About Me

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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review of Outrider Hobbies Battletech carry bag

Early this Spring, I caught wind of a transport carry case being designed specifically for Battletech miniatures, and since I love Battletech and I love carry cases, well, it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.  After reviewing the options put up by Outrider Hobbies on their website, I placed an order for the Overlord in US Army ACU colors. The bill came to $175 with shipping and the order was placed on April 3, 2012.

As the months passed on, the initial deadline that the bag was promised by slipped away, and it seemed that the further past that we got, the more heat Outrider was getting from Catalyst Games to get this "official" product delivered. Finally, my bag arrived the final week of September.  I wanted to provide a comprehensive review of the bag, and so documented my initial run at filling it with my stuff.

Let me preface this review by explaining my current Battletech situation. My good friend, the Headless Horseman, has an amazing Battletech website over at The Irish Dragoons, and over the last year he has donated many mechs to my cause. As I counted them today, 116 of these beasties were available for me to fill my new bag. The unique part of this is, many of the pieces were either damaged in shipping, or were sent to me in pieces, so keep this in mind as I display the forces about to march into storage...

The bags are gorgeous. The material used on them appears as solid as anything Ive seen. The black square on the front is a velcro attachment for House-specific patches that are currently backordered. Mine will be, of course, House Davion.

The bag has a number of deep pockets around it. This is a 3" foam tray stuck in the side...and that's pretty impressive.

Please, sir, can I have some more?  Why don't more manufacturers do this? The bag unzips completely, allowing amazing access from top OR side. The only bag Ive ever found to do this as nicely is my long-out-of-print bag from Steve Sack Designs, which was cleverly designed to use Army Transport foam. I have the bag but long for more.

Here is the selection of foam that the bag came with. You can see on hexagon sticking up out of the tray in the back - these are all laser cut, I believe, and slide right out. No sticking, no mess, and so fast.  However, as I pulled the foam out, I admit that I was a little curious and puzzled by the configurations I was seeing. This bag claims to be custom designed for Battletech, but if you look on the site, most of the foam trays included are not from the Battletech section.

Details on the Overlord Bag

This very grainy picture is showing some of the puzzling trays included. A Hatchetman is standing in the shallow 1" hex tray (a 1" Hexes 2 tray that is actually only 7/8" deep). A quick note on foam measuring - for those of you not familiar with trays such as Sabol's Army Transport foam, the depth of a tray is from the bottom of the cell to the top of it. In the picture above, you might be able to see a denser liner on the bottom of the tray. This is not measured in the calculations, so a 2" tray will be more like 2 1/8" in actuality because of this bottom supporting structure.

The other two trays are their Artillery 12-slot and 21 Large trays. I'll show you how I used them in a bit.

And the troops go marching in. This is my collection of 116 Mechs in various states of disrepair, but this will be fixed soon.

As I started planning what to put where, I realized that the highest Mech I had was 2.75" tall, including his base and a tiny antenna that was just an accessory add-on. The average mechs are 2" high or less, with the majority of those being 1.75". The fact that I received 2x 2.5" trays and 2x 3" trays was starting to show what a waste I was going to experience as I filled them.

In Outrider Hobbies' defense, they took the Combined Arms nature into mind as they created their 1" hex trays (which, as I mentioned above, are actually closer to 7/8" high). This isn't a really bad thing, but since I don't have any infantry or vehicles, these trays are next to worthless for me. Because of my unique situation with parts of mechs, I was able to use a few of the 1" hexes, but really, this is wasted space. I couldnt even get some of the smaller mechs to lie down in them.

So I started filling trays. I had a good thing going, taking my "whole" mechs and getting them into the deep hexed trays first, but as I got father along, and less and less whole mechs to use, I had to get creative with what went where.

This pic, above, is the 21 Large tray. It actually should be pretty darn useful, except that why wouldnt I want to use regular pluck foam instead of this? Battlemechs, specifically, tend to have a large base and then get narrower up top. This unique configuration means that there is a lot of wasted space here, and if I actually want to use these trays as is, I will need to get the remnants of pluck foam trays from the past and help tighten up some of these spaces.

This is the 2.5" Hexes 2 tray and as you can see, there is a lot of wasted space above the mechs. Yes, this is a useful size to have, but I'd only ever need 1 of this height, I think.

