Sunday, January 20, 2008

REVIEW: Intersponge Hercules Sponge Transport 1.1

The transport consists of a nylon bag (including book pocket and shoulder strap) with four M-02 sponge pallets (2" deep, 25cm by 25cm cells) and one M-03 sponge pallet (3" deep, 25cm by 25cm cells). I came across this army transporter on the Internet as I cast about in desperation for an alternative to the Games Workshop version.

At the time I had been putting together an Imperial Guard army and I put a lot of work into the army, converting a lot of models and painting them to tournament standard, but all that effort was being ruined as I carried them from game to game. I had some infantry in the case, extra infantry in cardboard boxes and the tanks in a variety of tins, tubs and bubble wrap. My models were slowly being destroyed and I was getting a hernia trying to carry 3 bags of assorted containers.

What I really needed was a single bag to contain my entire army. So I ordered the Hercules from Intersponge.

Intersponge is based in Singapore, so I bought it via PayPal and it was posted out to my home. Despite being very close to Christmas it arrived within four days. So far so good.

My first impressions were good. The bag looked sleek and aesthetically pleasing. There was a carrying handle on the top and a shoulder strap (which attaches at the bottom of the case and passes through loops at the top) looks sturdy. One of the first things I noticed was the ID pocket on the top.

There is a small card in the pocket that you can write your name and address on; handy if you’re at a tournament and other people may have the same type of transport.

There is a zip pocket on the back. I slipped a codex in there but the pocket was too small to take it.

Fortunately there is a larger pocket at the front, underneath the flap, which will accommodate my rulebook and codex. There is also a dice bag, which attaches to the pocket with Velcro.

The dice pouch itself has an extra internal and external pocket. Externally the bag looked good, with plenty of features, but the most important part was inside, where the army would be carried.

The zips for the bag extend over the top of the case and diagonally down each side. It opens like a clam shell, revealing the foam pallets inside. The good thing about this is that the models are kept upright at all times, and you can access the individual pallets from the side without having to dig down from the top. Excellent!

The top pallet has an extra layer of foam which functions as a lid. The lower pallets effectively use the pallet above as their lid.

Each pallet consists of a layer of foam glued to a more rigid foam base. This actually gives the bag some rigidity as they are distributed among the five pallets at regular intervals. The foam is pre-cut; in my case I had ordered four M-02 sponge pallets (2" deep, 25cm by 25cm cells) and one M-03 sponge pallet (3" deep, 25cm by 25cm cells). The picture above is an M-02 pallet with ten sponge inserts removed from their cells.

The real test would be to fit my army in there.

The main reason I went for the Hercules was to transport my Imperial Guard army. It must be one of the toughest Warhammer 40,000 armies to carry as it has numerous infantry and many vehicles, so if the Hercules could carry them it could carry anything.

Before I even touched a model, the rulebook, codex army list and sundry other items went in the front pocket. There was plenty of space in there, and I could have put even more in the pocket if I had needed to. The downside to this is that it makes the bag heavier at one end, potentially unbalancing it. Another niggly thing I noticed was that it can look odd as the flap bulges over the full dice pouch. In the end I removed the dice pouch from its Velcro and put it inside the front pocket. This kept the bag looking slim and sleek.

The next easiest thing was to pull out the sponge inserts and place the infantry models in the cells. I could get 40 models into a single layer, meaning the bag could potentially hold 200 models. The good thing about these pallets is that the model is held vertically at all times, meaning less rattling around during transportation. They are also 2" deep, which meant none of my models had vertically protruding parts to be potentially snapped off. I thought I might have a problem with some of my Guardsmen armed with bayonets. Their weapons stuck out horizontally by quite a distance and the cells looked awfully narrow. In the end I had no difficulty squeezing them in by putting the weapon diagonally from corner to corner in the cell. I didn't have to trim a single piece of foam.

The vehicles were a different matter. The first I tried was the Leman Russ. I placed it on the 3" tray and removed the foam inserts from the cells underneath. Then, with a sharp knife, I cut away the foam walls between the cells.

I also trimmed a larger cell to the side of the Russ for its turret battle cannon. I got the Basilisk body into the same tray. A final addition was my company standard bearer who was too tall to fit in a 2" tray. He slotted into a single cell. I left the sponge inserts in the spare cells to help keep things rigid.

With a little bit of Krypton Factor type jiggery pokery I managed to fit three Sentinels, a Chimera and the Basilisk Earthshaker gun into a 2" tray. Some parts of the models protruded slightly so I put this tray on the top of the case with the sponge lid over it (which had a bit more give than the undersides of the other pallets). I would certainly recommend having a good test of your model configurations before you make any cuts. I didn't and I'm sure I could have packed my vehicles away more efficiently.

So that was it. I had managed to fit a 1000 point Guard army with all of its additional gaming paraphernalia into the Hercules with room to spare. I had used two pallets for vehicles and only one and a half for infantry, which meant I had one and a half pallets left over.

I had so much spare capacity I decided to fill the spaces with the rest of my army. In went my Stormtroopers, Heavy Weapons squads and Conscripts. Cool.

I tested the Hercules out on a trip to my local Gaming store. I was going straight to the store from work so I took the transport in with me. Usually if I have my Games Workshop case it looks so distinctive people will ask what I'm carrying. That usually leads to a lengthy description of the wargaming hobby, an examination of my models and lots of geeky jokes at my expense. Don't get me wrong, I'm an easy going guy and can have a laugh, but sometimes I don't want the hassle. No-one even took a second look at the Hercules. It looks pretty much like a regular satchel and that is a good thing in my opinion.

All of my models made it to the store intact. Getting at them was easy due to the clam shell opening and I didn't have to fumble around with bubble wrap and separate boxes for vehicles. The army went back into the transport so smoothly I actually had time for a second game. All in all a very successful trial.

The Hercules transport is a very good looking, practical army transporter. Despite being nylon the bag feels sturdy and rigid, and the models are very well protected in their foam cells. It holds a lot of models for its small size. Minor gripes include the rear pocket (it's not large or deep enough to put anything substantial into it) and the dice pouch (it produces an unsightly bulge). But they really are minor problems, and this case is light year ahead of the Games Workshop version. Highly recommended.

Score 9/10

All of my reviews end in a score out of ten for the product. The table below explains what that score means.

  • 10/10 Perfect, absolutely nothing better
  • 9/10 Excellent, highly recommended
  • 8/10 Very good, recommended
  • 7/10 Good
  • 6/10 Above average, some problems
  • 5/10 Average, some good points some bad points
  • 4/10 Below average, some redeeming features
  • 3/10 Poor, major flaws
  • 2/10 Very poor, avoid if possible
  • 1/10 Absolutely appalling

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