In the French-Indian War, the name for the North American theatre of the Seven Years War, both sides made use of natives. The natives were naturally well-adapted to the peculiarities of warfare in this largely untamed wilderness, and generally chose sides based on necessity or the fear of the consequences should the other prevail. The British raised ranger units to conduct irregular warfare as well as gather reconnaissance, and these units sometimes included natives. This set depicts several such men, along with two men from the famous Roger's Rangers.
Taking the native figures first, the six figures in dark grey are made in a traditional plastic which is very well suited to the task. Unfortunately the native with the paddle and the two rangers are made in the much softer plastic this company often uses, so require careful handling to avoid breakage. The sculpting of the rangers is just the same quality as the other rangers in this series, for which see in particular our review of the Roger's Rangers set. The men are both in the 'uniform' which was issued to some rangers, but how much it was seen like this in actual combat is open to question, and a much more scruffy appearance would have been more realistic. One man paddles whilst the other opens fire. It is certainly possible for one man to paddle a canoe without it merely turning in circles, and rangers were often expert paddlers, but progress is slower and against a canoe full of natives both men would be better advised to attempt flight, particularly when you consider the difficulty of reloading and firing a musket from a moving canoe.
The six natives are seen in many of the sets in this series. Natives, whether in the service of a European power or not, often wore a mixture of traditional and European items. Some of these wear what looks like a hunting shirt, while others are bare-chested, and all have the highly practical leggings and moccasins. All wear the usual breechclout, and all have the shaved head with the scalplock at the top and back. Some carry firearms while others have more traditional weapons such as knives, clubs and tomahawks (although not the triangular model shown here). Naturally such warriors were subject to no uniform, and there were tribal variations as well as personal choices made based on opportunity or wealth. As such there is a broad scope for authenticity here, but everything looks fine to us.
With the natives being used in several sets, the poses are not specifically for canoes apart from the seventh, extra figure. As a result some are not great choices for a canoe, where standing and waving weapons is not going to help the stability of the little craft, although many warriors would have been quite skilled in this. Instead the poses are a range of generic fighting poses, all of which are reasonable and quite useful. Sculpting is a little rough in places and there is some flash to remove, but we felt these were better than the ranger figures. The warrior running with club in the air is quite flat, but otherwise the poses are reasonably well realised and the proportions are OK too. Detail is sometimes indistinct or missing (such as on the muskets), but a good paint job will do much to rescue them.
Finally we have the two canoes. We found no definitive information on canoes of this period, but from various illustrations both these look to be reasonable. Some tribes had distinctive shapes to their canoes, but whether this was an absolute rule or not we could not establish, so these look fine. They are made in a good strong resin, so are much more robust than the ranger figures. The two extra paddles are also made in a good strong plastic.
In a land blessed with so many rivers and lakes, travelling by water was often the best and quickest means of moving about, and canoes were common native vessels that were also utilised by Europeans, particularly rangers. This little set illustrates an interesting little aspect of the war for control of North America, and while neither sets of figures are particularly attractive we liked the natives more and thought them rather more usable than the fragile rangers. This is a nice idea for a set, but we would at least have liked all the figures to be in the usual strong plastic, not just some of them.