Crystal Fortress Hobby Display/Transport Case Review

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Crystal Fortress Review - Featured

The Crystal Fortress modular display case offers hobbyists an alternative to traditional carry cases for miniatures, with a patented system of interlocking transparent acrylic panels that form boxes of various shapes and sizes.

But how does it stack up?

I’ll see myself out.

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Crystal Fortress Products Review – Summary

At a first glance, the prices of Crystal Fortress products may put off many hobbyists and collectors who are in need of a safe and secure space to store their hordes of figures. However, with Crystal Fortress, you are paying for a premium – nay, a luxury – product that is, without a doubt, worth every penny of the money you spend, and will ensure your priceless collections of miniatures remain safe and secure for years to come.

Crystal Fortress Products Review – Introduction

Parts of of an early draft of this review were written by former FauxHammer.com writer Oberael – Ben, to give his human name. Ben has since left the site, but you can keep up with his awesome work over on his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. We miss you, Ben!

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How to both store and transport your miniatures is something of a contentious subject within the hobby community.

When you first get into the hobby, it’s easy enough for you to store the one or two painted units you have on a shelf, or perhaps on a computer desk. They’re inoffensive, they don’t take up much room, and they’re awesome to look at throughout the day. They make you proud: they’re something you accomplished, and you should be able to show them off.

But then your collection grows. Before you know it, like a spreading parasite, what was previously just a unit or two of figures on your desk or a shelf have begun to spread onto other desks and other shelves. Soon, you’re running out of room there, as well, so much to your dismay, you start putting them in drawers and cupboards where they might never be seen again. You try to shut out the infection, try and pretend it isn’t there, but it doesn’t work.

You buy more shelves and more cabinets, but it’s never enough. You need more vertical storage space but space is at a premium. Your figures get knocked off shelves, that Arkhan the Black you worked on for ages shatters as it hits the floor. You almost leave your significant other as a result.

Then comes the near-inevitable trip to Ikea. You leave with a Kallax. The infection has been halted. For now.

Most people struggle to store their collections because of a lack of vertical space. If, like me, you live in a rented house as well, you can’t just put up a shelf without your landlord claiming you’ve wrecked the structural integrity of their property and will, as a result, require all of your deposit to fix it.

Crystal Fortress aims to fix this.

The basic philosophy of the Crystal Fortress modular display system is to provide a product that enables a hobbyist to both store their miniatures in a way that allows them to also be displayed, and simultaneously offer a safe and secure way for transporting your figures from place to place – be it your local hobby hangout or a mate’s house.

The system is entirely modular, which means each individual component can be stacked on top of each other component in whatever way the assembler desires. In turn, this means it can be added to as far as your upward space (and the laws of gravity) will allow.

This one also starts with an apology to the Crystal Fortress team, who have been waiting very patiently for us to take a look at the huge selection of products they sent us. I am so sorry it’s taken us so long to get round to looking at them – but there is a very good reason for this. As you’ll discover later on, this particular set of Crystal Fortress products has become extremely well travelled.

Crystal Fortress Products Review – Products Overview

For the purpose of this review, we were sent:

We also received a pair of Crystal Fortress-branded polishing gloves (which barely fit my massive hands) and a polishing cloth which I couldn’t find listed on their store page, along with a small bottle of plastic polish.

The Cases and Layout Layers

In this section, we’ll have a look at:

The cases are individually held together buy the locking balls that we’ll cover in more detail in a little while. You can see them around the edges of the cases in the photographs below.

The cases are designed to be securely stacked on top of each other using these wide crenellated “teeth” that run around the top of each box. Because each case’s top and bottom has this slotting design, there’s no rule determining which order you stack your cases in.

Crystal Fortress Review Humpback Case with AoS Layout Layers
The 4″ Humpback Case with AOS E120.1 40.3 Layout Layer and Sigmar E120.1 32.5 Layout Layer. You can make out damage to the case in the left-most corner.

The Layout Layers are slotted into the bottom of the cases and line up with small holes around the case walls into which you’d place your locking balls. This attaches the layout layer to the bottom of the case and holds it in place so it doesn’t wobble around.

Crystal Fortress do dozens of different layout layers with all different kinds of base-size combinations. Buyers aer not limited to those displayed here in this review.

