The Worst Board Gaming Accessory Ever
If you play a lot of board games, sooner or later your setup starts including accessories to make your playing experience even more fun. Dice towers. Bits holders. Rolling trays. You may even go for special lighting and sound systems in your room, allowing for thematic music, sound effects and visuals. This is usually for hard core role players.
Eventually, you may decide it’s time to take the plunge into serious gaming furniture. There’s a lot of options, they are rarely cheap, and usually, well, pretty damn cool.
A board gaming table, which is not just a table you play board games on, is often the first major purchase to consider for a game room, after you have covered all of the walls with shelves. The features to consider often include some sort of surface that makes it easier to pick up cards, like a neoprene, mousepad-like cover. The surface is slightly squishy, which makes it way easier to pick up a card than something like a wooden tabletop. Speedcloth used in casinos can also be used. Plexiglass to keep paper map boards for wargames is a common feature. Some tables employ wipe off surfaces, so you can draw maps right on the table. This is all based on what you find your needs are and what you and your friends might need the most.
But the serious stuff often is what is referred to as a table ‘vault’. This is a table where the top is recessed. Usually, the actual table surface that you can eat off of is removed, and you look down into the vault, several inches lower than the usual table top height, and often covered with one of those nice playing surfaces. These tables can include drawers, cup holders, writing surfaces, trays, extensions, USB chargers, lights, built in dice towers, secret compartments and all sorts of goodies leading to a price easily more than the price of a car. Seriously.
But let’s talk about that vaulted table top. A recessed surface you play on. As a side effect, the outside seems to have rails, which makes for great arm rests. The science of it is what makes it important. For one, since you’re essentially playing in a shallow box, pieces and dice won’t leave the playing surface. You simply cannot roll dice off a recessed surface, unless you’re throwing them like Mjolnir.
Thing two, which seems subtle, but the effect is amazing, is the viewing angle. You’re looking at the board and pieces as if you’re position is about three inches higher than usual. If this was the normal height for a tabletop, it would feel weirdly low, and you would be hunched over it. But no, you look at a more overhead angle to the board. You see over pieces. You see the board configuration more clearly. If you’re playing with miniature terrain, it’s easier to see over hills and around figures. It’s like slightly standing for a better view.
In the exact, precise and dumbfounding opposite configuration, we have a new type of product that has been showing up more and more in variant forms on Kickstarter. A table riser.
This is usually some sort of platform that sits in the middle of your table and creates a raised playing area. A table on your table.
It is hard to think of a less practical solution for, well, anything. Seriously, to get the picture on the riser, I had to lean back to get it all in, moving me further from the board.
We now have a surface that you can knock pieces off of. And that pieces can roll under and you have to reach for. Which probably makes you bump it and knock pieces over. And off of.
Worst of all, it creates a far worse angle for viewing and actually playing games. Rather than give you a better bird’s eye view, you are now treated to a worm’s eye view. Words and spaces get harder to read, miniatures block your view of what’s happening, and the overall board position is obscured. Reaching across the board gives you a far greater chance of accidentally hitting other pieces, coming at them from the side rather than the top.
Now take any game where each player has something like a player mat with resources, or cards flat out in front of them. I can look at yours, you can see mine, and an important strategy point is seeing what you have in comparison to what your opponent has. Now, let’s put a two foot by three foot, six inch tall obstacle between us so that I can no longer see your player area, because the main board is there.
This product actually renders certain games completely unplayable. Unless, of course, on each turn you prefer getting up, first to get a nice view of the board, and then taking a tour around your game room to see what every other player is doing.
What quest is Larry working on? Rather than glance over at the cards in front of him, you now have to get up — don’t forget to get your full view of the board while standing — walk around the table, step on the dog’s tail, look at Larry’s selection of quests and then back to your seat, avoiding the dog this time.
Now Bill knows you’re going after Larry. Larry knows. The dog knows. The game is made infinitely more annoying by the introduction of a table on your table.
Take a common game like the great classic Lords Of Waterdeep. There’s the main board, up on the riser. Then each player has their collection of guys and a spread of quests they are working on. But now, all of that is hidden information. Sure, it’s playable, but that’s not how the game was designed. When I give you a quest that you need a wizard and two fighters for, it’s because I saw your player area and determined you don’t have a wizard and two fighters.
That’s just one of dozens of games that become literally unplayable from your seat with this kind of accessory. All other games may be playable, but a whole lot more inconvenient.
Almost in the words of Sam Jackson:
Why is there a table on my M*F’in table?
Do yourself and your players a favor. Do not consider one of these products. If your table is too small and you were looking to increase the play area, invest instead in some sort of folding side tables, or a big chunk of MDF board as a table topper. The ‘table on table’ solution is NOT remotely a solution, as all it does is introduce an entire slew of problems that you never had before.