Saturday, May 21, 2022

Wargames Atlantic: Plastic Aztec Warriors Reviewed!

Today we will take an extensive look at the brand new Wargames Atlantic Aztec Warriors! These new 28mm hard-plastic multi-part miniatures are the second set of their new Renaissance range and one of my personal favorites so far. The Renaissance range will cover the 15th to 17th centuries which marked an awakening of European culture, art, political and philosophical thought, and ushered in an age of discovery but was also a time of great conflict.  

The kings and queens and lesser nobility of Europe were engaged in nearly constant conflicts throughout the period. This brand new range will explore topics in this time in Europe, the Americas, and across the world. During these times, in Mesoamerica, The Aztec Empire and their allies were waging permanent warfare to further expand their influence and territories through subjugation of  enemy city-states while also taking captives for ceremonial sacrifice. In the 16th century, the conquistadors, the daring explorer-soldiers of the Spanish Empire encountered The Aztec Empire ensuing in countless battles and the eventual decline and fall of this once thriving civilisation. 

The Aztec Warriors Miniatures

The new boxed set contains enough hard-plastic pieces to create as much as 30 28mm infantry miniatures equipped with weapons such as bows, atlatl, machuahuitl swords, spears, slings and more along with command options to create musicians and commanders. These miniatures are supplied on 5 identical sprues each containing enough parts to create six warriors with an assortment of edged and ranged weapons. The miniatures are supplied in a nicely illustrated box with artwork once again by the talented artist Peter Dennis and pictures of the painted miniatures by Christian Lemmen which are a great painting reference. The miniatures were digitally sculpted by Rob Macfarlane and are tooled and manufactured in The United States of America. Research for this kit was done by Maxwell McDougall. As you can see the box is great, featuring beautiful artwork and examples of the miniatures.

As mentionned before each sprue contains six standing bodies in a variation of dynamic poses suitable for plenty of options allowing you to create peasant levies, novice and experienced warriors, elite warriors and their commanders. Before we check the rest of the content it should be noted that the Aztec civilisation was a very regulated society with most of the weapons, shields, clothing, hairstyles and other matters being connected with the rank and status of the wearer. The status and rank of warriors was gained through the taking of captives, their profession or hereditary rights although some ranks were only possible for nobility or priests and could not be gained in battle. The easiest way to remember is the more impressive the clothing, the higher the rank of the warriors starting with a simple loincloth to the impressive war suits of the jaguars, coyote and other elite warriors.

All of the miniatures included are either dressed in the common civilian dress comprising of a simple loincloth, the loincloth with quilted cotton armour and last but not least the distinctively decorated suits of prestigious warriors and members of warrior societies which were worn over their quilted cotton armour and added even more protection. These war suits can also be used to represent the veteran warriors which also wore this type of clothing although not as fancy as that of the elite warriors. Of the six bodies included four bodies wear either quilted cotton armour or war suits which looks like a rather high ratio of these clothing pieces as most of their warriors were normally peasants and would have been dressed in nothing more that their simple loincloths when being mustered for battle. That said this kit contains the most common clothing options of these historical warriors. Looking at the bodies there aren't many remarks maybe just that the bodies are too bulky and muscular and although these warriors would have been very fit, these miniatures are looking too muscular for my liking although this is a minor issue.

Next to the multiple bodies the sprue contains no less than 15 heads, offering a very good selection of the various headdresses and hairstyles being worn in the Aztec army and by their numerous allies and adversaries. Like most of the clothing, hairstyles and headdresses these were also heavily regulated in Aztec society and represented the status and rank of the soldiers but more on this during the assembly section of this review. Then we have the actual headdresses which are the jaguar and coyote themed headdresses and the conical shaped hats. The animal themed hats come in two parts as there are seperate feathers included which fit each hat type. These options represent the bulk of the common headdresses with only eagle warrior and maybe some heads with wooden helmets missing although these are way less common than the ones included in this boxed set.

