Game Room Improvements. What Makes for a Great Tabletop Game Room – Ask The Bellhop

Today I’m answering a game room related question. It’s looking for ways to improve an existing room but I also want to talk about the things that make for a great game room.

Mister MCB, on Instagram asked:

So the wife and I just bought a house an one of the rooms will be dedicated to gaming. So let me ask you this. If you could change or add or do something better what would it be? What problems do you have that you would fix.

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The Short Answer: my personal game room improvements

The Tabletop Bellhop's Game Room

First off, thanks for the question Mister MCB. I dig the fact that I got this one off Instagram. It’s great we are getting questions from all over the web. It’s also awesome that you and your wife are getting a new home and even better that it’s going to include a room dedicated to games. Not all of us have that luxury. When Deanna and I were picking out our home we each had one veto room. Her’s was the kitchen and mine was a game room. If we didn’t find a place that had both that we liked we moved on.

Getting to the question. I’ve got a game room I’m pretty proud of. Anyone who follows me on social media has probably seen pictures of it, or at least parts of it as backdrops from pictures shared or our live streams. Plus all the pictures here on this post are of my personal game room. Overall I’m really happy with my space but there are some things I would improve.

First off is lighting. The biggest problem we have playing games at my place is glare. This has gotten even worse now that we are trying to live stream some of our plays. My game room is in the basement and the lights are all pot lights set into the ceiling.  These create four hot spots on my gaming table. I wish we had some more diffused lights.

One of the reasons I haven’t done anything about the lights is problem number two with my game room: a very low ceiling. While it’s not low enough for people to be bumping their heads, there’s no space to do something like replace the lights with another type. The other thing I would love to do is mount a camera above the game table for some down facing shots for our videos and that’s just not possible with the low ceiling.

Those are the two big changes I would make. There are a bunch of minor improvements that would be also be very nice to have. Wired internet would be great. That would mainly be for live streaming but would also be nice for my video game systems which are also downstairs. Room to mount cameras behind the people playing, so as to highlight the people across the table. A bluetooth surround sound system for gaming with audio. Somewhere convenient to plug in tech without having to run a power bar across the room. Lastly, a table I could split in half, so I could have two smaller tables. While I love my 8×4 table there are some games where it would be nice to have a smaller table with people on all four sides being able to reach the middle.

The Long Answer: so what makes for a great game room?

So now that I’ve answered Mister MCB’s question and talked about what I would do to improve my personal game space, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a step back and talk about game rooms in general.

What makes for a good game room? What are some must haves and what are some things that are great additions but not totally necessary.  Finally I think I will take a look at some dream items. It’s that take your game room to the next level. Nothing you need, but stuff you may want.

Game room must haves:

A table. You are going to need some type of surface to game on. This could be be anything from some TV trays pushed together to a massive custom designed table from Board Game Tables. Most people are going to go for something in between. The one tip I learned when shopping around for my own table was to look at board room tables at office supply stores. They come in large sizes and are often significantly cheaper than most kitchen or dining room tables. Another thing to check is Game Toppers. They make custom table overlays that go on top of your existing table. They give you the feel of a full custom table without the huge cost.

Chairs. You want everyone playing in your game room to be comfortable. This one is at least as important as your game table, if not more so. Everyone has their own preference for chairs. Personally I’m a big fan of captains chairs and padded dinning room chairs that were popular in the 70s. Due to this most of my game room chairs come from thrift shops. Whenever we are out thrifting or pass an antique store I’m always looking for chairs that would go good in my game room.

Lighting. You want your table and the games played on it to be well lit. Not only is it important for eye strain reasons, it’s going to speed up gameplay if everyone can see everything clearly. The thing to watch for, as I noted in The Short Answer, is glare. You may even want to bring a shiny board with you when light shopping to see just how bad light reflects off your favourite game.

That’s it. To me these are the bare minimum you need for a game room. After this all you need are some players.

Some bonus items to improve your game room:

A Sound System.This is one I don’t have and wish I did. There are a ton of tools out there for adding sound to your games. Check out our Music and Sound Effect to Enhance Your Game article for some specific suggestions. To really improve the immersion you want a full surround sound system. Personally I just end up using the sound out of my phone, and while that works, it’s not great.

Storage. You are going to need somewhere to store those games. Kallax shelves from IKEA seem to be the most popular. I went with office book shelves ordered at the same time I ordered the board room table so I could get a matching colour. Cheap plastic hardware store shelves work too. As for how to organize your games, we’ve got you covered in an earlier article: Organizing Your Game Collection.

Programmable Lights. My game room is set up with Phillips Hue Lights and I love them. While I don’t use them every game, there’s nothing better than being able to set the mood in an RPG by changing the actual lighting in the room. Having shifting blues and greens during an underwater scene, or the flickering camp fire as the party sets the nightly watch. I use my LED lights for boardgaming too. Specifically the “Bright” and “Concentrate” settings that adjust the light to closer to actual white which is great of differentiating pieces in similar colours.

Access to drinks. We have a Tassimo coffee maker in our game room. I personally think that no game room is complete without that or a Keurig, but I like my coffee as does my wife and most of the people we play with. A bar fridge would also be great to have. I have a friend that actually has a custom designed beer fridge in his game room with two taps and different cooling zones for different styles of beers. It’s always nice when you don’t have to leave the room and stop the game in order to get refreshments.

Some suggestions on how to bring your game room to the next level:

Wired Internet. Tech at the Table is becoming more and more common and most of that tech works best or needs to be online. Can you imagine having a spot for every player to jack in their laptop, removing the strain and limitations of wi-fi?

Power. Even if your group isn’t using laptops almost everyone has a cell phone these days. Plus there are tablets, eReaders and more. The problem with all of these mobile devices is they can never seem to hold a charge long enough. How about a custom game table with USB charging ports at every player spot, or perhaps on the legs? Heck, combine the last two and have ethernet and USB ports right on the table. Better toss in a standard plug for that laptop too.

Cameras and Mics. Streaming is the new hotness. Lots of people are doing it. I’m doing it. But I’m doing it with a tripod and a logitech webcam. It would be so much better if I could have a wired room. A room with a mic for every player and multiple cameras away from the table capturing not only the game being played but the people playing it. I’m sure you’ve seen streamers out there with these amazing set ups. I know I have, and I’m very jealous.

Cable Management. This goes mostly with the last one, but I have this dream image in my head of this port in my ceiling where all the cables are there and they come down over the middle of the table and don’t get in the way and can’t be tripped over by anyone going to the bathroom. I don’t know how many times people have moved the mic, tripped over a Hue Bloom cord or unplugged the laptop while we are trying to play a game.

Digital Screens. I want one of these specifically for Dungeons & Dragons. A system where I can bring up a map on a screen and players can place their miniatures onto that screen. There are a lot of different ways to do this, some using old flat screen TVs others with projectors in the ceiling. What I really want is something that is part of the table and can be covered when not needed. Something where I can play board games one night and then remove a mat and play an RPG on the screen the next.

There you have some of the things I would do to make my game room better along with some of my thoughts on what makes for a great game room. What features does your perfect game room have? Let us know in the comments below.

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2 Responses

  1. It was helpful when you said to get game room tables. My husband wants to look into making a game room in our basement sometime this month, so he wants to make sure he gets all of the right equipment and furniture for it. I’ll pass these tips along to him as he searches for game room furniture to get.

    1. Hey Daisy,

      As time goes on Board Room Tables become better and better for game room tables. The big thing now is you can get them with things like USB ports, outlets, ethernet ports, and various cable management options.

      There are all things I wish I now had on my table as things go more digital over time.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Moe T

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