Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Convention Transport Logistics

    "Amateurs study tactics; Professionals study Logistics"; so goes a failry well known military aphorism. Now that I'm all packed and ready to depart for Historicon early Wednesday morning, I thought I'd post a bit about the preparatory work. Let me just say that it certainly makes you appreciate the challenges of staff officers, especially in the pre-industrial era!

    For the past 40 (!) years, I've used the same hard, clear plastic shoeboxes to store and transport my troops. Once commonplace items, these have been unavailable for at least the past 25 years. The clear plastic is great for display, and I use the lids as trays that hold the figures, and the lids are color coded - blue for French, white for Austrian, Green for Russian, Dark brown for Prussian, Yellow for Saxony, and so on.

Pictured above are my Austrian and Russian Napoleonic armies on the shelves in their boxes; each will hold about 90 28mm infantry, 40 cavaly or 30-40 artillery crew with guns.

These are part of my French and assorted minor state troops - about 20 boxes of each. the Prussians and a smattering of British are above; other shelves hold my Ancient Armies, Late Medieval and Renaissance armies, ECW armies, space ships, 1:1200 sailing ships, 15mm Galleys, etc!

     As a transport mechanism, though, the boxes don't lock that well, and the rigid plastic is somewhat brittle, especially after so many years. A few years ago I placed strips of anti-skid tape (like you might use on stairs) in the lids which helped somewhat with the tendency for the troops to shift around during transport. Still, with my collection now exceeding the available boxes and  more secure transport desired, I decided this was the year to make a serious investment in a new approach.

"Really Useful Boxes" is a company that makes a vast line of, well, really useful boxes!  They can sometimes be found at Staples and other retailers; on one such trip I discovered the 8.1L Really Useful Box (intended to store full size envelopes) seemed to be exactly what I was looking for; the company makes literallly dozens of other sizes, shapes and types. One such 8.1 Liter box holds 60 stands/180 figures of Infantry, OR 30 stands/60 figures of cavalry, OR 20 stands of Artillery (60+ figures), mounted the way I do them. The boxes interlock very snugly with one another, and when the handles are snapped up, they lock the lids in place. Perfect!  So, with a few samples in hand, I made some calculations:

The back of my (hatchback) car will hold one row of 4 boxes, followed by three rows of three boxes, which can be stacked at least 4 high - that means maximum practical capacity is 52 of the 8.1 L VUB's.

My French Army thus would require the following minimum numbers of boxes to transport:

912 Infantry /180 per box = 6 boxes
202 Cavalry/60 per box = 4 Boxes
110 Artillery/60 per box = 2 Boxes
51 Generals/60 per box = 1 box

Total required = 13 boxes; I will be bringing almost all of this to Historicon, plus some allied troops (Italians, Poles, Wurttemburgers, and a few other odds and ends), which certainly shouldn't occupy more than 2 boxes at most. I'll also be bringing my Russians, a bit smaller in number than my French; thus 30 VUB's should certainly be more than enough, and at that rate I wouldn't need the last row, which is good as it will leave space for some scenery and luggage, as well as possibly other troops from Joe, Greg, and possbibly Roger..

"RUB"s of this size are US $9.67 each, so 31 would come to $299.77 plus $45 shipping, so almost $350. Yikes!

    Those old hard plastic shoe boxes will hold up to 90 infantry, 32-40 Cavalry, or 30 Artillery. I can fit up to four rows of six boxes across, stacked up to five high, for a maximum of 120; form a practical standpoint, I need at least the space that would be taken by the 4th row for terrain, etc, so that reduces it a maximum of 90 boxes. Believe it or not, last year I needed to bring more than 90 boxes, but that was due to bringing almost all of my French, Austrians AND Russians, plus six Renaisssance armies and two ancient ones (much smaller).

   So, after obtaining the OK from the Empress (and promising to hold my Historicon purchasing down), I placed the order, and less than a week later three BIG boxes appeared in my driveway...