The Aztec warriors and their city-state allies fielded very large armies, experienced through long periods of brutal warfare, they were a force much feared by their local and later European adversaries. And although lacking metal weapons and armour, their obsidian or vulcan glass tipped weapons were sharper than most metal weapons carried by the Spanish explorers and soldiers. Their quilted cotton armour was also better suited for the climate and eventually also widely used by the Spanish as their metal armour was too heavy and cumbersome for campaigning in the climate and terrain of Mexico. As to be expected the boxed set contains the common weapons used by the Aztec warriors and other Mesoamerican warriors such as spears, swords, slings, bows and other weapons. Let's start with the most famous and iconic weapon of the macahuitl, a mighty wooden club or sword with obsidian or flint shards embedded in the edges. These weapons were either used one handed or two handed with the latter one being much bigger although the kit only contains the smaller version which was probably more common as it could also be used with shields offering more protection to the bearer. This weapon was only used by the more experienced warriors and warrior societies as you needed a certain rank to be able to wield this powerful weapon. Secondly we have the obsidian tipped spear or lance commonly used by most classes of warriors although most certainly the preferred weapon of the lower classes.

Then we have the multiple ranged weapons which are the bow, sling and atlatl. The slings are made of sturdy natural fibers and were able of showering the enemy with a hail of lethal stones. These small sharp stones were collected during the campaign to be used as found or carefully crafted enhancing their precision in battle, in some cases these were prefabricated in clay. The bows were powerful and the arrows were tipped with either flint, bone or obsidian. These affordable ranged weapons were most common among the peasantry and most likely armed a very large quantity of these low-class warriors. Last but not least the famous atlatl which is a spear throwing device enabling the thrower to throw the spear with more force at their targets. The atlatl darts were made from oak and tipped with obsidian, flint or even copper or bone. It looks like the atlatl was highly praised in their society so probably mostly used by the more experienced and noble warriors. On the sprue you can find two slings, one atlatl and three bows along with two arrow quivers and a shoulderbag holding small stones for the slingers. So plenty of melee and ranged weapons are available to equip your brave warriors.

After all the other parts, we can now take a look at the shields as there are multiple variants included. These shields were made of wood or woven wicker and mostly covered in hides, feathers or leather with the peasantry most likely only carrying the bare wicker or reed shields without further protection or decorations. The more decorated shields were worn by the veteran warriors and the elite warriors and covered in feathers, copper, colorful animal hides and more. So the sprue includes 2 plain wicker and leather covered shields which can be used as bare wicker shields or the leather covered variant by turning the shields. Then we have the more ornate shields which are decorated with feathers and leather or cloth strips to add more flair and prestige but also to partially protect the legs of the warriors. These decorated shields were carried by the more experienced warriors, elite warriors and priest warriors.  Last but not least we have a drum to lead  the armies into battle and some colorful war banners to equip your experienced warriors and commanders who earned the right to wear these on their backs showing their status and rank to their followers and making it easier to command and control their soldiers in battle.

Assembling your Aztec Warriors

The overall quality of these miniatures is great with some minor mouldlines present on the miniatures. As these miniatures are now produced in a new factory based in The United States of America, there seems to be a slight difference in the plastic used to produce these miniatures. The material used seems harder than the previous plastic which is not a bad thing but I found it slightly harder to remove and clean the components. The assembly stage was quite straight forward although I had some minor issues with cleaning the thin parts such as the arrows and quivers but with a sharp blade it can certainly be done without breaking these more fragile parts of the sprue. As mentionned before there are some fine mouldlines present on the miniatures but these can be removed with some sharp hobby knives or other hobby tools. When you assemble the miniatures it is always good to first try the parts on the desired bodies before glueing as some options are better suited for certain body poses so save yourself some hassle and first fit the components.

