The Thirty Years War is generally seen as being fought by infantry made up of musketeers and pikemen, and cavalry of cuirassiers and dragoons. Yet there was scope for other types of soldiers too, and nowhere had easier access to natural light infantry than the Habsburg Empire, with its eastern dominions providing many such men. Light infantry of this period is not a subject that has attracted any attention in this hobby before, but clearly Mars are intent on covering all aspects of this enormous conflict in their sets, and the light infantry here provide some of the more interesting figures so far produced.
Light versions of both infantry and cavalry came from the eastern provinces, with light infantry being made up partly by Poles but more by Hungarians and Croats. At the time Croatia was considered part of Hungary, and there were similarities in their traditional costume, which in any case was by no means a uniform. The first six figures pictured above look to be such men, as they all wear variations on the national costume including the soft caps and long cloak or mantle. With their short boots the first five look to be more Hungarian, but the shoes (actually sandals made of plaited leather) and baggy trousers of the sixth suggest a Croat to us. Two are wielding slightly curved swords while a third looks to be holding a glaive, but the others are using the light caliver or carbine that required no rest, unlike the standard musket.
The seventh figure is something of a puzzle as we could find no reference to bow-armed men for the Thirty Years War. By this stage the bow had long gone out of use as a weapon of war, but some of the more primitive societies on the fringes of Europe still used them for hunting and it is not inconceivable that such men could have played a part in the wider campaigns across central Europe. If they did then they would certainly be small in numbers, which perhaps explains why there is only one such figure here. This man wears a simple coat and soft cap with baggy trousers and shoes, so is dressed in a very basic way which fits with the supposed origin of such a soldier. Lacking any information to the contrary we can only accept that he is legitimate and accurate. Equally the last figure in the second row is a little difficult to explain, as he is conventionally dressed but carries the fairly unusual glaive. Perhaps he is from a militia or other body which has not managed to provide him with a musket or pike, and has instead sent him out with what is little more than an agricultural implement.
The figures in the bottom row are dressed in entirely typical costume of most soldiers of the day, and so could be of almost any nationality, but most likely German. They carry the lighter caliver or carbine and clearly represent the Jägers that were recruited for their skills in hunting and marksmanship, performing all the usual functions of skirmishing etc., as well as favoured for bodyguard duties. Often seen in muted greens and browns, their firearms were frequently expensive wheellocks, and some were even rifled.
We found no problems with the general historical accuracy of these figures, but the poses are another matter. All are fairly flat, and some - particularly those with the polearm or sword - are exceptionally so. Both the glaives are being held well along the pole - in fact very close to the blade - thus greatly reducing the reach of the weapon and also decreasing the ability to swing it in combat. The man with sword raised above his head is pretty absurd too, but all those with firearms are much better if still sometimes rather clumsy.
The very flat nature of these figures is not their only problem, as they are also quite poor examples of sculpting. They have been fashioned with quite varying proportions, and detail is often hard to make out, which particularly matters for the ornate costumes of the Hungarians. A lot of liberties have been taken too, such as the sword scabbard of one of the riflemen which curves round his rump to make the weapon simply ludicrous. Also you will have noticed that there is a great deal of flash in many places, and all of the seams have a very noticeable ridge of plastic. A lot of work would be needed to make these figures presentable, but even if trimmed and painted, such as they are on the back of the box, there is no avoiding the ugly anatomy of many of them.
With many musketeers and pikemen already available it is refreshing to see something a bit different for this pivotal conflict in Europe, and the ideas were all good. However the actual rendering of the figures leaves much to be desired, and there is much that cannot be remedied just with careful trimming and painting, leaving us with some quite unsatisfactory figures.