By the first half of the fifteenth century gunpowder artillery had been around in Europe for several decades, yet it was still essentially in its infancy. As the century dawned, armies still often chose to bring throwing machines to a siege as they packed a bigger punch than the early cannons, but the century would see significant advances in the technology as more was learnt about cannons and the powder they used.
In the later Middle Ages cannon came in an enormous variety of sizes and calibres, and there was no standardisation of design or even name. The gun in this set has a barrel length of 35mm (2.5 metres) and a bore of about 3mm diameter, making it a good sized weapon that would certainly have worried the defenders of many older walled towns and castles. The barrel is clearly reinforced with bands at various points, and looks very convincing. It sits on a static wooden bed which would have had to absorb all the recoil, since wheeled carriages were yet to come for weapons of this size. The bed is reinforced at the back with pegs driven into the ground, but would have needed frequent repair and replacement, so such guns often fired only a few times per day. It was basic and functional therefore, and this one looks reasonable although for some reason it is of a different design to the one shown on the box artwork. All in all then the gun is fine and quite typical for any medieval European army conducting a siege.
With a quite leisurely rate of fire, the gun did not require a large crew, but it did need carpenters to make running repairs as required. The six figures assigned to each gun in this set include everything you might want. The two figures in the same row as the bombard are of the man assigned to swab out the barrel after firing and the one assigned to load the ball (which unfortunately is rather too large for this barrel. The top row starts with what looks like the guy in charge, so perhaps the master gunner or simply an officer in charge of the bombardment. Next to him is the gunner with the match, followed by two gunners, one covering his ears and one in a great hurry. As choices these are fine although quite why there is a running man is uncertain, yet he is perfectly serviceable. The poses are quite reasonable too, although the running man has been very awkwardly done with legs crossed, body twisted and right arm flying all over the place. Artillerymen are rarely depicted wearing armour, so the helmets and body armour on some of these figures would be quite unusual but not unrealistic. Many have quilted or studded jacks, which again were more than many gunners had but not inconceivable either. That said the costume looks fine and again is appropriate for any medieval army of the day, not just that of Poland.
Flash is variable but in places there is a lot while other areas are clean. The sculpting is a bit basic and certainly no work of art but not as bad as some Mars sets in the past. Apart from the running man the poses are quite well done - flat, but the subject means that looks OK so there is no problem. It must be said though that Mars have made these figures a bit too tall for medieval Europeans, and the running man has been given a ludicrously tiny base when he really needs the biggest base of all; he stands, but if he gets caught in a slight breeze he will fall over, which is daft.
What would have been nice would have been a wooden shield which such guns would have had when in action, and the running man could instead have been someone heaving on this to open it for firing. But what we do get is really not bad, and we appreciated the extra effort in providing a separate muzzle for the gun to give it an actual bore. The gun isn't the greatest little kit in the world, but then the original would have been fairly rough at the edges too, and while the figures are not going to win any beauty awards they largely do the job apart from the running man we have been picking on so much. With relatively few figures and guns for medieval sieges this set does a fair job and has quite a wide range of uses too.