Rome did not have the same tradition of mounted warfare as many of her contemporaries, and with only 300 cavalry assigned to each legion of between four and five thousand men, the cavalry was very poorly represented, which caused many problems on campaign. Increasingly Rome relied on her allies for cavalry support, and even when allied structure was similar to that of Rome there were two or even three times the percentage of cavalry to infantry in their ranks. Nevertheless all Roman armies had a mounted contingent, and since it was apparent that Zvezda wished to produce complete armies for the Punic Wars, this set was a must.
The familiar Zvezda sprue format has delivered five trooper poses plus three specialists. The troopers are using swords, spear and javelins, all of which are appropriate. Apart from the spear man on the second row all the troops come complete with their weapons, which means the poses are a little flat but by no means bad. The trumpeter ( tubicine) is a nice figure, and the men next to him are labelled as a junior commander and a general. However the box says the last figure is a decurio, who was a commander of the 10 men in a turma and a very long way from being a 'general'. A decurion would be a more appropriate choice, but this figure is very well kitted and does imply a higher rank. The 'junior commander' could be almost any sort of officer down to the optio of a turma.
The box claims this set covers three centuries, which is a long time in the development of the Roman army. Added to which Zvezda say this set includes not only Romans but also their allies, which further broadens the scope. With that in mind all the figures here are in suitable costume for the subject. Some wear mail and the rest have cuirasses, with assorted items and a wide variety of helmets, all of which are reasonable. Most of the shields are of the Greek style, round with a central boss and reinforcing spine. This is thought to be the predominant type of shield these men carried, although one in this set is of the older parma equestris, which is known to still have been used. This is a bit of a cover-all set, and it is hard to say whether all such costumed figures would have appeared at the same moment in time as our knowledge of the period is insufficient to make many absolute statements, but there are no apparent accuracy problems on any figure.
The horses are mostly well done although we are doubtful that the horse running on one leg (third row, second horse) is possible. None has a saddle, which is fine, and the bridle and straps all look reasonable. Once again Zvezda have made the mistake of placing pegs on the inside of their men's legs, and holes in the side of the horses in an attempt to more securely fix the men on the animals. The actual result is it is quite impossible to get the men on the horses as the pegs simply bend upwards. Our advice is to cut at least 50% off each peg and it will work, but how a company of the stature of Zvezda failed to realise such an obvious error is beyond us.
Zvezda have long since produced top quality sculpting, and if we said this set had dropped the standard at all we would be lying. Beautiful and clear detail with excellent and realistic proportions and surface textures make these as good a figure as you will find anywhere. Most of the shields are separate and fit on the end of the figure's hand, which has the boss as part of it. This is very well engineered and the result is a great fit and a perfectly authentic model (no pegs and holes to force the shield too far from the arm here). Every manufacturer should be doing it this way in our view, although it does require a high quality sculpt to work well.
Every man, shield, weapon and horse is individually numbered to ensure everything goes with the right piece, and it is important to stick with this system, particularly when trying to match up legs with holes in horses. This is a very positive review, but there is a sting in the tail. The box says these are 1/72 scale models, and they measure at least 25mm from heel to top of head, discounting helmets etc, so they would stand at least 26mm tall, which is about 1.9 metres - above average height for a modern Italian and an unheard-of height for a first century BCE Roman. This is a great product, but why have Zvezda spoiled it by making them giants compared to all true-scale figure sets on the market? Salvation is at hand, however, as when mounted and placed next to the offerings from Italeri and HaT they seem compatible. This is because almost all of the additional height is in the legs, and from the groin up the figures are much the same size, so they look OK when mounted. It is a shame that the poor quality control over size damages an otherwise very attractive set.