Friday, March 2, 2012

My Battlefoam Experience

my new bag, complete with journeyman league patches
I finally did it. I finally broke down and bought myself a brand new Battlefoam bag. There are a few guys in our gaming club who say all kinds of nice things about Battlefoam, but I never decided that I needed one. Part of me felt like they were saying good things about Battlefoam because they had to (the guys in our local gaming club happen to run Bell Of Lost Souls. Sponsored by Battlefoam. And Wargamescon. also sponsored by battlefoam). But soon, almost every "serious" player in the club was toting these things around and talking about how much they loved them.

Well, about 6 months ago or so, I finally got my wife into wargaming (hmm. maybe I should do an article about that sometime... maybe after Adepticon). She now has a decently sized Circle Orboros army. for a while, she just carried her stuff in a single foam sheet from my Sabol bag (rather, one sheet from my excessively large collection of foam sheets that go in my standard-sized army transport). then she needed a second sheet, and several Space wolf rhinos got displaced from their foam. when we started making 50 point lists for her army, it was clear she would need a better way of moving her models.

Turns out, she was more than happy to take my Sabol Army Transport if it meant she would have a good way of transporting her stuff (especially when we fly to Chicago in April!). When I finally sold my old Xbox, I ran out of reasons not to buy myself a new bag. Now, about a month later, I just received my Battlefoam GO pack in the mail. So here are my first thoughts on this new bag.

Buying The Bag

The first thing you'll notice when you browse on over to Battlefoam's website is how many options they have. Maybe too many options. Not only do they have 10 standard P.A.C.K. bags, they have custom bags for every game system I've ever heard of, and some for things I have never even seen a model for (no idea what puppet wars is...). Well, my current gaming kick is Warmachine, so I figured I'd hop on over to the Privateer Press Bags section. the first one that caught my eye was the "Big Bag", and I thought I'd take a look. this is Texas after all. And... nevermind. I will never need a bag that big. that is a Big Bag alright. For a system that prides itself on not needing a ton of models to play a decent game, that thing holds a few too many models. 14 inches of foam?! what would I ever use that much foam for?

I then realized something that surprised me a bit. They put an awful lot of work into making a pretty sweet set of bags for PP players. (the smaller one, especially). we have pockets designed for Warmachine. your cards even have little inside pockets designed just for them. But for all that awesome specialization, you can only use this bag for Warmachine. the foam is a good bit smaller in surface area than the standard PACK system. So if you play multiple systems (like me) you're going to either need multiple bags, or you'll need custom foam for one of your armies. bummer! had they made the PP bag the same size as their main product line, I would have bought one in a second.

In the end, I was overwhelmed with options. I didn't trust myself to do this one blindly. When I bought my Sabol bag, it was much simpler. do you want a small bag, a medium bag, a large bag, or a friggin huge bag? I'll take the medium size please. and done. not so with Battlefoam. I know about how much space I want, but there are at least 4, maybe 5 bags that fit in that ballpark. So I did what any good tech savvy guy who worked for a major Ratings and Reviews company would do. I asked all of my friends what they thought. Unfortunately, they all thought different things. Caldera recommended the Warmachine bag, since he really liked the one his girlfriend uses (that's right, we have 2 girls playing in our club. what now?). Others recommended the stock standard PACK 432. I was eventually swayed by Darkwynn's glowing review of the Pack GO. nice big bag, fits in an overhead bin, has pockets everywhere and acts like a backpack. sweet.

Options! More Options

OK, so I figured out what bag I want. so now I go buy it right? well, first you have to make a whole bunch of choices. do you want a standard loadout? Oh, actually the GO doesn't have a standard loadout. you can go empty, pluck or custom. well, I don't have any foam yet, so going empty and then filling it would be about the same as custom. I'm tired of pluck foam after years with my Sabol bag (I don't care if people claim Battlefoam has better pluck foam). So custom it is. Obviously "custom" is going to mean more choices. Welcome to America.

I must say, I am impressed with the custom tray creator they have on the site. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted, but I eventually nailed it down. I went and wrote down all the models I own and figured out how to fit all of them. I quickly realized this bag was going to hold a ton(!) of models. Sure am glad I didn't go with that "Big Bag". the blurb for the GO pack said 9 inches of foam. My current collection was held in 2.5 inch sabol trays, so I started there. one beast tray and one infantry tray at 2.5, another infantry tray at 2 (for the guys who don't have flags on their backs or heroic sword-in-the-air poses), and one of their standard 1" infantry trays. this would put me at 8" of foam, leaving the recommended 1/4" per tray leeway. after playing around with the foam creator for an hour or so, I had my trays designed. the beast tray had custom slots for each of my Skorne heavies, and the rest was a mix of big and medium holes for the rest of my beasts that don't have custom cutouts. the rest was a mix of small and medium slots, some with extra side room for silly spikey skorne models.
yeah custom text!

I added them to my order, added my name as custom text for the heck of it (it was free, so why not?) and paid. I was warned that a custom layout would take about a month to ship. no problem, we're still 3 months from Adepticon, so I can wait. good thing I did this early.

