As a post-Mongol state, Muscovite aristocracy took enormous pride and pleasure in their horses. The most common breed used for war was the Nogai, a small tough Steppe breed which could travel long distances with minimal sustenance. However those that could afford it might import horses from further afield, even thoroughbred Arabian horses, although these were so expensive that they only occupied the stalls of the Tsar or the wealthier boyars. The favoured Muscovite tactic in battle was for the cavalry to harass enemy forces with archery, then appear to retreat when the enemy attacked them, hopefully drawing them forward until they could be attacked in the flank by more cavalry. The noble cavalry was made up of the boyars, the nobility of the country, who might have the best clothing, armour and weapons. Nobel cavalry did not train as a unit – they merely appeared when summoned by the Tsar, but all knew how to handle a horse, and understood the basic principles on which the army usually fought.
The box mentions the siege of Kazan, of which there were many, but the most famous is the one in 1552 which ended with the destruction of the Khanate by Muscovite forces under Tsar Ivan IV, so this set is aimed broadly for the middle of the century. In many respects the look of such cavalry changed little over the course of the 16th century, since the boyars were a very traditional-minded group in a very conservative society. The six figures here include many that would have looked at home half a century earlier, or half a century later. They wear mail armour, sometimes with further protection for the chest. Most wear a helmet with mail aventail, generally the tall spiked variety that was very characteristic of such peoples. One man wears just a cap and padded clothing (which may or may not include hidden metal armour), a look that was gradually becoming more common as the century developed.
As with clothing, so weaponry had changed little since 1480. Every man here has a bow – the most important weapon – but in this particular set (essentially one of six from RedBox) only one man is actually using it. Most of the rest have drawn their sidearm sabres or axes (some have both), both of which are well done here. Other sets provide figures with polearms etc., so the emphasis on sidearms here is perfectly acceptable.
The six horse poses in this set are exactly the same as in the other five products in this mini-series from RedBox, so our comments on these are identical for all. The poses are all moving rapidly, but some of the poses are far less natural than we would have liked. We also felt that the general anatomy of the horses was not quite as good as for the riders. Noble cavalry at this time most commonly rode Noghai ponies, so the relatively small size of these animals is about right. The saddlery is much simplified though. The Mongol-style saddles, that all should have, seem to be replaced with a simple couple of cloths, lacking all the usual items like the pommel and cantle, although the decoration on parts of the harness seems reasonable.
The human poses are a bit more active than many of the other sets. Most are at least waving their weapon in the air in a moderately aggressive manner, although all have perfectly straight backs so do not give the impression of leaning in to the attack or attempting to reach an opponent. The all-charging horses reinforce that impression, so once again we have a charge and nothing else. The last figure in the top row is actually holding his sword behind his head, a natural pose so rarely done in plastic figures, so good to see here, but the very common pose of holding out your sword to your right (first figure, top row) never looks very likely to us in any cavalry set, and this is no different.
The quality of all six sets is absolutely identical, which means the sculpted detail is excellent. The texture and fine detail of the various armours and clothing are very well done, and these look great no matter how close you get. Thin elements like the sabres and bows are indeed thin, so a really good job has been done here. The legs are well apart, so mount the animals easily, though there is nothing much to keep them there, so they will need to be glued in place. The standard fairly flat poses mean there is no excess plastic, and joy of joys there is absolutely no flash anywhere. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the horses, which have a more normal level, but the figures are as clean as they could be.
Like the rest of the sets, we must point out that the usual stance for such men was to have legs bent under the body on a short stirrup, not stretched out straight as depicted here. That aside, there are no issues with accuracy, and while the poses may be fairly unexciting they are all perfectly serviceable. The horses lose points on both accuracy and poses, so are much the weaker part of the set, but the riders are excellent and well-made. This is a nice set that forms part of an impressive range of sets depicting the subject very well.