This set is aimed at the first half of the 15th century, and had you found yourself in Lithuania at the start of that period then you would have observed a great many changes in the society around you. Years of conflict with the Teutonic Knights from Prussia and a close association with Poland had caused the relatively newly unified country to turn to Christianity, although at this stage the process was far from complete. The increasing links with western neighbours was also slowly influencing other aspects of life, but at this stage the Eastern influence remains dominant. Lithuania was an enormous country, and through a shared monarch was part of the Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth, an association that was sometimes more real and sometimes little more than nominal. Nevertheless the first half of the 15th century would see the commonwealth finally break the power of the Teutonic Order, a process greatly accelerated by the crushing victory at the battle of Zalgiris in 1410 (known as Grunwald to the Polish and Tannenberg to the Germans). With many sets of Teutonic knights already available some sets depicting the Lithuanians were long overdue, so this is the first such set.
The armies of Lithuania were overwhelmingly light cavalry, which had little or no armour. A very few of the wealthiest and most important lords were by now being influenced by their Polish cousins and adopting western armour, which leaves a small but important group who were wealthy enough to be well armed and armoured, and consequently tended to form the front rank, but had not yet followed the westernising trend. These men wore traditional Lithuanian armour and costume, and it is these that are depicted in this set. The six poses all wear either mail or lamellar armour, with some mail aventails and mail on the limbs. The variety of helmets on show are all quite typical of those in use in Lithuania at the time, and the pavise-like shields are also common. Some of the figures have no leg mail, but it is hard to see whether they have the typical long leather boots or leggings held up by a garter instead. The majority of poses wear a cloak, which might have been an encumbrance in combat, but basically everything about these men is historically accurate and typical.
The horses have an assortment of saddles and bridles, all of which seem reasonable. However the sculpting of the horses is really pretty poor. The basic poses don't seem too bad, but the way they have been realised is clunky, unnatural and sometimes downright crude. Exactly what the last horse pictured above is supposed to be doing we cannot guess, with that odd straightened front leg, but all the poses leave a lot to be desired.
The very unappealing sculpting is also to be seen in the men themselves, which look dreadful. While the detail is not bad the basic proportions are thick and rudimentary. The man holding his axe against the back of his helmet is the worst of the poses, but the man holding his spear across his forehead also deserves a mention in despatches. The rest are reasonable, but certainly nothing to be proud of. What is more hardly any of the figures actually fit on their horses. Some have their legs too close together to fit on the saddle, while others are much too full in the seat for it to do more than hover some way above the saddle. Added to that the bases for the horses are very thin and highly warped (the best were used for our photographs), making for a very wobbly model. Finally there is a noticeably amount of flash in a number of places.
Amongst such relatively wealthy horsemen high-status weapons like swords would be more common, and interestingly the one sword visible here has a square end known to have been used during this period. Axes and maces would also have been carried, but the principal weapon was the spisa, a spear around 2.5 metres in length yet light enough to be used in close combat and even thrown as a javelin. The two spears shown above are of a reasonable length but are thick and don’t look much like the light weapon actually carried. The remaining two poses have no weapon, but hands to take the separate spears supplied on another sprue (see our image of the sprues above). These spears are much thinner, and so are far more accurate, but in common with many Mars sets they are little more than engraved lines on a slab of plastic, leaving the customer to attempt to extract them, which amounts to little less than carving them from scratch. They are also much too long at 66mm (about 4.7 metres), although they can easily be cut down to the correct length.
Accurate though they are these are pretty poor models of the human and equine forms. The owner must extract some spears from the weapons sprue and try and persuade the men to actually make contact with their saddles. They must clean off the flash and try and make the horses at least stand more certainly. However even if you really chose to do all this there is one final criticism which no modeller can do anything about - the men are simply much too large. An average height of 1.9 metres would dwarf most modern Lithuanians, and would be seen as freakish in 15th century Eastern Europe or anywhere else. In short then this set is a great deal of work for what will be a quite unimpressive result, and to avoid them seeming to be giants they would have to be placed next to the other Mars sets for this period, which are also massively out of scale.