We’re back with another review, this time from gaming case manufacturer Pirate Lab and their unique take on protecting your wargaming minis. Specifically, we’ll be taking a look at the Extra Large miniature case and foam loadout. Based out of Evanston, IL, the company offers storage solutions for both miniature wargamers and collectible card gamers. The company offers cases for models and cards, along with card binders, dice bags, and play mats for card games.
The Pirate Labs case is aimed at players of skirmish level games such as Infinity, Warmachine, Guild Ball, and others with a small model count. Players of smaller miniature scale army games, such as Dropzone Commander, should also find the Pirate Labs bags useful. Players of larger scale games like Warhammer 40,000, however, will most likely need to look elsewhere as the bags are a bit too small to hold almost any tournament-sized army unless you use an army with an incredibly small model count. For skirmish game players, the bag will provide plenty of space for transporting their army in one piece.
The Pirate Labs bag comes with two side pouches sewn into the bag itself, providing additional storage for dice, tape measures, dry erase markers, and the various accessories needed by wargamers. The rear of the case comes with a large pouch integrated into the bag to provide additional storage space for tablets, rule books, and any large items that may be needed.
And here is where I run into my first issue with the bag. There is little real customization available, aside from choosing color. The bag you see is the bag you get. If you need any additional storage capacity, you’ll be looking at bringing a second bag of some sort. In comparison, the Battlefoam P.A.C.K. system offers a great deal of customization in both storage options and layout. The P.A.C.K. system allows users to place their storage options wherever they want or need, whereas Pirate Labs has made that determination for you. This was a sticking point for me, though others may not be as bothered by it.
The foam trays themselves come in a variety of sizes and options, including standard infantry miniature trays and pluck foam. The infantry trays have enough space to allow enough space for models with more dynamic poses and will fit models placed either horizontally or vertically, depending on personal preference. As with any miniature foam, you will still run into issues with miniatures featuring lots of spikes or sharp edges. If part of a model can get snagged, it will snag. If you play or collect Dark Eldar, for example, you will understand exactly what I’m referring to, gingerly and carefully removing Raiders and Ravagers from their foam trays with enough determination and concentration to win the world Operation championship. The foam also acts as a ridiculously strong magnet for animal dander, so be aware of this if you have a cat, German Shepard, or any pet that sheds to any degree.
What makes Pirate Lab stand out is their Snip Foam system. In an effort to improve the standard pluck foam system, the company has developed a new system for storing and protecting your larger and more delicate pieces. Snip Foam, at its core, is a foam tray with square sections removed, allowing users to roughly trace out the shape of their models and remove enough foam to create a customized space to store that specific miniature. To test this system out, I picked two large and uniquely shaped models from my collection: a PanOceania Seraph TAG from Infinity and a Lord-Celestant on Dracoth from Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.
As you can see, the Snip Foam does a good job of holding the miniature in the space I cut out for them. The minis have little room to wiggle around and did a good job of keeping everything safe during my “put the minis in the case and shake it around a lot” testing. Depending on what game and faction you play, the Snip Foam may work for your more unique minis.
The system does have some downsides, however. The biggest problem I had with the Snip Foam tray is the overall size. To be more specific, the size of my hands compared to the foam. I have fairly large hands and trying to accurately carve out a niche to fit these two test models was quite difficult. The fact that I was also using a sharp razor to laboriously cut out snippets of foam complicated the entire process.
The other disadvantage to Snip Foam is one common to any customized foam: it will only fit that specific model perfectly. Smaller models overall will also fit into the same space obviously, but it does limit your options. If you only play one faction in one game and don’t plan on switching anytime soon, this isn’t an issue. If you’re like me and play more than one game or more than one army for one game, the more customized option isn’t a worthwhile investment.
If you’re like me, you are not made of money and are interested in getting the best bang for your wargaming buck. And reading this article, you’re wondering if Pirate Lab is a good deal. The short answer is “it depends." On the surface, the Pirate Lab option will be a bit more expensive. The Extra Large bag with a custom foam load out (the price doesn’t change based on which trays are chosen) will cost $149.99 USD, whereas the P.A.C.K. 432 with standard load out will run $124.99. The Pirate Lab bag with no foam runs $119.99 USD, while the empty P.A.C.K. 432 is only $77.99. Purchasing the foam separately also ends up being in Battlefoam’s favor, with the Pirate Lab loadout I reviewed running $54.95 USD while the Battlefoam alternative runs $48.96 USD.
The biggest savings you’re going to see is with the customized foam options. A Snip Foam tray will run anywhere from $4.99 USD for the half sized 2” depth foam to $14.99 USD for the full sized 4” foam. The customized Battlefoam trays will vary widely in price depending on which models it will be used for. But this savings will only be monetary, as you will need to take the time to carve out space for your larger models and hope you don’t mess up. If you have the time to do so, then by all means have at it. I, unfortunately, do not. I work full time and have two kids, which means my hobby time tends to be rather limited. I would personally spend my time building and painting my models rather than cutting through Snip Foam to cut out a space for a specific miniature. Standard pluck foam fits my gaming needs and restrictions much better. I trade model storage stability for time and effort this way, but it's a trade I'm willing to make.
Overall, what your purchasing decision is going to come down to is trade-offs. With Pirate Lab, you're trading customization for speed and convienence in comparison to other options on the market. If you need a bag that'll be ready to go with minimal fuss, this is your best option. Regarding larger models, the trade-off is price and time. Snip Foam is much cheaper than foam trays customized by the manufacturer, but will also require more of a time investment to start using. If this isn't an issue for you, then I wouldn't hesitate recommending the Pirate Lab case. If you're more of a stickler for certain options, however, this may not be the miniature case for you.
The Extra Large bag and foam trays are available directly from Pirate Lab.
All review materials featured in this article were provided by Pirate Lab.
- Durable construction
- Quality foam
- Customizable trays
- High price
- Lack of bag options
- Additional work needed for Snip Foam