Although the Lisowski brigade is famous in parts of Eastern Europe, it is little known in the English-speaking world, so a brief history lesson is required. In the early 17th century Muscovy was suffering from terrible famines, widespread disorder and political instability as various rivals and factions fought for power. In 1607 one of several men who claimed to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible (who had actually been murdered in 1591) staked his claim to the throne and became known to history as False Dimitri II. His cause was joined in that year by a private force lead by Alexander Lisowski, who had created the unit from mutinous Polish-Lithuanian troops along with many Cossack volunteers and renegade Muscovite soldiers. They took part in most of the battles in support of 'Dimitri', after which they and their commander were pardoned by the Polish king (1610), and over the next few years conducted a number of long distance raids in Muscovy. In 1616 Lisowski died but the unit continued, and in the early part of the Thirty Years War they were hired out to the Habsburg emperor Ferdinand II, where their ferocity and Catholic zeal cemented their fearsome reputation (they were not paid, but lived off plunder). Released back into Polish service in 1620, they fought at the Battle of Khotyn (1621) against the Ottomans, but were finally dissolved in 1624.
Although this unit contained infantry and artillery, most was made up of mounted troops to maximise mobility, with some being husarz lancers but many more being Cossacks. There was no uniform of course, and the extremely diverse origins of this band made for a thoroughly mixed appearance as men followed their own traditions in dress or simply wore whatever was available. Cossack, Polish, Rus and other influences were to be seen, which gives the designer of this set a great deal of latitude in terms of its appearance. What we have is a sort of mix of Polish and Cossack costume, with the long fur-trimmed caps often mentioned and the coats - some short and some long, some of which have the braiding across the chest that would have been quite common. Weaponry consists of light cavalry sabres and bows, for bows were still very much in use even at this late date in this part of the world. In addition one man has a 'horseman's pick' or nadziak, a traditional Polish weapon, and another has a pistol. All this weaponry is fine, although we would have expected a few more pistols in the mix, holstered forward of the saddle, but there are none. Nevertheless while it may not have been a particularly difficult thing to achieve, all the costume and weaponry here is accurate.
The horses are saddled with a number of different arrangements of cloths, all of which seem reasonable. As we have said, there is a surprising lack of pistol holsters, but one animal has a long sword running along one side in the Polish fashion. The horses have been used in other sets by Mars, and we are no more impressed with the poses and sculpting on offer than we were before. The poses range from awkward to downright impossible, with one animal causing the sculptor so much trouble that they have placed its hoof below ground level. In most cases the saddles are sculpted much too small to allow the men’s backsides to actually make contact, so most hover above the saddle instead.
The poses of the men are mostly adequate but quite poorly realised. They hold swords in the air, level pistols and are about to strike with the pick, so nothing much wrong with the choices, but the sculptor has played quite fast and loose with human anatomy, particularly in the way some of the arms are arranged. The first swordsman in the top row is quite a mess, while the man with the pick must have dislocated his shoulder to achieve that very flat pose. However the sculpting in general is far from good, with a lot of vague areas where it is hard to decide what is going on. As you can see, the pistol being held in the second row is entirely featureless on one side, and only has the lock sculpted on the other, so these are quite unimpressive sculpts all round. There is certainly some flash - perhaps less than many other Mars sets, but certainly still there.
While the good accuracy is always nice to see, those already familiar with the Mars sculpting will not be surprised to hear that this is not an attractive set, and things are only made worse by the fact that these are giants compared to the actual size of men in 17th century Poland. Also with such a varied group of individuals from a broad range of backgrounds, just six poses is particularly inadequate to represent the unit as a whole. While these men made a name for themselves that has so far lasted four centuries, this set is never going to be anything like as memorable.