The lessons of the previous 150 years had been learned well before the Wars of the Roses, and the heavy cavalry in the form of the knightly class was not the commanding force it had once been. In fact the battles of what were essentially English dynastic wars were mainly conducted on foot, with the elite knight generally fighting dismounted for most of the battle. What might be termed light horse had very little role in a pitched battle, but their worth was in the wider campaign, when they could be the eyes of the army, forage for supplies and harass the enemy. In addition many of those that always fought on foot would still ride to battle, so there is still plenty of call of sets such as this of lightly armoured men on horseback. During the history of these wars the vanquished frequently fled to the continent, only to return later with troops raised there, and all sides were happy to recruit foreign mercenaries for their cause, particularly specialists like gunners and crossbowmen.
The six poses in this collection include quite a range of weapons. The principle weapon of such men was the lance, as seen on two of these poses, while most would certainly also carry a sword as a sidearm as all do here. The second row has a man waving a flail, which is less likely as a weapon for light horse, followed by two crossbowmen. The crossbow was sometimes fired from the saddle, but more usually fired whilst dismounted, so again these would be less common. If the choice of weapons is a little surprising, then some of the actual poses are startling. Both of the lancers are fine, but the swordsman does what many swordsmen do in this hobby, and holds his sword sideways directly over the top of his head, which if you think about it is not particularly natural. The man with the flail has a similar issue; he holds his weapon directly across the top of his head, which begs the question of where will this go next, because unless he is about to lash out at someone to his right (and he is not even looking to his right), the ball seems likely to brain either himself or his horse. In short, both poses are very flat, yet not as silly as the first crossbowman. This man is holding his crossbow vertically and aiming it to his left. Naturally the bolt cannot still be in the groove, even with a spring restraint, so this is a ridiculous pose that looks like the man has forgotten he does not have a longbow! Like the previous two poses this is easy to mould, but in this case the result is too stupid to be of any worth. Finally there is another crossbowman who also holds his weapon vertically, and might seem a bit better as he is clearly not about to shoot it, yet the bow is obviously at full tension, so again we worried about why the bow was fully set, yet not being used and with no bolt loaded.
Unlike the heavy knights, who would be more or less encased in plate armour by the later 15th century, there is relatively little armour here, which is good. One man clearly has a breastplate and plackart, and others may have trunk armour or something softer. All have helmets, mostly of the sallet type, with one that is more of a kettle hat, but all look OK. A couple have wrapped a sort of thin turban round their helmet, which was an oriental style that was fashionable in Europe at this time. One man at least has a mail shirt under what might be a jack, and several have metal protection on arms or legs, which is good. Another high fashion item of the period were the very long boots which several here wear, some of which have been turned down below the knee to effectively double the thickness on the lower leg. While the range of acceptable styles is wide, we had no problems with any of the armour and clothing on display here.
The rather minimal two horse poses have been seen before in earlier RedBox cavalry sets, but both are fairly natural and one even provides a realistically stable platform for the man who thinks he is about to shoot his crossbow. Such men did not require the big heavy war horses of the knights, so these look fine, and we approved of the saddles and assorted horse furniture too, which looks typical.
In general the sculpting is very good, with decent detail and good proportions. Details like the cranequin on one of the crossbows is nicely done and easy to see, and the faces, where they are visible, look natural too. As we have said, some of the poses are flat, and apart from the lancers we had problems with the way everyone is holding their weapon. Also, one man is missing one of the quillons on his sheathed sword, and another is similarly lacking most of the hilt on his, so either the sculpting went a little awry there or the plastic failed to fill all of the cavity on our example at least. There is zero flash or unwanted plastic, however, and the men fit the horses very nicely.
There is more to say on the weapons delivered here. The swordsman holds a falchion (an unusual choice, and we would have gone with a more normal European sword), yet his scabbard is straight and narrow, so completely unable to accommodate it. Secondly the flail has a chain of the same length as the short handle, so is too long (or the handle too short) and liable to endanger the holder's hand as much as any opponent. Finally the crossbow being 'used' has a stirrup, so is designed to be operated when on the ground and a surprising choice for a man who likes to shot them whilst on horseback.
Nice sculpting, good costume, shame about some of the poses. That's it in a nutshell really. We should point out that the numbers of each pose of horse may vary slightly since the box contains two full sprues (five animals each) plus a part sprue that may vary and so introduce a slightly random element, though that hardly matters. The problem is not with the horses, but if RedBox had given us more lancers and swordsmen, and avoided the admittedly tricky and in fact unsuccessful attempt to provide crossbowmen with a single piece then this set might have been more of a success than it actually is.