Wargaming Tradecraft: [Review] Battle Foam P.A.C.K. 1520XL Custom

[Review] Battle Foam P.A.C.K. 1520XL Custom


TheWife and her parents bought me an early Christmas present last year - a Battle Foam carrying case for my Hordebloods army. Specifically, the P.A.C.K. 1520XL Custom. It's probably about time for me to do a review on the product. (US) Thanksgiving was a great opportunity to buy the case because they put on a 20-60% sale which you can take advantage of this year too between November 28th and December 1st. It's also worth noting they have a year round sale for army vets.

I'm going to avoid reviewing the drama that has on occasion spread across Internet in regards to their business practices. Instead, I'll be focusing on just my own experience with the company.

The following is a full look at both the final product and the ordering process. Overall, I love it. Some things weren't perfect, but when it comes to protecting your army, Battle Foam nails it. This is why:

Ordering and Shipping

This process was really easy. Their website is simple to browse, as was adding the items you want to your cart and checking out. A big selling point for me was I didn't have to make up my mind about the specifics of my order right away. This meant we could take advantage of the sale and I had plenty of time to design the custom features of the foam trays. It was actually months before I placed the order and they didn't have a problem with that.

Normally, responses to emails were pretty quick but there were a few issues with communication - supposedly a few of my emails ended up in a spam folder, so it's important that if you don't hear back regarding a question in a few days, to follow up. I'd asked for a few custom things, which honestly would have saved them money on foam, but no mixing of foam was allowed so I had to plan on doing my own tweaks. (More on that later.)

Shipping time was accurate - about a month since my case was custom. They had mis-cut the 8" thick foam piece for the Mountain King and Battlewagon and sent me a new one within about a week. They also didn't label any of my trays, which is a free service and I didn't raise a stink over it.

* Now, I live in Canada, so this was an international shipment. I got lucky and wasn't charged duties by the border and there weren't delays. I've shipped enough from the US over the years to know that this is random so your order could end up delayed at the border or costing more.

I'm seeing more gaming stores carrying Battle Foam these days. Not sure if they can order custom cut foam for you, but this is an option if you're concerned about duties or it's not convenient to receive a bulky shipment to your home or office.

Now, I did have some confusion over all the different types of bags they have and what foam slabs fit. This is an area where they could do with some cleaning up.


Designing the Case
It took me a while to decide how exactly I wanted to lay out the case and organize the models in it. Not because the process is difficult. The opposite - they make it very easy. I'm just picky. I also over-ordered the size of the case so that I'd have room to grow as I add more models to the Hordebloods.

First off, I had to decide if my models would stand up or lay down. Doesn't seem like a big decision, but lets keep in mind - you don't spend this kind of money on an army case unless you want to protect your miniatures. Ultimately, I decided to lay down my figures so the slots would "pinch" the bases and hold them in place. (Larger stuff like beasts still had to stand.) Standing up, miniatures would be more likely to bump around.

When picking foam, you get to choose the height of each. If your models are laying down, the foam only has to be a few inches thick. Thicker if they're standing up, but you'll fit more models. It's important to keep in mind that a firm bottom is added to each piece of foam, so a 3" foam layer ends up being 3.25". So if I have 8 trays, I have to plan for 2" of extra space being taken up by tray bases.

The standard sized trays you can order are great for most figures, but if you go the custom route, you can be more picky, get fitted spaces for beasts and even design your own trays from traces or drawings. Battle Foam's Custom Tray Creator is really easy to use and not only lets you draw any size squares, rectangles and circles, but has a custom shape for virtually every type of model from the major game systems.


Another route you can go is trace your specially shaped / converted miniatures on to a piece of paper and email them a picture or scan. I took advantage of this option as well, allowing me to create a simply awesome token tray to top my case. (Just look at this!)



A neat feature of the P.A.C.K. series of cases is that you can stack and zipper some of them together. So I ended up adding a small PACK 216 bag that zippers on top of the 1520XL. I ordered this with a standard "Warmachine Medium Base" block of foam, then filled it with the above token tray ordered with the Custom 1520XL PACK. This is how it turned out:



As a finishing touch, I ordered a custom label for the outside:



* Worth noting, the current PACK models are slightly different to mine. Mine came with some outside pockets, advertised for storing the add-on army tray. I use them for storing cards, books and such. This years model doesn't seem to include any pouches, but is covered in straps for mounting purchasable pouches wherever you want.


Customizing After Ordering


I took a few steps myself to customize my case further, detailed below.

First off, the case is great for slapping rewards on...


Because of all my custom sculpts, I opted to order generic shapes for the most part and cut whatever foam I needed to when some of my custom sculpts didn't quite fit. This includes things like the Mauler's tusks, Impaler's oversized spear, Wolf Riders, etc.

Foam is easy to cut and this kind doesn't make much of a mess.


I'm rather proud of this tweak though... You see, the foam block for the Mountain King and War Wagon is 8" thick. Now, I can fit both on one half of the foam, so the question was, "What do I do with the other half?" If I put my Mounted Units or Heavy Beasts on that half, they'd take at most 4" of height. Not only would that be a waste of foam, but I'd have to reach down through another 4" of foam to reach them.

Instead, I ordered a 4" slab of foam with Riders on one side, Beasts on the other and a clear space down the middle. I cut this and my 8" foam pieces in half, then cut a piece of cardboard to slip under the 8" block. (Remember, each block of foam has a 1/4" base - so one side is actually 4.25" + 4.25" = 8.5" and the other side is 8.25". A piece of cardboard under the 8" block of foam levels each side out at 8.5".) Like a glove.


Some Problems


Scratchy

Battlefoam is sturdy foam, but it isn't soft foam.

Unfortunately, it does mean that over time, it could scratch paint off, even if you've protected your models with a few layers of varnish.
Laser Cut

Battlefoam is also laser cut, which means burnt foam. Turns out, this ugly burnt foam sticks around and never really dries out.

Upon repeated removals from the foam, it can leave a burnt black rubber on your models, obscuring and damaging the detail you've so painstakingly applied.

I've only run in to this with a few of the custom cut shapes, none of the square ones.


Final Impressions
Overall, I'm quite happy with the purchase. Communicating with the company was easy, the product is great quality and while they made a mistake with one of the foam layers, they replaced it without incident.

The case itself is extremely sturdy and seems well made. It does get heavy as I keep adding more minis, but it lets me move around my whole army around at once, no fuss. With everything in it, there's no wobble. There are wheels on the base so it can roll and a retractible handle to pull the case around. The smaller PACK zippers on top without any hassle as zippers can sometimes be and is strong enough to carry the whole case around via the handle on top of the small PACK. The foam is sturdy and strong, offers great padding to hold bases in place and prevent minis from pushing against each other in transit. For transport, you can strap it in to a seat in a vehicle or it would fit laying down in a back seat or trunk. Strapping it in will reduce the chances of tipping if you have loose bits (Like all my tokens.) but isn't perfect.
If I were building my own case, I'd probably use smoother foam (Available from fabric stores.) but what's included isn't concerningly coarse. I have noticed that the custom cut shapes have a black residue from Battle Foam's cutting process; not thrilled when this black residue rubs off on some of my figures. With a little work and special consideration to your paint, you can clean it off. The wheels don't roll as well on concrete or rougher and seem cheap enough I suspect they'll the be first thing I have to fix. (As you can see in the photo to the right, one is already getting flat-ish.)
Overall, Battle Foam cases offer an extreme quality for someone wanting to really protect their paint jobs and assembly, but you certainly pay for that quality. If you're just looking for a regular transport case, Battle Foam is probably overkill as there are other options for cases which are budget conscious.



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