were professionals and had the wealth to arm and equip themselves in fine style. Throughout the stated period, 11th to 13th centuries, cavalry enjoyed something of a golden age, and mounted warriors could make up two thirds or more of a Russian army, while some smaller forces could be exclusively composed of druzhina.
The geographical position of the Rus states meant they developed their own style influenced by all their varied neighbours, with that of Byzantium being particularly strong once they converted to Christianity. Later in the period the continual exposure to the eastern Steppe peoples had its effect, particularly in encouraging the growth of horse archery. Since quite a wide period is covered some of these figures are better for the early or late period, but overall these all reflect the period very nicely. Many have mail hauberks, while some have scale or lamellar armour, and one man is unarmoured and wears typical civilian costume. Helmets are of various pointed styles, which is fine, while all other armour and clothing is authentic too.
The weapons too are well chosen and appropriate, with spears, a mace, a hammer, a flail or kistien, an axe and, of course, a large number of bows, either in hand or cased. Shields vary between round, almond-shaped and heater styles, all of which are suitable for these men. While fashions changed the Russians were traditionally conservative and changed slowly, so styles from various eras could easily be seen together as here. One man carries a nicely done banner with presumably some saint or other engraved on it. By the late 13th century plate armour was about to make an appearance, but there is none here, which is good. By the 13th century full or half face masks were fashionable, and it would have been nice to see an example of these here, but there is none, although this does not detract from the utility of the figures.
The poses of the men are reasonable although tend to be fairly flat. The fact that all weapons and shields are moulded with the man does much to promote the flat appearance, which is not ideal, but the only really odd element is the second man in the third row, who holds his shield upside-down. The horse poses are much more of a mixed bag, with some OK poses but some very unrealistic indeed. Other than that the horses are fine, with simple but correct saddlery, and while none have any form of protection it seems this was fairly exceptional so does not need to be portrayed here.
A detailed look at the figures reveals some really nice sculpting, particularly when it comes to the armours and the faces, which are excellent. We really cannot fault the detail, but we can certainly fault the mould making. As can readily be seen above, these figures have a considerable amount of flash. It varies, but it appears along most of the joint lines and in many places is very deep. In some areas such as between spear and man the flash is hard to remove as access is difficult, so a lot of time will be necessary to tidy these figures up ready for battle, which is a pity given the many positives for this set.
Orion certainly need to pay more attention to the making of their moulds, and some instruction in how a horse moves would be a good idea too (as it would for several manufacturers), but with good accuracy and sculpting there is much to like about this set.