Recently I have read several articles in the blogosphere on the subject of gaming tables that are both intelligent, thoughtful and admirable in purpose, yet somehow I find myself unable to agree with everything being said. If I may, I will add some personal thoughts to this debate here, based on experience (instead of spamming everyone else's blogs with my twitterings).
WARNING: THIS IS NOT A RANT! Please read this to yourself in a pleasant tone of voice, possibly with some easy-listening background music.
For your relaxation. :)
I think that the kind of table you end up playing on is often a result of compromise, whether over space, time (the physicists amongst you may well argue that these are the same thing), money or skill.
The much maligned GW Realm of Battle board.
While I agree that the GW offering is a bland uninspiring affair scattered with far too many ridiculous skulls and not enough charm and character, I do not agree that it has no place in my life. I can carry it on one shoulder from place to place and it packs away neatly in the home to allow things like buggies, cat boxes and wives to occupy valuable space. It's generic mediocrity actually becomes a strength when you lose interest in that obscure Dr Who game and become obsessed with a Judge Dredd game instead. You can switch out the phone box and quarry and replace them with dinosaurs and apartment blocks very easily. And those skulls file off or cover with sand very easily by the way. I got mine for a song off eBay and have never regretted it once. My terrain making skills are pretty good and for me that is what matters and what deserves a little room in my cupboards of precious things.
As a teenager I worked for Games Workshop and was taught by a very enthusiastic manager how to make great tables using a variety of methods. With his guidance I got pretty good and those tables started to turn out looking amazing and when I left at 19 for a 'real job' I was luckily soon able to buy my own home and fill a room with gaming table goodness. Those tables were big, heavy and took up loads of space, it didn't matter at the time but it does at the moment and it will always be a consideration as my family grows. While I did my best to keep things user friendly and varied, those tables started to become a bit stale eventually, one or two (inconsiderate?) gamers that came over regularly even began to joke about it. Suffice to say that when I was taken a'travellin' by work and I rented the house out I felt neither remorse nor regret as I binned or donated those boards.
Years later I again had to donate some glorious tables/scenery to a club when I sold my pub with it's spacious upstairs accommodation and moved north to get married. The same lack of pity drove this clear out as I had become very jaded by gaming over the same old tracts of land again and again. I am about to move once more and regain a permanent gaming room but in the meantime I have had to make do with easy to store tables that offer a variety of options for use, and I have never once during this time looked at my tables (past the nice scenery) and thought "ugh, my table is a bit rubbish".
Some of those tables in the old photos I have seen held up as paragons of the war-gaming art are actually crappy bits of old polystyrene sheet with a bit of textured paint over the top. You can even see knackered edges and corners where they have been slung about in transit and stored badly. It is the scenery that brings them to life and brings salty tears to the eye. Now scenery can do this to any platform pretty much, and rivers and such don't need to be 3D to be eye-catching and impressive. If you can manage to own one or two centrepiece examples of terrain and store them well you are better off than many modern gamers.
I love this board I found online and would love to game over it. Whip the sub off and replace it with some hills, crystal forests, igloos, pine trees, et cetera and you have a boredom resistant table, despite it being a plain white ROB board from GW. The horror.
As for blaming GW for all this, they have to cater for the much maligned but nevertheless thriving tournament scene as it rakes in lots of cash and represents a not insignificant portion of their customer base. Us Oldhammerers are only now beginning to find a voice and we have certainly neglected GW as much as they neglect us! Perhaps if GW fail to build a relationship with us despite our best efforts we can we can later criticise them for that. It is a shame that the lovely (often superb examples of the art) tables I have seen in GWs up and down the country over the years have started to vanish in order to promote the boil in the bag scenery they have started to sell, but they are just exploiting gamer laziness and not causing it.
GW still make amazing tables on an annual basis.
I remember a great display board from a Games Day UK a few years back, it was a horde of the Undead swarming over an Imperial city that was complete with a port and a ship or two. 'Revenge of the Vampire' or something, it was called. As time passed even the big corporate slug that is GW ran out of storage/patience for it's old tables and this table, one of my all time favourites, was sadly destroyed along with several others. Apparently, the ordered demise of the tables was subsequently taken care of by two HQ employees (who shall remain nameless) playing 'Land of the Giants' while drunk. My point is that if even GW can't store it's show tables, how is the average club or home going to manage?
So, am I suggesting that it is wrong to aspire to own a show table at your home or club? Hell no, go for it if you can. I certainly will be as soon as we move house and I get me some serious gaming space. I will make a new table purely for aesthetic reasons with no thought to ergonomics and post it here for people to see. Along the way though, I do hope to make it clear that if you don't or can't do the same, it doesn't force you to resign as an Oldhammerer, GW is NOT to blame (we are) and that aspirations must be tempered by situations.
To sum up, and revisit the idea of that motion I wanted to table, can we please keep the table talk positive and inspirational and leave the negative bashing for youtube flame wars?
As always, I am open to re-education if you want to comment below.
Thanks for stopping by!