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RedBox

Set 72047

European Mounted Men-at-Arms

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2016
Contents 12 figures and 12 horses
Poses 7 poses, 2 horse poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 25 mm (= 1.8 m)

Review

The Wars of the Roses were a series of struggles for control of the government of England during the later 15th century, which at times saw European soldiers participating, including mounted men at arms. Men at Arms was the name given to anyone with full armour, be they knight or not, so such men could encompass not only commanders and royalty but any soldiers with the necessary wealth. Cavalry actions were relatively few during this period, with even the most senior men at arms often choosing to fight on foot, though a small mounted reserve might be held ready to charge a shaken enemy and win the day. In addition such men could perform certain light cavalry duties, and of course all such men rode to battle even if they dismounted to fight it, so any army of the time would have seen many of these men at their head.

The art of the armourer was very highly sophisticated by this time, with suits of immense complexity yet relatively light, allowing surprisingly easy movement. Such armour could also display magnificent craftsmanship, and of course advertise the wealth of the wearer, but took many forms, not just the German and Italian styles prevalent at the time. Each man in this set has armour with different features, yet all look perfectly good for the later 15th century, and quite nicely done too. Two of the poses wear the common sallet helmet, and are likely to have bevors too, but the rest wear the armet, a form of helmet that completely enclosed the head but allowed good movement so was popular with the best-dressed knights. All have complete harness (fully armoured), and several also have feathers on the helmet which is reasonable, though formal crests were only for tournament by this stage.

The lance was the distinguishing weapon of such men, as carried by two of these poses, but when that was broken or lost it was the sword that became the primary weapon. The lances here are well done, being thicker towards the hand and of a good length. The swords are again of various styles, but all look authentic. One has a particularly long hilt, but this may be to help balance the weapon rather than implying it could be held by two hands. The last figure in our second row has a choice of weapon arms – either the lance, couched as for a charge, or a war hammer – both are good. Finally one man is waving a flail in the air. This is a more controversial choice of weapon, particularly for an elite mounted man, as it was tricky to wield. This one has a chain as long as the handle, which means the man could easily hurt his own hand, so is unlikely, even though many modern reconstructions assume the chain is as long as the handle.

There are just two horses in the set, and both are fully armoured themselves. This was by no means the norm, with plenty of armoured men on largely unarmoured horses, but some certainly did take to the field like this, so while a wider range of styles would have been welcome these two are not wrong in themselves. The poses are not great but we have seen far worse elsewhere, and the general armour and high saddles look OK. All the men fit the horses really well, which is good, though as both animals are clearly moving at some speed you might wonder how the man resting his lance on his thigh is managing to keep it there.

The poses of the men are generally good, and the choice of arms for the sixth man expands the range and allows some flexibility for the hammer man too. Our only concern was, again, with the flail man. He holds it across his helmet feather, but the chain is forming a perfect semi-circle, which begs the question of what could possibly be happening here. Were it being swung, as if to land a blow, then the chain would be straight, and if simply held up then the chain would be limp, but it is hard to imagine what movement could have caused this particular shape, though it nicely illustrates the difficulties of using a flail when you have a tall helmet decoration. Had it been our set we would have ditched the flail entirely, but everything else looks good and is authentic.

The sculpting is generally nice, with good detail on feathers, belts and other more intricate areas. The peg for the sixth man obviously needs trimming down, but neither arm is a snug fit so both will need gluing, but the result is well done and does not look unnatural. The first figure in the second row does not grip his lance at all – in fact he barely touches it, so looks a bit silly. Apart from the flail man none of the figures are particularly flat, with the last man in the top row being our favourite because his is such a natural posture. Unfortunately, as you can see, some of our figures, particularly the first man, have a huge amount of flash, yet some are quite clean. We have seen other copies of this set with no apparent flash, so like so many RedBox sets you are in the hands of fate as to the quality of the mould, but at its worst it can be very bad indeed.

A couple more horse poses with perhaps just a chamfron, or no metal armour at all, would have been good, and we would have been happier with the flail man being replaced by something more credible. That apart, this is a nicely done collection of figures which are accurate, nicely posed and appealing to look at. If you get one without the flash then you will have a very decent collection of mounted figures suitable for any Western European conflict of the later 15th century.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 9
Pose Quality 8
Pose Number 7
Sculpting 9
Mould 5

Further Reading
Books
"Armies of the Middle Ages Volume 1" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath
"English Medieval Knight 1400-1500" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.35) - Christopher Gravett - 9781841761466
"The History of Armour 1100-1700" - Crowood - Paul Walker - 9781847974525
"The Medieval Soldier" - Crowood - Gerry Embleton - 9781859150368
"The Wars of the Roses" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.145) - Terence Wise - 9780850455205
Magazines
"Military Illustrated" - No.92
"Military Illustrated" - No.70

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