Medieval warfare became increasingly dominated by sieges. No matter how many battles you lost in the field, if you held the towns, and particularly the castles, then you were still in a strong position. Recently there have been a number of products released to create a siege, most notably those from Zvezda and Orion, but an obvious problem has been a lack of figures specifically posed to use these engines. This set seemed to promise to rectify that, although as we shall see the promise was only partly fulfilled.
The first row of figures shows the ones appropriate to place next to the various siege engines. They are clearly pulling or pushing something, which is just what you want from a crew. The back of the box gives a better idea of what was intended for these figures, with suggested locations for ropes etc, and as such they all look pretty good, leaning into their work as you would expect.
The second row of figures is more eclectic. The first two are clearly in the process of throwing things down on an attacking force. All castles had plenty of opportunities for defenders to throw all manner of items on the heads of the attackers, and it is a considerable surprise that these are the first such figures in 1/72 that have been made. The third figure has half a crossbow on his back (it is missing the bow and almost everything else), and his purpose in this set is hard to guess (see below). Beside him there is a soldier with a curious axe/gun and another who seems to be lighting a fire pot.
The remainder of the set is made up of handgunners of various descriptions. Apart from the word 'medieval', the set makes no claims as to period, which means a wide variety of weapons can and have been included. Some are one man operated while others have one man holding while another applies the match. As we have said the range is diverse, and it is unlikely that all these would have been seen together at the same time, but this is quite a good overview of the development of such weapons from their first appearance in Europe in the middle of the 14th century.
As with the weapons so the range of costume is extensive, again reflecting the prolonged period that this set encompasses. Some of the men have considerable amounts of armour (early handgunners had to be close to the enemy to be effective), but many have little more than a helmet and some have no armour whatsoever. Again all these styles were not fashionable at the same time, but all are reasonable. However one problem we found with the gunners is a lack of impedimenta. Specifically most gunners would have had a horn or flask of powder and at least one bag for bullets, matchcord and the tools to make more bullets and service the gun. Most of the gunners here have a small bag, but there is no sign of powder anywhere and we felt they are much too light in terms of bags etc.
The standard of sculpting, like many Orion products, depends greatly on where you look. There is considerable well-defined detail on these figures, with good proportions and natural-looking poses. However in places this detail breaks down, and at worse some items disappear completely (one man has his sword scabbard ending just below the hilt - not even a knife!). Some of the smaller guns are quite poor on detail, with no apparent match, lock or other means of firing the weapon.
The figure next to the wheelbarrow is holding his gun from behind a small shield, but the sculptor has made rather a mess of this, since the man is not actually holding the gun at all, and the shield has been almost flattened against his body, making a very awkward pose that defies rescue. The larger gun in row 3 is a nice model, and we liked the man about to replace the chamber, although we would have preferred some sort of carriage, but at least a more stable support, rather than the single pole (although such a device may well have existed). Finally, the wheelbarrow is a nice touch, although it is rather small, with particularly short handles, and there is no figure to hold it. The box implies the figure with the half-crossbow in row 2 serves this purpose, but the wheelbarrow is vastly too small to be held by this figure.
This is certainly an interesting set. Some missing detail doesn’t help, but this provides an assortment of useful figures for many medieval armies. For some however the main problem here is the most obvious - it suffers from flash - large quantities of flash in some hard to remove places. The pictures tell their own story on this, so be ready with a sharp knife and plenty of patience if this set is to be purchased.
The final figure shown above is a joker figure, a feature of many Orion sets. This one is in correct medieval costume (apart from the Stahlhelm-style helmet) but has managed to acquire a rifle with sniper’s telescopic sight. Such a weapon would have provided unheard of accuracy, range and rate of fire, and with few if any misfires as well as no risk of backfire for the man this would have justified the research into time travel necessary to deliver it. Even here however the stock is misshapen! This joker figure is only included in a limited number of these sets, being the first ones to roll off the production line.