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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bolt Action - Review: Warlord Games M2 Bag by Battlefoam

Warlord Games and Battlefoam have teamed up to bring all you BARbarians out there another option for transporting your forces. The M2 Bag! I've had this bag for a while now, so I apologize for the delay in getting the review out to all you interested parties, but things have been hoppin' lately!

Queue dramatic, box-opening music!

As anyone that's purchased a Battlefoam bag before knows, the bag itself is quite sturdy, vastly superior to the other manufacturer's bags that I've owned in the past - although that group is anything but comprehensive. Without any foam inserts inside (something you'd never really do if you were using it for its intended purpose) it stands up some weight on top of it.

A kevlar exterior houses plastic walls inside. If you're looking for something more from a bag's exterior, might I suggest a gun safe?

I didn't weigh the thing, but I know it weighs less than a gun safe. A lot less. It's rough and tough - what you'd expect for around $180 to $190 dollars.

As you can see from this shot, the bag's front has a couple storage pouches. Mandatory for a gamer and the tools of his or her trade!

I didn't mention this before, but the handle on top is outstanding. This probably sounds strange, but my hands are on the large side. While it might be fine to have any old handle on your carrying case if you're going from the parking lot to the game shop, it's another matter altogether if you're really travelling with this thing. Your shop's inside a mall? You're wandering around a convention? The handle matters. Especially on a bag this size.

At 18"x14"x14" (46cm x 36cm x 36cm) I'd imagine you'd really be cutting it close when it comes to taking this thing carry-on. US Air's carry-on dimensions and Delta's both say this thing's too big, rules as written, to be carried-on. Boo! But, if you're an American gamer (or an American gamer at heart) you're duty bound to try and stretch those rules!

With some of the giant suitcases I've seen jerks lugging on aircraft in order to dodge a thirty buck fee, struggling and wrestling to cram it into the overhead, I don't doubt you could bring it aboard. Given the way all the Bolt Actioners I've met have been, I'm probably preaching to the choir, but here's a tip: Treat the airline staff with respect and courtesy and they might let you bring it on. Maybe you'll get two bags of nuts. Maybe you'll get a free G&T!

G&Ts aside, this was a big knock on the M2 for me, personally. I don't think "guys that fly around with their minis" is the demographic they should be most worried about, but they were so damn close to meeting the clearly published carry-on restrictions! Shave an inch or two, here or there! I'll suffer without the ability to carry that extra tank, gun, and half-dozen infantry! Just don't make me have to check this thing in!

All that said, this isn't a big complaint. How many of us is it going to bother? In fairness, here's what the Battlefoam site has to say about the airport issue:

" This bag was designed for airport travel and meets all FAA regulations for carryon luggage. Note: Please check your airlines carryon guidelines before travel."

If anyone flying out of DC on July 21st notice a panic-stricken passenger, face smashed to the window, trying as hard as he can to watch the crew load the bags onto the aircraft, you'll know what it means. Bad flier? Nope. Guy had to check his M2.

A little propoganda embroidery on the opposite side. I don't mind that. It's great quality stitch work, at least!

Both sides sport a pocket with enough room for...

...two rulebooks, comfortably! A third could probably fit, if you wanted to force it in. These side pouches seem designed with the unique dimensions of the Osprey rulebooks in mind. Very cool! This was the first thing I checked, before even opening the thing. It was one of my main (but very minor) complaints about Battlefoam's Flames of War bags. There wasn't a lot of book storage real estate available, without forcing things. It's great to see that's not an issue here.

The pockets up front are smaller than the side, which is fine. Enough room for all the random, extra gear you need to tote along. Behind it, a pouch big enough for the MRB, or a few Army Books, plus extra to spare.

Here's the foam storage from the inside. I'd heard rumblings when it first came out about this or that being lacking as far as the default foam trays come. Rumblings that there wasn't enough room for some thing or another. If you need to bring more than ninety-six infantry, or twenty weapon teams, or fourteen trucks, or sixteen smaller transports, or ten tanks; you're just trying to be cute.

The trays are what you've come to expect from Battlefoam. They're strong, sturdy, and compared to anything I've dealt with in the past, I have complete confidence in not only their ability to protect the minis within, but that I can take a tray out of the bag without it bending at the middle and spilling on the floor.

Now, there are some decent complaints to be made. For starters, if your infantry isn't modelled compactly, you'll have some problems getting them in and out if you try and lay them on their sides. I have some quite spindly Warlord Games Germans and Brits that would never fit safely sideways. Luckily, they can stand up inside the slots instead quite well, just be warned that they might bounce around a bit inside their slots, depending on how you've based them. And to be fair, designing infantry slots for a game with no basing rules must be quite a challenge.

Second, at 28mm, you've got a wide variety of tank sizes to deal with. I suppose the deep, pluck tray for tanks is the best answer, and I can't think of anything that would work better and still be feasible from a business standpoint, but it still isn't perfect. One StuGIII, without the barrel, fits in one of those tank slots you see, as is. So if you want it to fit, you've got to spread the pluck-away pieces. Afterwards, it's kind of nice, as there's not a single part of the tank that's going to rattle around, but the overall generalized feel of that tank tray doesn't make you feel like you're handling the best of the best here. Like I said, though, there are some huge differences between a Stuart and a Tiger II in 28mm, so I can't imagine a better option for your tank tray.

To round out the review, here's some more propaganda that comes with it, in the form of hook and pile patches for the top of the M2. Obviously, I went with that sweet, sweet, Bolt Action patch. The shoulder sling that comes with it is also very nice, and leaves nothing to be desired. I suppose both the handle and shoulder sling could be leather, but I prefer the durability and utility of the materials they chose to use over some briefcase style junk. Especially since my poor case is probably going to get tossed around in some aircraft's belly.

So, to sum it up, I'd suggest this case without reservation to almost anyone. It's on the pricey side, but you're getting what you've paid for. If you're buying this case, though, with the idea that it'll make for something you can carry-on aircraft, think twice. Sure, you might be able to sneak it on; but will it fit overhead? Under the seat? Definitely not on every aircraft. Do not buy it if you'd absolutely refuse to have it tossed by a baggage handler into the stowage with Dano's fifty pound bag of dirty laundry.

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