In most of the modern world transport is by wheeled vehicles (or by aircraft for long distances), but this was not so in medieval times. There were several reasons for this, with perhaps the main one being the state of the roads. Actually we would barely recognise them as roads today; most were little more than tracks that were heavily cut up and often all but impassable in bad weather, certainly by wheeled vehicles. The few Roman roads that survived were generally neglected but still the best that were available. In any case most medieval people did little travelling, and had no need of wagons and the like. The wealthy rode, or later were carried in horse litters, while the poor walked. What wagons there were were mostly for agricultural use, delivering materials and produce, but when a military campaign was being planned such vehicles would have been useful for supplies, even if they were difficult to operate and often slow.
This set contains a wagon and a cart as well as a small assortment of figures, so we will start by considering the wagon. Unlike some recent models the basic design of this one is sound. It has a plank floor with posts along the side, keeping the whole thing as light as possible, which was important. When the load required it, planks would be laid along the sides to create solid sides that could contain smaller items, manure etc. This model has a body of about 50mm in length, but the wheels are a very small 12.5mm (90cm) in diameter, so the tops of the wheels only reach the waist of a man and the floor of the wagon is barely above the knees. Such a low wagon would present many problems for a long journey, and the size of wheels is at the extreme lower end of the likely range. There has been no attempt to represent the undercarriage - this is simply two axles that peg into the floor - and the method of harnessing the horses seems immensely doubtful, although we must admit we could find too little evidence to absolutely dismiss it. One certain problem with the design is that no vehicles had a pivoting front axle in the medieval period, but this is easily remedied by simply keeping the axle straight. It should also be pointed out that for larger vehicles the preferred beasts of burden were oxen rather than the horses provided here.
The cart is a more likely candidate for day-to-day traffic, since carts were much cheaper to build and were easier to use on the fields. This one is a very square box-shape, which is a worry as it looks too regular and neat to be authentic. Also it has two animals pulling it, when one was much more normal. Again the method of harnessing the animals is very suspect, but the wheels are much more realistic in size (18mm or 1.3 metres), bringing the floor of the cart to a more plausible waist height.
Both vehicles are similar in build quality, and in general the pieces fitted together well enough although the wheels took some persuasion. Where we did struggle was with trying to get the horses and all four wheels of the wagon to be flat on the ground. The somewhat rough finish of all Strelets models actually works in their favour with these wooden carriages, since it gives them a natural imprecise feel that surely reflects the reality of these agricultural devices.
The selection of 10 figures in this set are interesting, pretty authentic and most of all baffling. Our top row begins with a bearded man sitting on a box or chest with something on his lap. Perhaps this is a musical instrument - we couldn't recognise it - but whatever it is our reaction to it was to question its purpose in this set. We could find no answer, and that same mystery applies to many of the other figures to be found here. Next to our bearded man we have a reclining lady. In this case the picture on the box shows just such a lady lying on the contents of a wagon, so that must be the purpose, but again we were not sure why this pose was chosen. Next we have a man waving some sort of stick in the air and shouting. He is a hunchback, for no apparent reason. Beyond him is a lady carrying a baby, followed by the sole armed man who has his right hand upright in a gesture which again seems very deliberate but we could not guess why.
All those in the second row are sitting down, so presumably are meant to be riding on the vehicles. The first is a straight-forward driver with whip in hand, followed by two more drivers looking very bored. These are our favourites because taking long journeys must have been a very boring exercise when there was nothing actually going on at the time. Finally we come to two religious gentlemen. The first has a large cross around his neck, and while the second has no such give-away he is clearly reading from a book so his literacy, coupled with his attire, make him certainly part of the Church.
Given the somewhat random nature of the poses it is hard to comment on them. They are what they are, and apart from the drivers it is hard to guess what the designer had in mind when they were created. Nevertheless there is nothing wrong or inappropriate about any of them, and some features like the hairstyles are quite well done. Overall however the simplistic Strelets style means these are not attractive figures, although there is little detail to worry about on most.
In conclusion then the contents of this set are sometimes much simplified and occasionally inaccurate, although the pivoting front axle at least is easy to resolve. The open frame of the wagon is good but the cart is a bit 'boxy', and much work would be needed to replace the traces of the teams with something more realistic. The figures are fine if often hard to understand, and match well with the rest of the Strelets medieval range. This set didn't exactly make us want to reach for our paints and brushes to bring it to life, and nor did it make us want to buy a second set, while the general build quality was not inspiring either. Still it is an unusual and interesting collection and at least it provides basic models of something which has not been done before in plastic.
It should be noted that some early examples of this set were released without the axle piece for the cart. If you find yourself with such a set you should approach your supplier for the missing article.