In the past few years figures from the wars of Alexander have been very popular. Zvezda have already produced a Macedonian cavalry set, but their Greek infantry were more appropriate to the Greek-against-Greek wars of an earlier age. This set of Macedonians is a better complement to the cavalry set, particularly as the phalanx was the most important formation in the Macedonian army.
This set must be given its designer many sleepless nights as it is very ambitious. The technical difficulties of accurately representing men with spears are compounded when the spear is the sarissa, a weapon that could be five metres or more in length. Zvezda have solved this problem by using a technique which is becoming very fashionable these days - namely to provide several parts for each figure. In this case the figures are mostly provided with either one or both arms separately, and with the separate sarissa that must be inserted into ring hands. By having the arms separate the ring hand no longer has to face the mould, so many more poses are possible. The set comes with good clear instructions, and all the parts are numbered on the sprue. Many of the parts look very similar, so we would recommend you construct the figures as you take the pieces off the sprue rather than rely on identifying the parts later. We found that a few of the arms did not fit into the body quite as well as they should, and certainly the whole process was pretty fiddly. Still the result was very pleasing.
The separate sarissas are 85mm in length, which equates to over six metres in 1/72 scale. They are beautifully sculpted with excellent points at both end and the appropriate hand-grip. The points mean they cannot be inserted into a ring hand from either end, so they must either be cut and then glued together once they are in the hands, or the hand can be cut to accept the pole. The sarissas themselves are slender and long, and are anchored to the sprue at four points. However, unlike the Zvezda Medieval Knights spears, these are not bent or kinked in any way. We had understood this was unavoidable but it seems Zvezda have overcome the problems.
The two figures holding their sarissas in the air work slightly differently to the rest as part of their sarissa is moulded with their arm. In their case the upper half of the sarissa is provided separately, but clearly gluing such a tiny area as the butt between the two shafts would never work, so Zvezda provide some cylindrical sleeves which will support the joint. However this is of necessity a rather fat device which makes an untidy and unrealistically large bulge part way along the shaft. The illustration of the finished figures on the box glosses over this, but as can be seen from the photographs it is rather ugly. There is good evidence that some sarissas at least were made in two parts with a connector such as is modelled here, but it would not be as fat as these.
The seven poses fall into three categories. Four of the poses are of men standing or walking with sarissa horizontal, and two more have their sarissa up in the air. The seventh pose is of a standard bearer. The differences between the poses of the phalangites are mostly about the style of clothing they wear - the actual poses are quite similar, which of course reflects the reality of a large body of men in formation. However with only six such poses there is not the scope for the sarissa to be held at other angles, and in this respect the HaT set has the advantage as they have more poses and theirs carry the sarissa at many different angles. The standard-bearer is the only piece to require no assembly, and is absolutely splendid. However, his standard is probably only appropriate for Macedonians already settled in Asia, and it is far from clear whether it was carried in battle at all.
All the figures are armoured to some extent, though one of the men with the upright sarissa has only a chest plate. The rear ranks of the phalanx were usually unarmoured, so we would have liked to have seen some figures without armour. Two of those with lowered sarissa have their shield on their back, though in this position they are clearly in the front ranks and should have their shield over their forward shoulder for protection in the same way as the other two front-rank men.
As regards detail, these figures are up with the very high standard Zvezda set with its Greek and Persian sets. Detail is clear and well-defined. Even tricky aspects like the feathers in one of the helmets have been very well done. There was no flash, and while some of the arm-body joints left a gap between the pieces, all the pegs fitted in their holes and the set has been generally well engineered.
The above scans only concentrate on the figures themselves to avoid wasting space, but when the figures are placed together they make an impressive sight. It is to be regretted that the set only contains relatively few poses, and nice though they are that is not really good enough. The time and expense involved in the complicated design of the figures has caused the sacrifice in poses, and while the figures are certainly beautiful, and will delight ancient warfare fans everywhere, the four centuries that this set covers means not all the figures are right for any one moment, and with the small number of poses this detracts from the total.