Many who have never heard of Carthage or the Punic Wars will recognise the name of Hannibal, and virtually all of them will be able to tell you that he used elephants in his battles. Of course that is a gross generalisation, but it shows how much these animals have caught the public imagination right down to our own time. The effectiveness of elephants was often limited, and after the Punic wars they largely disappeared from European warfare, but they provide an unusual element for wargamers and modellers of many campaigns of the time.
Naturally the modern mind imagines the African or Indian elephant, but Carthage mostly used a breed of elephant called the North Africa Forest elephant. This animal, which until recently was thought to be extinct, is considerably smaller than its more famous cousins, and stands at less than 2.5 metres at the shoulder. The animals in this set, which come in two poses, are quite small examples even of this breed, and stand at 29mm (2.1 metres) at the shoulder. However they have all the correct characteristics of the breed, and have been pretty well sculpted, though there are some small compromises, most of which would have been forced on the sculptor by the limitations of the mould. However both of the poses seem good and natural, and they make nice models which have the advantage of being in one piece rather than a kit.
There is much debate over whether such creatures carried towers, with both sides stating their view as fact. In reality we simply do not know for sure, but the evidence is contradictory and not conclusive. These elephants are strong, but their size would clearly have limited what they could carry on their backs. This set provides towers for all animals - towers that are just large enough for two soldiers to squeeze in. However the towers are only attached to the elephant by two small pegs - one on either side - and the back of the animal has been correctly sculpted, so if the towers are not required it is only necessary to trim the two pegs and a tower-less elephant results.
Each elephant has been given a crew of three. The first is the handler, or mahout, who sits in front of the tower and is attached to it by a peg that fits into his back. He has been properly sculpted, but because the tower occupies all of the back he has to sit on the elephant's neck and ears. The remaining men include a standard-bearer and two men apparently armed with spears. These are too long for javelins, but clearly are too short to be of any use when riding an animal more than the height of a man as they could not reach infantry. However they are properly dressed, and have been given almost no base to allow them to fit in the towers.
The sculpting is good and the detail is well done, though the standard bearer has a strange bit of plastic protruding from his standard just above his head which was intended to be part of a crest but did not come out correctly, so should be removed. We found no real flash, though some areas of the elephants needed trimming - again unavoidable given the anatomy of that creature. The ability to add or remove the towers allows all points of view to be accommodated, though without the towers there are no warriors to side astride the elephant. It must be said that including six fully crewed animals in one set represents pretty good value, and this is a creditable product that should provide a dramatic addition to any table-top Carthaginian army.