Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hidden Hobby Costs: The Psychological Price of Model Transportation

I could never check one of my army collections with an airline.  I would be angry to lose some favorite clothing, but the thousands of hours poured into an army?  That would be unthinkable!

As I continue working on my Skaven / Dark Eldar army, I have begun to think about just how I will be transporting these figures.  While I have already begun constructing an army tray for in-tournament presentation, I am speaking more about getting the models from my home to a game store or GT venue with care.  I pin the vast majority of my fragile miniatures, but I still wonder.  Honestly, one of my major turn-offs concerning the new Dark Eldar line of models, are the multiple thin spikes and protrusions that cover the vehicles which are just waiting to snap off or become bent, and that's just on the table before they even enter a foam tray! 

With my Vraksian Renegade Militia, I was lucky to have a large number of "boxy" vehicles, and standard sized infantry.  For about $240, I purchased three large GW army cases, and after I cut the foam to fit my collection, can safely carry about 5000 points worth of models in them.  For my Chaos Daemons armies, I have a few Sabol cases with lots of different foam trays to carry my specific roster selection whenever I want.  My older armies all have various DIY transport solutions as well, that may not necessarily be the most space efficient, I have come to use those systems for those collections simply out of traditional reverence for the painted miniatures of my youth.  Regardless, my "Kabal of the Fursaken" will need their own transport system, and there are many elements to consider.

My two Ravagers, will be heavily converted from Chinnork helicopter models.  The large blades of the helicopters will need to be secured in transit.  Naturally, I will make the Ravagers detachable from the flying stands, but then that raises the question of just where and how to transport the flying bases. 

I have been looking at the new KR Multicase items that some of the podcasts I have been listening to promote.  I have also looked at Battlefoam's custom tray cutting tool as well.  Actually, KR Multicase has a similar electronic tool for creating custom foam trays.  However at this stage in development, I do not know the exact and final dimensions of my three largest vehicles, due to their converted nature.  This mystery makes playing with the custom foam cutting programs fairly terrifying, even at the experimental stage.  I could always just buy more Sabol foam trays, and pluck them to the correct dimensions.  These are things that I lay awake at night considering...

Lastly, I would like to make a tangential comment about army transportation.  While the photo I included at the beginning of this post is obviously farce, there is a ring of truth behind it.  I know that certain transport companies have stated that their products can be used to carry an army on a plane, but I am skeptical.  The size of the armies that I collect are usually far too large to pack into a "carry-on" sized bag.  That said, I cannot imagine checking any luggage that contained miniatures.  My opinion stated, can you now see why I know I will never be able to bring miniatures to Adepticon?  Unless I was to drive to Chicago, something my teaching position would never grant time for, I am in a tricky situation.

Anyway, thanks for listening to me whine about buying foam for my toy soldiers.  If anyone has a good solution to my Skaven / Dark Eldar transport issue, I am all ears.  And if anyone can testify to the psychological trauma of taking an army on a plane, I guess I would "like" to hear that too.  (gulp)


  1. Are there some locals who might be driving out? Perhaps the army could be entrusted to them for transport before and after?

    At some level, I think you have to accept that models will break, even just on the table or with normal handling. Protect as well as you can, but be prepared for repairs.

  2. lol, yeah when looking into tournaments, my first concern is whether or not its in an easily drivable distance. I usually play horde style/vehicle heavy armies that would require them to be checked bags on a plane. THAT i agree is totally out of the question! I've seen how baggage handlers treat passengers' bags and I don't care what sort of claims battlefoam & others make. With enough of an impact, minis will still break in their uber cases.

  3. You know, I don't know how you're planning on building the vehicles, but if they fit "perfectly" into their appropriate pre-cut Battlefoam DE trays, that would certainly give you an easy way to affirm "no shenanigans" to any stickler opponents.

    Just a thought.

