Friday, January 28, 2011

Finding Cheap Army Containers

I wrote this as part of Dethtron's Gaming on a Budget series over at House of Paincakes and didn't want to leave all y'all out.

Lets face it, wargaming is an expensive hobby. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not your friend - they just want you to play so there's someone they can beat or so they won't be the n00b at the local store anymore. To offset just how expensive this hobby is, there are corners you can cut - and I don't mean "cut" as in, did you know brake lines make good scale metal tubing? That would be highly inappropriate... cheap terrain is going to be another article.

If you're looking for a way to carry your models around that won't scratch them up, there's plenty of options besides dropping a ton of money on professional carrying cases. Most of this stuff you can get from around the house and often for free.

source: Bolters and Balsa
Egg Cartons give you about the right sizing for 6-12-18 models (depending on the size of your carton) because eggs are about the size of our minis. Monstrous Creatures can sometimes lay sideways and still fit.

Shoe boxes will fit Monstrous Creatures, vehicles or a bunch of loose models. You could make dividers for these out of cereal box cardboard though, so things don't rattle around - something that will chip paint and break glued joints. I wonder if shoe stores end up with empty boxes from people who want to wear their new shoes home?

These can all end up stacking on each other for storage or transport.

source: inetGiant
You can also buy plastic containers from hobby stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. This starts getting less economical at $10-20 a container, but you might be able to buy them on sale and over a long period as your army grows. These have the advantage of being sturdier and can often be found with plastic dividers.

source: world of green
You'll want a larger box to put smaller containers into, making it easier to transport armies. Cardboard boxes come in all sorts of shapes and if you go into big box stores like Walmart, Staples, Future Shop, Best Buy, Target, etc, you might be able to ask for some for free. However, while moving, I've recently discovered a lot of these places have newer policies against giving away boxes - this could be store/regional policy, but I've instead had great luck getting boxes from smaller independently owned stores instead. (computer / electronic shops)

Boxes that are great for this are those big sturdy boxes that reams of paper are sold in. (Reams are those packs of 500 pages most people buy) Stores that sell the 500 packs individually have them shipped in the same large boxes they also sell, throwing out the empty boxes. Your parents work may also have extra boxes. Sometimes these will have holes on the sides as handles too.

source: Staples
Office supply stores also carry small storage bins for letter or legal sized paper filing. These might run you $10-20 or so, but they tend to go on sale often. Another benefit here is that they'll be much more rugged than a cardboard box and might have handles.

The Cadillac of low-end is probably the tackle (fishing) box. Yes, good quality ones go for $40-60, but there are always cheap ones around. Check garage sales, Kijiji, Craigs List, the local paper and other used sources and you can probably find a good deal. "Just an old tackle box" tends to get sold off cheap. If there's lures included, you can either keep them as bits, or haggle with the seller to exclude them and lower the price. Not as much room for vehicles and monstrous creatures, but usually some. If you can't find one used, this is the sort of thing that goes on sale quite often, especially on holidays like Fathers Day. Find a good deal on a tackle box, and it will be the last army case you ever need.

  • Fun fact, some tackle boxes can be fit into those long bag-like suitcases.
  • Fun fact #2, long bag-like suitcase handles are sometimes spaced so that you can put your arms through them and carry it on your back.
  • Fun fact #3, I have intimate memories from my childhood of bicycling 30 minutes in the blistering sun with a tackle box digging into my spine while it bounces around, scratching the minis within... ah the things we do to game.

The expensive option
source: Bell of Lost Souls
Next up, to protect your minis, you either want to line their containers with something or wrap them up. (Though wrapping and unwrapping an army takes a lot of extra time, and it means you can't see who's who)

Foam is usually best for this - However, for those of you not aware, foam is porous gold. It's great to line your containers with to protect your minis, but it can bankrupt you unless you have a mysterious source of cheap foam. (Which some people gain access to in weird and wonderful ways from time to time) For particularly important minis, you can use foam saved from blister packs.

Rather then dumping your savings into foam, line your containers with cheap options such as paper towel, Kleenex, toilet paper, etc. (Maybe your parents won't notice if you slowly build your collection over a week or so)

Here are some further tips from the community on cheap army containers:

  • Cheap Army Transport Trays from Menelker @ Dark Future Games
  • Cheap, Quality Army Case Video! from Old School @ Dark Future Games
  • From the comments at House of Paincakes
    • Dethtron suggests $10-20 pistol cases
    • Loquacious suggests duct tape + cardboard, video/camera bags, craft bags and reminds us Michaels and Hobby Lobby always have 40% or so coupons floating around.
  • A few people suggest KR Multicase, however this company just seems like any other case seller.
    • Their cheapest model is a $40 cardboard box with a handle - for the same price, you can get a hard plastic tacklebox brand new that'll actually protect your minis.


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