Medieval warfare today is often thought of as battles involving knights and archers, but during the Middle Ages armies increasingly contained large numbers of peasants who were armed and readied for conflict. Initially they were used to guard the baggage and other minor tasks, but by the middle of the 14th century they had become an important tactical element. Especially during the earlier part of the period these men were mostly raised as part of a feudal requirement for military service to their lord, and had little or no training or suitable equipment, but as their profile increased some became skilled at war and would seek employment as mercenaries. This set is the result of co-operation between Valdemar and Soldatinionline, and the only true plastic set from Valdemar.
The first row shows the mounted figure, who is supposed to be Robert the Bruce. He wears full armour including a great helm and crest, presumably of a lion. He has an empty cupped hand into which any weapon could be placed, although the lance would be an obvious choice. Of course he famously used a battle-axe on the morning of the battle of Bannockburn so that too is a possibility. His sword, in its scabbard, is also a separate piece. His horse has a full housing and rider fits animal very well indeed.
The next two rows show figures that are based on an existing metal set. Traditionally metal figures have been squat, chunky and poorly proportioned, but these are anything but. Very nicely detailed and posed, they wear an assortment of basically peasant costume with very little armour on show. Most have a simple tunic over hose and boots and many have the classic hood, with or without the cape, which were normal dress for the lower classes from the 11th to the 15th centuries. However each has some individual features such as the man with his hood 'dagged' or cut decoratively at the edge, fashionable from the 12th century. One man is lucky enough to have a suit of mail and a few have helmets, but only one wears an arming cap, which was also common.
The fourth row shows those figures which have weapons attached. Their costume is much like those already discussed but three hold polearms while the fourth carries a flail.
The title of this set indicates that the men are intended to be marching rather than fighting, although those with weapons attached are combative. For the rest Valdemar supply an array of weapons as shown in our final row. Most are polearms of various descriptions, which is correct as many peasants were armed with nothing more than a knife and some agricultural blade attached to a pole. Various authorities have tried to categorise such weapons but ultimately they have failed as there were no certain rules to naming such items even when they were made. Sufficed to say all these weapons are perfectly authentic, although we felt some were rather too long and are better cut down, but axes would have been quite rare in the hands of peasants.
As we have already mentioned the sculpting of these figures is excellent, with good sharp detail and very lifelike poses. However the figures have hands cupped to varying degrees (a few not at all), so all weapons and shields will need to be glued. We found some of the weapons rather oversized, and all are a little too thick to sit directly into the hand, so some work will be required to make the figure grip properly. Some of the poses seem to make better fighting figures than marching, so for example there is no pose simply walking with polearm resting on the shoulder.
Before assembling the figures it is necessary to remove all parts from the sprue - easy enough for the figures but all the weapons are attached to the sprue along their entire length. This means they are nice and straight but care needs to be taken in removing them and smaller items like the swords are particularly tricky.
The fact that most of these figures have separate weapons means most can easily be used as ordinary peasants by simply adding a scythe or similar rather than a weapon. Even those with some item of armour make good guards, so these are pretty flexible figures with civilian as well as military uses.
Overall this is a splendid effort that delivers attractive figures that virtually any medieval enthusiast will find valuable, although it does require some work to put many of them together.