With current events in the Middle East the Crusades have been more in the spotlight in recent years, yet until this set was released we had to make do with the Italeri mixed infantry/cavalry set. Now Caesar have delivered an all-cavalry set, although it actually contains only slightly more poses and mounted figures than the Italeri product.
Unlike the Italeri set, which dated itself (badly), we have no clues as to date on this box, so we will address that first. All the men wear full mail with long sleeves and mittens (although curiously the sculptor has suggested separate fingers for these). They wear round or conical helmets, including several face masks, and most have sleeveless surcoats. They carry shields of mostly 'heater' design or slightly earlier (when still developing from the kite style). Finally several of the horses have a full caparison and fairly low saddles. Surcoats appeared by the mid 12th century (at least in the Holy Land), and caparisons are also thought to have been more common by the later part of that century. The full mail hauberk with mittens suggests a date after c.1170, which was also the era when the heater shield was evolving. By c.1220 such knights would increasingly have worn the great helm that covered the head, and none of these figures have any plate armour at all, so we would suggest these figures date to the later 12th and early 13th centuries. As such they would cover both the third and fourth crusades comfortably, the third being arguably the most famous of the crusades, and the one involving Saladin, so this set would match Caesar's Saladin set.
The six poses are all reasonable, and once again Caesar have used their multi-part moulds to make them more realistic, as in the figure attacking to his right. This technology has also been used to give every man a ring hand, so all the weapons are separate, and the pairing of figure with weapon used in our photograph is just one of the possible combinations. However there are no spare weapons, which is a shame as we would have liked to have seen a few extra swords and spears. Happily though every weapon fits the ring hands perfectly. Less happily, however, the battle axe provided is enormous - far too large to be practical, particularly for a mounted man.
The four horse poses are all very realistic, and again the multi-part mould makes for a far better model. Three have no base, and while all do stand by themselves we do not see the advantage of this strategy, while it makes them more unsteady and difficult to secure to wargaming bases. Also the first horse on the bottom row is resting on his front hooves, which are vertical and therefore should be in the air (horses cannot gallop on tip-toe, after all!).
The craftsmanship on display here is of the usual high Caesar standard, with excellent detail and virtually no flash. The weapons fit the hands well, but the shields, all of which are also separate and of various designs, only roughly fit a peg on the arm and will require gluing.
We were surprised by the large number of face masks on these types of helmets - face masks are more usually associated with the later flat-topped 'pot' helmet - and their use on the round and conical type may be a particularly German fashion. However this is another fine product by Caesar which will expand the Italeri set very nicely.