How Combination Game Tables Work

Combination game tables typically include an air hockey table and a pool table.
Combination game tables typically include an air hockey table and a pool table.
©iStockphoto.com/yellowsarah

Wii and other television-plus-controller gaming systems are gaining popularity. You can buy a wide variety of virtual games, including traditional recreation room favorites such as pool, table tennis and air hockey. But not everyone is satisfied with a virtual experience.

For people who want to build actual skills with actual equipment -- those who enjoy walking around a pool table assessing angles and sighting down a pool cue to connect with the ball, or who relish facing an opponent across the table and pitting their skills against a human rather than a computer program -- but who'd still like the option to play a variety of games, combination game tables offer a solution.

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Combination game tables range from simple two-option tables that convert from pool to air hockey (termed a pockey table) by rotating the playing surface around a central axis, to cubes that rotate to offer four different games, to tables that come with add-ons that increase the fun to 15 activities. Most combination game tables come with all the accessories required to play the games.

The quality and size of the product affects the price more than the number of games included does. Seven-foot (2.1-meter) pockey tables range from $300 to $800 [source: Sears, Sports Authority, Amazon]. Combination tables that offer more games tend to be in the 4-5 foot (1.2-1.5 meter) range, making them ideal for accommodating children and their short-attention spans. These are also priced to be outgrown, rather than becoming a permanent furnishing for your home. A typical child-friendly unit costs about $200 [source: Sears, Sports Authority].

Some retailers, such as Sears and Sports Authority, stock combination game tables in the store, but you can also purchase them online. They'll be delivered to your door unassembled, so you'll have the opportunity to develop a separate skill set as you decipher the instructions

What games come with combination game tables? Read on to find out.

 

Types of Combination Game Tables

Combination game tables come in a variety of sizes and shapes and can offer anywhere from two to 15 different games. Most start with a console that flips over or swivels to change from billiards to air hockey. Tables in the 6-7 foot (1.8-2.1 meter) range tend to stop with this combination, but some include a table tennis topper. Some toppers have prints of boards for other games, such as Texas hold 'em, bowling or baseball, on the flip side.

Mini-pool tables run from 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters) in length and vary in width. Mark Osgoode, a sales associate with Sears, says that in his experience, people with young children purchase this size table. These tables offer more games, too. Most are the pockey-type tables, with a rotating cabinet that changes from pool to hockey, but one is a cube-like rotating device with 4 game surfaces: mini-pool, air hockey, football and poker. The addition of ping-pong, ring toss, horseshoes, basketball, flick football and numerous board games expands these tables to up to 15 games. The action games, however, are on an abbreviated scale.

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Another option is a bumper pool table that serves as a dining table and poker table. The octagonal, flat dining surface flips over to reveal a card table with a felt-covered center section. With the top removed, it becomes a bumper pool table.

There are also combination game tables with no action games. Sterling Games makes a 3-in-1 table for checkers, chess and backgammon. The lift-off top has a checkers/chess board on one side and a backgammon board on the other. Game pieces are stores inside the solid wood table.

Combination game tables have many advantages and some drawbacks. See the pros and cons on the next page.

Pros and Cons of Combination Game Tables

On the upside, combination game tables are versatile. They provide multiple game options in a limited amount of space. Comparatively, they are less expensive than furniture quality single-game tables, and they come in a variety of sizes, so you can find one that will work in almost any room. And many combination game tables are sized and priced so you can let children play on them without worrying about their damaging a costly, high-quality furnishing.

But the lower cost of combination game tables is a trade-off. The quality and durability of most combination game tables is less than what you'd expect in an expensive, tournament-style billiard table. Almost all of the choices are made of laminate covered MDF (medium density fiberboard) or particleboard. These materials are made from wood scraps, particles and sawdust, so they lack the strength and durability of solid wood.

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Another problem with MDF and particleboard is that they don't hold screws well. It's very easy to over-tighten fasteners, and that enlarges the screw or bolthole so that it doesn't grab the screws. When this happens, your table may wobble. Laminated surfaces chip easily, and reconstituted wood products tend to deteriorate or crumble where they're exposed.

Delivery and assembly are additional expenses for combination game tables. Expect to pay around $200 for shipping of this oversized item [source: Sears, Sports Authority]. If you don't want to put it together yourself, Sears offers assembly service, but it can cost up to 50 percent of your purchase price [source: Osgoode].

For more information on combination game tables, see the links on the following page.

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Sources

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