Livonia was roughly where today there is Latvia and Estonia, and was the product of attempts to conquer and Christianise the pagan peoples of the area. In 1202 Bishop Albert of Livonia founded the Brotherhood of the Sword, an Order like the Teutonic Knights, who were to carry out this work. After a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Lithuanians in 1236 the remnants merged with the Teutonic Knights, and were known as the Livonian Order. In time these Northern crusaders turned their aggression toward Orthodox Russia, only to be defeated by Prince Alexander Nevski at Lake Peipus.
This set contains both mounted and foot, which always causes problems as the proportions of one to the other will change for different campaigns, not to mention that it means there are fewer poses of each. Still having said that this is a nice selection of poses with all the normal weapons of the day on display. The crossbowman is very good by virtue of having his crossbow as a separate item so there is no extra plastic. The fit is excellent, as is the resulting figure. The three men with lances (two mounted, one kneeling) have a ring hand into which the separate lance fits neatly. This is slightly prone to kinking once removed from the sprue, but not too bad.
Livonian crusader costume and armour was not dissimilar from that of knights elsewhere in Europe, and indeed the ranks were often swelled by Germans on crusade for one season. All the various costumes are authentic, with a good mixture of styles, including one or two more extravagant forms of helmet. Shields and weapons are all typical of the early 13th century, when this set is set.
The three horse poses are all at the charge, which does not allow much flexibility, but at least it matches the attitude of all the mounted figures except possibly the senior knight, who is gesticulating with his mace. The figures fit the horses perfectly, and stay put without the need to actually grip the horse in the Italeri style. Two of the horses have housings that are engraved with appropriate designs, though we would have preferred plain.
All the figures have designs engraved on their coats and shields. We don't approve of this as it forces the customer to either accept the offered design or carve it away, but at least all the designs seem authentic, with some personal arms and some with the normal Teutonic cross, the crossed swords of the Livonians or the 'T' shaped Tau cross. Detail is very good - perhaps still not as sharp as some later sets, but there is really no room for complaint. The figures look natural and have been well sculpted, and no trace of flash at all.
This is not a well-known subject in many parts of the World, but Zvezda have done them proud with some very attractive figures to place along side the Teutonic Knights against the Russians. They should also prove useful in several other medieval campaigns such as the more famous crusades in the Mediterranean.