Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Battle Foam: a miniature storage solution

Battle Foam makes a huge range of different cases to fit any of your gaming needs!

Getting new miniatures is always an exciting time, an excitement that is only surmounted by the feeling of accomplishment when you finish assembling or converting them (and painting them…).  Seeing the little soldiers come to life, piece by piece, has fascinated me ever since I started the hobby back in grade school.  But one thing rarely comes to mind as you excitedly watch new models being released and contemplate the next crazy conversion, and that is: where they are going to go after they are finished?  When I started the hobby I was not overly concerned with storing my models, but as the years went on and I started to invest more time and effort into them, I started to care much more.  Initially I put my models in inexpensive foam-padded handgun cases, but shifted over to Games Workshop’s iconic hardcases when they were first released years ago (when they still had the Imperial Eagle on them!).  Having foam layers with individual cutouts for each model was a dramatic step above simply pressing them between two layers of foam.  I used the GW cases for years, and never really had problems with them (other than perhaps the low quality latches on them, which were prone to breaking), or saw much reason to change until a new company specializing in custom cut foam came onto the market.  I am speaking, of course, of Battle Foam, which was a much smaller company back in 2005, and was still trying to find their feet.  Intrigued by the notion of having foam trays cut for specific models, I decided to give them a try.  I was extremely impressed with that first case, a P.A.C.K. 432 which I use to this day to carry my Deathwing army. I have purchased a number of their cases since and have watched their product line expand and improve with time.  In this post, I wanted to show some of the cases and talk a bit about how they have changed over the years and what I have found them good for.

Battle Foam made its name by creating a line of attractive, plastic-reinforced, kevlar coated, olive drab cases that can be filled with foam trays made to the thickness of your choosing and cut with slots to your exact specification.  They make the trays in a variety of sizes, fitting their diverse line of cases as well as others, even making one that fits in the GW hardcases.  Battle Foam also sells pre-cut trays made for specific miniature game armies, which has expanded dramatically over the years making trays for Warhammer, 40k, 30k, Hordes, Flames of War, X-wing and more.  These are nice because you can just find your army and find trays already designed to fit their unique models and vehicles, removing the need for you to measure and determine the ideal thickness and cutout for common models.  This is supplemented with a internet browser-based tray creator that contains all the cutouts in Battle Foam's library, allowing you to position them to your liking.  This is particularly nice if you find that you like one of their trays, but would like it with one less Land Raider cutout and instead have two Landspeeder ones.  I have noticed over the years that many of the trays designed for specific models are slightly taller than necessary.  I believe this is often done to safely accommodate any unusual poses or particularly tall banners, but it is something to consider when planning out a case loudout (as you can often cut down the height of certain trays if you check the models in your collection).  Finally you can also trace/draw out cutouts you want Battle Foam to make and email them the designs (importantly including some form of scale bar).  Thankfully, Battle Foam is good at keeping in touch with you throughout the design process, answering questions and giving suggestions.  The foam itself is actually pretty hard (at least compared to what you would see in one of Games Workshop’s cases or a cheap pistol case) and holds it shape nicely under pressure.

The first Battle Foam case I ordered was one of their P.A.C.K 432 cases to store my Deathwing army. It was complete with custom slots designed to fit my converted character models.

I have purchased a number of different types of cases from Battle Foam over the years, each for a slightly different purpose, and as a result have been able to watch them expand and improve their products.  My first was one of their P.A.C.K. 432 case, one of their mid-sized options (432 is the number of 1”x1.5” cutouts that would roughly fit in the case).  I had it designed to fit my Deathwing army and it is still transporting the army to this day.  The 432 hold 7.5” of foam, and works extremely well for small elite armies that do not have a huge model count. With any Battle Foam case, space for standard size soldiers is rarely a major issue.  What consumes most of the space in a case will be any vehicles and larger models.  These models are ultimately what dictate the size of case you will need.  To put things in perspective, a Land Raider needs a 4” tray (which might fit 2 Land Raiders, 1 Predator, and 4 rhinos if stacked), while a single 1” tray can hold 72 regular Space Marines.

An earlier model of the P.A.C.K. 432, one that only opens along the top.

The exterior of the cases are filled with a range of different pockets to store all manner of gaming supplies (note the 4th edition 40k reference card!).

Their next size up is the P.A.C.K. 720, which holds ups to a full 12" of foam.  This extra space is particularly good for vehicle- or monstrous creature-heavy armies.  I own two of these cases, which I got a year apart from each other.  Surprisingly, in a single year, they dramatically improved an already excellent product.  The most striking and meaningful improvement was the addition of rivets in the 4 corners of the lid and two at opposite ends of the carry handle.  These rivets go directly through the kevlar threaded exterior and the inner sheet of solid plastic.  The earlier cases did not have these, and when a completely filled case was lifted, it would sag as the canvas (kevlar was added later and is used in all current cases) exterior would slightly detach from the reinforced plastic.  The new design, which they have applied to all of their P.A.C.K. cases, makes them substantially more durable.  I now wish all my bags were like this, ha ha.  But it is wonderful to see that Battle Foam is constantly responding to feedback and improving their products.  All of their new P.A.C.K. cases now utilize the MOLLE system to allow you to expand their storage capacity as well.

Two P.A.C.K 720's made one year apart (earlier version on left).

Rivets were also added to reinforce the attachment of the main carry handle and to strengthen the corners.

Take note how the rivets go completely though the plastic-reinforced top of the case.

