Painting II - Battle Carts

In this installment we look at that most Sumerian of creations - Battle Carts! Specifically I’m going to detail my efforts in painting and assembling these weapons of war, ready to hit the table top!

One of the main attractions for pre biblical Near Eastern gaming is the distinctive and unique battle carts. When I first became interested in this period I thought the a-typical four ass (onager/equid), four wheeled battle cart so often seen, were the only types in use. With more research it quickly became apparent that there was more to it than met the eye. Those familiar with the period will know of the other cart types but it’s worth summarising these other ‘vehicles’ that make this period so unique.


The standard four ass, four wheeled battle cart was made of a lightweight timber frame with panelling. The front end was elevated and provided a means of protection to the crew, which usually consisted of a driver and a javelinmen, who also could be equipped with an axe.

The other type of vehicle used was a ‘straddle car’. These vehicles have a single rider drawn by a four equid arrangement, though they are often depicted as having two equids. The four equid arrangement seems to have predominated in the third millennium with the two central animals doing the heavy 'draught work’ (engine) and the outer animals being controlled with reigns to provide a method for guidance (steering ). This 'tugging' caused the animal to move in the direction of the ‘pull' and thereby made the others follow thus allowing for directional goes the theory. 
Note, even though two equids are shown, the picture is deceptive. Look at the draught pole - it sits behind these two 'right side' equids, the other two animals being obscured by the picture's perspective.

The other two wheeled vehicle that occurs toward the end of the third millennium is the two wheeled platform cart, again ‘powered’ by the same equid arrangement as the other vehicles above. This is an interesting development that moves toward the classic chariot of the 2nd millennium, typified by the Hyksos, Hittite and Egyptian chariotry of the day.


The use of the four wheeled, four ass vehicles is highly debatable - ranging from them being little more than command vehicles, to fully fledged charging weapons of war akin to heavy knights in medieval times. They could've been use as skirmishing vehicles with a missile capability or a combination of both if the combat circumstances were right.

I suspect they had a decidedly combat function as well as ceremonial one in ancient Mesopotamia and though not impressive by 'ancient' standards they nevertheless encompassed a mix of a fast moving vehicle platform, possibly supported by 'runner' infantry, coupled with an an onboard missile capability that could charge targets of opportunity or pursue defeated or weakened foes....not really decisive at one particular combat role but unique enough on the battlefield in the speed the vehicles gave to their crews and to battlefield commander's ability to deploy combat power.

Like the Battle Cart, the Straddle Car's use in battle is not really known. They could be used for scouting, command purposes, possibly even in massed formations (though we have no firm proof yet) or perhaps as a form of light fast moving chariotry for pursuit (similar to light cavalry) one is really sure. When buying miniatures for this type of vehicle however you will often only see a two equid arrangement as that is how they have been portrayed in the limited modern artwork that is available as shown above.

Platform car uses would be similar to the straddle car but being enclosed they have more protection and possibly more combat punch or missile capability than a straddle car but not quite as much as the heavier battle cart.

Whatever their role, whenever anyone tells you what they were used for they are giving you their opinion as now one can definitively say!

Which type to paint?

There are a number of manufacturers of Sumerian battle carts. As you know from my previous posts I have settled on the comprehensive range of minis from Cutting Edge Miniatures. These provide all the above vehicles except one, and lovely models they are to. The missing models, from the Cutting Edge range are the Straddle cars. Fortunately our friends at Eureka miniatures have produce two very nice models – one for a straddle car and one as a variation on a platform cart.

So these will do very nicely for modelling those vehicles. For those wanting other types of straddle cars Newline also do a nice model for yet another version to add to your army.

And if that were not enough, our other Australian mini manufacturer, Castaway Arts, also do Sumerian vehicles of war...though I can’t seem to find it on their webpage, they do have one so it may be worth checking out.


Ok, so onto the Cutting Edge Battle Carts....all ten of them in my case!! I'll be making the Battle Wagon and Platform Cart as shown below. The first thing you’ll note is the high quality casting on these models. The four equids are very clean models and require pretty much no clean up at all. The crew are equally cleanly cast and are cast without bases for mounting in the carts. As I’ll be using the Army Painter ‘goop’ on these models I have temporarily superglued them onto a base to enable me to paint them (see below) – you have to do this if you want to use the army painter so the 'goop' settles properly.


