The first half of the 15th century saw a continuation in the decline of the Golden Horde, one of the legacy states of the Mongol invasions two centuries earlier. There were civil wars and various struggles for the throne of the khanate, and as so often those that were in rebellion sought temporary sanctuary in neighbouring states. The enormous state of Lithuania shared a long border with the western edge of the Golden Horde, and so a number of Mongols/Tatars made a home there. Sometimes they hoped for help from Lithuania in their internal power struggles, as in 1410 when a contingent of Tatar light horse fought with the Lithuanians against the Teutonic Knights at the battle of Tannenberg. Although not great in number their skills as light cavalry were still much prized, and were of considerable use to the Lithuanians even though some Western observers used their participation to paint the campaign as one of Christians against barbarians and pagans.
The typical Tatar of this period looked no different in battle to his predecessor, and would typically wear a thick heavy overcoat and a fur-lined cap of some description. The archer in the middle row answers this description very well, and we cannot fault him on accuracy. The last man in that row holds the traditional horse-hair standard, and as well as a typical cap he seems to wear a more elaborate coat, possibly studied to allow some protection or perhaps even to hold armour plates on the inside of the coat. Although he too carries a bow he is basically a non-combatant and like the archer we cannot fault his appearance. The first figure in that row is hard to make out, but may also have the usual coat and a tall cap which is quite reasonable, so no problems there either. For the figures on the top row however it is a different story. They all seem to have some form of quilted coat very much in the western style, plus an array of non-Mongol looking caps. We could find no source to support this appearance, and it certainly does not fit with the usual image of these people. When not in battle such people could certainly wear colourful silks and coats (the deel), and perhaps this is an attempt to illustrate this form of dress. Certainly the painted examples on the box seem to suggest this is all very colourful, but it would hardly be appropriate for battle, and nor is the cut correct, while even an officer would wear armour over any such robe. No one here has any armour, which is correct for light cavalry, so we could not understand why these three figures have been done this way.
Naturally the bow was the principal weapon, and everyone here carries one. However only one man is using it, leaving the rest to wield sabres, a spear and a flail-like weapon called a kistien. While it is nice to see a wide range of weapons, and we acknowledge that there are only six poses, it seems somehow wrong to have a set of Tatars with only one using a bow. Two of the poses carry round shields, which is fine, and both have a circular pattern engraved on the face.
Mars poses are often sadly disappointing, and some of these are extremely bad. The archer and standard-bearer are fine, but the spearman holds his spear resting on the brim of his cap, so can hardly expect a clean thrust. The second swordsman with arm wrapped around his head is absurd, while the man swinging a flail over his head is about to render himself a serious injury rather than anyone else.
The horse poses are not great either, with the legs frequently touching each other, making the animals look like they are tripping themselves up. The third pictured horse has legs merging into each other in a real mess of plastic, yet all are in perfect line astern, which is impossible for these and any other quadrupeds. The unusual saddles are quite appropriate here, and the animals look quite small, although that is more down to the grossly oversized figures than anything else - who on earth imagines that medieval Tatars averaged over 1.9 metres in height?
The sculpting is pretty poor, with some very odd shapes and a quite crude look to all of them. The faces are generally quite badly defined and certainly do not have the Mongolian look to them, and there is a good deal of separate items merging together in a rather ugly mess. The men fit the horses tolerably well, and there is some flash, although as this particular subject does not make great demands on finer detail it is really the poor overall pose that defaces some of these.
This is an unimpressive collection of figures, many of whom do not look at all like Tatars and some have an awkward stance and highly questionable dress sense. They are also poorly sculpted and giants compared to any except some of the other goliaths Mars has produced for this era in the past. A well-produced set of Tatar archers and other light cavalry could have had quite a wide range of uses for those with an interest in the medieval period, but this is not that set.