Although Poland was not strictly speaking involved in the Thirty Years War, many Polish troops found themselves fighting alongside the Imperial forces as the Polish king, Sigismund III, sought to support the Catholic Habsburgs in what was initially a religious struggle. His main preoccupation however was to retrieve his Swedish crown, which he had lost in 1599, so until his death in 1632 much of Poland’s fighting strength was directed at wars against Sweden. However there was also time for wars with the Muscovites and Ottomans, not to mention action against Cossacks internally, so for the period of the 1610s to 1630s there were very many opportunities for Polish infantry to demonstrate their skill at arms.
This set was something of a surprise as Mars had already produced this very subject with their Polish Infantry Mercenaries (Haiduks), which inevitably leads to comparisons between the two. The figures in this later set are a bit larger and certainly not so weedy or flat as those in the first, so in general we would have to say that the sculpting is better here. However while the style is quite different the actual improvement is not so great as these figures still exhibit some poor anatomy and proportions, with hands in particular being very rough and vague. Detail is quite good but again is inconsistent, although there is very little flash here, so in many ways these are amongst the best that Mars have so far produced and certainly neater than most.
There are the same number of poses in this newer set as in the first, and there are many that are much the same in both. Indeed the overall mix of types is also much the same, which leads us to repeat our disapproval at the relatively few ordinary soldiers compared to the officers and speciality troops. Again we find five poses of the ordinary soldier with arquebus, but four of the 'tenth-man', a figure somewhat like a corporal who should, not surprisingly, represent about one tenth of the total strength of a unit. The 'tenth-man' carried what was called a darda, which was any of a variety of polearms, so such men can be seen in our second and third rows. It’s good to see them here, but as most haiduks carried the arquebus we thought the polearm was overrepresented. The pose collection is completed by a man waving a sword, a musician and an officer, all of whom are reasonable. The musician seems to play some sort of horn (held to his cheek, not his mouth for some reason), for which we could find no evidence, although the suspicion is that he is supposed to be playing a bagpipe, like the musician in the first set, in which case he has lost the bag (and therefore the means to make any notes). That apart, while the execution may not be great all the poses are appropriate.
The first set showed a good knowledge of the subject, and this one is no different. The men wear the typical Kontusz overcoat with decorative buttons down the front, and the Hungarian felt cap, while the officer has a sash and wears a kuszma cap. Two of the men have a jaunty feather in their caps, and one has a couple of pipes stuck into his, as nicely illustrated on the box artwork. The firearms and other weapons are not the best sculpting but are accurate as far as they go, and the men carrying an arquebus have the necessary bags for powder and shot as well as some nicely done match wound round their arms.
With sets of Swedes having been available for many years, it is good to see sets of Polish troops to face them, and we certainly have no objection to multiple sets depicting the same subject. Since there is not a lot of difference in poses between this set and the first, our assumption is Mars wanted to produce a better sculpted product, which is a noble aim and one they succeeded in achieving. However the sculpting still leaves a fair amount of room for improvement, and we were not comfortable with the numbers of some types of soldier, yet it is always nice to see manufacturers striving to improve their product like this.