Histories of wars tend to focus on movements of armies and, most particularly, pitched battles, where a significant result is often achieved in the course of one day. However in the 17th century sieges had long been much the more important aspect of warfare, and if today these are little remembered then one notable exception is the siege and subsequent sack of Magdeburg (1630-31), where Imperial forces massacred tens of thousands of civilians and created a byword for savagery that has lasted down the centuries. The usual means of conducting a successful siege was to batter down the walls and either storm the breach or force a surrender, and this was achieved using the largest guns available, but that is not what is in this set. Instead this set contains two mortars, which were large calibre weapons that shot at a very high trajectory, thus sending their payload over the walls and into the besieged area behind. Siege artillery is seldom depicted in this hobby, and still less siege mortars, so this set brings something new to the Thirty Years War range.
The height of the mortar model is about 9mm (65cm) to the middle of the trunnions, and 20mm (1.4 metres) to the top of the barrel when at maximum elevation. Mortars came in all sizes but this one is fine. The barrel has been moulded as one piece, so it is solid, which is a pity as it would have benefited from being made in two parts like the mortar in the Italeri Union Artillery set. The design of the barrel looks to be authentic, as does the very simple carriage. Mortars were later to have trunnions at the base of the barrel, but at the time of the Thirty Years War they were usually in the middle, as here.
Naturally mortars needed a crew, and this set provides six per piece, plus two drivers and a mounted officer. All of these have a costume that is appropriate for the period and subject. Mortars could fire stone shot and canister, but often the 'grenado', hollow iron balls filled with gunpowder, was the chosen ammunition, commonly known as bombs, and that is what has been provided here. The two men are carrying a pole from which the bomb would be suspended by two chains attached to loops on the bomb’s surface. This would then be lowered into the mortar ready for firing. In this set there are no chains, not loops on the bomb, so the customer has to improvise. The bombs does have three knobs on, two apparently being in place of the required loops while the third would be the stopper filling the hole by which the powder was inserted.
Naturally the mortar would require moving on occasions, and for this Mars have provided a wagon and a team of six which they have placed in several previous sets. Our comments on this really poor model apply equally here, so see those reviews (for example Imperial Army) for details. All we would add here is the mortar is too wide to reach the wagon floor, which is simply very sloppy, but at least this time the instructions for assembling the wagon have been included.
The poses are reasonable although do not make sense together - by which we mean why is a man covering his ears when all that is happening is the bomb is being loaded? The quality of the sculpting, and the general build quality, is pretty poor and on a par with previous offerings from this company. The missing chains and traces, and the really bad way the wagon fails to fit together well, somewhat distract the disappointed customer from the quite crude sculpting, where detail is hard to identify and some items are simply very badly shaped. One of the drivers comes nowhere near to fitting on the provided horse, and the mounted officer fares little better on his animal. On the plus side there is not a great deal of flash, although as can be seen above it is by no means absent entirely.
A handful of gabions complete the set, which it must be said is quite accurate in all areas. However the poor production quality lets it down badly, which is a great shame as the idea is good and done well this would have been a really interesting set. The mortar, which suffers from the same poor engineering at the rest of the components, is about the best thing here, but a lot of work will be required to make this set presentable.