The ‘cart’ comes in a number of pieces that go together very well so virtually no ‘filling’ is required as the cast and model is a crisp quality model. By the time you have super glued them together there are no unsightly joins in the model – excellent! One point I did find however was the ‘pin guide’ on the side boards of the carts needed an ever so slight trimming to make them fit a bit more easily – really not much of an issue.

When prepping these models I think it is best to completely assemble the model and then paint it. Trying to paint the carts in parts and then join them together is not going to work if you use the Army Painter method of painting. One of the great strengths of the ‘goop’ is that it will gather in the cracks and corners of the vehicle so it’ll create shadow line effects and hide any glue joints, slight cast imperfections should that be the case, etc. It also helps 'bind' and strengthen the finished model. All in all having just one piece to paint is a much better idea.

On the subject of glue, I usually use Zappa-gap but have used a different super glue for these models. It is Tarzan’s Grip super glue (bought at the local hardware) and apparently is four times the strength of normal super glue. I don’t want any models falling part with the occasional model drop or such so have gone for as strong a bond as I can find....I'm not sure if this is necessary, but why not.


Ten battle carts mean 40 asses to paint! That’s a lot to do so looking for a good way to do them and fast seemed like a good idea. Fortunately, here is a ‘quick step’ process to get these done and they look pretty good. Its not a bad idea to Google search for pictures of Onagers as these animals have a distinctive look. Essentially they have a light underside and red-brownish upperside.

Place all the models on a board ready for spray painting. Get a can of white spray paint and spray the miniature all in white. A good solid coating and then set aside to dry.

Then stand the models up and get your can of Army Painter Barbarian Flesh spray (the same stuff I use to undercoat all my foot) and spray the miniatures from above so that the paint is on top of the model and doesn’t spray paint the underneath of the model. You can then do this spray painting again with about a 30 degree 'spray of the vertical' to get a bit more paint on the side of the model...this is to done to taste and how you want the animals to look.

Note the blended effect from the top of the model to the under side color.

Very quickly you get the model painted in its entirety and with ‘bleeding’ toward the under color of white that produces a very nice airbrushed effect. As one final step I go back and stimple a slightly darker brown shade on the backs of the equids to produce a bit of variation and shading effects - basically this prevents all the animals looking the same. This whole process get 40 models painted in very short order.

Here the you can see the 'stimpling' on the backs of the equids.

The rest of the painting will be involved in doing the belting. The models themselves only have a small amount of belting so this is a fast step. The barding is not yet painted, but this is a choice. If you intend of painting the barding in colors that will be ‘goop friendly’ (reds, browns, yellows, off-whites, and creams) then you can paint the barding now. As I want to paint the barding in different colors I have left this step. Paint in the hooves as well and some ‘leg shading’.

Models all painted, minus the barding, ready to goop.

Once the models are done goop the miniatures with the SOFT TONE quickshade. This produces a nice effect on the models, better than the strong tone in my view – dark tone is too dark and will spoil the model.

Note how the Soft Tone goop blends the colors without really changing the paint shades - this works well for these animals.
When gooping the models let the quickshade settle as normal and if you wish to produce a nice ‘highlight’ spot around the underside of the model use a bit of turps on the brush to draw of the goop, or do it before the goop settles too much. When you 'batch paint' you might find the turps gives a smoother finish and better control of 'pulling off' the slightly hardened goop. As mentioned in my previous post, the goop actually starts to settle quite quickly so only doing 4-6 animals to completion and then the next lot is advisable. This also works on the hind quarters as well. All this is done to taste and how you like the look. The 'hot spots' are shown on this ass.

Once the models are completely dry (24hrs at least) matt spray the model. Normally I use dullcote but bought a can of the Army Painter Matt spray and have to say it’s as good for half the price and none of the noxious fumes – I think I’ll be moving to the Army Painter flat spray from now on.

Once they are all dry go back and paint in the barding in the colors you wish. I prefer bold block colors – reds, blues, white, yellows and in fairly natural, not gaudy, tones. Once done you can go back and give them a wash in inks if you like or leave the painted barding ‘as is’ – personal choice.

