The Hussite Wars (1419-36) were an important development in the history of warfare, but ultimately they were merely one of many wars in Europe during the 15th century. The nature of the Hussite cause meant their armies tended to be mainly peasants, with few cavalry and little noble support. The tactical approach this imposed on their leaders made the Hussites innovative out of necessity, but the results were impressive and hastened the long decline of knightly cavalry in European warfare.
To begin with we will look at the figures in this set. The 12 poses are all infantry, which is fine (Hussites had cavalry but in quite small numbers), and basically all are relatively lowly peasants or townsfolk, judging by their costume. For the most part this is standard peasant costume of the time with a baggy shirt or tunic and hose on the legs. Many wear a hood, which was very popular, and this is often extended to a cape around the shoulders. A few have managed to acquire a helmet or kettle hat by one means or another, and in a couple of cases a mail coif is also in evidence, but the bulk of the figures are in everyday dress, which is perfectly suitable for the usually low-born Hussites.
By the early 15th century handguns were still crude but becoming more plentiful, and the citizens of Bohemia had many in their arsenals. Another popular weapon was the crossbow, and of course the archer remained a potent threat, so it is good to see many such poses in this set. Many Hussites carried polearms of various descriptions, many originally being agricultural implements adapted for war. The first three figures in the second row carry such weapons, which as can be seen come with separate heads to allow some choice. The flail, 'morning star' mace, pitchfork and bladed weapon are all good choices and very typical. However we were surprised that all the men carry swords, which were common enough at the time but still rather expensive for peasants, although they could often be acquired from the dead and wounded of a previous battle. While the weapons on display in this set could reasonably be considered typical of the Hussites they still used more traditional weapons such as swords and spears, neither of which are present here. However such figures are increasingly easy to obtain in other sets, so their omission is perhaps understandable. Of course Hussite armies included artillery and men with shields to defend the gaps between the wagons, but there is only so much you can squeeze into one set.
For those that are familiar with the Hussites it is probably their war wagons that spring to mind first, and this set contains two such vehicles. The war wagons were basically just heavy farm wagons adapted to provide some shelter for the troops, although as time went on many were purpose made for the task. Their vulnerability to cavalry determined the Hussite adoption of wagons, but they were to prove very successful, and while designs undoubtedly varied certain principles were to be found in all. This model has the sloped sides with cutaway on one side and a reinforcing planking on the side facing the enemy. It also has the external supports over the wheels and the trough, originally used to feed the animals but used here to hold stones for throwing. As such this model is an excellent representation of a common wagon with one exception. As can be seen it has been provided with a two-horse team, although if available four horses would have been used (for which there is no harness here). Naturally our picture shows the wagon in an unnatural state - the horses would be unhitched during battle and the side door closed when on the move.
The sculpting of these figures is pretty good, with fair detail and proportions. However the old MiniArt curse of poor mould engineering is again much in evidence here as there is a great deal of flash on both figures and wagon. This means there must be a lot of trimming before assembling the wagon, but worse yet the parts do not fit together particularly well and some filing is required in several areas. We found that in all cases holes needed to be enlarged to accommodate the pegs for which they were intended, even after the flash was removed. Everything is just a bit off square, with wheels that are not straight and sides that don’t quite meet. Although the wagon is a nice model it takes much more work than it should be complete.
As can be seen those figures with polearms require the weapon to be assembled. Why this is we can only guess. Certainly it allows some choice (there are two of each weapon, making eight for the six shafts), but clearly the problem is how to fix the parts together. The answer is to use the same system used by Zvezda in their Macedonian Phalanx, which is to provide little sleeves to hold both ends of the shaft. To begin with this creates a very unrealistic bulge in the weapon, but again the engineering lets the set down as the holes in the sleeves are poorly formed and far too narrow for the shaft in any case. Again considerable effort is required to make these fit together. There is a large amount of empty space on the sprue, so there is no other apparent reason for having multipart weapons, and MiniArt engineering is simply not good enough for this type of thing, so we would have much preferred no choice but complete weapons.
The terrain and nature of their armies drove the Hussites to adopt their famous defensive tactics and their wagons, but others followed suit so both figures and wagons in this set could find use in various armies of the later medieval period. The lack of certain elements of a Hussite army such as knights and shield men does drop the accuracy mark but such things are not hard to find elsewhere. However having to remove so much flash, and the pointless and poorly done multi-part polearms spoil what is a promising set. MiniArt like all manufacturers need to temper their ambitions with more thought into what their own technology can actually deliver.