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Set VA106

Mercenary Crossbowmen

All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Date Released 2008
Contents 10 figures
Poses 10 poses
Material Plastic (Very Soft)
Colours Brown
Average Height 25.5 mm (= 1.84 m)


Crossbows were known in ancient China, but it was not until the 11th century that they became a favoured weapon of war in Europe. Their effectiveness caused the Pope to ban their use on several occasions – except against non-Christians – which was not sufficient to stop their widespread adoption by many rulers who recognised their value. The skill and cost of manufacture and use tended to mean many crossbowmen were professional soldiers, which is to say mercenaries, but this was by no means always the case.

Crossbows are very hard things to mould properly on a model figure, at least using the traditional two-piece mould. Since they are mostly held horizontally the only real answer is to mould them as separate parts, as in the Zvezda French Infantry of the Hundred Years War, or else try and cheat by having the crossbow at an angle. Valdemar have taken the far better option of having all their crossbows separate, but this has other benefits too. The figures are made in much the same resin/plastic type of material that some BUM and GerMan sets – not the earlier ultra-crumbly formula, but still not as strong as the more traditional plastics. This means thin items are prone to breakage, so Valdemar have made their crossbows in white metal, which leaves no real vulnerable parts (and indeed our sample was entirely whole). Metal is not as good as plastic for fine detail, so these crossbows do suffer in that regard, but we thought this was a good way of avoiding the potential problem.

Crossbowmen needed both hands to use their weapon, so while they were not expected to fight hand-to-hand they were vulnerable to missile fire and therefore usually wore protection in lieu of a shield. All the figures here are pretty much alike in that they wear a helmet (of various designs) with a mail coif and a short-sleeved padded gambeson, which could easily be concealing more mail. All have a sword as a sidearm and have a bag for their bolts. While this looks a little too uniform to us, despite the assortment of helmets, this is an entirely authentic costume.

The crossbows themselves are all identical, and are of the simple type with a stirrup – a device that first appeared in the 12th century. Loading was done by attaching the bowstring to hooks on a waist belt and using the foot to hold the crossbow down while straightening the body, as demonstrated by the second figure in the second row. All the figures in this set have such hooks on their belt, so there is no variety of crossbow type here, although this simple type persisted even when more sophisticated models became available.

Valdemar describe the poses as being mainly resting or guarding, with only a few apparently in a fight. Since fighting poses are pretty limited this approach makes for a far more diverse and interesting selection of figures. The separate crossbows allow some flexibility of pose, but we really liked all the choices. Some of the figures have a noticeable lean to them, which Valdemar say is to show them keeping behind protection such as on a castle or in the Zvezda Cog model, but otherwise the poses are very good.

The sculpting is very good indeed, with all the detail you could ask for - superb faces and delightfully detailed mail are amongst the highlights. As we have said, the crossbows are less detailed because of the material, but they too are not bad and do not noticeably detract from the whole. Of flash there is no trace, but these fellows are rather too tall at an average of over 25mm, and this is largely down to an overly long upper torso, which gives them an elongated appearance which is demonstrated here.

Crossbowmen usually had a large shield called a pavise which they could stand behind to gain some protection, but this set includes just two. That on the right of our picture is of standard design, but that on the left is not of a type we recognise. Otherwise this is a very nice set, although we could do without the elongated bodies.


Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 9
Pose Number 10
Sculpting 8
Mould 10

Further Reading
"Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417432
"Weapon" - Dorling Kindersley - Richard Holmes - 9781405316194

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