Board Game Tables 101

Welcome to Board Game Tables 101 where I will educate you on the features of board game tables so you can be knowledgeable in what you purchase.

Play Surface

The play surface is where the game board and components are placed and are typically made of some sort of cloth fabric with a little bit of padding.  This makes picking up cards and other flat game components easier since there is some give when you press down on them which typically raises up an edge to grab hold of.


The Dream Table uses 3mm thick neoprene with a nylon fabric jacket (one side) as its play surface.  Nylon covered neoprene has built in padding and a surface that doesn't attract dirt and dust.  The neoprene has enough weight and along with its rubber back prevents the mat from moving when playing games.  The neoprene can also be removed from the vault for easy cleaning.



The key feature that separates a board game table from a regular table is its vault.  The vault is a "sunken" area in the middle of that table that contains the play surface.  This sunken area gives players a higher view of the game.  The walls of the vault are useful in keeping game components such as dice contained so that they can't fall of the table when rolled.

Vaults can range in depth.  Some vaults are very shallow (less than 1 inch) while others are deep ( greater than 8 inches).  The shallow vaults are typically used for Euro board games while the deeper vaults are used for games that require miniatures due to their height.  The vault depth only comes into play if the vault needs to be covered.

Vaults can be covered with vault planks or large sheets.  Vault planks are smaller and easier to handle and interlock together to create a flat looking table.  Vault sheets are typically much larger and cover more of the vault with fewer pieces at the cost of being heavier, and more difficult to manouver by a single person, but result in less joints compared.

Make sure the vault floor is strong as board game tables will have players leaning on the vault floor moving game components.  A weak vault floor can result in moved game board/components or even worse, the vault floor falling out.

Pros of a Vault:

  • Dice and other game components are contained within the vault and cannot fall out.
  • Vaults allow a game to be "saved" by covering them up mid game.  The table can be used for other things and then "resume" the game later on by removing the vault planks/sheets.
  • The enjoyment of the game is increased when a player is able to look down and view more of the game board without obstructions.  It is also easier to move game components around since any movement is done from above, rather than from the sides.

Cons of a Vault:

  • A vault increases the thickness of the table.  This becomes an issue as standard tables should be 29 to 30 inches (76 cm) tall.  Underneath the table around 25 inches (64 cm) is required for leg room for comfortable sitting.  If a vault plus the vault floor exceeds 5 inches, the table thickness will force the table to be either to tall or the players legs will be constrained underneath.  This will decrease how comfortable the table will be to sit at for long periods of time.
  • A vault is an enclosed surface so if any liquids are spilt into the vault, all of the liquid will be held in place to soak the game board and components.
  • If a vault has planks or sheets for covering it up, a space for holding these pieces of wood must be taken into consideration.  The larger the sheets, the more difficult it is to store.

The Dream Table has a vault depth of just under 2 inches (5 cm).  This was selected as the Dream Table contains hidden drink holders that use up some of the tables thickness.  The desire for safe drinking cup locations out weighed the desire for a deeper vault.  See the drink holder section for more details.  If the vault is covered, there is a clear vinyl protective cover that can be placed over it to waterproof and protect the table.  The table can also have vault caps that integrate with the vault planks to create variations of vaults and upper play surfaces.  For instance, using a single vault plank and two vault caps, two smaller vaults can be created on the table allowing for two separate 3 or 4 player games to take place on the same table.  The vault also walls have a play surface channel cut out of them so that the play surface fits slightly inside the vault walls to hide any uneven play surface edges.


Leaning Ledge

The table edge surrounding the play surface can be thin or thick.  A thin table edge leaves no room for players to lean on but results in a table that is less wide which may be needed if the tableis in a small room (more player sitting space).  If the edge is wide enough (3 inches (8 cm) or more), it is called a leaning ledge which a player can lean on increasing their comfort.  A lean ledge with a vault enables the player to safely lean on the table without worrying about disturbing the game pieces as they are located lower within the vault.

Pros of Leaning Ledge:

  • Gives the player a safe place to place their arms without disturbing the game components.
  • Leaning on the table while playing is very comfortable.
  • Some personal player game components such as cards and tokens can be placed on the ledge during game play to separate it from the play surface.
  • A leaning ledge allows fold out shelves to be added to the table.
  • A leaning ledge allows storage areas in the table either via a storage box, or through accessible cubby holes underneath the ledge.

Cons of a Leaning Ledge:

  • Increases the width and length of the table making it more difficult to fit in a smaller room.
  • A player may be tempted to place their drink on the leaning ledge.  A drink on a leaning ledge is dangerous as it is very simple to knock the drink over into the vault, creating a big mess and a possible ruined board game (cardboard and liquids do not mix well).  If a table has leaning ledges, it is highly adviseable to have the drink holders positioned outside the tables edge to greatly reduce the chance of liquids spilling into the vault.  Some ledges have drink holders built directly into them which still is not as safe as having the drink holder positioned outside the table edge.

