The first half of the 15th century specified on the box containing these figures was a time when the Rus states often fought each other as well as numerous foreign armies. Increasingly the most powerful of those states, Muscovy, was using its alliance with the Golden Horde to expand, although it too sometimes fought against its eastern neighbours. Given the rest of the Mars early 15th century range, it is particularly pertinent to note that many Rus states were controlled by the enormous power of Lithuania, and so at various times Rus warriors found themselves fighting Lithuanians, or in Lithuanian armies fighting others such as the Teutonic Order. Although particularly important when facing steppe peoples and the like, in most Rus armies the cavalry was much the most important element, and here we find a set of the middling sort - armoured but not the heaviest, shock troops.
The principal weapon of such men was the spear or lance, with swords (or sabres), axes and maces also widely used, while the bow continued to be used, reflecting the eastern influence still being exerted on the Rus. Half the six poses here carry a spear, as shown in the top row, and the poses are all OK although rendered very flat, so both the first two men hold their spear against their chest and shield. This is not too terrible however, although the sculpting is more of a cause for concern. The spear of the third man in particular is more suggestive of a tree trunk than an elegant weapon of war, and neither this nor the spear held by the first man has any discernible head to it. The rest of the detail is generally pretty good, although the overall proportions and look of these three figures is quite crude and not appealing.
The three remaining poses carry a sword, an axe and a bow. The sword is straight-bladed, so more likely to have come from the northern Rus states, but perfectly authentic. The axe was fairly uncommon amongst cavalry, but not unknown, although the bow was certainly still quite widely used by this date - the axe man too has a saddak, a belt with box case and quiver attached. Here too the poses are not great but not too bad. The swordsman holds his shield behind him for some reason (which of course is to make the sculpting easier), while the other two are OK but uninspired. As with the first row the proportions are not good here, although some elements of detail like the texture of the armour on the swordsman is quite good. The usual flatness means for example that the archer is pressing the flight of his arrow deep into his chest, and both he and some of his comrades have quite ugly faces, but nothing that makes these figures unusable.
The horses are pretty crude, and have also been used in the set of Lithuanian Medium Cavalry. The intended poses look to at least respect the way such animals actually move, which is rare enough in this hobby, but the way they have been done is awful. Great chunky legs hit each other, rub against each other and practically cross in the middle - viewing some of these animals from the front is hilarious. The very last pictured animal is truly appalling and laughable from any angle, so a very poor effort there. The saddles are quite basic but not particularly wrong, and the same goes for the rest of the horse furniture. The men do at least fit on their saddles - more or less - although gluing is required and some will need filing to force them to actually touch the saddle.
One element of any set that is not reliant on the skill of a sculptor but requires only time and a desire to get it right is the historical research, and in this respect at least this set scores very well. Most of these figures wear helmets that are very typical of the Rus, while the fur-trimmed cap of the other man is perfectly good too. Several wear mail or lamellar armour, which is fine, but some have no visible armour. Clothing is all good, and while we have already discussed the weapons the shields are also good, with round, almond and pavise shapes all in use. Our only worry was with the cloaks that four of the poses wear. While these are perfectly correct for the period, wearing them in battle would have caused difficulties for the man using his right arm, although it is hard to say to what extent they were taken off before action.
Having good historical accuracy is always a big plus, but the standard of sculpting on these figures is not impressive, and the horses are downright dreadful. While this is a worthy addition to the commendably comprehensive range of Tannenberg-era sets from Mars, and is certainly usable, it falls a long way short of the better figures being made today.