The Final Product

Yesterday (almost exactly 4 weeks since I ordered. good estimate, Battlefoam), I got my bag in the mail. I was very excited as I opened the box. the first thing I noticed was that one of my trays was not inside the bag like the rest of them, and was slightly squished around the edges from being crammed in the box on top of the bag. well that's odd. I opened the rest of the box, and found my other 3 trays snugly packed into my bag.

Maybe I made a mistake, possibly hitting the wrong option when designing my trays. Maybe they made a tray too big. or maybe the advertised 9" isn't so accurate. whatever the case, my estimated 8" of foam does not all fit in the bag. I'll need to measure them all and see where the mistake is. I don't know that it is their fault, but it is a little annoying that I had to take a whole sheet out. once I packed all the sheets in, I end up with my beast sheet, my 2.5" infantry sheet and my 1" standard sheet. by my count, that's 6" of foam, not 9. I'm slightly annoyed about that, but I won't judge until I measure my sheets and look at the order form again.

Luckily, there is still a ton of room. I put in all my heavies in their cozy custom slots, and they fit absolutely perfect. my archidon and light beasts go in their slots, and all fit decently. the Archidon is just an awkward model, and doesn't fit great, but I'll figure something out with him. I start putting my infantry in, and eventually figure out where to put everything. I'm glad I got a number of slots with extra space to the side, Praetorians don't fit nicely in square holes.
custom slots for -most- of my heavies

In the final count, I fit 6 heavy warbeasts, 5 light warbeasts, 7 casters, 6 heavy infantry, and 36 infantry in the bag. I still have room for another 4 heavies, 12 light beasts or heavy infantry, and about 14 more small bases. and this is all without the extra piece of foam that didn't fit. compare this to my Sabol bag, where I wasn't able to fit my Cetrati or 8 venators and 2 casters in with everything else. And the bag itself really isn't that much bigger in total volume than the Sabol bag. This makes me happy enough that I quickly forgive whatever mistake caused me to leave a whole sheet out. it would have been empty anyways.

Thoughts and Comparison

So here are a few initial thoughts about the bag. First of all, it loads in sideways, which is slightly awkward. It's not a big deal, but it is different. infantry won't usually get damaged by that shuffle since they all fit pretty well and don't have too many heavy bits. most of my heavies are in tight custom slots. my archidon does bounce around a lot more than I like. overall not bad, just different.

the pockets are interesting. there is definitely more pocket space than I had on the front of my Sabol bag, but I honestly don't like some of them as much. the front pockets are nice. the "ipad-sized" one fits my dice and counter box very nicely. the bigger front pocket is currently holding the Domination book, which really doesn't take up much space in that massive pocket (it's as long and wide as the entire bag). the side pockets are the ones that bug me. what will I ever need a super skinny and deep pocket for? I'll never run out of space for my cards on one side of the bag, but I will have to reach waaay down in there to fish them all out before a game. my measuring tape, pens and timer are similarly hard to reach on the other side. It would have been so much better to put 2 pockets on each side that each covered half the bag. or even on one side if you really felt like someone was going to want a huge deep pocket for their .22 rifle or something. seriously, what do you put in that pocket? oh, and the cup holders are a fun touch. that will come in handy I'm sure.
So much space!

So let's compare the two bags. the Sabol bag has served me well for the better part of 6 years. I really have no complaints. I've never had issues with the strap breaking like some have had. it's small and portable, and holds just enough models. I can hold a full 2000 point 40K army for any one of my factions, except that I have to carry large models like a battlewagon and razorwing separately. It held almost my entire Skorne collection, and certainly enough for any one day of gaming, I just had to swap some models here and there. The pockets were great, if a little small at times. Pluck foam got annoying after a while.

The battlefoam bag definitely wins on storage space. By a mile. for a bag that barely takes up more space, it holds almost twice as many models. the custom foam is awesome. much more secure than pluck foam, and you get perfect shapes and no wasted space. it takes a bit of planning before hand, but holds everything perfectly. the backpack straps are a nice bonus, but I somewhat prefer the single shoulder strap of the Sabol bag. The hard shell is a definite win. the pockets give tons of space but some are poorly designed. cupholders are genius. custom text is a fun little add-on.

Overall, I give the win to Battlefoam. the great storage space and very safe transport with the hard shell and tight-fitting foam means it does its job of transporting your minis very well. the pockets are really the only down side, but storage space is always good and I'm sure I'll get used to the giant side pockets.

If you're looking for a bag, I would recommend either of these for you. the Sabol bag is great if you're on a budget, but if you're planning on needing to carry many models at once the battlefoam bag is worth the extra cash.

as always, thoughts and questions are welcome. Especially if you've used one or both of these bags and have something to add for people who are still trying to pick a bag.


  1. Hi there, excellent review :)

    Can you please tell me if this backpack can go on an airplane? I do believe it exceeds, but not by much, the mandatory 46" that airlines use for handluggage.

    Thank you!

  2. I have taken mine on the airplane a few times, and know a few other guys in my club have done the same. it fit fine in the overhead bins on Southwest planes (which is usually the only company I use). They ahve never had an issue with it, and it is smaller than some carry-ons you see going on planes these days