I used some shading with the new Army Painter inks that are water based and match the cans of quickshade. These are really useful for small quick jobs were you want a wash and shade and quick dry. Ideal for the barding. One point on the small pots of water based inks. They provide a nice shade effect but in my view are in no way as good as the ‘goop’ in the cans. The quickshade sold in cans has a viscosity that makes the shading effect work much better than water based inks and provides a much harder and tougher protective coating.


Once the models are all done I then go back and hit the animals with slight semi gloss sheen. This restores some ‘depth’ to the animal coat and makes them look (and feel to touch) better in my opinion.


Battle Carts

OK, so we’ve got some locomotion power painted, how about the carts themselves. After trying to decide what color to use to get the best wood effect I want settled on a 'light wood' color to best represent relatively well maintained battle carts for the kings army. I initially painted a dark wood coloration but didn’t like that effect. Given that I think in my mind these are maintained in pretty good nick by the imperial battle cart stable hands I am going for a uniform 'new-ish' look, which is part the reason I wanted to paint them all at once.
After a little experimentation the best color I found to give a natural light wood effect (after having been gooped) is the foundry paint color triad – BUFF LEATHER; code 7A,&B,7C.


Giving the vehicles a complete spray paint of white, top and bottom, it was a simple matter of painting the bottom color, letting it dry, ‘patching’ the middle color to create an irregular effect, and finally highlighting edges and the like with the top color. The actual results varied a bit but overall consistently pleasing. That means some look a touch better than others but all look more than OK!

Two wheeled platform cart, part assembled.

Model undercoated and getting the'7A' base coat coating.

7A basecoat color applied. Note the small Blu-tack block to help in painting the javelin quiver.
The base coat has now been stimpled and dry brushed a bit to lighten the color.

Again, the question of how to paint the panels needed to be decided. I’ve gone for several colors of red to create a unified, but slightly different look in each vehicle. Essentially they are all red however. The colors were earth red colors and not bright red colors. This ‘panel work’ takes a steady hand and a bit of patience, but you only do it once! After that the models has very little to do. A gentle highlight of the 7B/7C to your taste to highlight the hard edges on the cart and they are pretty much done. The rope on the cross bar is painted a neutral color of off white to create a contrast.

The final drybrush coat (7C) has been applied and the paneling painted in.

Rope on the cross bar, bronze ring on the draught pole and the wheels edges painted - ready for gooping!

All this having been done it time to goop! Use the middle strength can (STRONG) and apply to the underneath first and then from the top down, being careful not to let to much puddle in the many corners of the cart and around the panel work. You need to go back and ‘draw off’ of the excess in a similar way to the foot figures and the puddling that occurs around the feet of those models. This step doesn’t take too long and provides a nice strong protective coat for your miniature. Once its all had the 24hr + drying time simply hit it with matt spray and the model is done.


There’s really not much different here than painting the foot figures described in the previous painting post. The only issue with the minis is that they do not have bases so if you are going to goop them they must be secured in an upright position so the quickshade goop settles properly over the model. Not a huge problem, I temporarily ‘tack’ superglued them to a base for this step. In fact I did it for the painting process as well, but you’ll find they do have a tendency to fall of you base as the contact point for gluing is so small...tiny feet. To prevent this being an issue, have some blue tack around and quickly push it onto the base and temporarily mount the miniature in an upright position.

Once the crew is all painted they get the goop treatment as before, sprayed matt varnish and then all the parts are ready for assembly.
Figures temporarily super glued to the base so they can be gooped.


Having painted all the components of the models they need to be put together. You need to decide what bases they are going to put on and also how they are going to look. So before I glue anything down I get all the figures and place them in the carts to achieve the look I'm after when they're all glued in. After this it's a matter of supergluing them into place. Once that is done the models then need to be based.

Figures not yet glued - this gives an impression of the finished combinations.

Deciding how you are going to base the figures and on what you are going to base them becomes the next 'point of no return'. Once these models are all glued down there's pretty much no getting them off again so be sure how you want them based! The models are quite large and whilst the four ass carts do fit on a 60mm wide base it is a tight fit. I believe though they have been sculpted as such to ensure they fit this 'standard' base width.

70mm x 70mm bases.

