03 June 2014

Storage Solutions: Sabol Army Transport Case and Pick Foam

Whaddaya mean WE'RE HOMELESS? I just woke up! And where the hell are the rods for my gun?


Back around 2008, I decided I wanted to start a 40k Necron army. I'd painted a couple of 'Crons here and there and they seemed like an army with a lot of conversion potential, so I picked up a few boxes of the metal skeletons and before I knew it, I had about 2000 points worth. 

Prior to the 5th ed Codex, going heavy on Destroyers was a fairly popular setup and I liked the models, so I picked up some of those too. And a Monolith of course. Oh the plans I had for that Monolith before I had kids. You have no idea. Seriously. Remember how the Monolith used to slowly rotate once it was active in Dawn of War? Yeah, I figured out a way to do that. And make it light up. And make it make sounds. Let me just say, Electronics Technology degrees have been largely worthless in the professional sense since around 1996, but for rigging up crazy-ass model conversions, toys, and random stuff purely for personal use? Priceless. 

I know this seems completely off-topic, but just hang with me here for a second. 

Because I'd gone Destroyer heavy, I knew I couldn't just re-use my existing GW figure cases for the army, so I started looking around for alternatives and since one of my FLGS had a sale going around this time, I picked up a Sabol Designs Armytransport for pretty cheap. I'd seen a lot of people using them and hadn't heard any complaints, so I figured I'd give it a shot. It came with some pickfoam trays that were perfect for storing the oddly shaped Destroyer models as well as some of the stuff I picked up later like the oddly shaped 5th ed Necron Wraiths and Tomb Blades

Then it sat on the shelf in the garage pretty much ever since; collecting dust until they might yet again awaken from their pickfoam and nylon shroud to reclaim the galaxy.

I get a lot of emails about storage solutions for X-Wing Miniatures and I even wrote an article a long time ago about my own setup, which worked great for awhile, but as I bought more stuff and the larger ships came out, my setup quickly devolved into this- 


Now maybe it's because I've worked at a Japanese automotive site for the past decade or maybe it's because as a married guy with kids I have basically no space to call my own, but my ridiculously unorganized shelf o' gaming stuff bothers me. I've wanted to do something about it, and judging by those emails asking me "Where the hell do I put all this stuff?", I imagine you guys are in basically the same boat so when I ran across that old Armytransport case a few weeks ago, I thought I'd try to change it over from Necron tomb world to X-Wing Miniatures Storage Hangar. 

Note that I'm not saying this is the be all, end all in X-Wing Miniatures storage. There are lots of folks out there with toolboxes and tackle boxes and stuff like that who are doing just fine. There's also some specialized products that have silhouettes cutout in the shapes of the ships that are pretty nice too. The main reason I decided to go this route is because I wanted a storage solution that was- 

1) Customizable enough to house not only my current collection of ships, but also the ones I add in the future.
2) Modular in that I don't necessarily have to drag my entire collection of stuff to a tournament, league night, etc. 
3) Be relatively compact and take up less space on "the shelf." 

All that said, I've seen a lot of folks who play miniatures games of one kind or another with these types of cases that store the "standard" sized pickfoam, so hopefully this isn't something that appeals and pertains only to me. 


When I ordered my Tantive IV from Miniature Market, I'd also stuck a copy of Sentinels of the Multiverse in my cart because BC has been harping on my to buy it for like a year or something now. This got me close enough to the magical "Orders over $100 get free shipping!" mark that I decided to throw some more stuff in the cart to get me over the edge. I picked out three pickfoam trays- a 3", a 2", and a 4" as well as some washes and flock and stuff I used to convert one of my kid's Thomas trains into this Tom Moss the Prank Engine from some homemade YouTube videos he loves. 

Anyway, when the trays turned up, I went to work. 


The 3" foam tray was just tall enough for my Shuttles to fit as well as my Rebel Transport. I stuck the Firespray in there because it's kinda tall for an X-Wing Miniatures ship and I wasn't entirely sure I could fit it in the 2" tray. 

For what it's worth, the Shuttles do entirely fit down in there too with none of their fins sticking up too high. I tried to take a picture to show this, I'm not entirely convinced it came out that well, but take a look or take my word for it. 



After that, I moved on to the 2" foam tray. 


The 2" tray holds a Falcon and my B-Wings. The only bad thing about pickfoam when compared to something actually like made for the ships is you end up having to make some concessions regarding fit and hold. In this case, I just kind of separated the foam so that the little dinky T. Rex arm wings that the B-Wings sport would just slide down in there rather than actually removing the foam. It works pretty well really! B-Wings are also just a bit too tall to try and fit into a 1" tray as their tiny and surprisingly brittle guns stick up high enough that I'm positive you'd break them off in no time. 

Instead of buying more 1" trays, I figured I'd just try to repurpose some of the trays I'd used for my Necrons. This became the basis for my Imperial TIEs tray. 


Unfortunately, the 1" trays aren't quite tall enough to actually accommodate TIE Fighters and the foam blocks don't quite work out so well for the Advanced. Next time I put in an order, I'll probably grab a 1.5" tray or two and give that a shot, but for now, this isn't so bad. As long as I don't like really pack the trays down hard into the case, it'll be fine. I mainly mention it in case you guys are trying to figure out what to buy. That said, the 1" tray works just fine for Interceptors and Bombers, so if you have enough of those models lying around to make it worthwhile, you can still make a 1" tray work here if you have one lying around. 

Of course, most of the Rebel ships are pretty flat, so a 1" tray of Rebels and Bombers and Interceptors could work just fine. 


