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How to Build a High-End Gaming Table for as Little as 0

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I can’t imagine any devoted tabletop or role-playing gamer who hasn’t, at one point or another, sketched out his or her ideal gaming table, one that’s the perfect size and height, with proper places for dice, rule books, and beverages. One that is truly versatile and can handle all types of games, from board games to miniatures and RPGs. One with a built-in 40″ flat screen TV to use for software-driven digital maps that can even incorporate the “fog of war” (revealing only the parts of the map the adventurers can see).

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OK, I have to admit, I’d never thought of that last wishlist item. But gamer Bum Kim has. And when he decided to upgrade his old gaming table to a fancier model, he knew he wanted to build in that feature. He’d been using a TV on the table as a digital mapping surface and was tired of having to place and remove it every time he played. In this over 50 minute build video, he runs through the entire process of planning, building, and finishing his 4′ x 4′ table.

Bum is not the safest builder I’ve ever seen — no eye protection, not the safest nailgun technique, and that outlet wiring looks a tad gnarly, but adjusted for error, the results are still the kind of table any gamer would love to have in his or her nerd cave.

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Bum says he spent about $250 on the construction, by the time he was done adding all of the bells and whistles, but he thinks you could make this table for as little as $150 (by skipping the electrical system and cutting a few other corners). And, of course, there’s the cost of a dedicated LCD TV. But those are getting ridiculous cheap. I just bought a 32″ 1080p LED TV for under $150, delivered. At those prices, dedicating a TV to a digital mapping surface is not much more expensive than the cost of a high-end game.

If you decide to build one yourself, Bum has thoughtfully posted his plans and Bill of Materials.

To display the maps, Bum uses Roll20.net, a suite of online digital gaming tools, including a sophisticated mapping system. Here’s what he says about the digital aspects of his gaming table:

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In terms of size [of the TV], it’s up to you. Our D&D group is going through Princes of the Apocalypse and the 40″ TV is plenty big enough to fit all but the largest rooms on-screen. What’s great about using software is that you can zoom out and see the whole map and then zoom back in at any time to the scale that you need. I’ve also been able to pull up scanned illustrations from the book to show players. I wish there was an option to get more of a square TV since the 16:9 ratio makes for a wide but short aspect. But it’s all good. If you go with a bigger TV, make sure it isn’t so wide that it won’t fit on a 48″ table. Or, conversely, it would be pretty easy to adjust the plans for a wider table to accommodate it.

I set up two accounts on Roll20, one for myself as Dungeon Master, where I can reveal the fog of war and still see the whole map myself, and an account for the players which is the one displayed on the TV. We only use the initiative tracker and the background soundtrack features but there is a whole slew of other options available. Heck, you could even have some players playing remotely with those at the table.

You can see more pictures of the build, read more background, and see other gamers’ comments and suggestions in the BoardGameGeek Forum topic on the table build.

6 thoughts on “How to Build a High-End Gaming Table for as Little as $150

  1. My nephew built me a similar table. The problem with the multiple leaves is that, over time, they have potential to warp differently, resulting in some unevenness. Also, because there are gaps between each piece, and around the whole thing, actually using the ‘closed’ surface as a kitchen/dining room table is problematic–food gets down through those cracks! We’re currently in the process of re-designing the top to avoid these issues.

    1. As an owner of one of these tables maybe you can answer a question I have about the general design: Do you find that the lower depth of the play area is a net positive? In pictures they all (both homemade and professional) look as though reaching in for pieces could be awkward, but on the other hand I can see the benefit of being able to convert back to a table without having to move or put away your game. I’m working on my own design and considering a more shallow depth than seems to be the norm. It would mean more cleanup, but easier accessibility.

      On the subject of sealing the cracks I was considering adding weather stripping or some other type of gasket around the edge to create a seal between the top and bottom. Would you mind talking about the solutions you and your nephew are considering?

      1. Till I saw the draft that was of 8946 dollars, I accept that my friend’s brother was like really generating cash in his free time with his pc. . His aunt’s neighbor has done this for only 8 months and by now repaid the loan on their home and bought a new Car .Why not try this.
        azpa…

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      2. you could use a single leaf cover that goes over the entire playing surface, so it would also cover up the cupholders and pencil spaces. perhaps adding a bit of a lip to the edges so the “top” top has a place to settle into.

  2. Aren’t there any problems with the viewing angles that LCDs offer when placing the TV in such a position?

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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