My basing will be on 70mm x70 bases. The bases I am using are galv metal so this adds to the weight of the model. If you don't like the model heavy then perhaps another basing material would be useful. You can get ply bases cut to size which are lighter but ensure the ply does not have a weakness 'with the grain' of the wood. The actual models themselves are pretty chunky and a considerable weight . You do not want the model all glued up and then have the base crack with an inadvertent drop...something to consider.

The models go together quite well however before gluing anything you must off course set the model up on the base and see how the parts fit (as shown above). The cart model has been designed such that it should be mounted on a 'fillet' to raise it a bit higher than the base it's mounted on. The idea is that the base of the wheels of the model match the hooves on the equids on their molded bases ie if you drew a straight line from the wheels to the equid hooves' they should be level (parallel) with the base of your model. This effects the angle of the cart draw pole.

A 'filler' raises the cart to match the correct height of the equids.

I found that having got the filler on the base it was easiest to position the equids in the arrangement I liked best, abreast of one another and then place the cart down and see how the cross bar 'sits' on the equid models. I noticed that a bit of 'bending ' of the draw pole on the model was required to get the cross bar to sit properly just above the equids harness. When you do this leave a bit of space between the crossbar and the equid so you can apply the rigging (see below). When bending the draw pole, use a bit of tissue on the pliers to ensure you do not damage the paint work and support the connection point on the underneath of the cart so you do not 'snap of the draw pole' when bending.

Once I'd positioned the equids on the base and got the draw pole-crossbar arrangement at the correct position it's time to glue. You'll need to decide the glue you'll use but I have used that Tarzan's Grip super glue to ensure a solid "never coming off" bond on the metal. I glued the outside animals first and then the inside ones. The superglue does not set hard immediately so you have an opportunity to position the equid exactly where it needs to be on the base.

Once the equids are glued down I then superglue the cart to the filler base, which at this point is not yet glued to the base. The final positioning of the cart is done by gluing the filler base (with cart attached) to the actual base of the model. All this is is then set aside to set 'rock hard' so that when you pick it up it is a absolute sold 'piece'.
As I did all ten models at once this gave me the opportunity to try and achieve 'a look' en-masse that I wanted to create. By mixing and matching the crew arrangements on the models I could position them how I liked and get the effect of what all the models would look like when put together. I decided I would vary the crew numbers but go with 3 man crews as a mainstay as I wanted to create the effect of 'mass' on the model. Even though we understand that the crew may have consisted of only a driver and javelinmen I assume there was a degree of flexibility with the crew numbers and specifically who would ride in them at various points in a battle, as the supporting foot moving along with the battle carts could possibly hop on or off as the situation required to fight or protect their charioteer. This is a personal choice whether you crew with 2 or 3 men onboard....the three man carts look a bit 'tougher' in my opinion!

The positioning of the javelin quiver case is a touch controversial. It makes no sense really to have the case thrust forward the way it is but that is how it is depicted historically and thus I went with this interpretation. I think having it swept back makes a lot of 'real life' sense to allow easier access for the crew to get the javelins...but it looks better forward I think and that's what the Standard of Ur shows us!

When gluing the crew in the model I didn't do anything like scratch away the surface to get a metal to metal bond. A liberal dose of superglue is a pretty strong connection and when the crew are all bound together in the cart the bond becomes that much stronger. Importantly, when gluing the crew make sure you get two point of contact to secure the figure in the cart or at least onto another figure in the cart. If you just glue the feet you may find that the bond is not strong enough and the miniature will fall of the cab, possibly taking some of the paintwork with it.

So glue it in nice and tight and a bit more is better than a bit less. Where crew  are close to touching each other I glued them together as a point of contact to once again make the connection strong. A really useful friend when doing all this is a bottle of 'Zip Kicker' to accelerate the superglue bond instantly. This locks it all in straight away and makes positioning the models easier.

Once the models are all dried and secure on the base I then use simple white glue to smooth out the edges of the bases and make for a nicer transition from 'base to model' such that you cant really see the miniature base model at all. This is most pleasing to the eye and worth the extra step I think. If you use a particuarly type of flock that hides the model bases then this step can be skipped. For my simple flocking method it is mandatory.

White glue liberally spread around - be generous as the glue shrinks.

Glue now dry - you can how it has shrunk for the quantity put on above.

