Those Tatars that lived within the borders of the enormous Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were often known as Lipka Tatars, and in the early 17th century had already long been a regular light cavalry constituent of armies sent into battle. Their skill at horsemanship and the bow in particular made them ideal against enemies from Eastern Europe in particular, especially the Ottomans and other Tatars from such areas as the Crimea.
Naturally the bow was the most important weapon for such men, although surprisingly this was not always carried; nevertheless we were pleased to see that all here except the officer have one. A couple of the poses are using one, while two more have drawn their light swords and another carries a lance. This lance has some sort of fringe below the head which is reminiscent of the horse tails found on the traditional tug standard, so seems to be a confused mixture of the two. In general however the weapons, and even the archaic shields, are appropriate. The last figure in the second row we have taken to be an officer, partly because of the differences in his attire and partly because he holds a mace in his right hand, a common symbol of authority amongst the Tatars, although in this case the design of the head has a medieval look to it rather than the round head usually associated with such devices. The officer also holds something in his left hand which we could not make out. It may be some sort of pot, although judging by the picture on the box it may be a second helmet, though quite why it is here we do not know.
In all honesty there is not a great deal of information available in English on the look of these people, which may in part reflect a scarcity of good evidence generally. However the dress of Tatars from this area generally changed little over a long period, so we can be reasonably confident of their appearance at this time. All these figures display fairly typical costume of long coats or kaftans often trimmed with fur, and fur-trimmed caps of various sorts on the head. One man clearly has a quilted coat, and also wears a cloak, while the officer has the traditional long false sleeves on his coat and appears to have some form of mail, which was certainly still to be seen on the wealthier men even at this date.
As far as they go the human poses are OK, although the swordsman with the shield in the top row is pretty flat, but the main problem here as usual is with the standard of sculpting. The figures are chunky and quite basic in detail, and at times it is difficult to make out what is supposed to be being represented. In truth these are no worse than most other Mars figures, with exactly the same characteristics, so for example many hands simply melt into nothing or are entirely flat, and certainly the overall impression is that these figures are ugly and ill-proportioned, with the usual lack of necks. The fit of the men with the horses is often terrible, with the man having to hover above the saddle as there is no room for him to actually touch it. Luckily there is no other assembly called for in this set!
In the past Mars have delivered some truly shocking horses that little resemble the animal in either proportions or gait, and compared to those the horses in this set are something of an improvement. We are certainly not trying to say these horses are good, but they are at least in some more believable poses - to a point. Although not visible in our photograph, the hoof of the front left leg of the animal in row three is actually below the base, which Mars have cut away in order to accommodate it - bizarre. Also the first animal in row four has his front right leg on the ground but the hoof is bent back, so is clearly going to fall and perhaps break a leg in the process. On a couple front and back legs touch each other, so basically the poses are well short of ideal although they are at least closer to a realistic equine stance than some. There is little about the look of these animals that suggests to us the hardy Steppe ponies such men rode, and there is nothing about the very simple saddles and cloths that suggest the Tatar style either. One horse has a very long two-dimensional sword engraved down one side for reasons we cannot imagine, although these horses are also used in other sets.
One more element of the human poses gave us cause for concern. In general Tatars rode with a very short stirrup, bending the knees so they could rise in the saddle to use their bows, but there is no discernible bend in the legs here, so all these figures have a more Western European riding position. Issues like this are hard to corroborate with so little information available, but the rather basic sculpting of both man and beast is the main drawback to this set. Add to that the fact that as 1/72 scale models of 17th century Tatars these are far too big and you get the idea. The really poor fit of some men on the horses must be down to using the horses for several sets, but is still a fundamental problem that should have been foreseen well before the product came to market. As it is this is a pretty unattractive set with some more practical problems that leaves little to recommend it.