The Landsknecht soldier appeared out of the effective end of the feudal system for raising troops, whereby a noble elite cavalry led a poorly trained body of infantry supplied by their lords. Although it had long been apparent that well trained infantry could defeat even the most magnificent cavalry, it was the complete defeat of Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy by the armies of the Helvetic Confederation in the 1470s that finally brought the point home to everyone, and Maximilian I, heir to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire, was one who learned the lesson. He recruited a body of professional infantry, mainly pikemen on the Helvetic model, which in time showed their worth, and by 1486 such men were being referred to as Landsknechts. They were seen as second only to the Swiss themselves in effectiveness, and served their creator and his successors well for much of the following century, as well as serving as mercenaries in many other armies.
This set contains the very core of the Landsknechts - the pikemen. As with the Swiss, the Landsknecht strategy was essentially to move forward as a massive formed square or block of men, many of whom would be pikemen to defend against cavalry, and while firearms would increase in importance as the 16th century wore on, the pikeman was always present in Landsknecht formations. With such a dense formation of pikemen, different ranks would hold their pikes differently, and only the front few ranks could fully or even partly lower their pike. So to recreate such a body of men requires a number of different poses, and all the basics are here. There are several where the pike is held at shoulder height, plus some held at an angle and one held upright. There are also a couple of more relaxed poses; one of a man standing nonchalantly and holding his upright pike and another carrying it on the shoulder. All these are very good, although the last figure in the top row is quite strange as he holds the pike from above at the front and below at the back - the reverse of the natural way and quite nonsensical unless the pike is being held in a very strange position. Unfortunately to create a complete and believable pike square you would need several of each type of pose, and 10 poses is never going to deliver that, but if we were asked to choose 10 poses for such men then nine of these are pretty much what we would go with.
Although renowned for their military prowess, their costume had almost as much impact on some, mainly those outraged at the extravagant and at times quite vulgar sartorial choices they made. To adequately describe all the many facets of Landsknecht costume would take far too much space here, so we will have to content ourselves with the observation that everything here seems perfectly appropriate. The men wear a shirt and doublet, and hose on the legs. These and the breeches are often different from one leg to the other, which was very fashionable, and while it is hard to be sure, such customs as having part of the leg bare seem quite possible on some of these figures. None are wearing the baggy pluderhosen that would become fashionable in the second half of the 16th century, and all have the Kuhmäule ('cows mouth') shoes which were a feature of the early 1500s, so these figures have an early century look to them, when the Landsknechts were at their height. A number of the men wear large brimmed hats, which are pleasingly decorated with plumes and feathers, so while many forms of hat and cap would have been worn all these look OK. A few wear some sort of armour - generally either a cuirass or a helmet - and again the styles look good. One man wears a coat, which is perhaps unusual as it would restrict movement to a degree, and seems out of place with the rest of the men.
The poses in this set are exactly the same as those in the sister set of Halberdiers, and the only difference between the two sets is the separate sprue of weapons. In this box we find four sprues of five pikes each (see sprue image), all of which look like the example pictured above. This is the same as the sprue in the Swiss set, so it suffers from some major defects, namely the large amount of flash, the indistinct pike heads and the general merging of the foot of each pike into the sprue. The pikes are about 75mm in length (5.4 metres), which gives a good length (some sources state the Landsknechts preferred a shorter pike - perhaps only four metres long - but this is now disputed). Also the pikes are somewhat too thick, and almost square in section rather than round, so are far from an impressive component of the set.
Nine of the 10 poses also carry a sidearm – a sword called a Katzbalger. This has been sculpted quite wide and thick, but the most noticeable feature is the massive guard. This is presumably an attempt to represent the large 'S'-shaped quillons commonly seen on such weapons, but while we accept that such a feature is almost impossible to sculpt on such figures, those here look pretty bad in our view and it might have been better to ignore them entirely. The man with the coat (first figure in the top row) has a massive sword from his belt, which looks something like a hand-and-a-half sword and clearly drags on the ground. This would have been far too much of an encumbrance for a pikeman, so combined with the costume we would suggest this is really not a pikeman at all (but makes more sense in the Halberdier set).
As you can see the man standing with upright pike in the top row has suffered badly from flash around the legs and arms, but the rest are mostly fairly clean. The level of detail required for such complex clothing is considerable and in general the result is not bad, with pretty good folds in the clothing etc.. Hands tend to be a bit more vague, but the main problem comes when trying to attach pike to pikeman. In many cases the body interferes with the straight line of the pike, meaning it has to be bent if it is to successfully touch both hands, and the thickness of the pike means the 'grip' is far from convincing. Compared to the only other sets of Landsknechts so far made - those from Dark Dream Studio - the sculpting here is not so crisp and clear, although not too bad either.
In general, although the sets from both manufacturers would probably work quite well together, we felt the Landsknechts from Dark Dream Studio were a better sculpting job, and their pikes are certainly far preferable to those in this set. The RedBox set avoids the problems of the arms and hats in the Dark Dream Studio set, but both sets suffer from poor design when it comes to placing the pike in the hands, as no one wants to see bent pikes, so a fair amount of work would be required to get a believable figure from some of these poses. While the figures themselves are quite nice the challenge of the separate pikes has not been mastered here, and while that may be a particularly difficult problem to solve it does devalue this set, while the at times quite poor mould, with lots of flash, only adds to the disappointment.