Initially I had been using Battle Foam cases to carry my larger armies (ie Warhammer 40k), but it dawned on me that they had options for smaller scale miniature games.  For example, they make the P.A.C.K. Mini, which holds a single 1.5” foam tray with about 20 slots (it also comes with a pluck and pull tray, and one cut to hold hobby/modeling tools) for about $30.  I got one on a whim, and have discovered it is extremely useful.  It is perfect for holding a small force of Infinity or Malifaux models, a Blood Bowl or Dreadball team, or even a X-wing list you often field.  Even if you do not use it for permanent storage, it is nice to have such a small portable case that you can fill with models you might need for an evening gaming session, without needing to bring along your entire collection.  I also got one of their Malifaux cases because I was interested in something smaller than their standard bags.  Instead of using 15.5”x12” trays, it uses 12.5”x10.5” ones.  It also has a separate zippered section on the back that contains multiple pouches designed to hold Fate decks and counters.  I repurposed the case to hold all of my X-wing miniatures, using the back section to hold all the tokens, dials, and movement templates, substantially simplifying the transport of all the components needed to play the game.

I have come to really like some of the smaller cases Battle Foam offers. They work perfectly for transporting small forces for games like Malifaux, Deep Wars, or Infinity.

The interior of Battle Foam's Malifaux case, cut specifically for X-wing miniatures.

The back of the same case contains a separate zippered section perfect for storing all the tokens, cards, and movement templates for X-wing.

As you have probably gleaned from the post, I have been very impressed with Battle Foam cases for both their build quality and functionality.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention anything about the price of their products. Unsurprisingly, for such high-end products, you are forced to pay a premium. One of the typical foam trays for their standard bags costs about $25. If you want to customize the tray and design slots in it for your specific needs, you will need to spend over $30 for a single tray. Their pretty standard sized  P.A.C.K 720 case (12 inches of foam deep) cost $104.99 empty. With foam, the 720 can cost anywhere from $154.99 to $194.99 depending on whether you want the foam trays to be of your design.  In addition to the cost of the case, you also have to pay for shipping, which can be pricey (around $15 for most of my orders).

Battle Foam does periodically offer special deals and discounts on their products. Most notable is their annual Black Friday sale, where they have traditionally offered a 25% discount on all their products (this past year the discount varied a little based on the item). For my brothers and I, it has become almost a yearly tradition to get together on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving in the USA) and place an order with Battle Foam (I will admit that some of the years I only ordered a single foam tray, ha ha.). This discount can help you save a significant amount of money depending on your order, and in my experience will often cover the shipping costs and then some. It is also worth noting that Battle Foam offers a 15% discount to any customer that is an active or retired member of the U.S. Military.  So if you do decide you want to give Battle Foam a try, I would encourage you to take advantage of one of their sales.  And often waiting for one is ultimately a good thing, because it gives you time to carefully consider and plan out what you want and need for a case.  I have certainly found that when I invested the time to plan out and create custom trays, I was ultimately much more satisfied with the outcome. After all, if you are spending that much on a case, it is best to make the most of it!

So if you are looking for a high quality case to store and transport your models, I would strongly suggest you look into Battle Foam.  They make so many different products that you will likely be able to find something that suits your needs.  Even though the cases are quite expensive, they are protecting the models that I have poured so much time and creative energy into, so I think it is money well spent!

-Eric Wier


  1. Thanks Eric for this detailed review. I have looked into Battlefoam to house my spare minis that don't occupy my desk but found them to be a little too pricey for my taste. Nevertheless, I think for frequent players who want to move around armies this is the best solution.

    I currently have the large case from GW which gets me into problems for some of my converted models (not all orks or CSM are forced to fit in those cramped spaces) and now mainly use it as a paint holder.

    1. Yeah, the price can be a pretty steep, and is often hard to justify if you do not travel with your models a lot. They do have some less expensive options, like the Shield and Sword bags, which are similar to the P.A,C.K. one, but without the plastic reinforcements. I have not used any, but I have heard they are really nice. Something to consider!

  2. Thanks for the great review Eric. Do you have any experience with their elite series? It looks like one of the only solutions I've found for actually checking an army for flight transport.

    Your black friday tip could end up saving me almost 100 bucks. Thanks so much!

    1. I am glad the review was helpful! The Black Friday sale was the thing that convinced me to give them a try years ago. Last year, their Elite storage line was only 15% off, while the P.A.C.K. line maintained the traditional 25% off. It will be interesting to see how things are this year.

      I do not own any of the Black Label cases, but have examined a few in person, and they are extremely nice. Nothing really compares to them in the miniature gaming hobby. I have been considering getting one of the smaller ones just to experiment with and carry around some of my skirmish game models.

      Having said all that, their signature P.A.C.K. cases are really durable and sturdy, and would be excellent for taking on a plane. A lot would have to go amiss for your models to be harmed. If you really need the models to be in the checked luggage (rather than carry on), I think the Black Label cases are the way to go. They are far sturdier then most luggage bags, and have a place to put a lock. Regardless of what you decide on, I think you will be satisfied with their product, however.

    2. Ya, It's a 2000 point army, I don't think I could fit it in a carry on. Lotta ork walkers! It's going to have to be that really big one. Pricy, but it would be nice to finally have some transport outside of lugging around shoe boxes and such.

    3. I would suggest that you spend some time trying to really determine the best way to arrange the models before you order the trays, I have found their ork dreadnought cutouts are oversized and there is a lot of wasted space. I think the ork dreads can pretty much fit into their smaller killa kan slot. I think they are big to take into account crazy conversions, but I feel you would get more mileage out of your case if you traced all your walkers and measured their height to ensure you select trays that will suit the models. It might take a little work, but you will be glad you spent the time with it!

    4. More excellent advice! Thanks Eric!