The Thirty Years War came as Spain was nearing the end of more than a century of dominance in Europe. While the war in Germany might be better known, Spain too sent armies to participate in the War, but in the long run it was to lose out to the growing power of France. Part of the reason for Spain’s military power prior to the War was the development of the tercio, a formation of combined arms that proved superior to the less elaborate structures that had gone before, and although widely adopted by other armies, the Spanish remained its greatest exponents thanks in part to their highly disciplined and professional soldiers.
In terms of appearance there was little difference between the armies of Spain and those of other countries at the time. As elsewhere, the bulk of the army was made up of musketeers and pikemen, with the pikemen in particular having varying degrees of armour. This set provides four musketeer poses, which can all be seen in our top row. All are quite flat but the first two are otherwise fine. The third is perhaps attending to his match, but is a clumsy posture, and both he and the man reloading his piece lack the support for the musket. Their costume however is entirely typical of musketeers everywhere at the time, including the bandolier of charges around the trunk.
The figures in the middle row and the start of the third row are the pikemen of the set, who hold their pikes in a variety of positions. All the poses are reasonable if still a little flat, but as can be seen they do not hold a pike. Instead, the pikes are supplied as separate items, which in principle makes for a better figure. However many of the hands have no hole or cupped hand capable of taking a pike, so some work will be required to prepare the figure before the pike can be added. Furthermore, as can be seen from our image of the sprue, the pikes are supplied in a block and are attached to the sprue along almost their whole length. This connection is thick - almost as thick as the pike itself - which means it is a considerable task to separate the pike from the unwanted plastic, and a great deal harder to finish with a well-rounded and authentic-looking pike. The pikes are 68mm (almost 5 metres) in length, which is a good length, but once they are separated from the sprue they have the tendency to bend, which makes them useless if not corrected somehow. All in all the pikemen, while correctly dressed and armed, are very hard to put together and produce a quite unsatisfactory result.
After the pikemen come two men carrying swords and buckler shields. Such men were still to be found at this period, although they were more typical of an earlier time, and in particular the carrying of shields was still done but generally seen as very old-fashioned. The same story of reasonable but very flat poses applies here also, with the man holding his sword high in the air having an exceptionally short right arm - at full stretch it barely reaches above his head, yet if you try the same thing yourself you will find your arm is a great deal longer than that in reality. Both these men have their shields as a separate item, as does one of the pikemen, and each fits onto a peg on the man’s arm. The fit is fair but should be glued.
The last figure serves well as some sort of officer. He holds a halberd, which was a typical symbol of authority, as was the sash he wears across his body. However the head of the halberd has been poorly done, although the pose in general is pretty good.
Sculpting leaves much to be desired, with often vague detail and poor proportions on many of the figures. The problems with the pikes have already been noted, but there is a fair amount of flash all over the place, which will annoy many. Even something as simple as the small shields have a good deal of flash, and the connection to the sprue is intrusive and requires further trimming to rescue the intended model, making them rather crude. Apart from the pikes, a musketeer and the officer also have long connections to the sprue, which again are difficult to trim off successfully and neatly, and on all our sprues we found the fork for the musket on the musketeer figure was broken.
While the Mars commitment to depict the wider Thirty Years War is to be commended, the quality of these figures both in sculpting and production is amongst the poorest of the figures being made today. With so many sets depicting soldiers of this era, and this product offering little that cannot be found elsewhere, it is hard to find any reason to include these figures in any collection.