It's not entirely without it's problems though- the doggone X-Wing dimensions just don't quite jive with lying down in a pickfoam tray. You can't really leave a block in between the guns and fuselage as there isn't quite enough room to not stress the guns, but removing it entirely doesn't hold the ship in the tray at all as the nose of the ship doesn't line up with a seam you can slot into like I did with the HWKs shown above or the little wings on the B-Wing. Or maybe I should have just turned them 90 degrees or something. In any case, I'm not that worried about it and you don't really have to be either- so long as you don't use your Rebel tray as the top tray (i.e. you have a tray on top to keep your X-Wings from flying around inside the bag), you should be fine. 

The Y-Wings and HWKs stick in there well- the Y-Wing is just long enough to kind of dig into the foam at the nose at the front of the ship if you leave some to press in on the rear of the main hull of the ship, and again, like the B-Wing, I just kind of separated the foam blocks along the seam so the nose could fit in-between rather than removing any material. The A-Wing is so small, I just pulled a couple of blocks and stuck it in there on it's side. Again, maybe the best idea would be a 1.5" or 2" tray for TIE Fighters, TIE Advanced, and some X-Wings. I don't know. I'll let you know once I get some more trays to play around with. 

I saved the best for last because I know what you're thinking, and yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus- 


Yeah, there's some bowing around the edges, but I promise- as the Armytransport is a soft sided case, you can place your Tantive IV into a 4" foam tray and have it fit down into the case no problem. The 4" tray is tall enough, you can even stick the flight stands in there too (the 3" tray I have the Transport in does not- it's just a little too short for them to fit down fairly flush with the foam). 

That said, the aft does stick up out of the tray a little bit- about as much as the TIE Fighters do- 


Much like the TIEs, I'm not too worried about this and mainly mention it just so none of y'all who might be worried about it are surprised when it happens to you. The parts that stick up are pretty blocky and sturdy, so I doubt you'll have anything to worry about. 


It's not a perfect solution, and as I mentioned before- this largely works for me because I already had the case and some trays, but I can fit my entire collection in it which is pretty cool. And yes, those four trays pictured above as well as the 4" Tantive tray all fit into the Armytransport at the same time- you have basically 11" of height to work with in whatever combination of tray heights you can come up with- check out the first pic in the article and you'll see what I mean. There's enough room in the pockets and stuff that I can fit in all my other X-Wing Miniatures whatnots too except for the Range 5 ruler, which frankly, I have no idea what to do with right now. I really hope that somebody makes an acrylic one that hinges or just kind of interlocks or something because hell, I bent mine a little bit right off the bat pinching those plastic buttons together. 

Oh! One last thing. 

As I said before, I feel like this is a good solution because I'm under the impression that the Armytransport and similar products are already fairly popular in the miniatures world, and hopefully your world. That said, the GW Figure case is pretty popular too and as I have a couple of those lying around, I thought I'd see what I could do there. 




In short? Not much. 

First, the Armytransport trays are 7.5" by 13". Obviously, the GW trays are not. And there's not really a good way to like take up all that gapped space. I mean, yeah, if you really had your heart set on it you could stuff some newspaper or something in there, but no matter which way you turn them, a couple of pickfoam trays are not going to play nicely with a GW case. 

Ok, so big deal, right? What about just using the GW trays in the GW case then? 


Unless you have a squadron comprised of only A-Wings or TIE Advanced, you're in for some bad news. The cutouts are just too small to fit anything else in there. You could try cutting out the dividers, but at that point, I think personally you're well into more trouble than it's worth territory. Maybe that's just me though. 

Last thing and I'll finally shut up here- when you start working with the pickfoam trays, keep a couple of things in mind- 

1) Lay your ship on top of where you want it in the tray and carefully start picking away the foam blocks. Start with the edge of your ship on a line between foam blocks and go from there frequently putting your ship on top of the foam so you know which blocks to pick out. It's really, really easy to pull out too much foam which pretty much totally screws you as there's not really any good way to reattach this stuff once it's been pulled out. Go slow or buy some extra trays.

2) Start in a couple of rows from the edge of the tray. Once you start pulling out the foam, you'll start to lose structural integrity around the edges really quickly. The rim of the tray can't be pulled, but I've found that going a couple of rows in goes a long way in keeping the form of the tray fairly square and providing some protection from side hits. The rim is just the same foam material as the rest of this stuff without perforations. Point being, it's not like they're stiffer or reinforced or anything, so when you start plucking out the foam interior, it gets pretty flimsy pretty fast. 

3) Unless you only plan on storing your models in the pickfoam on a shelf, you really do need the case. I know, I know, it's overpriced for what it is, I won't debate you on that, but if you're thinking you'll just throw your trays into a plastic handle bag or something to transport them, you'll be disappointed fairly quickly. I had one of these pickfoam trays I used to store and carry some vehicles for my old Space Marine army. It didn't take long for the glue that joins the foam rim to the foam base of the tray to start to curl up and come apart which just pretty much kills the whole thing rather quickly. If you're just looking for something to put them in on a shelf to keep dust off of them and keep them organized, then by all means- just get some trays. If you plan on carrying them to your FLGS, spring for the case bag. 

If you were curious, here's how our Tom Moss came out. The boy and I used Secret Weapon Soft Body Black wash after painting it Adeptus Whateverthehell Grey, SW Masterclass Scenics Dark Leaf Litter, and some Army Painter Summer Undergrowth lichen on him. Then I gloss coated the ever-loving piss out of it in an attempt to seal it from rough play, drool, and spilled juice.