October 31, 2008

Guide to storing & transporting your army cheaply

How to store & transport your miniature army
A review of the various options open to wargamer

As my Warhammer collection began to grow I realised that I needed to transport it more safely and securely rather than simply piling everything into a shoebox. Warmachines and character figures especially were important to protect. Dwarf warriors etc are not so problematic, but once I started getting High Elves my problems with a lack of transport really started. So what are the options? There are several that I have reviewed and tried, and this a summary of those and my view of their relative merits.

Official Carry Cases
Available from official GW retailers and sell at most New Zealand stores for around $90 - $180 depending on which size. Each comes with pre-cut foam inserts each of various sizes. The basic model case can hold 118 figures including some larger pieces and is adequeate for a 1500-2000 point army but only if its infantry heavy.

The standard size carry case

The larger case has double the carrying capacity of the smaller model but is a limited edition and hence a lot more expensive. I haven't seen any stores in New Zealand that stock it but some Australian suppliers do, including the GW store. However, the retail prices is A$180 which is well over NZ$200 no matter what the exchange rate.

The limited edition army case

The cases are well made and the foam is good quality, and I know a few guys at the Club and locally use them. However, there are other options available that are much cheaper. While these are nice I personally would not recommend them as simply put you can get the same functionality for much cheaper elsewhere.

Egg Cartons & Office Storage Products
A tried and tested New Zealand favourite and one my wife suggested. The benefits of these are that they're cheap, or if you grab them from your local recycling centre absolutely free. The can be cut up to fit into any size cardboard box you might have. The egg recesses are a nice size for any size model and can easily hold large size figures such as horses (always a problem). You have two ways to do with egg cartons - the egg tray or the standard dozen and 1/2 dozen carton.

The egg tray is a great place to start. Quite easy to carry and each can hold 30 standard size figures at 1 per hole, or double that if you have Dwarfs or other small stuff. Or if you dont mind double up on things. If you cut out the tops of the gaps between each insert you can also make areas big enough to hold horses and still leave room underneath for the smaller stuff.

The other option is the standard egg cartoon which while smaller has the advantage of having a lid which you can close for further protection. The drawwbacks? Well they aren't foam so the figures can get bumped around, carrying them can be difficult and its hard to put in larger models and ones with long bits, e.g., Knights with Lances, High Elf Spearmen and Ogres.

But there is a way to get around the carrying issue and thats simply to use shoeboxes, or ready made office product storage boxes and cut your egg trays etc to fit them. The file storage box of this size, designed to fit files of slightly bigger than A4 size, is perfect for carrying egg cartons around. You can fit about 1.5 full egg trays into one and still have some slight room around the edges for dice, templates and a tape measure. Alternatively grab something a little bigger and stack your cartons to carry more.

Combining official stuff & standard office products
Alternatively to get the best of both worlds you could try combining each of the elements above. A few retailers sell the GW type storage trays (like below) as separate items. However, these while having all the advantages of pre-cut foam are expensive. The one below is from Australia and retails for A$44, so buying them singly means costs nearly double compared to the standard GW carry case.

Or if you like your free egg cartons but want something a little more functional to carry them in, then go for a standard briefcase or cheap tool box. I picked up one similar to the image below at the Warehouse for NZ$20

Its a cheap sturdy product that can hold alot of material. Using egg trays and egg cartons I managed to fit 4 layers of figures into it along with movement trays, dice and everything else I needed. The lift out tray was also good for extra bits like glue, terrain etc. Unlike cardboard carry boxes its also waterproof, can be lockable depending upon type, and is easy to carry.

Making your own foam trays
So far our best option for storage trays have been the pre-made official versions. But hey, foam is cheap so why not make them yourself. There are a number of options available to you here. First up is the top-quality speciality foam made for camera cases etc. This is either cut to shape, comes in standard box sizes without any inserts cut into them, or comes in a neat little segmented unit that allows you to create inserts by pulling out individual squares. The advantages of this stuff is that it is often more flexible and easy to use than egg crates. It stores your stuff far more safely than egg containers and you can stack it more easily. However, it is very expensive, more expensive in most cases than buying the official GW type carry trays.

So I recommend going with the option I, and most of my Club mates, use which is to buy cheap foam and cut it up yourself. Locally the best place to go is Pararubber, a store that sells foam mattresses etc for camping and specialises in swimming pools etc. They sell foam blocks (like below) cheap as chips in a range of thicknesses and sizes.

Better yet as they also cut foam to suit individual customers they tend to have off cut bins where you can buy foam even cheaper than normal. For cost comparisons you simply cant beat them. Heres why?

  • GW Storage Tray - holds 36 standard figures and costs NZ$60+
  • Egg Carton - holds 30 standard figures is free but doesnt protect your stuff well
  • Foam blocks - hold as many figures as you cut holes for and costs NZ$3-10 for a block. Plus you can cut them to fit big models, e.g., Giants, Dragons, Heavy Warjacks etc that egg cartons and GW trays CAN'T fit.
So thats what I use. A simple plastic toolbox, a large one, and a whole bunch of foam trays I picked up from Pararubber. Total cost for the toolbox, and enough foam to store all of my Warhammer and Warmachine pieces thats approx 10,000 pts of Warhammer, 1800 pts of Warmachine and around 400+ models was.... $20 for toolbox and approx. $50 for all of the foam.

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