The first dragoons in Imperial service date from 1602, but over the period of the Thirty Years War their numbers fluctuated wildly, with periods when there were no dragoons at all. However their usefulness made them increasingly popular with commanders, especially in the later stages of the war, so they developed as a kind of half infantry-half cavalry, sometimes listed as separate from both and in a category of their own. They were essentially infantry musketeers (mounted pikemen seem to have disappeared early) who were mounted and so could reach a chosen spot much more quickly than unmounted infantry. Nevertheless they dismounted to fight, with the horses tethered to the rear while the action was going on, ready for the next move.
Given that these men were infantry and merely rode when on the march or to reach a target location, this set is very curious because it exclusively shows mounted men very much in action. Some Imperial dragoons were taught to fire their weapon while mounted, though this was very difficult as they had much the same musket as the rest of the infantry, and certainly required a standing horse to have any hope of achieving anything. If firing whilst mounted was very rare, drawing one’s sword and engaging in a charge was even rarer, and everyone accepted that this was the role of cavalry. Why then is every pose here either firing from the saddle or raising their sword in an aggressive way? Whatever the answer may be, the poses tell us virtually nothing about dragoons at this period, and are therefore very poor choices. Such instances when they might have looked something like this were so rare as to be hardly worth modelling, making these poses largely useless for the actual role performed. Having said that, even if these had been wise choices, the poses are all very flat apart from the bare-headed man in the top row. Swords are held directly along the middle line of the body, so easy to sculpt but not at all natural, while the two men firing have their right arm pressed hard to their chest, so again very flat.
The horses are the same as those in the equally poor Mars set of Swedish Dragoons, so the criticisms (of which there are a multitude) apply equally here too. First, several of these animals have extra decorative straps around the rump which seems to have no basis on fact, and some look more medieval than anything. Second, most have a brace of pistols, yet dragoons were not issued pistols (apart from some officers), even though one of the riders in this set is using one. Third, the poses are really poor and unnatural to one degree or another, and fourth, all of them are clearly moving rapidly. As we have said, dragoons horses were not intended for a charge, though of course they might move quickly to reach a certain spot. However none of these riders is doing that - they are all fighting from horseback or firing. Though it was hard enough to fire a musket from atop a horse at the best of times, imagine how impossible it would be on the back of one of these fast-moving horses! Clearly the horse designer gave no thought to appropriate animals for the riders, but just threw in some dramatic poses.
Dragoons costume is easy - it was the same as the rest of the infantry, and since there are no pikemen here that means musketeers. Broadly the costume is correct here, and unlike the Swedish set some of these men visibly have the powder and cartridges necessary for them to actually use their weapon, which is always a bonus. Towards the later part of the war some dragoons may have started wearing boots rather than shoes and stockings, and several here have adopted this item, but the most noticeable feature is that several are wearing an open helmet. This does seem to have been true of some Imperial dragoons, so is OK here, and the style looks reasonable. The other major element of note is that half the poses have no musket, and certainly no pike, so what would they achieve once they dismounted? Not much presumably, so perhaps all are officers, though having six officers in a set of 12 is far too much. These might serve as types of cavalry, but not as ordinary dragoon troops.
The designer’s poor research stretches to one more element. The last figure in the top row has a trumpet across his back. Dragoons, like all infantry, used drums for signalling, and some also had fifers for more general martial music, but none had trumpets. This is just one in a catalogue of poor decisions that make this set highly unrepresentative of dragoons of the day, and the usual crude Mars sculpting only makes matters worse. Detail is chunky and often hard to identify, and while there is little flash the flat poses have already been mentioned, and the fit between man and horse is not nearly as good as that achieved by other far better quality manufacturers. In conclusion then, a troop type that started to become quite important during the Thirty Years War has been entirely misrepresented in this set, which is also poorly sculpted, leaving the world still waiting for a proper set of dragoons for the period.