Most major manufacturers have tended to stick to well-known and popular subjects for their figure sets, but Revell showed considerably more imagination, with ranges such as the Thirty Years War, the Seven Years War, and most of all this, the Conquest of Mexico range. Their Conquistadors set is flawed but very interesting, but it is this, their set of Aztecs, that must surely be the most exotic and colourful set in their range, and perhaps those of anyone else too.
These figures seem to owe much of their design to the drawings of one Anton Hoffman, who published a series of drawings in the early part of the 19th century on the Aztecs. To understand the various figures in this set is to follow the various types of soldier in an Aztec army.
Aztec peasantry usually wore little else but the maxtlatl, basically a loincloth which ended with long ends dangling at the front, although they were not tied in a bow as seen on these figures. The first few figures in our picture are the common soldiery, with two of them wearing only this garment. The others also wear an uncoloured body armour called a ichcahuipilli, under which can be seen the maxtlatl. The ichcahuipilli was made of cloth and padded to offer some protection, and could also be toughened by soaking in brine. Those warriors that had proved worthy by capturing set numbers of enemies (kills did not count) were entitled to wear the tlahuiztli, a body suit with hundreds of coloured feathers, as seen in the next few figures. Apparently this was often accompanied by a conical hat, though this is missing from this set. Elite warriors belonged to one of several military orders, and can be identified here by the helmets they wear carved to look like jaguars and eagles. Again, colours were bright and spectacular. Finally, the last three figures are captains or commanders, as identified by the very visible ornaments on their backs which made them easy to find in battle. These three are wearing costumes of a jaguar, an eagle and a crocodile.
So, quite a spectacular sight for intimidating an enemy, and by and large these figures match the evidence we have for these men. The poses are all very usable, and as can be seen, many different weapons are being utilised. The main one is the maquahuitl, a sword/club with slithers of razor-sharp obsidian down the sides. Other weapons include spears, bows and slings - all important elements in an Aztec army. Slings and bows were generally considered to be peasant weapons, so the kneeling archer is a surprise as he wears a splendid helmet crest which a peasant novice warrior would not be entitled to. However sometimes more senior warriors 'dressed down', and have even been illustrated using the bow, so this man is clearly more senior than he at first appears, although we thought this was about the least wise of the choices of figure. Two of the figures are wielding clubs or axes with curved heads, which while illustrated by Hoffman are not thought to be authentic for the conquest era. However they do resemble clubs used by the Maya and others before the widespread use of the maquahuitl 'sword' in the mid 15th century.
Most of the men carry a shield, which are of various designs. The designs are accurate, though the most commonly depicted design is strangely missing here. The back ornaments of the captains are all taken from one Hoffman plate, and while we found no contemporary illustration of them, they are of the common style and may well be plausible. These three pieces come separate from the figure, but plug into holes on its back very securely. All weapons and shields are moulded with the figures, so no other assembly is required.
The back ornaments were worn on harnesses, but these have not been sculpted on the figures, which is strange. Also the eagle uniform was for a rare elite Order, and having over ten percent of the figures as eagles is excessive. Another problem is with the hair, for novice warriors wore it long and loose (with a 'baby' tuft at the back until their first capture), and more experienced men wore the top knot. However here the only top knot is on the simple slinger, and the more ornately uniformed men have the hairstyle of a novice, which completely contradicts their uniform. On the positive side the sculpting is excellent, with plenty of fine detail and good textures for the clothing. Hardly any flash combines with surprisingly little extra plastic, considering that every man has weapon and shield as part of the piece, yet the poses do not betray much compromise to achieve this. We would have liked to have seen a club or an axe included, but maybe we're just being greedy.
This is a stunning set for a fascinating subject, even if it favours the spectacular elite warriors far too much. Revell are to be commended for their adventurous product policy, and for producing a very fine set that should delight painters and collectors everywhere. Sadly not as commercially successful as most, this is now a hard-to-find set that is well worth tracking down.