With so much of ancient warfare being concerned with the siege, a lot of effort was put into developing machines which would give the attacker an advantage. Over the years more and more sophisticated engines were designed. With this kit and their kit 2, Zvezda have provided a number of the major appliances used for this often protracted and bitter form of warfare.
The largest piece is the catapult, or onager, and this is an impressive model. A large number of pieces fit together with only occasional need for trimming to produce this superb item. The wheels can be left free to rotate and the arm can swivel to any angle. Of course there is no elasticity so this is not a working model, but it has been very well thought out. There were many designs of onager, and this one looks to be based on one of the best performing modern reconstructions, so is as good a choice as any. The biggest problem with this model is that Roman and other onagers used a sling to hold the projectile, not a 'spoon' as here, which was a mistake of medieval copyists and would have been much less efficient. Another problem is the wheels - Roman onagers did not have them, for good engineering reasons, although of course they can be left off this model easily enough. The precise engineering of the model is a joy, however, with even small details like the ratchet being included, as are a number of 'balls', stone missiles for the engine.
The other major piece is the bolt-shooting torsion catapult or scorpion. This type of device was probably developed during the fourth century BCE by Macedonian engineers, and shot a bolt of about 70cm in length. Once again the kit is quite complicated, though the instructions are reasonably clear. Parts fit well together, with the exception of the parts meant to be the rope used to pull the bow. These were much too short for the job, though thread or some other material could be substituted. The end result is every bit as delightful as the catapult, with the strut for adjusting the angle of fire being unglued, allowing the angle to be changed as desired.
The kit is completed by several wheeled wooden shields. These were used to protect assaulting troops, miners, archers or indeed any part of the attacking forces. Such simple devices were again to be found in many designs.
All components are in a hard plastic, so the pieces are precise and take glue very well. A couple of slight errors in the instructions, like a mix up over numbering, do not create any difficulties as the illustrations are clear enough. Both main pieces are very large, with each standing at almost twice the height of a man, as can be seen here. The kit includes several bolts for this engine, and each is 30mm (well over 2 metres) in length. The set also includes smaller stones for use with the scorpion.
As usual these are very well engineered and most interesting models. The onager was known to be in use from the third century CE, and the scorpion from the third century BCE. These pieces should look very impressive in a table-top siege scene, even if not entirely accurate.