When you think of a Landsknecht you picture a man in very flamboyant clothing, lots of slashes and lots of colours and feathers. In large measure that was typical, but the early 16th century had not yet done with body armour, and those that could get their hands on it still generally chose to wear it in battle. Naturally such well-protected men were usually put at the front of the formation where they would be most likely to make contact with the enemy, which begs the question of whether this actually meant the wearer was in more danger than someone without armour but several rows back from the point of contact. Like the rest of the costume, there were no rules about style or form, which was largely dictated by fashion and what was available, but by default such men would be considered ‘heavy’ infantry. RedBox have already made a set of ‘heavy’ pikemen, so this one covers those armed with the sword and halberd, who might be placed in front of the pikemen to help disrupt the enemy formation before full contact is made, or protect the flanks, or ‘encourage’ men who might otherwise wish to leave the fight too soon.
Half the poses in this set are actively using their sword, most of which are two-handed or at least a hand-and-a-half. Although the guards are very simple (because the common elaborate designs used at the time would be very difficult to mould) the swords are otherwise reasonable in shape. There are none of the usual Landsknecht Katzbalger swords here, which is a little surprising, although perhaps most of these men would be officers or at least Doppelsöldner (double-pay men, usually with more experience), who might have the means to acquire a better sword.
Row two begins with two halberdiers. Such weapons could come in many designs, but these are reasonable if rather simplistic. Again both men are also armed with a standard sword of the day. The last two figures in that row also carry a sword but are not holding any weapon. They seem to be particularly highly decorated, so we are tempted to see them as officers, although this would not necessarily be the case, and one carries a large double-handed sword, so might simply be a particularly extravert Doppelsöldner.
The four swordsmen poses are pretty good, although the fourth man gave us pause for thought as he also holds a dagger in his left hand. Although it looks particularly menacing to us now, it was rare to hold two weapons at once on the battlefield. The implication is that the dagger could be used to parry an opponent’s blow, or to inflict a wound while the combatants are at close quarters, but this only really works in a neat one-on-one situation, i.e. during fencing, so this pose made us uneasy (although cutting off the dagger is easy and leaves a perfectly serviceable pose). Likewise the first pictured halberdier was a concern. He is using his weapon like an axe, about to bring it down on someone’s head, and while this method would be plausible it leaves the man’s body terribly exposed to a counter in the meantime. As we have said, the final two poses hold no weapon, so are not apparently participating in a fight. Indeed the penultimate figure is something of a mystery, because his left hand is on his right shoulder, and we could not guess why, so we were not sure what to do with this man. Making figures with such long bladed weapons is not easy with the standard two-piece mould, yet these don’t have much of a feel of flatness.
The clothing and armour is very varied, which is good, and we had no major problems with any of it. Landsknechts could wear almost any amount of armour from a single breastplate to a three-quarter suit. As 'heavies' these men are well endowed with armour, although in some cases such as the chest armour this could be painted as a cuirass or a doublet. Many have thigh protection of either tassets or a fauld, and most have plate armour on legs and arms too. Several also seem to wear a coat, which was rare on the battlefield and more likely to signify an officer, but given the nature of this set the high incidence of these here is understandable, though you would not expect to see too many men dressed like this.
The sculpting on these figures is quite good, with good detail and some expressive faces. However it is also the faces that show some of the worst elements of this set, because some of the figures have effectively lost half their face (particularly the first figure in each of our rows). The man with the halberd held high over his head has very little of his head that is identifiable, so you cannot tell what, if anything, he wears on it. The general proportions are fine, but there is some flash and a little extra plastic where scabbards don’t neatly follow the line of the leg. Since there is no assembly these figures are ready to go, and for the most part look good.
Some messy heads and faces are the worst thing to say about this set, and we are open to suggestions as to what the third man in the second row could be doing. For such wealthy men the unusual level of armour and clothing is reasonable, unlike the corresponding set of heavy pikemen, where we felt the fine coats were much over-represented. Although there are only eight poses, this set needs to be seen as part of the wider range from RedBox, and for supplying officers, Doppelsöldners and some of the most experienced Landsknechts this set does pretty well.