The Magnets

In this part, we’ll cover:

The magnets are designed to work in tandem with the rest of the case.

Crystal Fortress Review Magnetic Sheet

Each iron sheet is cut to the exact size of the bottom of a standard case and can be slotted in between the bottom of the case.

Crystal Fortress Review Magnets

With the selection of magnets on sale from Crystal Fortress, all you need to do is select the appropriate-sized magnet for the bases of your figures. They will then attach to the iron sheet in the bottom of the case and be held in place.

The Rest

Finally, we have the other extras:

The Pod Pack Organiser Set comes totally unassembled and is designed to be built as it suits you. You can see what we did with it here:

Crystal Fortress Review Pod Pack Organiser Set

The organiser set is designed to be used to hold any extra bits that you may want to move or display alongside your army. These little holders are just the right size for tokens and dice.

Crystal Fortress Review Strap

Crystal Fortress can also supply a Transport Strap for any case. This is an adjustable clip-locking strap designed to go around your case configuration from top to bottom and thus hold the modular aspects of the case together and stop them from each other during transit.

Crystal Fortress Review Balls and Non-Slip

Finally, we have the Locking Balls and Anti-Skid Pads. These little balls are the components around which the entire modular system is built. The little silicone spheres are slotted into key contact points around the cases to ensure that they do not slip or move around, taking the place of any nails or screws and replacing them with a soft, non-marking alternative. Inserting and removing the locking balls from the case configuration will not scratch or otherwise damage the clear acrylic, as they are designed not to leave a mark on the cases.

Last but not least, the Anti-Skin Pads are designed to be inserted between the layers of any Crystal Fortress setup. They are designed to provide a small, cushioned layer between stacked cases and covers and thus prevent the acrylic of the cases moving about and squeaking against each other.

Crystal Fortress Products Review – Testing

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We ended up testing the Crystal Fortress products we were sent almost by accident.

See, BossHammer received the to-be-reviewed Crystal Fortress bundle a while back, and signed Ben up to review these. Unfortunately, Ben didn’t get a chance to look at these in any great detail before leaving the FauxHammer.com team, so when he left, he sent them to me.

This means that in the course of its lifetime this particular pile of Crystal Fortress products has travelled from the US to Nottingham, from Nottingham to Scotland, and, after being built, back from Scotland to Norwich.

That’s about 6,000 miles.

For part of that journey, the Crystal Fortress stuff was also in the custody of at least one Hermes delivery driver.

Perhaps it’s to be expected, then, that by the time the Crystal Fortress bundle arrived with me, it was looking a little worse for wear: some of the plastic walls are sporting cracks, and quite a few of the attachment tabs that help guide the modular system into place have been snapped off.

However, and this is a big however, absolutely everything is still holding together.

It was stressed to both Ben and FauxHammer to watch the Instructional videos before beginning assembly.

But, after a conversation with Ben, I was shocked to learn that the majority of the damage to the product had not occurred in transit. It had, in fact, taken place whilst he was trying to put the storage cases together…

Assembly

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will probably at some point have assembled flat-pack furniture. If you have been living under a rock, it would make complete sense if you had never assembled flat-pack furniture.

The point is that Crystal Fortress kits arrive unassembled, flat-packed, ok? Familiar to us all.

My next existential crisis came when I opened the box I was sent.

Each kit comes with assembly instructions consisting of a single sheet.

Whilst this single sheet provides a basic explanation of the assembly and function of the system for many people, it would have been nice if a bit more explanation was given. A booklet introducing the Crystal Fortress system and how the different cases and components interact with one another would have been helpful.

As far assembly itself, I found that it swung from light catharsis to extreme frustration.

The silicone ball slotting into socketed tabs to lock the panels of the cases together is a stroke of genius. This allows the cases to be used in a fully modular fashion, allowing users to freely replace scratched or broken panels.

Which is just as well!

The acrylic the system is comprised of is incredibly brittle. Yes, the instructions do warn that breakages will occur with the use of excessive force or uneven pressure when assembling, but they have very little resilience to begin with. I managed to break two panels during assembly. One of which was a write-off.

The fragility of the acrylic means that the system is quite unforgiving of mistakes. I was too apprehensive about taking anything apart once I had pushed it together to try out different builds, which – to my mind at least – makes the replaceable interlocking panel system somewhat redundant.

