It was largely with the halberd that the Swiss established their reputation as excellent soldiers in the 15th century. By the start of the 16th century, however, which is the period claimed by this set, they had switched to using the pike, and halberds were relegated to weapons used by those protecting the standards or the baggage, or as a sign of rank by some officers. In this role they would last for several centuries, and indeed are still carried on ceremonial occasions by the modern Papal Swiss Guard.
The figures in this set are exactly the same as those to be found in the corresponding set of pikemen, but this set has some sprues of halberds (pictured above) instead of pikes. Therefore our comments on the costume in the pikemen review apply equally here. They wear typical costume of their time and unit, which is largely like that of the imitating Landsknechts but less showy. They have shirts and doublets with hose and perhaps breeches, and some of these might be slashed in the style that so shocked some people at the time. The prominent codpiece is, well, prominent, as it was intended to be, and they all wear the kuhmäule (literally 'cow mouth') shoes that were fashionable during the earlier part of the century. A few have armour, which might reflect a more wealthy individual or simply someone who has been fortunate with their looting on a previous battlefield. Armour came from many sources and so was hugely varied, but everything here looks reasonable. Apart from a few helmets everyone wears a beret-type cap, which is perfectly authentic although other forms of headwear were also worn, and usually they all sported feathers or other decoration – something that is lacking on all these figures. However most of the figures do have the cross engraved somewhere, which was their field sign, so apart from the missing flourishes, which were seen as important, all the costume here looks good.
With all the same poses as the pikemen set you might think they would not work well with the two very different weapons, but on the whole they do. To threaten an enemy with the point of your weapon you lower it whether it is a pike or a halberd, so many of these poses make sense for both. Really our only problem with the poses is the same as in the pike set – the first man in the second row is apparently either about to use his halberd as a giant axe and bring it crashing down on some opponent (conceivable but not normal practice unless you are a Viking) or perhaps threatening an enemy from behind a wall or a line of comrades (more likely, but still not a great pose). However given the much more limited use of halberds in this century, and the lack of a need to display large numbers in close formation, the range of poses here is generally pretty good.
As you can see, the weaponry is supplied on a separate sprue like the pikes, but here there is a choice of weapons. Although designs of weapons varied a good bit, most would say that in fact only four of these weapons are truly halberds – the second from the left would more correctly be termed a glaive, although the effect of being sliced in two by either was much the same. The designs are OK and there is much less of a problem with flash than on the pikes, although some trimming is still required – particularly the bobbles on the end of some of the points. Again these weapons effectively merge into the holding sprue, so you have to cut them off where you think best. However such staff weapons were generally two to two-and-a-half metres in length, and since these are a maximum of 45mm (about 3.24 metres) in length you have plenty of scope to cut them down to any desired length. Like the pikes these weapons are more square than round in cross-section, and generally fit into the waiting hands very poorly, so some patient gluing lies ahead, as well as some trimming where the head or body fails to keep clear of the shaft. The men have swords as side arms, all of which are very simple with straight quillons, and no one seems to have any sort of a dagger.
Sculpting is reasonable, although there are a few bits of excess plastic and a small amount of flash to remove. Most notable is our least favoured pose – that guy beginning the second row – who’s upraised arms means the mould could not reach much of his head, resulting in a quite vague head. However most detail is reasonable and the proportions are good too, while the separate weapons, infuriating though they may be, mean the poses are not flat.
On the whole RedBox have got away with providing the same poses for both their pikemen and halberdiers, seem both weapons seem to work with them. The advantage with the halberdiers is that you will not usually need a large body of similar and yet different poses to make a convincing mob, so in fact the 10 poses in this set cover the subject better than the 10 in the pike set. The halberds are a better effort than the pikes too, so with no issues over accuracy this is perhaps the most successful of the trio of sets. Overall we liked this set the most, although a set of Swiss halberdiers for the 15th century, when you would expect much more armour, remains on the wish list for now.