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Set 72138

Byzantine Light Cavalry Set 2

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Date Released 2024
Contents 12 figures and 12 horses
Poses 6 poses, 6 horse poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Brown
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)


Having originally built their empire largely by the use of heavy infantry, the Romans came to appreciate the importance of cavalry, particularly in the eastern provinces, where they came into contact with various cultures in the Middle East and the Steppe. Faced with enemies that specialised in light cavalry, the Eastern Romans, also known as Byzantines, adopted much the same tactics, and often employed those very peoples in their own forces. The light cavalry performed all the usual roles such as scouting and skirmishing, but the size of the empire and the nature of the threats meant some Roman forces were almost exclusively light cavalry, where a rapid response was needed to a raid on some border region, for example. Some of these men were native to the empire, but many were often mercenaries, and indeed at some periods in their long history virtually all Roman light cavalry was actually made up of mercenaries, mostly from outside of their territory.

This is set 2 on this subject by Redbox, and was released at the same time as their Set 1, so if you have read that review, and looked at the above photos of this set, then you will already have some idea of what we are going to say about this one. In all important regards this set is exactly the same as the first in terms of quality, which is not a good thing. To begin with, the poses of the men here are mostly pretty flat, so both swordsmen hold their weapon over their head, and the last man holds his mace out to his side rather than forward as you might expect. This flatness is fine for the lancer and archer in our bottom row, and some effort has been made with the lancer in the top row, although in reality this man is holding his couched lance noticeably to the side rather than straight ahead. This is a difficult pose to do with a two-piece mould, so this is not a bad effort, however, and overall the poses here are more believable than those in Set 1, although nothing out of the ordinary.

The horses these men are being asked to ride are really bad. They are exactly the same as those in the first set, which means they are poor anatomically, and with some ridiculous poses that no horse could achieve even if it tried. There are poses with the hoof almost touching the belly, and one that is pressing one hoof against the opposite leg, so there is nothing much that can be done to redeem or even improve them. All have a basic cloth but no saddle, and some lean to a degree either left or right, which does not mean they cannot stand, but does mean they look odd and will easily fall over with little provocation. A very poor selection overall.

The sculpting of the men is better in terms of anatomy, and the detail is reasonable too, with some nice faces that have plenty of character. Unfortunately, all are wearing the usual knee-length tunic, and the sculptor has sculpted this falling naturally to the knee – making no allowance for the fact that the man is actually sitting on a horse. Consequently the man can get no closer to the saddle than his knees, which are in line with the top of the horse’s back, even after the sculptor has shaved away some of the back to improve matters. Partly for this reason, the fit of the man with the horse are terrible, sometimes too wide, sometimes too narrow, but always requiring gluing to stay in place, however unrealistic the resulting model appears. However we could find no flash on any of the human figures, and the horses were relatively free of flash too.

As we have said, the men wear the usual knee-length tunic, but unlike set 1, this one has much more armour on show. All these men wear a conical helmet, but the basic shape varies, and some have a plume, which is fine. Some of the helmets also have an aventail (neck guard) of mail or strips of material (perhaps leather), and others look like the man is wearing his helmet over a coif of mail. This might seem unusual for light cavalry, but it is historically accurate for the Eastern Romans or their various allies and mercenaries, at least at certain periods during the long history of the empire. Equally, some armour is appropriate for light troops, although there were also heavy troops that used bows, so the distinction between light and heavy would have been less sharply defined than we might like today. Armour would probably have been fairly unusual for light troops, but in this set everyone wears a corselet of either mail or scale/lamellar, and some have pteruges round the waist and/or round the shoulders. A couple of the poses also wear a cloak, which is not likely to have been worn in battle for obvious reasons, but as the poses in question are the at-ease lancer and the man with the mace (either end of the second row), this is not a problem. This is because the man with the mace also has a sash tied round his chest and knotted at the front, marking him out as an officer, and so perhaps not expecting to get into a fight himself.

Cavalry was generally divided up between lancers and archers, and there are two lancers here. Sources disagree as to the nature of the lance, some speaking of the traditional 4-metre long kontus, while others say the lance rarely exceeded 2 metres. The two in this set are 34 mm and 39 mm long tip to toe (245 and 281 cm), and since these are labelled as light cavalry, such lengths would seem to be perfectly reasonable. The archer is a nice if sedate pose, reaching for a fresh arrow, and the two swordsmen both hold a straight-bladed model much like the spatha of old, which is fine. The man we have identified as an officer holds a mace, which was a popular weapon for the heavy cavalry, but here it probably mainly helps to underline the authority and rank of the holder. Despite the somewhat blurred definition of light cavalry, we thought all of these weapons were correct.

Couching the lance only started to happen in the later part of the period, and all the men wear stirrups, which first appear in the later 6th century. In addition, the better armour of these men would have been more common later rather than earlier, so the flavour of the set if more for the later empire, perhaps from the 10th century, though most of what we see here would also work for earlier years. With no accuracy problems and some nice clean moulding, the big problem with this set is the really bad horses, although the sculpting of the men is only reasonable. This is not a good quality product, which is a real shame as light, fast-moving cavalry was so important to the Eastern Romans, both in larger campaigns and in the many smaller actions as the empire fought to survive in a world full of rivals and enemies.


Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 6
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 4
Mould 9

Further Reading
"Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417081
"Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417159
"Byzantine Armies 1118-1461 AD" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.287) - Ian Heath - 9781855323476
"Byzantine Armies 886-1118" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.89) - Ian Heath - 9780850453065
"Byzantine Cavalryman c.900-1204" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.139) - Timothy Dawson - 9781846034046
"Romano Byzantine Armies 4th-9th Centuries" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.247) - David Nicolle - 9781855322240

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