This is the 3" of the same tray, the Hexes 2. Again, a useful size but only really ever for 1 tray needed, and there is, again, much wasted space above the mechs in most cases. Still, a manufacturer has to account for an awful lot when making premade trays, so this isnt a bad thing. I just really, REALLY wish he hadn't gone overboard on the next two :(

 This is the 3" deep "Hexes 1" 2" hex tray. Again, the height is bigger than normally needed, but since I have two of these and not just one, this is basically 3" of totally wasted space in my carry case. Yes, some of the mechs I have a broad shouldered (the lower right is a Stone Rhino/Behemoth, and there is a Marauder II in there) but mostly I used this because I ran out of space in the other, smaller 1.5"-wide Hexes 2 trays.  I mentioned that I got two of these. You'll see the other in a second.

This is the 12-slot Artillery tray, mentioned above. Let me stress this: I will never, NEVER use this tray as-is. I put 2 mechs per in most cases, with a few wildly articulated models being the exception, but I would need to put foam in between each mech for me to want to walk around with this bag on my shoulder and these mechs inside. You think I have broken mechs now? Man...these would get smashed. Maybe someone, somewhere, has terrain or something that might fit in these, but since this is "customized for Battletech", I can't see how.

Again, some smashed mechs hanging out in the 1" tray until they get assembled.

These are my unused trays as of right now. The top, thinner tray is actually kind of neat. It is designed for the hardboard terrain packs that Catalyst Games makes, and I think to include this is kind of cool. I do own the Introductory Boxed Set and may make use of this, but more likely I'll pack them inside one of the side pouches. Thus, the tray sits unused.

The two smaller trays, to the left, are actually a followup on the last paragraph. If you want to pack in the maps that come with the new Boxed Set, you can put them in the bag and then fill up the other space with thee half-sized trays. Problem here? Yea, they're more of the 1" foam. Maybe this wouldnt be bad if you had SOME infantry...and would let you replace the full-sized 1" tray? I dont know.

The last one there is, of course, another Hexes 1 tray. I dont need that many massive slots that my mechs will rattle around in!  However, this was funny...after I packed everything up, I realized that unused Hexes 1 tray was 2.5" tall, and I had used the 3" instead and just complained of the wasted space. Oh well. Either way, its a giant tray that I will probably never use.

So let's look at some pros and cons of the bag:

The bag is beautiful and looks ruggedly put together.
The pockets are deep and substantial.
The foam is high quality and the laser cutting is precise.
The case unzips on top AND down the back.

At $175, which supposedly included a Pre-order discount, this is one expensive package. Im not sure which bag this should be compared to over at Sabol Designs, but I think the Armored Company is close. That bag is sold empty, so the pricing would probably be comparable. However, you might actually get a choice in the foam you get with the Sabol case, but then you'd be stuck with those horrible soft sides and lack of opening options.

The case comes with some pretty silly choices for foam. Since this is for Battletech, I would have stuffed it FULL of 2" high Hexes 2 trays, given you maybe 1x of the 2.5" Hexes 1, 1x 2.5" Hexes 2 and MAYBE 1x 3" Hexes 2. The other trays? Make an option for the customer to request vehicle- or infantry-based trays. Now I have about 7" of trays I cannot use.

The manufacturer is new, and I'm not sure how his product flow will be. If you order, be prepared for delays. This is conjecture based on emails I receive from him as he sends people's products out months late. He may get better as time goes along.


So...would I buy this again? Hard to say. I think it is a qualified yes. The quality and beauty is there, for sure, but the tray selection is really disappointing and will now make me spend well over the $200 mark to get the other trays I want/need, plus shipping.  Will I make this fix? No, not right away. Times are tough, we're entering into the Holiday season, and while I splurged a bit to get a fun toy, this toy has cost me more than enough as it is. I will hold off for a bit, hope the manufacturer is still around when my belt loosens up a bit, and maybe make some changes at the point.

I hope this review was thorough enough and helped. I don't want to be totally down on what I perceive as a really good product, but I wanted people to know what they were going to get before they order theirs. Sure, his info is listed on the site, so buyer beware, I do better with things in my hands (that's what she said!) and now I know.  Thanks for reading.

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