Many people have been waiting a very long time for this set of figures. While on the surface it might seem that there are already many sets of Napoleon's line infantry, these are all for the period before 1808, after 1812 or else are significantly flawed in terms of accuracy. Having already produced French infantry for the early and late periods, this set fills a gap in the extensive HaT Napoleonic range.
The obvious rivals to this set of 1808-1812 troops are the sets from Esci and Italeri, but immediately this can be seen as a superior product. To begin with, all the major parts of a regiment are included. Regular soldiers were termed fusiliers, but for many years the tallest and largest men had traditionally been organised into elite companies and termed grenadiers. In 1804 a third class of soldier was officially created. Called voltigeurs (literally 'vaulters'), they were supposed to be the smallest and most nimble men in the regiment, and their role was to act as skirmishers and scouts, much like light infantry. Although there were many variations, the standard organisation of a battalion, as confirmed in a decree of 1808, was meant to be one grenadier company, one voltigeur company and four fusilier companies. In this set there are 16 grenadiers (top row), 16 voltigeurs (second row) and 56 fusiliers (rows three and four), which reflects these proportions very well.
The men wear the long-skirted habit with turnbacks that extend to the end of the tail - a feature that became common in 1810, and trousers over their breeches, which was normal when on campaign. The fusiliers wear the shako introduced around 1806/07 with pompons, while the voltigeurs wear the same but, as an elite, they have long plumes and cords - a common practice despite these being officially abolished. The moustached grenadiers have the distinctive bearskin which again bears a plume and cords in defiance of official regulations that reserved these for parade only. Other distinctions between these types of infantry include the bayonet scabbard, which is held on the single crossbelt just in front of the cartridge box for the fusiliers, but is held on the other hip for the elite companies, together with the sabre they carry. The grenadiers and voltigeurs also have fringed epaulattes. The cartridge boxes are correctly decorated or left plain depending on unit, but all the men have a good mixture of bottles, canteens and gourds as no canteens were issued to the troops, forcing them to provide whatever they chose or could find.
The officer wears his undress uniform of single-breasted surtout and bicorn, which again was common when in the field. The NCO is distinguishable by his arm stripes, epaulettes, the fact that he is holding his musket on his right side, and by his sabre. The drummer is excellent - in a world where drummers are all too often badly done with tiny drums, this figure achieves a good pose and correctly sized drum without resorting to multiple parts.
The poses are fine and appropriate to the type of infantry depicted, although of course having several different types of infantryman limits the range available for each type.
The sculpting is pretty good, with reasonable proportions in most cases. Detail is also good, although some areas such as turnbacks are quite flat and lifeless. There is no problem at all with flash, but the figures are made in a very soft plastic which causes some extremities like muskets to bend easily - a particularly problem for those hoping to paint them. Some figures also have extra plastic between legs and coat tails which purists will want to remove.
This is a very decent set, and certainly answers a need in the hobby. By supplying all the different types of company it covers entire regiments in a way rarely seen. Although the standard of sculpting is good rather than great, these figures will surely find many a willing owner amongst the many Napoleonic enthusiasts around the world.