Archive for the 'Wargaming' Category


Wargaming Table

Battletech - Mad CatBesides table top roleplaying, I also spend one night a week (most weeks) playing miniature wargaming with several of my co-workers. Our interests are spread between Warhammer 40k, Battletech and occasionally other games. I wouldn’t call myself a wargaming veteran just yet, but we play often enough that it was quickly becoming obvious that we needed an alternative to the 3’x4′ dining room table we’ve been using. Since we couldn’t fit a larger dining room table in our rather small kitchen and since tables good for gaming on are a bit hard to come by (and within budget), I reached the only natural conclusion… I built one!

The needs of the table were pretty simple. It needed to be a minimum of 4’x6′ to be a standard Warhammer gaming table size. It needed to be easily move able. It needed to be in the garage (that wasn’t actually a need I had for the table, but my girlfriend appreciated it). I also wanted it to double as a regular table for tabletop gaming with larger groups. It also needed to look good.

For my design, I had a 30″x6′ folding table available that I decided to incorporate into the table. I also elected to build a larger 4′ x 8′ table, partially so that it would be larger than the folding table but also so that we would have more room if necessary. We often run two games at once between two sets of players, this gave us enough room to run both on a slightly crowded table or to run one very large game with four armies. The last point that’s worth noting is my personal predilection towards over engineering any construction task into a heavy duty, indestructible and incredibly functional object.

My supplies ended up being:

  • 7 – 2x4x8 boards
  • 1 – 1/4″ 4×8 plywood sheet
  • 1 – 30″x72″ plastic folding table
  • 1 – Box 3″ screws
  • 1 – Box 1″ screws
  • 2 – 1x5x8 hemlock boards
  • 2 – 1x5x6 hemlock boards
  • 1 – Box 1.5″ finishing nails
  • 1 – 50″x100″ Woodland Scenics Grass Mat
  • 1 – 3M 77 Spray Adhesive
  • 1 – Staplegun w/ staples
  • 1 – Sandpaper, wood conditioner, wood stain, satin wood varnish
Wargaming Table - Plans

The plans for the table. The design changed a little bit from my sketches during the build, but it turned out roughly like this. The dark spot in the center shows the folding table size.

To that end, I drew up plans to build a frame of 2×4’s for the entire 4’x8′ table. There was also an inner frame that was just slightly larger than my folding table. This frame would fit snugly around the folding table to form a removable top so that it could be removed easily for moving or to be placed aside so that the folding table can be used for other needs. A large, single sheet of quarter inch plywood was then laid on top and mounted to the frame.

The rest of the frame was filled out with struts for additional stability, very similarly to how a house is framed. Inside the inner frame, I turned the 2×4’s onto their sides to support the frame on the table surface without sacrificing the edges the vertical 2×4’s gave me. One on each end placed most of the table weight over the legs and an additional one in the center provided additional strength and distributed the weight slightly.

Wargaming Table - Wood - FrameWargaming Table - Wood - BottomWargaming Table - Wood - TopWith help from a friend who lent me a few extra tools, his hands and his expertise in wood working, we knocked out the whole thing in a couple of hours. We did end up having to remove the two long, outer frame boards after mounting the long, inner frame  boards when we realized that we didn’t have enough room to screw in the various cross bars. Other than that (and several trips to Home Depot for miscellaneous tools we didn’t realize we were missing until we started) it all went very smoothly.

After construction, I had to wait a few days to get the rest of the parts. Most importantly, a 50″x100″ Woodland Scenics grass mat. The grass mat was the largest I could find and was the only one that could completely cover the table with a single mat. I did a lot of research trying to figure out the easiest but also the best way to affix the mat to the plywood.

Eventually, I settled on using 3M Spray Adhesive. I had two friends come over and we laid out the mat on the table. We rolled up one half of the mat and I sprayed a layer of adhesive down on the plywood. The adhesive turned out to be really difficult to see. I went slow and did my best to get even coverage over the entire half of the table. Once that was done, we rolled out that half of the mat, trying to lay it as flat as possible and to push out any bubbles or wrinkles as we went. The first side went very well, the second side ended up with a few small wrinkles.

Wargaming Table - Mat - CornerWargaming Table - Mat - TopWe threw a spare 4’x8′ board I had laying around on top and loaded it with weight to flatten any wrinkles and to ensure that any out-gassing the glue might produce wouldn’t cause the surface to bubble. The next day, after removing the weight, I went around and stapled all of the edges down. Unfortunately, the grass mat was somewhat fragile and moving the board on and off caused a few areas of grass to scrape off the edge. It wasn’t enough to bother me, but it is worth being careful when you’re working with it.

To try to toughen up the surface a little bit and prevent any further scraping through use, I mixed some hobby glue with some water in a spray bottle and put down a light coat on the table. I also put down a few layers of fixative spray, hoping to protect the table surface.

To finish up the table, there were two more things I wanted. One, I wanted a nice, flat, clear surface that I could use both as a writing surface and as a dry/wet erase surface that could have maps laid under them. There were several options available in many sizes, but I ended up selecting 1/8″ acrylic sheets, two 3’x4′ sections and one 2’x4′ section so that they could be easily placed on and removed from the table.

Secondly, I wanted the table to have a nice, finished appearance. To hide the 2×4 frame I picked up several lengths of 1×5 hemlock boards. After cutting the end pieces to length, I sanded, treated, sanded, stained, sanded and varnished all of the boards. They were then nailed on to the frame. I made sure that the edge boards were positioned so that they stood just about 1/8″ above the grass mat surface, so that the acrylic sheets would be level with the trim when placed on the table.

I did encounter a small issue with my finishing boards not lining up exactly. I ended up cutting a small, quarter inch shim out of one of the excess boards, staining it and sandwiching it in the gap. This works out well enough, but wasn’t my ideal solution. Next time I would buy 10′ boards for the long sides and cut them down so they fit perfectly. This would also have allowed me to cut 45° angles into the joints for a much better finish.

The acrylic glass fit width wise perfectly, if a bit tight. Lengthwise, however, they were cut a little bit long by about a half an inch across all three sections. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll need to square them up a little bit and cut off the excess so that they fit the table better.

Wargaming Table - Finished - Top

Having played a few Warhammer 40k matches on it so far, the table itself is working out great! I haven’t gotten to try it as a regular table for roleplaying games just yet, but I’m expecting great things! The whole table top is easily moved by two people, but it is certainly sturdy enough to lay flat and even take people leaning on it as they reach across the table. Tipping has not been an issue but, if it ever becomes one, it would be pretty easy to attach straps or clamps to secure it to the table or to build out four legs and attach them to the table for a more permanent solution.

The grass mat surface, unfortunately, hasn’t held up as well. If it were placed in a dedicated gaming room, I doubt it would be an issue. Since my table is in the garage, it tends to get things sat on it quite frequently. Setting things on it isn’t an issue, but over a few months, boxes or objects have been pushed and adjusted on it which has scraped up a number of gashes in the grass surface.

Ultimately, I’ll try gluing down some loose grass to the mat to fix the gashes and spray a lot more fixative on the surface to try and protect it, but I don’t think it will fix the problem. I endeavor to keep the table covered with the acrylic glass when not being used for wargaming, but it is often forgotten and left off between games. I don’t have a particular solution for this problem, other than finding a sturdier grass mat, making do with painted wood, or choosing a lighter sand mat or something similar that wouldn’t show the gashes as obviously.

When I was designing my table, I had a hard time finding good resources, both for building a wargaming appropriate table as well as for resources for creating a table with a permanent finish. If anything here helped you in building a table for your own needs, let me know… And post pictures of your creation!

– Geoff


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