The first thing to do with this set is correct an error on the box. The box states that these figures are for the late 17th century, yet a cursory glance at the costumes will tell you that is nonsense. The manufacturer has stated that the figures are in fact intended to be for the period roughly 1645 to 1660, which encompasses the Cossack revolt led by Bohdan Chmelnitsky, the subsequent war with Russia and the ‘Swedish Deluge’. The success of the Cossack revolt and the devastation caused by the Swedish invasion resulted in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth being weakened, although it would survive for over a century more.
The armed forces in Poland at this time were organised in a complex way, with the state forces being augmented by local garrisons, city militias, private armies raised by wealthy aristocrats and the Royal Guard. Essentially Poland’s soldiers were organised, trained and equipped following two distinct models - the 'Foreign' or 'German' Autorament and the 'Polish' Autorament. The latter was based on Polish traditions and the men were armed and clothed in an Eastern style, while men in the former were armed and dressed in a Western style ('German' meant not just German but foreign, although Germans had a considerable influence). The figures in this set display nothing of the traditional Polish or Eastern influence, so are of the German Autorament.
The costume of these men is a rather odd mixture of styles. Many wear what was normal military costume for Germany or any other part of Western Europe at the time, with a thigh-length coat over breeches and stockings. They all seem to be lucky enough to have boots with large tops, although as this is quite unlikely they are more probably stockings shaped to resemble such footwear. On their heads they wear either the usual brimmed hat or one of several kinds of caps. All this is fine, but some have a much more old-fashioned costume, since they seem to wear a doublet that is more reminiscent of the early years of the century. Perhaps this change in fashion was slow to reach Poland; certainly what we take to be the officer looks distinctly old-fashioned, with his large ruff, yet this item was still worn in Eastern Europe despite having fallen out of favour in the West, so he is actually quite reasonable.
Most of the men are musketeers, and only one has a rest for his musket, which is fine by this date. Some have the string of cartridges suspended from a bandolier, but the rest have cartridge/bullet bags and powder flasks. All are carrying a sword, which was normal. Two of the soldiers are pikemen, and they both have a cuirass, with one also having a helmet. The pikes come on a separate sprue (for which see the image of the sprue above), and sadly as so often with Mars these are absolutely encased in a thick mass of plastic. Indeed for most of their length they are nothing more than a line engraved in a slab of plastic, and cutting them out is a long and tedious job which leaves you with a length of plastic square in cross-section that looks little like a pike. To make this sufficiently round so it actually looks like a pole is a considerable task and not for the faint-hearted. On the positive side, were you to put in the effort necessary then you would eventually have a pike of about 65 mm in length, which is around 4.7 metres and a good length.
The sculpting is pretty crude, with less than ideal proportions and some of the ugliest, least human-looking faces we have seen for a very long time. Detail is quite variable, and all the figures are flat to some extent or other. The man standing firing is looking across his lock and certainly not along the barrel, which perhaps helps to explain why he is pointing his matchlock in the air. He also gives the impression that he is firing whilst on the move - a most unlikely circumstance - but none of the poses could be described as elegant. Not that there are any howlers in terms of choice of pose, just that none are particularly nicely done. The figures have a low amount of flash, which is surprisingly good from Mars (ignoring the horrific pikes of course), although in places the two halves of the mould do not meet up as well as they should, leaving an ugly ridge.
The wearing of doublets is a cause for concern in figures of the mid-century, but unfortunately we could find no authoritative evidence to prove or disprove this aspect of the figures. Otherwise there seem to be no actual accuracy problems with these figures, yet there is also nothing at all Polish or Eastern European about them, so many of them could serve equally for many armies in Western Europe at this time - a period that has been largely neglected up to now. Whether you would want to is another matter however. Having more senior officers and NCOs than there are musketeers standing and firing will give many gamers a problem, although we quite liked the walking figure carrying an axe so as to clear some obstruction. However it is the quite clumsy appearance of these figures at a distance that will deter many, and if it does not then taking a closer look at the faces will positively give you nightmares!