I shall pluck no more forever

If you have been playing miniature games for very long, you have inevitably found that there is no greater risk to your wonderfully painted miniatures than to actually take them someplace to play a game with them.  Bumping around in the car, carrying them to the store/venue, carrying them between game tables (not to mention knocking them off the table to the floor).  And this doesn't include if you are serious to pack and take them on an airplane!!!

Since I started playing with miniatures, I've gone through several iterations of storage / transportation.  From my initial GW miniatures cases to Sabol Army Transports, I've plucked enough foam to fill several moving boxes.  And I've found a solution that I quite like.  By request (thanks for the idea JT) I'm going to share my current favorite transport / storage method for my miniatures.

My first army, way back when, was Vampire Counts for WFB.  I very quickly found I needed a way to transport them - so bought the only solution I had seen - hard plastic GW figure cases.  These held 4 layers of pre-cut foam inserts.  They easily held individual models, but didn't quite fit the cavalry or larger models.  I remember cutting up some of the inserts to make a two layer version, and to fit the cavalry.
GW Figure cases with foam inserts cut to hold cavalry etc.
When I started my next army, I knew that those cases weren't going to work any more.  First they were expensive, and additional trays were hard to get.  At that point I found the Army Transport system by Sabol Designs.  These were the custom 'pluck' foam - where the tray was cut into 1/2" squares that you would pluck out to make room for each miniature.  This allowed you to customize the trays to fit your army.  So things like fanatics got more space, and I could fit use the GW regimental bases (4 models wide).  I bought LOTS of different trays, and three different cases (I really liked when they came out with the smaller size cases that could be clipped together.   Plus I could store the army just by putting the foam trays on a shelf, labeling them with a black sharpie.

Army Transport with some trays (holding Ogres)
Plus this worked for other armies, such as my Confrontation Wolfen and Ophidians, and even my Malifaux Arcanist.  I could take one case for these skirmish games, or hook two together for bigger games of WFB.

These weren't without issues however.  First the foam is slightly abrasive - and it can tell over time as you put the the miniatures in and out of the trays.  But even worse, I found that spiky bits, like spear tips, would often get caught either going in or coming out of the foam - and ended up breaking off many an arm without intending to, just because of the storage method.
OverNight Goblins in Sabol Foam Tray

Eventually I found that putting individual models in and out of the trays wasn't working for me - but since they had started making deeper trays - it occurred to me so store the models vertically instead of horizontally - so make the space for an entire unit rather than a lot of little spaces for individual miniatures.  I had long before found the advantages of magnetic bases and corresponding movement trays, so it was easy to pluck out a big space and just drop (carefully) the entire unit in.  Then when ready to play, just pull the entire unit out.  This took up a bit more space - before where 2 1" trays would hold 2 base infantry units, now I needed one 3" tray instead.  But the convenience was worth it.
Ogre Blaster and Mournfangs - unit on movement tray in deep foam tray
What I did find inconvenient though was I still had to deal with stack of foam trays - and of course the one I needed was always at the bottom of the case.  Plus even though the cases had some pockets, they weren't enough for all my gaming accessories (books, dice, tape measures, army lists, etc), so I still had a messenger bag with all of that stuff.

I had seen other people using blastic bins to store their minis - most of these were full of soft foam or egg crate foam, and just replaces the trays and bags.  It occurred to me though to use magnets for transport as well as the movement trays.  At that point I was buying magnetic bases from Gale Force 9, and even some of their movement trays.  I found that these could be too exact however, and even the paint on the side of the bases could cause models not to fit the trays anymore.  I put cheap sheet magnets on the bottom of the trays (free actually - my wife was a realtor at the time and bought some marketing calendars that had fridge magnets - but you took out the center piece to save weight when mailing - so I had a stack of 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" sheet magnets - they fit perfectly on the bottom of my movement trays.  I then bought more of the 'plastic steel' sheets from GF9 which I used inside my movement trays to line a plastic bin with them - and now I had plenty of room for my army and it was all contained in one place.

My Drunk Dwarf Army, including some units that haven't seen play with the newest book, but that I still have room for in this bin.
When I first started using magnetic bases, I would buy sheets of tin from the local railroad modelling store.  These were about $3 or $4 each, and would maybe fit 2 trays.  The plastic steel sheets were also fairly small and expensive.

