I’m heading for the home stretch on my current rural/Medieval binge. I’ve done the army and the terrain, and there are a bunch of half-finished buildings on my desk. But what ancient or Medieval setting is complete without some carts?

Specifically, for Lion Rampant there’s a scenario where you need to escort or raid a convoy. For this you need three carts or wagons. So I made these.

Warbases carts

I bought two kits, the Water Cart and Turnip Cart. The Water Cart is a new kit released for Sharp Practice, but they’re both generic enough to not be nailed down to one period. The draft horses pulling them are also from Warbases, and are huge big beasts. The only beef I’ve got with either of them is with the “turnip cart” which has the shafts set so wide apart that they won’t attach to any draft animal smaller than a hippo. With a bit of persuasion I got mine to connect up to my horse, but you might want to check the width when you build yours as it would be easier to fix when the kit was still in pieces.

4Ground wagons

I bought a couple of different wagons from 4Ground with FIW in mind, but the ox cart in particular is generic enough to serve for just about any period and setting (I’ll been shoehorning it into the middle ages alongside the Warbases carts…although see below for why I probably shouldn’t be)

The oxen to pull these are Foundry, part of the “Piers the Plowman” set. It’s supposed to be a little vignette, but I’ve used all the bits separately. The heads on them are separate pieces and not a great fit, they needed some modelling putty on them.

These 4Ground wagons are quite fiddly to assemble, but that’s because they have lots of detail and fancy features like actually having articulated front axles. There are some visible joins after assembly, some of which are pretty obvious which is a shame. They’re fairly fragile and do need to be based if you want them to last.

I’ve mounted the oxen on a separate base and not attached them to the yoke, as I want to be able to use the cart as a terrain piece sitting around on its own.

Painting

The cargo I’ve stuck in the back is the usual gubbins from Ainsty Castings, except for the big barrel on the back of the small cart, which comes with the kit. I’ve seen other people put the 4Ground ones in particular on the table unpainted and they look ok but they do benefit from a lick of paint, if only to hide the joins and edges.

The ox cart before painting. It really does need to be painted as the laser burnt edges are a completely different colour from the rest of it. You can also see where I had to smooth over the badly fitting necks on the oxen

The ox cart before painting. You can also see where I had to smooth over the badly fitting necks on the oxen

I often just go for an ink wash on MDF, because frankly I suck at painting wood. I decided to take a bit of a crack at these though. The Warbases ones have a wavey wood grain moulded on them which makes things easy. Unfortunately I decided to undercoat them in dark brown with the same cheap and nasty spray paint I bought for the fields I made recently, which turned out to be a big mistake. It turned out to be a really weird surface to paint on. So there you go: don’t use cheap spray paint from B&Q on your models. Who knew? Probably everybody except me.

I still suck at painting wood effects, but they’ve turned out well enough this time. I think the key is picking the right three colours, thinning the paint to the right consistency and taking it slowly with a good small brush. I blended it all together with an ink wash and then a bit of a drybrush to hit all the edges.

I haven’t included any driver miniatures to keep them generic. I was just going to use folks walking alongside.

Reinventing the wheel

You might think a cart is a cart and a wagon is a wagon, and in most cases you’d be right. It’s tempting to just plonk these down in a wide range of periods, but technology did actually change over the years, particularly in the early Middle Ages.

If we look way back to the Romans we find evidence of some typically classy Roman engineering. The wheels were spoked, and they had iron rims and even simple iron bearings on the axles. Some Roman wagons also had suspension and articulation. At the top end of the market they could look like this:
Roman wagon

Like a lot of Roman stuff though, the skills and knowledge vanished in Western Europe for hundreds of years after the Romans pulled out.  By the time the Oseberg Ship was buried (9th century) the best they could manage was this:

oseberg-viking-age-cart

Which (while spoked) is really pretty crap.  For cheap peasant wagons big chunky solid wheels were the order of the day. Certainly  no metal rims or anything fancy like that.  It wasn’t until the late Medieval period that we start to see the return of wheels like this one:

So, given that I went and bought these for Lion Rampant these carts are probably a gross anachronism for early medieval gaming. Whoops. I think I’ll still use them, and of course there’s nothing wrong with using these for Muskets and Tomahawks, or even right up into the Eastern Front.

If you really want historically accurate carts for the Dark Ages then you probably can’t go past Colonel Bill’s Dark Age cart set 1 and set 2, or their Supply Column set which has three carts and seems ready-made for Lion Rampant. In these you get a proper dodgy-looking cart, resin loads and some shabby-looking farmers walking and riding on it. The also do ancient and 18th century sets.