Magnets and metal sheets are available on the Crystal Fortress store for those who may wish to magnetize their miniatures to the cases, but I opted not to use them. I’m not a massive fan of magnetizing bases on miniatures. It gets quite annoying when they start snapping together when you’re trying to move them around the tabletop.

Army Storage

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Let’s get the first question out of the way: yes, the Humpback Case can comfortably store a large army.

54 infantry models on 32mm bases, 11 on 40mm bases, 1 war machine on a 60mm bases and 2 Monsters on 120mm oval bases all got into the Humpback without feeling too crowded. Nice.

The Layout Layers are very well made. The bases of the miniatures sit neatly into the recesses without having to be helped and there is no perceptible movement once they have been placed. However, I did encounter some problems quite quickly.

I love the Age of Sigmar model range. I especially love my Fyreslayers. As a Dwarf/Duardin player since Warhammer Fantasy Battles, what I find especially great about my Fyreslayers is the sense of explosive movement and dynamism that they have.

“Shut up and get on with the case review!” I hear you cry.

What I’m driving at is that models that convey a sense of momentum very rarely are confined entirely to their footprint. Weapons and limbs can be outstretched beyond the lip of the bases, staves and banners can be raised high in the air. The design of this particular Crystal Fortress case configuration doesn’t really seem to take this into account much.

In order to fit my Hearthguard Berzerkers onto the layout layers properly, I had to arrange them so that their poleaxes weren’t overlapping other recesses. This meant that they were facing all different directions which is less than ideal for a display case. The tails of my Magmadroths overlapped the recesses at the end of their layout trays which meant that I had to leave at least 1 empty.

I also had to do quite a bit of swapping around to fit my Stormcast Eternals in. They’re pretty big dudes within their scale, so weapons and swords were very often sitting up above the top of the cases. I was unable to keep all of my Evocators together, which again went against the grain since the intent of the product is to allow me to display my models.

Though you can pre-plan for this and buy something more suitable to your particular set-up

The use of the layout layers is entirely optional. Ultimately, the placement of models within their cases is up to the user, with options for metal vinyl sheets for magnets, a variety of different layout layers, and even for models to be left loose. Still, in an age where many games are opting for 35mm heroic scale, it seems a bit odd that I should be struggling at all to get an infantry character into Crystal Fortress’s standard height case.

Otherwise, the cases and trays slot together beautifully, with Humpback, Orca and Beluga all compatible with one another. The Storage Pods are excellent. They can be arranged in a variety of different ways with the various dividers and slotting neatly into the cases. Very useful for games that require a lot of tokens, dice and other peripherals.


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When it came to storing an army of my own, I didn’t have quite the luxury that Ben did or being able to choose which army he wanted to confine to the acrylic walls of the Crystal Fortress cases.

No, my choice to store a heap of Necrons in the Crystal Fortress cases was inspired by necessity.

See, like Ben and many of you dear readers, I have a display cabinet in which I keep my figures. Yet, thanks to an Indomitus Box, a Command Edition review, and a few additional purchases, the shelf upon which my Necrons had previously sat had completely run out of room – most of which was dominated by no fewer than 30 Necron Warriors (a number that has since grown even higher courtesy of the Imperium magazine). My scions of the Silent King needed a new home.

But the Crystal Fortress stuff turned out not to be as useful as I had hoped.

Trying to store 30 Necron Warriors turned out to be extremely difficult. With their long weapons – Gauss Reapers and Gauss Flayers – I found the Necrons often “zoned out” the miniatures immediately around them and often had to be slotted in at angles to avoid bumping others. Those closest to the edges also did not fit properly, as their weapons prevented them from fitting in the pre-cut slots thanks to their proximity to the acrylic walls.

Crystal Fortress Review No Space

Before committing to storing my Necrons (sans my C’tan Shard of the Void Dragon which is far too tall to fit in even the largest of the boxes), I had tried to store my Ossiarch Bonereapers and other assorted skellingtons and undead in the box, just to find that even my Arkhan the Black was far too tall to fit in the largest case.

