The 16th century was a golden age for Spain. Having conquered the last of the Muslim kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsular, she rapidly acquired an empire chiefly based in the New World. The riches plundered from southern and central America funded ever more military adventures as Spain fought France and other European powers for land and power, while the rise of Protestantism also provided religious reasons for war. In the early years of the century the main fighting was in Italy, but by the end it was the Netherlands that provided the focus for Spanish arms. However wherever the Spanish fought they earned a reputation as the finest soldiers in the World, ensuring Spain remained Europe’s leading power throughout the period.
In reality Spanish armies contained only a minority of troops who actually hailed from Spain - the remainder being made up of Italians, Burgundians, Germans and others. This was an age before the concept of a military uniform, so each national contingent would display some aspects of their own fashion and tradition in terms of clothing, while personal preference and wealth as always greatly impacted appearance and armament, giving a Spanish army a very cosmopolitan appearance indeed. Bearing that in mind all the figures in this set wear authentic costume for the period (although again fashions changed during the century, providing even more latitude for this set’s accuracy). A surprisingly small number of poses wear any armour, although there were always plenty of troops who wore no armour, or at least none visible. Four of the foot figures wear a helmet, which in most cases is of the combed morion or cabasset-morion type, while the fourth wears what looks like a type of burgonet. Surprisingly there are no 'Spanish Morions' on show, despite this being a very common item in the second half of the century.
The first two figures pictured above are clearly meant to be pikemen, an assumption based on the position of their hands despite their being empty. Pikes are quite tricky things to make in this scale, and naturally take up a lot of room on the sprue, so presumably LW did not feel up to including such items, particularly as previous sets have had very poor models of spears etc. Pikemen are an essential part of Spanish armies so their presence in this set is necessary, but the need to source pikes from elsewhere is clearly a disappointment.
The next three figures are of swordsmen, which were again an important element in the infantry. The first seems to have a large two-handed example, which is being correctly held but has half the guard missing. The second man has no guard on his sword at all, and nor does the third, whose weapon is so short as to barely qualify as a sword.
The remaining figures are something of an eclectic mix. We find an officer with his halberd and another with pistols, followed by a flag-bearer and drummer. The next row has an empty-handed man apparently falling wounded, another with a barrel, and two more unarmed men. This leaves one very obvious gap - there is not a single man carrying an arquebus or musket. Infantry firepower was a key part of the success of the dreaded Spanish tercios, and no set representing Spanish armies of this period can be without a strong contingent of such troops, so their absence here is a very serious flaw.
Although Spanish armies had cavalry it was the infantry that was the most important element. The sole cavalryman in this set is a pistoleer, so no prizes for guessing his weapon of choice. Categorised as light cavalry, this man has three pistols and is wearing a mail cape which was popular in Germany and could easily have been seen in Spanish armies. Like much of the infantry however he wears a soft cap, and carries the ball and powder that he would need. There is also a fallen horse, yet no other figure seems obviously to be the former rider.
Both 'light' (i.e. unarmoured) and 'heavy' pikemen were employed, so as both the pikemen here are unarmoured the important 'heavy' contingent is not represented. Also the flag in the second row is a curiosity. Spanish flags were fairly typical of the day in having a width of between 100 and 150 percent of their height. The flag here is particularly long, being well over twice as wide as it is tall, and therefore not authentic. In fact the flag is rather short, so in truth the flag is more 'under tall' than too wide, but still it is a poor model which is hard to replace as it is well connected to the figure.
In discussing poses the most obvious criticism is the one we have already made - namely the absence of several very important troop types. For what we do have the poses are not particularly impressive. The first pikeman is good but the second far less useful, while we have already mentioned the strange way the swords are being held. Indeed the third swordsman, with left arm up in the air for no apparent reason, is simply a strange pose altogether. The officers and non-combatants are fine, as is the falling man, but the man with the barrel is an enigma. Is he in the act of throwing the barrel at an enemy (a desperate act to be sure)? Although the figure has no face as such there is a strand of plastic from the barrel to where his face would be, suggesting that he is actually pouring some liquid into his mouth. Perhaps some drinking game? Basically we do not know, so each customer must judge for themselves. The two seated figures are a very nice touch as they could be casualties, merely pushed over during combat or even relaxing in a camp scene.
The sculpting is another letdown of this set, with the reasonable amount of detail made very hard to see by the use of semi-transparent plastic. Proportions are fair but it is often hard to make out particular items while faces are often extremely basic. While there is very little flash and the rider fits his mount well, there is some excess plastic in the usual places. Also the two pikemen, for whom separate pikes would have to be supplied from elsewhere, do not have hands that would be capable of holding anything at all as they are merely blobs.
At best this set could be described as a start for anyone wanting to create the Spanish armies of the day, but with so much missing it simply tries to cover much too large a subject. By limiting themselves to infantry LW could have found room on the sprue for some shot and perhaps an armoured pikemen too, which would have at least introduced all the major elements such a set should have. Also LW are not amongst the higher quality manufacturers and this set is fairly typical of their output, so the set does not have a great deal going for it. Our accuracy score in particular reflects the poor spread of troop types rather than the accuracy of each individual figure.
Finally a note of caution. The box essentially contains three identical sprues, but with two figures removed from one of them. Why this might be we cannot guess, but it agrees with the box's claim of 46 figures. In the past LW have proven inconsistent in terms of the actual numbers of each pose in their sets, and it seems the same is true here. Therefore you should expect to get three of most of the poses and only two of two random ones. Bizarre!