PVA White Glue is easy to apply but a thicker medium might be required if the model's base is too obvious. This is the case with the Newline Straddle Car model. The thicker medium or paste blends the model onto the base and looks better - an important but not always allowed for step until its to late after the flock has been applied.

Newline Miniatures Straddle Car.

So with the models now all secure and the base preperation complete its a simple matter of flocking the base as you desire. I use the same method as for my infantry. This is a mix of Woodland Scenic Burnt Grass course Turf and a sand and stone mix - simple, fast and effective.


Eureka Battle cart mounted  with Cutting Edge Miniatures crew.


The last step to get these carts ready for battle is to give them a harness or rigging. This is not mandatory to use them as they look good at this stage, so you may prefer to ignore this step because of the look it creates or the fiddly nature of the task. I think the carts look good with the rigging and the steps below describe how I did it.

One the by products of the goop application is that it sometimes puddles in small areas and fills small holes or gaps in a figure. This can be eliminated when applying by blowing on the cart whilst the goop is still wet but this does not always work and can be a bit messy. On the carts the guide rings on the draught pole are likely to have goop gather and block the guide holes. This is common but not a problem. The simple method to remove the build up is to get a suitably sized hand drill bit and carefully drill out the excess. This only takes a moment. Be careful not to inadvertently drill the draught pole paint work when you do it.


The rigging 'rope' I used is from a hobby shop that sells rope for wooden ship models. The size is 0.15. It's gives a good scale effect to my eye. As the thread is actually 'model rope' it looks better than simple cotton thread in my view as it has a rope like texture.

Rather than try and push through single thread strands the best method is to loop the rope and use the loop to place it in the hands of the battle cart's driver. This enables you to get excellent tension on the lines as desired. To aid in pushing through the rope you'll need a small tool such as a blunted toothpick or such to assist in 'pushing' the rope loop through the guide holes. This is a bit tricky but gets easier when you get the hang off it.

The first looped guide hole should be the right side one. This places the rope in the hands so that when the driver has the four ropes in his hands the 'fall' of them looks correct. When you get the rope loop through the hole apply a small amount of superglue to the driver's hand and place the loop in his hand. Then 'pull' on the thread ends so the glue sets the rope at the correct angles toward the guide pole. Note, the thread will be discoloured by the super glue. This is not a problem as it will be fixed in the last step and actually provides a bit of shading effect!

When this is dry take the rope ends and make a knot, with the rope leading onto the top of the cross bar positions that have the rope areas modelled. Pull the rope taught and then apply a dab of super glue to lock it all in. You're aiming to both secure the knot thread to itself as well as onto the crossbar so that the whole has no movement. This step can be done by starting with either left or right side guide ropes- remember, the idea is to place the right side guide ropes in the driver's hand first and then the left side loop on top of that.

Now go ahead and do the same for the left side so you end up with the four guid ropes securely on the model and now just awaiting trimming. When securing the second rope loop in the driver's hand place another drop of superglue to ensure it is secure in his hand- this will also lock in the bottom loop as well further making the rope arrangement don't want the rope in the driver's hand coming free!

 Now you should have the four guide ropes knotted, taught and ready for trimming. Get a sharp blade gently slice off the excess thread. Try and get as much off as possible but do not cut the knot that is securing the thread to the model. Once all threads are cut get some small needle nosed pliers and compress the whole knot rope connection to the crossbar firmly, but gently! What you end up with are no loose ends and a nice connection between rope and crossbar.



The last step is to get paint the same color as the rope and paint the rope to match your rope color. This will be required because of the discolouration of the super glue when applied to the thread as mentioned above. Tis will bind it all together and make it look like one complete arrangement.

With this step done the model is now complete and ready for action!


So, with all Battle Carts now completed there's nothing else but look at the wonder of them all! I hope this detailed coverage of my efforts constructing these lovely models has been helpful.






  1. What a fantastic post! Love your "how to", too.

    Cheers, Simon

  2. Very nice post. Thank you for the details. Love the reigns that you added to the carts.

  3. Thanks Gents. Lots to look at there! Glad you enjoyed.

    Gotta get these guys onto the table now. I've added a some more axemen to the force as well and my offsider has all but completed his Guti army so we're close to 'full scale' battles.

    So, stay tuned for some hot Sumer action!



  4. Fantastic assembly and painting guide. Your photos are really inspiring, looking forward to the game reports.