The 16th century saw the Spanish become the dominant military power of the age. After defeat against France in 1495 the Spanish under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba reorganised their infantry so it integrated the fire power of the arquebus and musket with the defensive strength of the pike. The result would emerge as the famous tercio, fully developed by the 1530s, which combined pike, firearm and sword in a single unit that proved a battle winner and was copied in time by other countries. As the century progressed the pike gradually declined in importance, yet was always an essential element, so that in the 1580s pikes still made up around 40% of the total.
As with their Italian set, RedBox only provide four pike poses here, which is a shame as pike blocks require a mass of figures close together, and having several similar but subtly different poses makes a much more natural-looking scene than just one or two. The pikeman in the middle row with pike at ‘Charge your pike’ is good, and we really liked the man holding his pike upright. The other two hold theirs at waist level and over the head – neither are impossible, but nor are they ideal. Both were part of some pike drills, but we were unable to ascertain whether this was so of Spanish drill of the 16th century. The bottom figure holds his pike across the middle of his head, and is not even looking where the pike is, so for that reason is much the poorest of the poses here.
The two men with halberds are perhaps a little flat but in reasonably valid positions. Again more would have been nice, although there are now several sources for such figures.
Although the Swiss had shown how the pike could be an offensive weapon, the usual role of the pikeman was to provide a refuge for other forms of infantry, as they could withstand both infantry and cavalry attack. Traditionally therefore they wore armour when others had discarded it, and every man here has some. All have a helmet, and while these varied greatly in design we thought all were fine except that of the upright pikemen, which looked odd to us and we could not find any corroboration for it. Two of the pikemen have full breast and back plates, plus tassets on the thighs. The other two seem to have quilted corselets, so might not be in the front rank of the pike block. Some of these men have additional armour on limbs, and overall the mix of armour is pleasing, even though there are so few poses. The two armed with halberds have similar levels of armour, and are also dressed in much the same way as the pikemen. Visible beneath the armour are doublets with tight sleeves and big puffy outer sleeves above the elbow, and each man wears the trunk-hose or slops. This sort of costume became fashionable by the 1540s, and remained so for most of the century, so these figures are not ideal for the early years of the century. No one here exhibits any form of large collar or ruff, with was increasingly common amongst Spanish troops by the 1580s, so again while not impossible for the last two decades, these are best for the mid-century.
The sculpting is of the now-standard RedBox quality, which is very good. Detail is nicely sharp and plentiful, with good slim limbs and heads that are not oversized. There are no separate pieces, but the sculptor has done a good job of keeping excess plastic to an absolute minimum, which always helps. There is some flash, but at least on our samples this was only in a few places and nothing too terrible. The pikes in particular are nice and slender, and even have the points sculpted. At slightly under 60mm (4.25 metres) they are a little shorter than the standard Spanish pike length, which was about five metres, but to our eye they looked plenty long enough so few are likely to complain. The halberds are also a good size and of typical design.
It is great to see such an important element in 16th century European history getting a series of sets like this one, and by spreading the subject over three sets RedBox have overall provided many more poses than you would expect from a traditional one-box approach. That has to be acknowledged and appreciated, but we still felt that four pike poses was a bit minimal, especially as they do not cover all the most common positions (none are ready to receive cavalry for example). The figure holding his pike over the top of his head rang alarm bells with us, and seems a waste under the circumstances, but otherwise the poses are pretty good, the sculpting very nice, flash is low-level and the accuracy fine. Lots of positives then for this set, and for the mini-series as a whole.