I recently built a board game table that included custom Arkham Horror: The Card Game artwork inspired by The Dunwich Legacy expansion. I love the artwork and the look of the table when playing Arkham Horror.
I was looking around BoardGameGeek and Etsy for any player mats that I could print out and use to play Arkham Horror: The Card Game. While searching, I thought of an idea. “What if the player mat was on transparent acrylic? Then, you could see the awesome artwork on the game table through the player mat.”
I reached out to MomoMonsterCo on Etsy to see if they would provide the artwork assets for their player mats as individual files with transparent backgrounds. They sent me a link to the files a few days later and I had them printed on acrylic using the Custom Acrylic Signs option on Signs.com. These were not cheap, but I really love how they turned out.
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.
In most cases, a game table is just a dedicated surface for playing all manner 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 subflooring. The previous homeowner 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.
My design was simple. Build a 6’x’3 frame out of the two-by-fours. Add table legs. Put 6’x3′ subflooring 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 separate 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…
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.
I was only trying to make sure that the outside dimensions were 6’x3′. I made up the configuration on the spot.
The ledge acts as 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.
The table is three separate parts: frame, subflooring surface, and ledge. Obligatory selfie. First Game = Arkham Horror: The Card Game.
For a while, 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.
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 polyacrylic 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.
It’s hard to follow what’s going on with Arkham Horror: The Card Game without consistently checking out the Fantasy Flight Games blog. Fantasy Flight publishes several posts per month and they cover many of their active game properties. The news articles about Arkham Horror: The Card Game are important. Fantasy Flight often announced special events where they give out promos for participation or when they announce new products where you get promos by pre-ordering directly from them. It is possible to generate an RSS feed of just Arkham Horror: The Card Game news. I use IFTTT to monitor the RSS feed and send me an email when new posts are published about Arkham Horror: The Card Game.
Here’s how to get an email when the latest news gets announced on the Fantasy Flight Games blog:
As the story goes, Richard Launius designed a board game based on the Call of Chutulu RPG. Richard was not able to get time to play the RPG while raising his young family. He took matters in his own hand and created a game that he could play. He was able to pass the time and at the same time create a new era of board games. Games that were cooperative and still provided competition. Everyone in the Arkham Horror board game is fighting off insanity and encountering unmentionable horrors in a world inspired by H.P Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. The game took over 10 years for this to catch on in the mass market. Now, there are many Arkham Horry themed and styled games. You can now buy an updated version of Arkham Horror and expansions published by Fantasy Flight Games.
At the Buckeye Game Fest in 2015, I was able to meet and chat with the legendary game design. He was awesome and told me about the early days, mail order games, and reworking the original game to what it is now.