In the early part of the 17th century the term 'heavy cavalry' meant cuirassiers, men wearing three-quarter armour and riding heavy horses who were supposed to be the strike force of the European battlefield. But times were, as ever, changing, and these expensive and relatively slow armoured men were falling out of fashion as lighter, more mobile forces were playing an increasing role. Yet cuirassiers still had their place, and while the outbreak of the Thirty Years War found the Habsburg armies with just one cuirassier regiment, by 1641 that had increased to 61. Pappenheim and Wallenstein were their most famous commanders, and properly used they could turn the tide of battle, but military tacticians were increasingly looking to the far cheaper dragoons and lighter cavalry to fulfil the mounted role.
During the three decades of this war the nature of cuirassiers changed, as they gradually shed more and more armour, and relied much more on pistols rather than cold steel. All the figures in this set however are wearing the classic three-quarter armour that would be far more common at the start of the war than at the end. The armour consists of a helmet, cuirass front and back, pauldrons, couters, vambraces and tassets covering the upper leg. The armour is fairly consistent in style here, but there is a fair range of helmets which are all authentic. For weapons all the men have a long straight-bladed sword and one or two pistols, and there are a few lances. Lances might seem anachronistic by 1618 and to a great extent they were, yet initially at least they had still not disappeared from Europe entirely, although they would soon do so as the war developed. Nevertheless as early war cuirassiers these models all look authentic in dress and kit.
Like the lance, some of the horses look to have a harness reminiscent of a previous century or more, yet here again this old-fashioned look was still to be found in the early part of the war, so there are no problems with authenticity here. The sculpting, however, is much less pleasing, with some very poor horse poses and highly variable but often unrealistic proportions to the bodies. One horse in particular has remarkably long legs and a thin body, which looks both unnatural and hardly capable of supporting such a heavy cavalryman as these.
In terms of sculpting the men are little better than the horses. While the proportions are better than the quadrupeds, there is still quite a stiffness to the poses which looks wrong, even considering the heavy and restrictive armour they are wearing. The poses are not too bad, although only having one pose using pistols seems inadequate, even given that these are early war figures. The detail is fairly rough, and in places it is hard to make out what exactly is being depicted. There is quite a lot of flash, and the fit of men on horses is mostly terrible. The separate lances come in what is essentially a solid block of plastic, from which they must be carved (see sprue image). While this can be done the result is inevitably mainly square in section, and it will require a very patient hand to turn these into properly round devices. Anyone wishing to insert one of these into the hole provided for the purpose on the pose holding the lance horizontally will require the patience of a saint and the digital dexterity of a surgeon.
As with many poor sets, much can be recovered with care and skill, but this remains a very unimpressive product. While the historical authenticity is fine everything else leaves plenty to be desired, and attempting to place these figures with those from the old but beautiful set from Revell merely highlights the deficiencies. It would be hard indeed to recommend much from this set, were it not for the fact that at present there is little else available as an alternative.