The Dream Table has a 5.5 inch (14 cm) wide leaning ledge.  This width was selected to allow a large surface area to lean on, and it allows enough room for the hidden drink holders to be stored underneath the leaning ledge when not in use.  If the vault is covered, the inner neoprene play surface can be moved on top of the vault planks giving you a table with no vault but still with a great play surface with leaning ledges.


Drink Holders

Playing board games is a social event.  Typically some sort of drink and snacks are present.  The first rule when dealing with drinks is to protect the game as cardboard and liquids do not go together.  Placement of the drink holders is paramount in preventing damage to the game.

Pros of Drink Holders:

  • Drink holders that are positioned outside of the leaning ledge/vault are the safest as any spill will result on the floor and not within the vault.
  • A drink holder is better than nothing especially if the table has a leaning ledge.

Cons of Drink Holders:

  • Having a drink holder means liquid is being brought closer to the board game.  No drinks, no spills.
  • Some drink holders are located on the leaning ledge which is dangerous as there is a 50% chance the drink will fall into the vault.
  • Some drink holders are attached to the table via a rail system that can break if any pressure is applied to the holder.  Hopefully the holder breaks and not the rail built into the table.  There is also the storage issue when dealing with rail mounted systems as the drink holders need to be stored when not in use.
  • Drink holders that are mounted outside the table vault/leaning ledge but slide under the table are positioned perfectly for spills, but end up interferring with the leg room under the table.  Often these drink holders have the aluminum cup hanging down which further get in the way when regardless when being used and not being used.

The Dream Table uses 6 drink holders that are built into the outer edge of the table, below the leaning ledge.  Its drink holders are built into the side of the table so they do not interfere with leg room and remain hidden until used.  When they are popped out and used, they keep the drinks away from the leaning ledge and even further away from the vault.  These drink holders are also interchangeable as they can convert between a regular glass/can/bottle holder, to a mug holder, or to a wine glass holder.


Player Stations

Board Game Tables are designed to fit specific amounts of players comfortably around the table.  It is possible for the table to be designed to have some feature/benefit for the player sitting at their designated position.  Possible player stations include, nothing at all (typically found on tables without leaning ledges), a small storage shelf typically called a cubby hole, actual storage compartment, or a fold out shelf. 

Pros of Player Stations:

  • Cubby Hole Player Stations give an excellent storage place for cell phones and other game related items that can be "hidden" from view of most other players.
  • Folding Shelf Player Stations make the table adaptable so that if a player requires more room, the fold out shelf supplies it.  Most fold out player stations also have the cubby hole storage. 
  • Storage Player Stations give a location to store items.  The table typically looks more solid as it doesn't have any empty gaps.

Cons of Player Stations:

  • Cubby Hole Player Stations leave the table edge looking hollow so the table looks less solid.
  • Some Folding Shelf Player Stations have the cubby hole storage built in so the table looks less solid.

The Dream Table allows the customer to select what type of player stations they want when they purchase the table.  This flexibility allows the table to be configured with 4 different station styles: a) a wide leaning ledge with cubby hole storage, b) thin leaning ledge with cubby hole storage, c) wide leaning ledge with enclosed storage compartment (solid table look), and finally d) a wide leaning ledge with a fold out shelf that allows both the cubby hole look as well as a solid table look built into one.  The fold out player station is unique in that it has a built in table edge flap that makes the table edge look solid when the shelf is not in use.  It can be folded down to create a cubby hole storage if wanted.  When the shelf is being used, this flap folds out of the way allowing the player full access to the extra player space.  Since the flap is built into the table, you do not have to worry about storing it when not in use.


Table Legs

Game Tables can have the supporting legs positioned in each of the table corners, or a trestle table design which has the legs positioned underneath the table away from the table edge.  If the legs are positioned right at the corners, the table will be very stable and almost impossible to tip without purposely lifting it.  If the legs are offset underneath the table, it gives more leg room for the players but also increases the chance of the table tipping.  Some tables also incorporate some storage system underneath the table.

Pros of Corner Table Legs:

  • Very stable table (no chance of tipping)

Cons of Corner Table Legs:

  • The legs interfere with any players positioned right at the corner of the table.

Pros of a Trestle Table:

  • The legs are out of the way so the players have more leg room
  • Much easier to sit a person at the corners of the table so more players can use the table
  • Easy to add storage between the legs under the table

Cons of a Trestle Table:

  • Trestle tables can be tipped much easier.

The Dream Table has two choices for table legs: cost effective offset powder coated metal legs, or a trestle table design with built in storage.  The trestle table design allows access all around the table so up to 10 people can sit around it.  The storage unit positioned underneath the table is designed to hold 6 vault planks, 2 vault caps, and a large roll of table top neoprene which can be used to create a huge play surface by utilizing the whole table top rather than just the vault play area.  Due to the weight of the Legs and Storage unit, the table is very stable is not easy to tip at all.