I opened them to be sure they had the correct items and the correct quantity:

Yep, them's the goods, alright!

So they sat in my garage until 10 days ago when I started the Historicon packing process in earnest. This is a picture of a rare sight - my 20 x 6 foot wargames table with NOTHING on it! It is painted blue for naval battles and for sue as the base level for all Geo-Hex tabletops, which I rarely do any more.

The 31 Really Useful Boxes were unpacked and moved downstairs, ready to be loaded up with trooops:

After packing all the French and Allies (left side) and Russians (right side), carefully organized by commands for Borodsino, this is what the table looked like:

Yiikes; looks like a disaster struck my collection - at least as far as all the empty boxes and troops to be left behind. However, here's what the box holding the Imperial Guard infantry and Artillery looks like:

Once every thing was organized (which took about 8 hours) they loaded up really easily into my car, along with the big Grapefruit boxes I use for Terrain, groundcloths, dice, accessories etc.

Maybe this winter I'll tackle adding flex steel to the bottoms of the boxes and magnets to the bottoms of the bases; we'll see how the little guys fare on the trip down without them this time, though!

BRING TO CONVENTION LIST  (I  *always*  forget  *something*!):

1) LOTS of figures, of course including mine, Joe's, Roger and Gregs (Barry will take his own).
2) Terrain - I have big boxes each of roads, rivers (w/ the bridges), trees, woods/fields), and will need to bring quite a bit of Geo-Hex as well. Also my Hovels Russian buildings, and some earthworks  for the Fleches. Fortunately, I offloaded the boxes of Geo-Hex to Barry's car Tuesday AM;l helps thta !
3) Scenarios - 1st Polotsk, Borodino, Maloyaroslavets
4) Field of Battle 2nd edition Rules, Sequence Decks and Summary Sheets
5) Rules, Tape Measures and Pens - I have one Box of just these.
6) Multiple sets of polyhedral dice - one box just for these
7) Markers for hits, Out of Command, Silenced, "smoke" - have 2 boxes for these
8) Morale Point markers - a box just for these, too.
9) Digital Camera... and extra batteries!
10) Emergency Fix it kit - various glues, scissors, index cards.
11) GPS for car
12) EZ-Pass for car - makes tolls much less painful on the long drive from CT
13) Suitcase with clothes, etc
14) Booze to be determined later...

Now it's time to relax poolside with nice cold Rum Punch before the long trip to Fredericksburg tomorrow... Hmm, looks like Rory (youngest of our four dogs) beat me to the prime spot, though!


  1. One thing that works really well in those boxes for keeping the stands from sliding around is the rubbery shelf liner like you find at Walmart:

    We use them to line the bottom of bins for delivery to customers at a show and for our own figures.

    1. Great idea; if I don't have to do the magnet thing that would be wonderful! I will definitely give that a try!



  2. not sure if I like the second last or last picture more!
    Have fun, I wish I could be there to see the game.

    1. Thanks; I guess pics will have to do!

  3. Since we usually mount things on metal and use magnetic movement trays from it make set up a snap. Simply set the magnet sheet/ movement tray in the box on the liner. It rarely moves unless the box gets jarred pretty hard or titled at a pretty hard angle. When you are setting up just grab the tray with the figs on it and you unit is already in formation. It saves a TON of time for set-up!

    Have fun at the show. Wish we could make it but there's just too much painting to be done on the schedule at the current time!

    -Evil Bob

  4. Pete, I am very impressed by the size of your collection and organisation!

    1. THanks, Paul. Some of the figures we'll be using were painted in the 1970's, so I have had lots of time to accumulate my toys. When motiivated, I can paint up to 500-600 28mm figures per year... of course, some years it is much less than that!

  5. Wow!!! Can't wait to play!

    1. Good to see you at registration last night; today it's off to the show, and let the games begin!