Building My Own Board Game Table

Thou shalt not covet. When it comes to board game tables, I am almost willing to break a commandment. Very fancy board game tables have popped up at conventions, Kickstarter, and Etsy. I want it.

Board Game Table on Etsy

In most cases, a game table is just a dedicated surface for playing all manor of tabletop games. They usually include a spongy surface for being able to pick up cards and tokens easily, a wide frame to place your cards or area to write, and cup holders.

I decided to make my own gaming table.

The decision to make my own versus buying was helped by the fact that I had an attic filled with two-by-four pieces of wood and a giant 6’x3′ sheet of sub flooring. The previous home owner was in the middle of some unfinished woodworking projects. Since the sub flooring sheet was 6’x3′, I made that my dimensions for the table. This also means that many gaming mats will fit perfectly. Gaming mats are like giant mouse pads with a print and made of a spongy backing.

Design

My design was simple. Build a 6’x’3 frame out of the two-by-fours. Add table legs. Put 6’x3′ sub flooring panel on top. And, finally frame the whole thing to give the table a small ledge. I used 6″ oak panels from Lowes to build the ledge. The ledge is a seperate piece so I can swap out the gaming mat if needed or clean up spills without ruining the whole thing.

Tools and Things

I didn’t have any woodworking tools. So, I assembled a short list of tools and things needed to build this table…

  1. Snacks
  2. Beverages
  3. Friend with tools
    1. Miter saw
    2. Power drill and screwdriver
    3. Power sander
  4. Screws
  5. Corner brackets
  6. Sandpaper
  7. Pre-stain
  8. Stain
  9. Polycrylic sealer

To keep the costs down, I bribed a friend to help me. They get a lifetime pass for gaming action on a cool DIY game table… and, snacks and beverages. The main tool needed was a miter saw. This was used to make nice straight cuts. Other tools needed: power drill to drill holes for screws and a screwdriver to screw the screws into the holes.

Table Frame

I was only trying to make sure that the outside dimensions were 6’x3′. I made up the configuration on the spot.

Table Ledge

The ledge acts like a frame around the sub flooring panel. This gives you a nice place to hold cards or write notes. I used corner brackets to square up the ledge and used the sub flooring panel as my guide.

Table Assembly

The table is three separate parts: frame, sub flooring surface, and ledge. Obligatory selfie. First Game = Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

Finishing

For awhile, I tried to talk myself out of sanding and staining the wood. The wood had sharp edges and rough spots. It took some convincing, but I decided to finish this off and it made a huge difference. The finishing process took way longer than the assembly.

My Process

  • Sanding – so much sanding – this creates a lot of dust – wear a mask – be prepared to clean up dust for months – use 80 grit first, 120 second, and 220 third – be patient
  • Pre-staining – apply pre-stain to the wood and let dry – this really helps with staining or so YouTube says
  • Staining – apply stain within 2 hours of the pre-stain and repeat
  • Sealing – use a water-based polycrylic sealer to seal the ledge – this will help with spills and cup rings and protect the wood or so YouTube says – let dry for 30 minutes – lightly sand with 220 grit and repeat two more times – it’s worth doing this as many times as you can fit into a weekend

Going Next Level

Deep-Cut Studio creates custom gaming mats for any size surface. I uploaded a custom piece of art to enhance my Arkham Horror: The Card Game campaign. Deep-Cut is based in England and it took less than two weeks to get my custom gaming mat. More on that on a later date.

Making and Designing Board Games Lecture

I have been leading a 10-week workshop on tabletop game design near Boston, MA. Over 20 students have participated and several of them have created board game design prototypes throughout the course. This is really exciting to see! I gave a lecture last week to go over the entire course in one 30-minute session. I share a few of their game designs. Fortunately, the lecture was recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing the content for the board game design course and release more supporting content.

The Paradox of Choice (Applied to Game Design)

I am developing a board game design workshop here in Boston that starts in September. I am really looking forward to facilitating the workshop and learning from the participants. In preparing the course materials, I came across my notes from a board game seminar that I took at Gen Con a few years back. The seminar was hosted by Jeff Tidball. Jeff is a creative executive and award-winning game designer. His class made a lot of great points, but he made one pint really clear to me. Game design is about doing the work. You have to have a lot of “butt-in-chair” time.

How much time have you wasted trying to choose the best salad dressing?

Jeff also mentioned the paradox of choice. He recommended that we watch a TED Talk from Barry Schwartz on the subject of choice and try to apply it to game design. Barry does not talk about game design in his TED Talk, but his message about choice can easily apply. A game with no choice is not fun. A game with too many choices is also not fun. You need to find a balance and do not overwhelm your players with too many options. Choice is central to the art of game design. You need to decide which choices to present to players and which ones that can be removed from your game.

I recommend that you watch Barry Schwartz’s TED Talk, The Paradox of Choice, to get the full context and see how you can apply it to game design.

 

First Look at Dog

At the Boston Comic Con, I got to meet a comic book artist in the Boston area named Jay Kennedy. I pitched him my character named, “Dog”. Dog is the subject of some children stories and a board game that I have been working on in my copious spare time. I commissioned a color sketch drawn at the con based on the description from my pitch. Jay called me up a couple of hours later to show me what he had created. This is the first look at Dog… stay tuned. You probably are going to hear a lot more about this character in the coming months.

First Dog

Thanks, Jay!

 

Strife: Legacy of the Eternals

Here’s a last minute Kickstarter for you to check out… Strife: Legacy of the Eternals.

Strife Game

Strife is a quick, 2-player card game is designed by Christopher Hamm and will be released by Vision 3 Games in 2015. You can get in now and help produce the game. The game has gotten lots of great reviews and attention since it was demonstrated at Gen Con 2014 in Indianapolis, IN.