During the 17th century all the major European powers had set up colonies in North America, and these were often in conflict with each other either for local reasons or in obedience to struggles between the mother countries. The conditions of the colonies made warfare on the European model difficult, and one solution was the creation of rangers. These men were often experienced backwoodsmen who engaged in patrols, raids and reconnaissance-gathering over terrain large bodies of formed soldiers would have found impassable. Of these rangers none were more famous than Roger’s Rangers, formed for the French and Indian War (1755-63). They were paid and supplied by the British Army, yet were never formally incorporated into it, and many regular officers looked down on these tough and resourceful provincials despite their widely acknowledged crucial role in the war.
Roger's Rangers were so successful largely thanks to the charismatic leadership of Robert Rogers (1731-1795), who formalised a set of rules for ranger behaviour that are still widely quoted today. Like all rangers he was concerned with the effectiveness of his men, and uniformity of clothing and equipment barely registered in his priorities. Initially the Rangers wore no uniform, but merely the highly practical civilian clothing of ordinary hunters and farmers which made up the bulk of the recruits. Later in the war some units were issued with a uniform, although it seems likely that in most cases this was variously adapted or discarded to suit the actual conditions in which the men found themselves. All the figures in this set wear the 'standard' uniform, which was a short coat and a bonnet on the head. The bonnet was the favoured headgear - partly reflecting the Scots-Irish roots of many of the men - but many other types of hat were worn, while it is thought some officers may have worn a tricorn, possibly cut down, or something like a light infantry cap. That was the uniform as far as it went, although leggings and moccasins on the feet were almost universal and highly practical, being one of many features learned from the natives. As regards conforming to the issued uniform then, these figures present no problems.
Rangers were usually excellent shots and were often issued rifled muskets. As with the uniform however, the rest of their kit was largely down to individual preference and availability. They each carried 60 rounds, but how many utilised the regulation belly box found on all these figures is an unanswerable question today. A tomahawk, knife and powder horn were all effectively universal items, yet some of these figures are missing one or more of them. Haversacks, canteens and other items varied greatly and again were down to personal taste, so the selection in this set is reasonable. However the nature of the ranger's work meant they usually patrolled for many days in wilderness or behind enemy lines, so we would have expected much more in terms of packs and other impedimenta to sustain them on their mission. They might have laid these aside before going into action, but sometimes there was no warning if they were ambushed. All the men have a blanket rolled across their chest, which is rarely illustrated but seems perfectly likely. However the roll would never have been over the right shoulder as this would have seriously interfered with the action of bringing the musket to the right shoulder.
There are many other factors too when considering the appearance of this complex subject. Many of Roger's Rangers were natives, and wore some combination of European and native clothing (as did many of the men of European descent). Also many operations, including some of the most famous, were conducted in sub-zero temperatures, and having a high proportion of figures with assorted winter garments, snow shoes, blankets wrapped round them, etc. would have been very appropriate, yet none here have any indication of cool weather. So, these figures largely conform to the very basic uniform as issued, but for the many reasons we have discussed these figures are not representative of the appearance of a group of rangers for most of the time. This leaves us with a quandary regarding the score for accuracy, for each figure is credible by himself and in certain situations, suggesting a score approaching 10, while as a whole this set does little to reflect a normal rangers unit, which demands a low accuracy score. As always, our score is a compromise and should be treated with caution.
Like any soldier, Roger's Rangers spent most of their time in barracks or on the move, and little of it fighting. While they did participate in some more formal battles (generally as skirmishers), the usual ranger fight found them acting individually or in pairs, using cover and movement to maximise their impact and limit losses. It seems like common sense to the modern mind, but it means some differences in pose from the regulars of the day. The fighting poses in this set are all very well, but we see nothing of the energy and movement that so often characterised the ranger, and all but two of the poses are standing bolt upright. Again none of the poses are actually wrong, and several are quite good, but they do not really convey the flavour of a ranger fight to us. Away from the fight the patrol was a vital part of the ranger role, but again there are few poses here suitable for such a march, with both of the more relaxed poses standing still.
The sculpting of these figures is not particularly great, although such items as they have are moderately well detailed. The muskets however are almost featureless, and an occasional air bubble in the mould means the tips of some items are missing. Muskets and other thin items are suitably slender, but this set still suffers from the fragile nature of the type of plastic used, which is not as bad as some earlier sets from this manufacturer, but will still break much more easily than traditional soft plastic figures. There is no flash and with some flexibility of the mould there is no excess plastic anywhere.
The set also includes some tents, a small bridge and some flags. None of these items are in any way appropriate for the figures, so are merely unnecessary filler.
Your reaction to this set will largely depend on your needs, which is a qualification that applies to every review on this or any other website. Some like ranks of men smartly dressed as if just out from a refitting at the quartermaster's store, and for those this set goes a long way to depict these interesting soldiers (and indeed some other rangers - not just those of Mr Rogers). In fact the rangers were often in conditions that would be considered extreme even today, let alone with the technology and resources available to these men, and many rangers died of starvation or cold. Expecting half-starved men, wrapped up against the cold and perhaps scalping a target is too much to expect from a set of figures, but we would have liked to have seen much more acknowledgement of the freezing temperatures these men often faced, as well as some much more animated poses suggesting the taking of cover, perhaps waiting in ambush, and so on. This then is a pretty nice set or one of little use depending on your point of view, making this review one of our most ambivalent!