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Lucky Toys

Set TL0007

Roman Commander's Cavalry

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2005
Contents 7 figures, 5 horses and 1 chariot with team
Poses 5 poses, 9 horse poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)

Review

The title of this set doesn't give much away, but luckily the box explains itself better, and we find that the subject is actually the Praetorian cavalry at the time of the emperor Trajan (ruled 98-117 CE). Most people tend to think of the Praetorian Guard as foot soldiers, but they did have a cavalry attachment (as well as some special mounted units) which was not particularly numerous but did participate in a number of campaigns. Up until the accession of Trajan the Praetorians had mainly been an imperial bodyguard and police force, and had not seen a great deal of action on the battlefield. Trajan changed that by taking them on his Dacian and Parthian Wars, where they played a prominent role, making this set a useful addition to the figures of the period.

As can be seen the set includes four mounted figures. The first figure appears to be an officer, but the rest are fairly similar poses holding their swords. A fifth pose (third row) is in the act of becoming involuntarily dismounted as he is intended to be being flung from the falling horse next to him. Unless he is suspended in mid air by cotton, rather like an Airfix aircraft from a bedroom ceiling, he only really works if you slot his feet over the tail of the horse. This gives a very dramatic pose but not a particularly realistic one. Gluing his feet to the horse's back would be more realistic but tricky to do. A pose with plenty of action, but not one that will thrill most wargamers.

While certainties are rare indeed for the ancient world it seems the Praetorians dressed little different from the legions. These figures wear a helmet which is plausible for cavalry, but they also seem to have muscle cuirasses when cavalry of the time wore mail or scale armour. Other aspects of the costume are also fairly suspicious, including the sword, which hangs from a waistbelt on the left when it normally hung from a baldric on the right. In fact half the men have no scabbard at all, despite holding a sword. The men all have cloaks, which is fine, but in most cases these are separate items that need to be glued on (the method of fixing means leaving the cloaks off is not an option). In all cases the cloak billows out well behind the man - sometimes being horizontal from the shoulders. This implies a terrific speed (cloaks were heavy of course) or a mighty head wind, both of which would seem very unlikely.

The horse poses are certainly dramatic and not to everyone's taste, with the falling horse going over on its head and the rearing animal being almost vertical. The other poses are more conventional, although the middle animal in the second row seems to be doing the splits with its back legs. In the past it was believed that the Romans were ineffective as cavalry, and that would certainly be true here as none of the horses has any kind of a saddle. Most are also missing reins and one has a very peculiar arrangement of the bridle, with a join right under the eye. We would also have liked to have seen some of the discs with which Romans often decorated their horses.

The main purpose of chariots was to race as far as most Romans were concerned, but the chariot in this set is no racer. Lucky Toys suggest it could be used as the carriage for a triumph, and describe one of the crew as an emperor. Certainly the chariot is quite large and has a splendid eagle's head decoration, but the position of the horses implies they are running rather than walking, which does not fit well with a procession. Lucky Toys also suggest it could be used for games in the arena, which is reasonable. The driver is dressed much like the rest of the cavalry, and both figures have separate cloaks which stream out horizontally from the neck with the same lack of realism already observed.

The sculpting is a reasonable job, with good detail clearly done. In all cases weapons and swords come as part of the figures, so assembly is limited to adding the cloaks and putting together the chariot, which is constructed much like the old Atlantic model. All these parts are very well engineered and fit perfectly, although we did find one wheel needed a bit of encouragement. There is no flash of any kind, so this has been very well fabricated, but it is with some of the design decisions that we felt the set was let down. The shields, which are oval and hexagonal and decorated with the Praetorian scorpion - all perfectly correct - are mostly correctly done with vertical handgrips, but one man has horizontal handgrips, presumably to make life easier for the sculptor.

The relatively small number of figures in this set will not endear it to some, and equally the inclusion of a chariot, though a really nice model, tends to limit its scope. Indeed it has the feel of a homage to the old Atlantic Roman Cavalry set, with the horses in particular bearing a passing resemblance to the Atlantic style. The problems with the costume and the horse furniture are very hard to resolve, which makes this a product that is good in parts and disappointing in others.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 5
Pose Quality 6
Pose Number 7
Sculpting 9
Mould 10

Further Reading
Books
"Greece and Rome at War" - Greenhill - Peter Connolly - 9781853673030
"Roman Army: Wars of the Empire" - Brassey (History of Uniforms Series) - Graham Sumner - 9781857532128
"The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome" - Wargames Research Group - Phil Barker - 9780904417173
"The Praetorian Guard" - Osprey (Elite Series No.50) - Boris Rankov - 9781855323612

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