When this box came out RedBox had already made a number of sets of Landsknechts, including a somewhat flawed set of pikemen. However that set contained what might be described as the 'lighter' soldiers - those with relatively little armour, though no shortage of brightly coloured and exotic costume - so this current set provides us with what has been termed the ‘heavy’ pikemen. The difference between them is these men have more armour, and as a result were placed in the front ranks of a formation where such protection was most needed. In addition there were men known as Doppelsöldners, who were paid double and were the most experienced soldiers, and they performed many key tasks within a unit. Any such men armed with pikes would be likely to be better armoured and so resemble the figures in this set.
Our main problem with both the previous sets of Landsknecht pikemen (from RedBox and Dark Dream Studio) was that the pikes were separate but the figures were badly designed to hold them, forcing most to be horribly bent and look ridiculous. RedBox have taken the Revell approach to get round this by including the pike as one with the man, and the results are infinitely better. As you can see the hands hold the pikes very naturally, and while a few might need a bit of coercion to be straight the pikes look good and are certainly much less work. The pikes have no recognisable head detail, however, but overall the sculpting is very nice. The slit clothing of these men is a considerable challenge to sculpt at this scale but the results here are good, and the armour is well done too. Inevitably there is a little extra plastic between pike and man, but this has been minimised and is not really noticeable. There is a little flash in some places, but again this is low level and not too much of a problem. Where faces and hands are visible they are only moderately successful, but most have full-face helmets and gauntlets anyway.
One area where this set fares less well than its predecessors is in the variety of poses. As you can see, all six poses are more or less doing the same thing - 'Charge your pike' - in preparation to face enemy infantry. The previous set included a much wider variety of poses, some of which made good sense as they were in the middle and rear ranks whereas these men are supposed to only be in the front ranks, so we can understand the reasoning, but we would still liked to have seen poses at rest, preparing to receive cavalry and so on. Also there are only a couple of poses in the correct 'charge' position, although in the middle of a ruck perhaps this much variation might be expected, despite the need for the front ranks in particular to keep formation. However if these men are placed together away from the enemy then their formation looks very ragged, with the pikes at all sorts of heights and angles.
As we have already said, these men are the sharp end of a Landsknecht pike formation by virtue of their better armour, and all the armour depicted here looks to be correct and reasonable. Four of the poses have a closed helmet, and several could have a cuirass, while there is also evidence of leg protection for some. Clothing too, which could vary a good deal, looks reasonable, with the exception of the fact that two-thirds of the poses are wearing a tunic, the skirt of which is clearly seen. Such items, in the Italian style and highly fashionable at the time, were generally seen on the best men - the officers and nobility, plus some of the elite cavalry such as the French gendarmes, but very rarely have they been depicted on ordinary Landsknechts, even relatively wealthy and experienced ones such as those here. They are not impossible, but we felt they were much overstated in this set and were out of place as a result.
The weaponry on offer is dominated by the pikes of course. All those in this set are 52mm long, which equates to about 3.75 metres, which would be rather short for the Swiss and others but is a fair length for these Germans according to many sources. While they have no formed heads the staff is a good thickness, so we liked the pikes. The swords all these figures have were not so well received however. The classic weapon of most Landsknechts was the Katzbalger, a relatively short stabbing sword (about 710 mm long) which was generally worn more of less horizontally close to the waist, often at the front of the body. All these figures carry a sword, but four have quite thin examples that resemble standard European swords of the day but not the thicker Katzbalger. The other two do have much wider swords which do look much more like they should, although only the second figure in our middle row wears it in the traditional way. While we understand that this would be a difficult thing to sculpt, we were still disappointed at most of the swords and their position here.
Having pike and man as one piece imposes limitations on what can be fitted on a sprue, which perhaps explains the relatively small number of poses on offer here. With only six poses to play with it makes sense to have them all engaged in more-or-less the same activity, even though that does leave other very useful poses unmade, so basically we think six poses is not enough for this subject. Since these men only really work for the middle of a fight, anyone wanting to create a block of men waiting for battle will find little of value here, so while the poses are all usable there are serious limitations to the utility of this set. Sculpting is good and the one-piece pikes work better than the separate ones, but we were not pleased with the widespread use of tunics (the metal skirts on the box artwork are pure fantasy for Landsknechts) or the choice of swords. So a mixed bag, with the two figures in the middle row, with good swords and no tunics, being our clear favourites.