Although originally founded for service in the Holy Land like the other military Orders, when the Crusader States were lost the Teutonic Order focused its attention on Eastern Europe, and initially on converting the pagan Lithuanians and others. By the start of the 15th century the order had reached the height of its power and prestige, but there followed a slow and eventually terminal decline which was hastened by the disastrous defeat at the battle of Tannenberg (or Grunwald if you prefer) in 1410. Like any army of the day that of the Teutonic Order was mainly made up of lesser brothers and foot soldiers, but in terms of importance it was the small number of mounted knights that were the heart of the force, and that is what we are promised in this set from Mars.
Apart from the black cross or 'tau' the armour and weaponry of a Teutonic knight was no different to that of any other knight of the period, but was very definitely German in influence for obvious reasons. All the figures here are heavily armoured, with many having full suits. These could be 'white' (which is to say bare metal) or covered in a tight jupon of surcoat. One man has quite a loose tabard, and another has a cloak or mantle, which would normally have been an encumbrance in battle but it is known that the Hochmeister, Ulrich von Jungingen, wore one at Tannenberg as shown in the movie still used on the box. All the men wear the usual bascinet helmet that was very common at the time, with four having the side-pivoted visor that was also common. In short then there is nothing wrong with the costume of these figures.
All the horses are also appropriate for the period, with four having the trapper or caparison covering their body and head. This might obscure some armour, but one animal definitely has a chanfron on his face, which was an expensive item and fairly rare but still appropriate here. As far as it goes all the saddles and reins look fine, so the horses too are quite accurate.
It will not have escaped your attention that none of the men are carrying weapons; all have empty hands into which the weapon is intended to be placed. This greatly improves the range of available poses, and here all the poses are pretty good. Apart from one man who is clearly intended to have a couched lance all the figures hold a weapon in the air, and two have their arm across their face as if about to strike to their right, which is a good pose. The horse poses are something else, and we will cover them in our comments on the sculpting below.
On the face of it the sculpting of the men is pretty good. Detail is quite appealing and the general proportions are fine. The men sit fairly well on the horses, although the straight-legged stance means they will have to be glued to stay on board for long. Mars have made a real effort to keep the flash on the figures to a minimum, and while the few shields are all part of the figure they are not awkward. So far so good, but that is about to change as we consider the weapons and the horses.
All the weapons come on one 'sprue' as can be seen on the sprue image. This is not so much a sprue as a slab of plastic lightly engraved with a wide variety of weapons. We have swords, polearms, shields, banners, maces and crossbows, many of which are inappropriate for a set of knights but presumably this piece will appear in other sets too. The extra items are not the problem, but trying to extricate the items from this thing is a real nightmare. Flash (if it can still be called flash when it is this thick) is completely rampant, with many items very hard to distinguish at all. All the polearms are joined along their entire length to the sprue, so removing them feels very much like carving them from scratch. The sword is so submerged in the plastic that you effectively do have to carve it from scratch, and virtually everything here will take a lot of time and a very steady hand to obtain something that will need a great deal of trimming and reconstruction to get the desired model. Even if you do go to all that effort (and we cannot imagine anybody will), none of the figures have suitable hands. Yes some have cupped hands that could do at a pinch, but most have solid hands with no hole or other means to attach the weapon. Once again some drilling and gluing will be required to mate man with weapon, and most will ask themselves whether all that effort is really worth the result. We suspect the answer will usually be negative.
Bad as the weapons are, they are not the worse element to this set; that accolade belongs to the horses - all of them. Never have we seen more dreadful horse poses, and to be honest that is a remarkable statement given the awful quality of some horses we have reviewed over the years. The sculptor has tried to hide the worst mistakes in tufts of grass and the caparisons, but there is no overlooking the horses with both legs on each side symmetrical, nor those with all four legs in perfect alignment. One animal has both left legs sticking out to the left as if in a kick-line, and also suffers from the sculptor or mould-maker having not bothered to define the hoof, which is wider than the body of the animal itself. There are hooves touching the ground yet at ninety degrees to it (so the animal must be falling), and one animal has a base so warped that it rocks whenever it is touched. This particular animal is frankly laughable, and not even worthy of being called a toy, but all of them are poor and probably worth discarding for the many infinitely better examples available in other sets.
It is always a shame when the bad parts of a set basically ruin the good ones. This set can claim good historical accuracy and good sculpting of the men with fine poses and almost no flash. The weapons however are absurdly difficult to extract from the plastic, and the horses range from poor to a joke. If you take the time to drill and glue someone else’s weapons to these men, and mount them on someone else’s horses, then you will have a very decent set of figures. Well almost, because at an average height of 28mm these figures are far too large for the claimed 1:72 scale (we had to add this height to our database - never have we had such large figures claiming to be this scale). The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this set throws our scores into confusion, as they are a compromise between the best and the worst elements, but potential buyers should be aware of the challenges that await them should they purchase this untidy mess of plastic.