In an age of generally small standing armies, mercenaries played a major part in the Thirty Years War and were widely used by all sides. They were usually experienced and reliable, so long as they were paid, but notoriously difficult to discipline, and contributed no small part to the widespread death and destruction that afflicted Germany as a result of this terrible war. They might originate from anywhere in Europe, but not surprisingly the bulk of them came from the many German states, although some came from as far away as Eastern Europe and the British Isles.
In the past some mercenaries had been specialists such as crossbowmen, but in this period most were simply infantry of the same type as those to be found in any national army. The two major types were pike and shot (musketeers), and this set contains both, starting with two pikemen in the top row. One holds his pike in relaxed fashion and is well armoured while another has his levelled and wears no armour, so is 'light'. Both the poses are fine in principal but dreadful in execution. The pikes are separate (see image of sprue) and the hands can by no means accommodate them. The unarmoured figure has his hands so far from a position where a pike could be added that the sculptor must have seen this was impossible, so seems to have made absolutely no attempt to produce a figure that could work. Sloppy does not begin to describe it - anyone with any common sense can see that this figure is useless (even the photo on the box makes no attempt to place the pike in the hand), which is perhaps why it is also as ugly and distorted a figure as you ever hope to see. The man has no neck, and indeed much of his head is below his shoulders, so even in a set of badly proportioned and horrible figures such as this he manages to stand out. His clothing and that of his fellow pikeman looks authentic, but to be honest it is hard to care. Also the pikes are the same as often found in Mars sets - essentially engraved lines on a solid slab of plastic that would be a challenge to extricate even if that exercise seemed remotely worthwhile.
Much of the rest of the set is made up of musketeers (six poses), some of which seem to have lighter muskets such as calivers. Again the idea for the poses is fine but the realisation is poor. One musketeer has drawn his sword, which is certainly reasonable but as the swords were cheap most preferred to use their musket as a club if they found themselves within striking distance of the enemy. The firing musketeer in the top row has a forked rest that is much too short, forcing him to stoop considerably to aim his weapon, but all the proportions are poor and the detail very crude. Most have a bandolier and also a powder flask, but we could not see a bag for the shot on any of them. Again there are no problems with the costume, but detail is crude and blocky. The matchlocks do have some detail around the trigger, but hands in particular are a serious weak spot for Mars, and these are no different, often largely disappearing or at least being seriously deformed.
The first figure in the third row is a buckler, an armoured infantryman with sword and shield who protected the front ranks. This one is very flat and holds his sword slightly behind him, but is not too bad otherwise. That leaves three poses which look to be officers, the last in the second row and the last two in the third. The swordsman appears to be an officer as he wears a sash across his body, and the man with the halberd on the bottom row is likely to be a junior officer. Interestingly he is facing forward with the length of his halberd rather than using the point, suggesting that he is using it to shepherd his men into line rather than attack an enemy, which is an unusual but perfectly good pose. The last figure carries a sword but holds what looks like a cane, and has a ruff as well as a sash, suggesting someone from the top brass. Having a quarter of a set as officers seems a bit much to us, although all are in decent poses.
So there you have it. Some really ugly figures that are poorly proportioned, have no necks and in some cases no hands either. Detail is poor and crude, the poses are flat and the pikes (if you can tease them out of the slab) cannot fit into the appropriate hands. It’s a pretty sorry description for a set of figures, and the fact that they are historically accurate does almost nothing to redeem them. There are many sets for this period in history around these days, but this particular one is not one that we could recommend.