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Minotaur Soldiers
Royal Guardsman

Seventh Kingdom
by yo go re

Excitement was already high when the Four Horsemen debuted their FANtastic Exclusive 2006 figure, Xetheus, the Champion of Mynothecea. An action figure voted on by fans from the first concept
Defender of the Fiery Crater Guardian of the Dark Outland Keeper of the Black Labyrinth Protector of the Icy Tundra Sentinel of the Woodland Forest Royal Guardsman
sketches to the distribution? A toy that had our fingerprints all over it before we even opened the box? That's awesome! And then the Horsemen did one better - instead of one cow, there were suddenly plans for an entire herd.

In addition to Xetheus, five troop-building variants were announced, exclusive to five different retailers. There would be minor sculptural changes, but the biggest difference is the colors. The Minotaur Soldiers each had a different theme. But we'll get to that in time. Let's start with the sculpt.

Again, the majority of the Minotaur Soldiers' sculpt is shared with Xetheus, so it still looks great. The fur on the body is short and fuzzy, but it really gets thick around his ankles. The head is a little bit smaller than Xee's - it's still proportional to the body, the features are just less exaggerated. The snout, ears and horns are all shorter. The Soldiers are still unmistakably bovine, so no worries. The hooves are thick and cracked, but the horns feel particularly smooth.

The Soldiers' armor is similar to Xetheus', but a bit less ornate. The large, godly breastplate is gone, and so is the wide belt with the daggers. The kneepads are different, and the "jawbones" from the original figure have been replaced with simple spikes. One of the neat little "Easter Eggs" is still there - the cow-skull weapon rack on his back is in place. The armor's textures are great and the new breastplate, featuring a radial compass rose, really suits the figure - all those ordinal points provide plenty of surfaces to tie in with the color scheme.

The cows are still 7½" tall, and have all the same articulation: balljointed ankles, double knees, thigh swivels, balljointed hips, swivel waist, swivel tail, hinged torso, balljointed wrists, hinged elbows, bicep swivels, balljointed shoulders and a balljointed neck. There was a little bit of sticking on some of the joints, but nothing that couldn't be fixed by just forcing them. None of the joints are particularly loose, and none of them broke. I'd say that a whole set of soldiers constitutes a pretty random sampling - if there were going to be extensive problems, I would expect to find at least some evidence of that in my herd.

Having a smaller head means that the Minotaur Soldiers get a little extra in other areas. To begin with, each soldier has a removable helmet, with a centurion-style crest, an intricate antlered hart on the forehead and tassels dangling below the jaw. And hey, speaking of which, the Soldiers each have an extra point of articulation: their mouths open, allowing them to moo (or not) as you like.

So, enough generalities! What are the different cows and where can you find them?! Well, now you can only find them on eBay - these things sold out faster than P. Diddy. Here's where they used to be:

Defender of the Fiery Crater - Raving Toy Maniac
Emerging from the flaming depths beneath Mynothecea, this slab of hot beef has deep red fur and yellow eyes. His armor is mostly orange, with a bit of bronze and gold for the highlights. There's always an appeal in the mix of black and red, so the leather straps on the costume - as well as Sparky's hooves and horns - stand out nicely.
Guardian of the Dark Outland - Action Figure Xpress
Watching over the mysterious and forbidden corners of Mynothecea, this black beast stares at you with sharp red eyes. His armor is a metallic blue, with a bit of brown and red thrown in for good measure. Since his hair is so dark, his bright white teeth really pop out if you open his mouth. The leather is dark brown, but it still manages to stand out against the Angus's fur.
Keeper of the Black Labyrinth - Figures.com
Lurking in the darkest shadows of the Mynothecean caverns, you'll find this muted moo-er. Since he stalks the halls of the subterranean catacombs, he needs to be able to blend into the dark so he can better destroy anyone foolish enough to wander in. His fur is light gray, and his eyes are black - they're probably adapted for low-light situations. His armor is gunmetal grey with some silvery highlights and dark red accents.
Protector of the Icy Tundra - ToyFare Magazine
From the most desolate and dangerous frozen reaches of Mynothecea comes this light blue cow. Xetheus was blue, too, but even this guy's shadows are lighter than Xee's highlights. His armor is a flat silver, with bright blue leather and black straps. His eyes match the blue in his armor, and his hooves are navy.
Sentinel of the Woodland Forest - Big Bad Toy Store
Upon the mountainous horizon, ever vigilant of his green domain waits this noble soldier, the soldier with the most complex paint apps. His fur is a nice reddish brown, and his eyes are black. His armor is golden, with brown, green, red, black and bronze elements. The sentinel is also the only Minotaur Soldier whose horns aren't solid black - he fades from black at the tip to brown at the base.

All five Minotaur Soldiers have the same accessories, though they're of course painted to match their owners. In addition careful - the staff peg can break to the aforementioned helmet, they're armed with a war club, a two-part staff and a flag attachment. Each flag has the same pseudo-kanji symbol on it, but a different colored dot, matching the minotaur's loincloth. There are at least four different ways to attach the flag, so your cows don't all have to look alike. Careful if they fall over, though: as I found out, the peg in the staff might snap.

As if six minotaurs - Xetheus and five soldiers - weren't enough, the Horsemen gave us another cow: the Mynothecean Royal Guardsman. The Guardsman was available through Store Horsemen, but like his fellows, he sold out fast. He's a Holstein, the classic black and white spotted patterns that most people think of when they think of "cow." His eyes are red, and his nose is pink. His armor is dark, metallic blue with orange highlights. It's a really nice-looking paint scheme - it's just a shame he sold out so fast.

For those of us who didn't want to deal with separate shipping charges for six different exclusives, the Four Horsemen worked out a deal with the sites: they asked on their board for people willing to commit to buying a set of all six (Xee and the five soldiers); they then set aside a small number of these "Mynothecean Six" sets to be sold directly through Store Horsemen to the respondants, with just one shipping charge. That really speaks to the Horsemen's commitment to the fans. And because the sites were willing to go along with it, losing traffic and potential sales in the process, it's only fair that we provide links, even though the figures are long gone.

Each of the Minotaur Soldiers (and the Royal Guardsman) were limited to 250 pieces, which is why they zipped out of stock so fast. But better to have these sell through, than leave people stuck with unsold product. Yes, the cows are expensive - $20 each - but just like Xetheus, they're worth it. Most toys just hang around the pasture; these cows are outstanding in their field.

-- 12/27/06

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