  4. That is an interesting point, Mike. However, I think it is worth noting that erring on the side of "a bit large", which would be pointed out by not being able to fit the models in the BF trays, is typically viewed as legal by the BRB; Whereas erring on the side of "too small", a mistake that has caused furor in the past, would go unnoticed.

    I suppose it really depends on your interpretation of the word "perfectly".

  5. "Shenanigans!"

    The best part of waking up - Purgatus in your comments.

  6. Totally off-topic, but I dunno about the Chinoork models; $104 apiece is a lot for something you have the ability to convert from actual (cheaper) Ravager kits, or at build from plasticard. I'd save your pennies for some nice reinforced steel cases....

  7. I often wonder if others are in the same boat that I often get of letting the space a lotted to them by the bags they have dictate the contents of the army list.
    Dan, I wonder if your best bet might be to start with the Sabol pluck and pick you are familiar with, borrow another army's carry case. Then after the fact when you have a bit more time with your completed army sit down with one of the tray creators and see how things fit. Especially if you can get away with using your pre-plucked infantry trays and just get a tray for the odd shaped vehicles.

  8. Purgatus: I think you get pistol-whipped for that.

    Mark: I already purchased the Chinnorks, but thanks for the encouragement. -_- I hear you on the raiders, but I really wanted the army to have NO DE models in it at all. Plus, I am converting Deffkoptas with goggled rat pilots to use as reavers, so I thought repeating the rickety rotor blades would further unify the army's appearance. Originally, I was considering doing a Jabba the Hutt themed Raider-Spam list, with obvious plasticard -on-raider conversions...

    Richelieu: I think you have described exactly what I will do. I know pluck foam takes some time and planning, but then if I was going to avoid any hobby process that was time consuming, I would be playing Magic the Gathering. Zing!

    Thanks for the advice, all. Glad my airline-fueled anxieties are not unheard of.

  9. Richelieu: I know I am; my Tyranid army was planned to fit in one Citadel case's worth of infantry-cut foam, and my WFB Chaos army will be operating under similar limitations. With storage space and carrying capacity at a premium, I have to be aware of the limitations...

    Dan: the beauty of the Kaisers is that they're very, very flexible in terms of width and length; the 'walls' of the pick and pluck cells can be cut quite nicely in places to create a bit more variation in width. Height's the problem; if you don't know how tall a model's going to be, you can end up a bit stuck. I know my cavalry/monster case is probably an inch deeper than it needs to be (mind you, it's also cut for a Dark Elf army that I don't own any more, which could lead to some interesting times in the not-too-distant future).

    When the digicam arrives I'll have to take some pics and do a little rationale of how I marmalise all my foam. Would that be of interest to folks around the ol' 'sphere?

  10. Von: I for one would be very interested in seeing another hobbyist go through the process. It's funny: As hobbyists, we share so many different experiences, but all too often we only talk about one or two. For example, I am sure I could write a few pages on the ethics of publicizing a hobby such as ours in the workplace...

  11. I have a Sabol "Division" bag - it's large enough to hold just about any army, but still qualifies as "carry-on" size with most airlines.

    You might also call your hotel - many would be fine with you shipping the army to them ahead of you. I don't know if that would be any less psychologically traumatic, though. ;-)

  12. Leadhead: Of course the fear I would have with the ship it ahead route would be the balance of not shipping it so far ahead that it is sitting in the office behind the desk where someone damages it in someway, sits on it, *insert nightmare here* vs shipping it too late and having a freak weather incident or your army detouring to another city and being delayed. In that case your army shows up on the Monday after you need it. Plus if your leaving Sunday having to find somewhere open to have it shipped back home if the hotel doesn't offer that service.

  13. The battlefoam cases have solid hard shells on all sides. As long as you have used trays of a reasonable height to prevent models from rattling around, you can be reasonably safe when it comes to checking the bag.

    You could also pack everything in a Battlefoam case, take it to UPS/Fed Ex, get it labeled as fragile, and get it insured.

    Like LeadHead said, your hotel should be happy to hold your package for a few days until you arrive.