Russia maintained a strong artillery arm throughout the Napoleonic Wars, and frequently fielded more guns per thousand men than their opponents. Following the example of the French, Russia had conducted a review of their guns and by 1805 had decided on a limited number of standardised designs, so by 1812 - the year for which this set is aimed - the artillery was numerous and well equipped, although not always utilised to best effect. Zvezda have already produced one stunning set of Russian Napoleonic Artillery, so this set must be seen as expanding on that one rather than delivering a total package.
One of the differences between the first set and this one is that this is of Guard artillery. The only actual difference this makes is in the uniform of the gunners, which has the Romanov double-headed eagle badge on the shako and the cartridge pouch. Other than that these men wear standard artillery uniform, with the 1812-pattern shako being the most obvious feature that dates them. In all respects the uniform is correctly done and very well detailed.
In 1812 a heavy artillery battery had four lighter and four heavier 12-pdr guns plus four 20-pdr licornes (also known as 'unicorns', these were a Russian version of a howitzer). This set includes one of each, with the two weights of 12-pdr gun shown in the upper row and the licorne in the bottom row. All the gun barrels and carriage dimensions are correctly done, and each is a fine model of the ordnance in question. Heavy batteries had also had two 2-pdr licornes, which are not included here, but these were withdrawn before 1812 anyway.
While the first set concentrated on the full range of artillery equipment, this one is concerned with delivering a wide range of guns and a lot of crew poses. Therefore the only other element here is the limber, which is fine but does not come with any team, for which you will have to turn to the first set.
As we have said, there are a lot of crew poses here - an awful lot. The impressive range includes all the usual ones of men with match, ammunition and ramrod, plus ones with handspikes and drag ropes to move the gun. Also included are poses moving the gun by the wheels, so this set has a lot of poses for something that is often forgotten in artillery sets - the men needed to move a heavy gun into position before it can be fired. Each gun also has an NCO who would be in charge, and the set is completed by an officer and a drummer. That is a pretty comprehensive line-up, and with plenty of each pose on offer it means all the guns can be properly crewed. Every pose is really natural and well done too, with plenty of life, so it is hard to think of what more could have been supplied, given that teams and support vehicles were included in the first set.
The quality of production matches that of the first set, which is to say that this is outstanding in all regards, as we might expect from Zvezda. The detail is crisp and sharp, and everything down to the tools on the men's cross-belts is perfectly represented. There is no flash at all, nor any excess plastic, which will tell you that some of these figures require assembly. We found this to be quite difficult as the fit is a very tight one and it can be hard to get a good grip so the correct pressure can be applied. However the guns themselves, which also benefit from being quite complex kits, went together very well, and the results of all this effort are more than pleasing.
The first set of Russian artillery from Zvezda was exceptional in so many ways, so to have a second, with different priorities but equally well thought out and made, seems too good to be true. Yet true it is, and between them they provide superb coverage for Russian artillery of 1812-14. This is another excellent product which instantly becomes one of the best Napoleonic artillery sets ever made.