So before the pictures, let's take a quick look at the actual composition of their armies as this might be useful when assembling your miniatures too! These armies hadn't really a fixed composition as everything depended on the size of the campaign and the purpose of the fought war but there are some points worth considering. The most common unit would be a Tzontli, a company sized unit of 400 men that all came from the same calpulli or neighbourhood so not composed by rank or status. These mixed units contained all sorts of warriors depending on the composition of the neighbourhood so if wealthy plenty of nobles, priests and elite warriors while the poorer neighbourhoods would supply more peasant levies and maybe novice warriors and low numbers of elite warriors. This offers a great way to create colorful units with elite warriors in the front ranks and the lesser warriors and levies in the rear ranks. Note that warrior priests wouldn't mix with non-religious warriors and would therefor form their own Tzontli most likely based around their schools or temple complexes but containing all ranks of the warrior priest classes. Smaller raiding parties for minor skirmishes would more likely contain much more elite warriors as those would have been available full-time and were also always eager to get into action.

As you have probably noticed assembling these miniatures in a more or less historical way is not the most simple thing to do as these warriors seem to follow rather rigid dress codes for both their clothing, weapons, shields and even hairstyles. So to make things a bit easier I have assembled some warriors in the different options available with some additional information on which warrior class they represent. The miniatures as shown below are assembled straight from the sprues so there are some warrior classes missing as these would need very specific banners or other equipment which is not included on the sprues. I decided to add the warrior priest classes as the only thing missing there was their unique hairstyle as they wore their hair long and bound at the neck. As this looked like a very minor issue I have included these as well as the difference is neglible on the tabletop and most of these warriors wore hats except for their lower warrior classes. Although I strived to assemble these as historical as possible, feel free to mix as you please as this set contains so many cool options!

Peasant Warriors - The peasant warriors formed the bulk of the armies and were mustered in times of war from the large civilian population. These commoners were dressed in their civilian white or off-white loinclothes and armed with simple but lethal slings, bows, spears and simple wicker or reed shields without leather covering. Shields were worn by the archers on their bow holding arm. Their hair was shoulder length at the sides and back with their hair in the front cut above the forehead. This was the common hairstyle for the male peasantry and civilian populace. 

Novice Warriors - The novice warriors were warriors that had captured one enemy soldier on the battlefield and which were used for human sacrifice during religious ceremonies at their towering temples. This first achievement earned them the right to wear the white or off-white quilted cotton armour and a simple maquahuitl sword or obsidian tipped spear along with a hide covered shield. This class of warriors had the same hairstyle as the peasantry but with an added topknot to show their improved status as novice warriors on the battlefield and beyond.

Veteran Warriors - The veteran warriors were warriors that had captured two enemy soldiers in battle. This glorious achievement earned them the the right to wear the standard quilted cotton armour, full body suit, conical cap and decorated shield marked with black designs. These full body suits and their matching conical hats were colored red and black and were worn above their quilted cotton armour adding more protection against enemy projectiles and melee weapons in battle. These and higher classed warriors wore sandals on the battlefield as a right.

Jaguar Warriors - The jaguar warriors were prestigious full-time warriors who had captured four enemy soldiers on the battlefield. These seasoned warriors served as battlefield commanders and were considered as nobles and elites in civilian society. These fine warriors were dressed in expensive and colorful tlahuiztli war suits made from feathers, animal skins or other woven materials and were armed with decorated shields, maquahuitl swords and spears. Their war suits were colored blue but also yellow, red and white and always with black dots.

Quachic Warriors - The Quachic warriors or Shorn Ones were the most prestigious warriors and over six captives and dozens of other heroic deeds were required for this rank. These warriors were also full-time warriors and described as very courageous and downright fanatic. Dressed in their iconic yellow Tlahuiztli war suits, armed with lethal maquahuitl sword and their heads shaved apart from an impressive mohawk they instilled fear into their enemies as brutal shock troops. Their commanders wore poles on their backs with the feathers and banners. 

Warrior Priests - Next to the ordinary warriors classes, you can also find the warrior priests. These are ranked on the number of captives they captured in battle and in most cases don't have specific names. The which warriors captured one enemy soldier were therefor the lowest rank of warrior priests. These wore a simple quilted cotton armour, plain shield and a macuahuitl sword. In fact these were equipped just like a similarly ranked warrior, the only difference would be the priest hairstyle which is not included in the set but seems like a very minor point. 