Then I started doing Kings of War demos (yes, I'm finally getting to the part people currently care about :-) ).  Now I needed to transport lots of armies (currently 12), keeping them separate.  It didn't take long until I found some plastic bins at WalMart (and the first ones came with a free container as well).  These were stackable and came in sets of 2 with one lid.  I looked at sheets of steel or tin at the hardware store, and got a few to start - but they were also expensive.  It then hit upon me to use roofing flashing - this is basically thin stell, but is much cheaper and comes in much larger sizes.

I just picked up my second roll of roofing flashing - it is 10" wise by 10' long.

10" x 10' galvanized roofing flashing
The bins are 10 1/2" by 14 1/2" - but that was the outside measurement at the top.  They actually are slightly narrower at the bottom inside (so they could nest together.  However it was easy enough to cut a 14" piece of the tin off, and then trim the edge slight to fit - also rounding the corners to better fit the round corners of the bin.  It isn't exact, but doesn't need to be.
Corners and side trimmed
I recommend tin snips for this, as you can use scissors, but it will dull and ruin them for pretty much anything else.
slips right in the box
So now I had a bin for each army.  Individual models stuck to the metal because of the magnetic bases.  I was finding it hard to find GF9 bases anymore, as they were transitioning to making games instead of accessories - however I did discover Shogun Miniautres, who made magnetic bases and steel movement trays.  The bases were cheaper, thinner and higher quality than GF9 so I started ordering them (and have not regretted it since).

For Kings of War, you do not need to have individually based models - since you don't remove models you can unit or 'multi-base' your models.  Shogun will actually make custom bases - so I now get 100x40 (for infantry) or 125x50 (for cavalry) bases for multiple models.
two troops of Ratkin Clawshots (formerly GW Skaven Jezzails) on magnetic unit bases 125mm x 50mm
So the models go on magnetic unit bases - which then stick to the metal in the bin.
and they stick right in the bin
Yes, even metal miniatures hold very well this way.
same miniatures as above, but I've removed the metal sheet and am holding it upside down.  Oh, and the miniatures are metal.
The steel movement trays do not stick to the metal - but since these are block of 10, it is easy enough to take them off the trays so the models go in.
Most of my ratkin army, magnetized into two bins, with the trays and a couple of miniatures that still need magnets
One note - there is a definite height limit to the bins - about 3".  Normal models it is not a problem, but things like lances on knights are an issue - I have broken or bent a lot of these because of poor planning (putting the lances straight up instead of angled forward).  Each demo army fits in a single bin, and bigger armies fit in multiples.  I don't carry more than three bins hooked together, as adding too much weight is a good way for them to break.  The top case of each stack has about 1/2" more vertical space than the others - so I have to be careful what armies end up on top vs. bottom.
Stacked and covered.  Top bin has 1/2" more height than others.
I have a folding, rolling box with all my demo material in it.  I would put the cases on top and roll it into the game areas - but found they still got easily knocked over.  So I glued velcro strips to the bottom case, and to the lids, to keep the cases together.  Bungie cords then hold them down to the rolling case.
I found that if I put the strips in the same direction, the velcro was too strong and would pull off the bin/lid.  This way the bottom holds on two points, giving it stabililty but staying on.
12 demo armies packed up and ready to roll
Originally I was using magnetic tape on the metal in the bottom of the bins to hold units in movement trays.  However I'm seeing these come off, and more when I'm seeing that when I do demos, often people find it easier to pull up the multi-bases and end up leaving the trays in the bin, and then I have to go and put them back on the trays.  What I'm looking at doing now (as seen in my ratkin above) is to put the unit bases directly on the metal, and keep the trays on the side.  Then when I set up the demos, I place the appropriate units in their trays and put them in the bin.  Now these trays easily lift out together (and for big conventions I'm not really transporting them between games, so it should work a bit easier).

One unfortunate thing is that the Snapware plastic bins I've been using are apparently no longer being made.   I can no longer find them at WalMart, but they were the same price on Amazon back when I last got some in 2013.  However looking today it looks like there is a version that has green lids, and goes for even cheaper on ebay.

I was using these for other games - Mars Attacks!, Deadzone and Warpath - those will now have to go into other bins (it looks like Sterilite make make some that are close in size, and it appears that Snapware still makes slightly larger ones for christmas ornaments (that are 13"x13" - but also much deeper, or 9" x 9" as well).  


  1. I have gone to a system that is essentially the same but I use cheap baking trays so I can remove them if I want. The trays are wedged with a chunk of styro and all is good. Easy and cheap, what's not to love?

  2. This is useful! I've linked your work in my article: Working with miniatures


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