How could I possibly have a site that discusses the wonderful, diverse hobby of tabletop gaming, but we never actually talk about the tabletops? It might seem like an unimportant part of the discussion, but which actually table you play on will have a significant impact on how much you will enjoy playing your games. After all, if you spend every session you play feeling uncomfortable and awkward you will end up playing less and less.
So I want to look at some of the factors that you should consider when choosing a table for your gaming needs. It’s a surprisingly complex decision, but if we take it step-by-step you should know which way to go in no time flat!
Assessing Your Space
Where are you going to host your games? Will there be a dedicated space or are you going to temporarily co-opt a space that’s used for something else. For example, many of us have an existing dining-room table. I think most people who are not super-serious about their tabletop gaming will probably end up using the dining room table.
That’s fine for what it is, but there are many drawbacks to going this route. First of all, you’ll have to constantly make sure that thing are kept clean. A dining room table is bound to eventually bring you cards, pieces, books and other gaming accessories into contact with food and other food-related contaminants. It might also be in a place that has high foot-traffic. Having non-players pass through your gaming space all the time can spoil the mood or distract players.
The optimal solution is to have a dedicated game room that other members of the household don’t have any reason to enter during a game.This is probably why D&D is so associated with basements.
How Big Are the Games?
If the types of tabletop games that you want to play are only two-player games such as Chess and the like, there’s no point in buying a massive dedicated table. For example, this Samsonite folding card table is perfect for two-player games.
Players of games like Magic the Gathering can comfortably play with or without a game mat, since the table is covered in padded vinyl. If you don’t need the table, fold it away and put it somewhere out of the way. Sure a hundred bucks isn’t chump change for a small table like this, but playing on a cheap plastic table is no fun. Take it from me, since I spent years playing like that.
The Table Surface
The actual surface of the table is actually quite an important choice to make. There are plenty of different tablet surface finishes and materials. They all have their pros and cons as well.
A plain wood finish is common and if you want a table to do double duty. However, doing dice rolls on a hard wooden surface is a pain. It’s loud, dice tend to roll off the table and you can even end up damaging the table surface. So if you decide to go for a wood-topped or other hard surface you should invest in a dice rolling box that’s lined with felt on the inside.
Vinyl tables are also an option, although in my experience vinyl wears in a rather nasty way. I’m 100% OK with it when it comes to a small folding table like the Samsonite I mentioned above, but when you are shelling out for permanent furniture it’s better to get something more durable like leather.
The gold standard is probably the felt-covered gaming table. It’s perfect for dice rolls and easily picking up game pieces and playing cards. The downside is that felt is a pain to replace. Which is bad, since dirty hand, food and drink are felt’s bane. On top of this, sharp objects can cut it easily. Take care of your felt though, and it will last for years.
If you have to use your table for more than just gaming on, you might consider getting one of the fancier convertible game tables. Basically the table has two modes. One is where it’s just another table you can eat on or help your kids with their homework. The other is when it pulls an Optimus Prime and turns into a badass gaming table.
This is a good solution when you simply don’t have additional space for gaming. It’s a compromise when it comes to not using communal space for game session, it’s true. Another issue is price. Tables like these will cost more than either a regular table or gaming table of the same size. It should not however cost as much as buying both separately.
You should also pay special attention to how the table converts. If the top comes off completely you need to think of where to store it while playing. Is the conversion process complicated? Does it take more than one person to do? These are all things that will make it less likely that any actual play will happen.
If you are a regular player of a particular game or class of games, you’re going to have a collection of objects that you use all the time. These can be campaign books, dice, cards decks and other odds and ends. Some gaming tables have little drawers and other storage solutions that let you put all of these objects away neatly. A table that lets you keep tabs on the millions of things that can (and do!) get lost during the expression of your hobby is certainly worth considering.
Remember how I said that felt is a great surface, but that food and drink are prone to ruining it? Well some gaming table makers are keenly aware of this. So they’ve actually built in trays and cup-holders to keep the foodstuff away from the table surface. Generally they fold away neatly when not in use too. It’s going to crank the price up, but weight that against having to replace your dirty felt several times a year and it might just be worth it.
Some Tables for Your Consideration
A gaming table is a pretty personal decision actually. So the tables I am about to highlight are probably going to hit some, but not all targets. Don’t think of this as a list of hard suggestions, but as a set of examples from which to work. So without further ado, let me table this motion.
The Bare Bones: BC Classics Domino & Game Table
First of all, yes I realize this table does not look great. In fact, it looks a bit like patio furniture to be honest. However, at this end of the price scale we are looking for functionality above all. This simple table has removable legs for easy storage. It has a built-in rack for domino tiles or other game pieces that might fit in such a slot. There are four drinks holders. At 30X30 inches it is a little on the small side, but still large enough to host a board game for four people I think. Reviews by people who have bought is also note that, despite appearances, this table is quite sturdy.
If you live in a small place and only want four-player games that don’t require a lot of table surface, this is a great pick.
For the Serious Card Game Player: BBO Poker Aces Pro
This gigantic folding poker table does not come cheap, but I think this table can be so much more than a niche poker solution. It looks pretty great, but can be folded quickly and stored upright out of the way.
There’s a dealer cutout, but wouldn’t that also be a great spot for a GM? If you think of this table, with it’s shiny cupholders and premium felt surface as a general-purpose game table, it suddenly becomes a much more interesting product.
I think you could play everything from D&D to miniature-based wargames on this table. It also has a soft armrest, which really appeals to me since I tend to lean on tables.
The Middle-Class Transformer
I really like the look if this convertible table. Just as advertised, it will blend in perfectly as a dinner table. No one will suspect that if you flip the top a game surface is revealed, including drink holders!
The table is a bit tall, so you’ll need to choose your chairs carefully. It is however solid wood and has a storage area under the top. It really seems like the perfect all-round gaming table.
The Ultimate Gaming Table: Elite Series Tables
I wanted to finish the table highlights off with something designed specifically for modern tabletop gaming. These particular tables are made by a company called Ultimate Game Tables.
Their Elite series of tables come in a variety of heights and sizes. The play surface can have its height adjusted to suit the game you are playing. Which is amazing. You can add a table cover which turns it into a desk. It can also be combined with your own custom collection of accessories. Cup holders, card organizers and GM campaign screens are examples here.
They also make special tables and table decorations for specific games such as Warhammer. The table also has AC and USB outlets! If you want to go all-in as a tabletop gamer, these tables are well worth looking at!