Quick edit - Just noticed that these assembled warrior priest miniatures below have topknots but would actually have the same hair as the other warrior priests shown in this review, easily solved by cutting off the topknot though!

Warrior Priests - Then we have the more experienced warrior priests who captured three enemy soldiers. These warriors had a more colourful appearance wearing deep green war suits with their piano key design shield colored in red, yellow, blue and green keys tailed with decorative strips on the bottom. These warriors were armed with the typical weapons such as the macuahuitl sword and other edged weapons and also wore poles on their back decorated with feathers and banners. As with all warrior priest classes these were all men of religion.

Warrior Priests - The warrior priests were religious warriors who also fought on the battlefield. When they had captured four captives during battle they earned the right to wear the Cicitlallo Cuextecatl war suit as shown in the Codex Mendoza which roughly translates as "Starry Night” and matching conical hat and shield. This unique war suit made the warrior priest stand out from the other combatants. Although religious they fought with the same devotion as the most elite of warriors inspiring their brothers in arms to great deeds.

Coyote Warrior Priests - The coyote warrior priests were the highest ranked warrior priests capturing at least six enemy soldiers during battle. This warrior priest wore an all yellow tlahuiztli paired with a yellow wooden coyote helmet which is adorned with green feathers tailing off. The Coyote warrior priests was by far the most intimidating of these priests with his fearsome helmet but did not wear a back banner. These were also armed as the other elite warriors and equipped with a feather, leather or cloth striped decorated shield.

Codex Mendoza - Warrior Priests & Officers

Codex Mendoza - Elite Warriors & Lower Rank Warriors

Codex Mendoza - Peasants, Warriors & Commander

The Scale Comparison

In the pictures below I have added some plastic miniatures from other known manufacturers such as Games Workshop and Gripping Beast to give you an idea of the scale. For this purpose I have added miniatures from historical, science fiction and fantasy ranges as they might also be useful if you decided to use these miniatures or their components in other settings and periods. As you can see these miniatures are suited to be used with heroic fantasy and science fiction miniatures (28mm+) but also with the slightly bigger than usual historical miniatures (28mm) but check for yourself below.

The Conclusion

To finally conclude this rather comprehensive review which these miniatures truly deserve because of their excellent design and overall quality of this boxed set, I can certainly recommend this kit. These are the first Aztec warriors which are made in hard-plastic and are supplied multi-part allowing you to easily collect and assemble the massive armies of this time period at an affordable price and with plenty of cool options for most of the different warriors which made up these armies. These miniatures were released as the second set of the Renaissance range with the first one being their Conquistador opponents offering even more options as you can purchase both factions in affordable plastic at the same time. Looking at the options available, this kit is also a great source to create your own characterful heroes, pulpy tribal warriors and much more and with some creative thinking these miniatures can easily be used for fantasy and science fiction wargaming and roleplaying games too.

The quality and price of these miniatures is good, with one boxed set containing 30 hard-plastic multi-part miniatures retailing for £25.00 with further discounts for larger amounts of boxed sets. I can see these miniatures being very popular due to their affordability and usefulness when fielding the large Aztec or Mesoamerican armies of this particular period. You can buy these miniatures directly from Wargames Atlantic or from other distributors and retailers worldwide. Picture of the painted miniatures below taken from Wargames Atlantic.

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Disclaimer - We received these miniatures from Wargames Atlantic for reviewing purposes. Please note that this doesn't influence our review as we always strive to supply you with our own independent and honest opinion about the wargame products reviewed.

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ernesto said...

Excelent review and great minis! I have been looking at Wargames Atlantic miniatures for some time now and these look particularly good.

Wargame News and Terrain Blog said...

Thanks Ernesto, these are really great miniatures so certainly recommended!

Ferro Derro said...

These miniatures are excellent and will allow me to fill in gaps in my Aztec forces. The Spanish were also worth waiting for...very nice miniatures Wargames Atlantic.