Crystal Fortress Review Necrons All

Much like Ben, my example emphasizes the importance of pre-planning your purchase from Crystal Fortress very carefully to ensure you have room for all your figures. Make sure you measure everything and pay close attention to the specifications on Crystal Fortress’ website.

But damn.

Once your stuff is in the case, it looks incredible.

It’s like a display case at a museum. Even with my ill-formatted Necrons crammed into whatever space they can fit, the Crystal Fortress case adds a real gravitas and dignity to the army. It elevates whatever is inside it above the rank-and-file rubbish of the rest of your collection, places it upon an acrylic throne to look down on the rest of your paltry figures. It commands attention and demands recognition. It says: “Look at me. I am here. I am beautiful. And I know it.”

Now, imagine the impression you’d give with a specially-designed layout: all your figures planned and displayed in the perfect format.

I can see the appeal. I really can. In fact, that I can understand why people would want to do this is making me all the more annoyed that so much of the Crystal Fortress stuff has broken.

I want that for my figures!

Crystal Fortress Products Review – Price and Availability

At an eye-watering £120.62 for the Humpback Bundle, Crystal Fortress cases are expensive. When you also consider that price doesn’t include any layout layers, magnets or storage pods, you can see how the cost can very quickly mount up.

Currently, Crystal Fortress is only shipping from North America, so expensive shipping fees and customs charges are also a consideration for hobbyists outwith the US and Canada. I’m not aware of any retailers stocking Crystal Fortress products at the moment, so their own webstore is where you should head if you’re interested.

Crystal Fortress Products Review – Final Thoughts

ProsCons
Make your miniatures look truly regal whilst on display
Completely modular
Precision engineered
Can be quite fragile
Expensive
Not quite as readily transportable as traditional figure cases
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This is a really, really confusing and difficult product to review.

See, I know I’ve been really mean about Crystal Fortress for the majority of this review. I’ve moaned about how it breaks, how none of my figures fit into it, and how expensive it is.

But that’s because this product isn’t for me.

I would never, ever buy anything from Crystal Fortress. Ever. Because I am not the sort of person who would, nor am I the kind of individual that Crystal Fortress is aiming its marketing guns at.

Crystal Fortress is to hobby storage what Balenciagas and Yeezys are to footwear. I mean, the sheer price of the stuff alone will put off anyone who isn’t a seriously die-hard hobbyist. It’s an exercise in flagrant self-gratification, in being that person who has everyone crowding around them to look at their stuff, in being the absolute centre of attention. This is a product for the hyper-serious, super-dedicated, cash-to-burn hobbyist who wants to show up to tournaments and gaming days with a commission-painted army and really make an impact. Like really makes an impact.

But I’m not like that. Crystal Fortress is not for people like me who just want to turn up and have a laugh; people like me who have worn the same pair of Osiris high-top trainers for the last two-and-a-half years, or who always check the sale section before buying anything. People like me who are happy to field a table of poorly-painted figures because ultimately all that matters to us is having fun.

For me, my biggest criticism is that the stuff breaks.

Sure, it might not shatter like a dropped glass, but it does crack – horrendously badly, in some instances. Imagine: you’ve spent months, years maybe, painting your perfect army. You find yourself on Crystal Fortress’ website and spend yet more hours rigorously planning out what kind of bundle you’re going to need to comfortably fit your entire army into a case. You then spend even more money on magnets because you want to be really sure the figures you’ve painstakingly worked over are as safe and secure as can be. You place your order, your wallet all the lighter for it, and when your order arrives you unpack it and start assembling it.

And crack.

Ruined before your first figure has even touched the case.

Now imagine if you’re on your way to your local hobby store or a friend’s house for a game and, heaven forbid, you drop your case. The damage that’d be done to the product would completely write it off. And those breaks will have a nasty, sharp edge on it too.

Crystal Fortress is, as I said, to hobby storage what designer shoes are to footwear: designed to be both used and not used. A staggeringly impressive, bespoke and luxury product that will make eyes widen and jaws drop wherever it goes, but will simultaneously completely impractical and excruciatingly expensive to the average Joe hobbyist.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Click this link & buy your hobby stuff from Element Games for the UK & Europe to support FauxHammer.com – Use Code “FAUX2768” at the checkout for double reward points.

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Author

  • Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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About VoltorRWH 58 Articles
Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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