Table Talk: Selecting the Right Gaming Table
Years ago, my wife gave me a card table. This wasn’t the flimsy type with the padded top our (or at least, my) parents bought; this has a resin top and folds in half. It was a great gift, since we have run out of gaming space once or twice during my group’s monthly gaming sessions. However, card tables aren’t always the best option, particularly for games with larger boards, and so the question of “where do we set up?” arises. Size, shape, height and surface are all considerations. There is no right answer, but left in a dark interrogation room with no food, water dripping, and a single light bulb, I would probably break down and say the best overall gaming surface is a dedicated square table 54 inches on a side (20 ft2), slightly below desk level, with a felt surface.
I don’t own a table like that.
Size, as in the length and width of the table top, is easily the biggest consideration for a gaming table. We play on any of five different surfaces in our family and gaming group, depending on the circumstances. (However, it’s not like they are all for gaming; only two of them are! One of them is my wife’s for puzzles, but War of the Ring fits so perfectly on it!) We no longer have the aforementioned card table (roughly 9.5 ft2); it has been replaced by a four foot round table (12.5 ft2) that folds. There is an old, round kitchen table in the basement where toys and games are stored (42” across, roughly 9.5 ft2); the dining room table (3.5’x 6’ or 21 ft2), and the actual kitchen table (4’x5’ – 20 ft2; 25 ft2 when expanded). The puzzle table is about 10 ft2. The larger two tend to work out better for gaming, since there is more space around the board for players to use for their player area or tableau. As an example, playing Monopoly requires each player to have space for money and their properties. Of course, you also need space for the bank and unsold properties, and many games have similar needs. Larger tables help.
Shape comes into consideration, too. This is where the number of players enters the equation. If you tend to play with your spouse and another couple, a round or square table is fantastic, since you get the most amount of area for a smaller periphery. (Did I mention I am an engineer?) Three couples, or a family of six, work better around a rectangular table; round tables get to be too large to reach across and still give everyone elbow room. If you have a family of odd people (and who doesn’t!), say five players, the round table once again becomes a very good choice. Our dining room table seats six, and we often play five with one person on an end, or four with two on each side and no one at the ends. Shape isn’t critical, but is worth considering.
Our kitchen table is counter height. That works well for eating, but not as well for gaming. A height that’s a bit below normal is better because everyone is looking slightly down on the game, and can see everything more clearly. Players end up standing a lot.
I believe surface is the least of the things to worry about, but there are advantages to felt or padded surfaces. They make it easier to pick up cards, and rolling dice becomes quieter. Do not, however, use a table cloth. A table cloth will inevitably be shifted, disturbing the game, which is particularly bad with tile laying games. If some pad is really needed, gaming stores offer them. Boards and Bits has a 48” square pad for sale, and other dimensions are available. This will also increase the size of your card table if you need the space. I have never used one, but they get good reviews.
Those are the primary considerations. The table may need to fold if it isn’t a permanent fixture. For most people, it is merely a decision between the dining room and kitchen tables, if that. More thought is required if you have a recreation or toy room, however. The billiards table might work, (foosball tends to be a little tough to use…), but a dedicated gaming table might make sense. With a little money or talent, an excellent table can be obtained for any casual gamer. With a lot of money or talent, there are a few deluxe options. In the end, cost doesn’t matter— the best table, after all, is the one that gets used the most!