Usually if you were trying to sell something you would at least make it reasonably clear what it is, wouldn’t you? Well apparently Mars wanted to have a bit more fun with us, and so produced this set which they helpfully point out is Spanish, but otherwise give no clues. The word 'later' appears on the box, but later than what, or who?
So to plan 'B', where we have to work it out for ourselves. The men carry muskets with no rests, which takes us to at least well into the 17th century, and they wear no armour, which backs that up. In fact what they are wearing is the long coat (known as justaucorps) that became very fashionable around the early 1660s and beyond as Spain was in decline and France was on the rise, making all things French, including the long coat, very much in vogue, and causing it to be adopted in the armies of Spain and all other western European nations. Also, the men all wear cravats, another fashion item that first appears in Western Europe during the 1660s. So, we have the start of the valid period, but when does it end? Well the set includes some grenadiers, but they do not wear the particular brimless hats that would be introduced for grenadiers late in the 17th century. Instead they and all the men wear wide-brimmed hats with one edge turned up, which was a fashion of the twenty years or so from around 1660, after which two and eventually three edges were turned up, giving us the familiar tricorn. The musketeers all seem to carry a matchlock as the match is clearly seen on many, which fits our supposed period perfectly, but none have any sign of a bayonet. At this stage that would be a plug bayonet, so not fitted unless attack by cavalry was expected, but there is no sign of them being carried either, which became the norm during the later 1680s. The swords being carried from a belt over the shoulder rather than round the waist also suggests pre 1685, and the coats are quite loose and shapeless - by the end of the 1680s they were becoming more tailored and tighter at the waist. So there we have it; these figures represent Spanish infantry (or indeed that of any Western European army) from around 1665 to 1685, give or take a year or two.
Having identified them, we must now review them. These are far from the best figures ever made, but nor are they as bad as some that have reached the market, including many made by Mars themselves. The proportions are not great and the style is a bit clumsy, while in places they do look rather flat, particularly the man holding the flag on the back of his neck. Yet there is much worse out there, so we would see these as acceptable rather than particularly good. On the whole flash is minimal but this is very uneven and in a few places it is much more pronounced - the two firing musketeers suffer the most in this respect as can be seen.
One small surprise is the absence of pikemen. Pikemen were certainly much in decline by this date, yet were still an important element of the army of Spain. However we have been highly damning of previous Mars attempts to provide pikemen, so perhaps they thought better of it and provided only musketeers and grenadiers, which under the circumstances we think a wise choice. The musketeers are in the usual firing and loading poses plus a couple of others, and are fair enough, while the two grenadiers are very welcome and properly posed, even if the first man looks to be closely following the manual rather than in a natural throwing action. The first man on the bottom row holds a short spear, but this is probably intended to be a halberd, in which case he is probably meant to be a sergeant. Beside him is a drummer with a particularly large drum, then our very flat flag-bearer and finally a more senior officer. All things considered these are reasonable poses, leaving aside how well they have been sculpted.
The style of hat and coat is correctly done, with the deep permanently turned back cuffs, although we would have liked to have seen some evidence of bands of cloth round the arm as a field sign, which was common practice. Nevertheless there are no accuracy problems with these men when dated to c.1665 to c.1685. The period of the rise of France and of Louis XIV the Sun King has been scandalously ignored on the whole in this hobby, so it is great to finally see a set for this pivotal period in European history. Spain at this time was attempting unsuccessfully to keep Portugal from finally breaking away from the empire, and fought France for hegemony and lands in places such as the Netherlands, again unsuccessfully. These are not the finest figures ever made, but they are quite usable, and break new ground as once again Mars venture into novel periods of history. So now we know, the set was intended to be called 'Later 17th Century', and we look forward to see companion sets following, particularly the troops of the rising star Louis XIV.
Note: We have given no accuracy score as Mars have not been specific enough in what these are supposed to be. However for the period 1665-1685 we would score this set a 10.