There is a certain magic to tabletop games. Even in this day and age, where video games are widespread, and tabletop games are starting to lose some of their luster of yore, they manage to retain that magic. One of the best parts of tabletop games is that there are just so many of them.
Regardless of your mood, there will always be a game to suit your play style and preferences. Pool is arguably one of the more beloved tabletop games in existence. When was the last time you walked into a place with pool tables and saw them entirely deserted? Beyond pool fans, there are many other followings for tabletop games.
Foosball, a favorite that closely emulates soccer, is more sports based than other tabletop games, and today, we will be looking at a game which may seem broadly similar. There are a few fundamental differences between our game and other tabletop sports games. The game we will be discussing is air hockey.
We will be taking a look at some of the details which are related to air hockey, but we will also be looking at the table that the game is played on. More in-depth knowledge about how the game works may even help you improve your play. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we’ll start with the basics.
What Is An Air Hockey Table?
As you may have guessed from the name, an air hockey table is a table that acts as a playing surface for a game of air hockey. Air hockey tables are some of the newest of the more popular game tables, as the idea was first thought up in the late 1960s. However, it took until the mid-1970s for air hockey tables to first enter production.
Air hockey tables work by creating a frictionless surface. While no surface can be entirely friction free, air hockey tables minimize friction to a reasonable degree. The reason that air hockey is so named is that air is the reason why this playing surface can be created in the first place.
Three objects are crucial to a game of air hockey. First, you need the air hockey table itself. The second object is a puck, which is a flat plastic disc with raised edges. The final objects that you need are a pair of mallets (also known as strikers). The mallets are used to interact with the puck, allowing you to make saves and score goals.
This frictionless surface is due to many features of the air hockey table working together. It is achieved by first drilling a large number of symmetrical holes into the playing surface. These holes are small enough not to interrupt the gameplay but large enough to allow sufficient airflow.
Underneath the playing surface, you will find one or more fans. These fans push air upwards at a moderate rate. Since the air is fanned up through the holes in the playing surface, it will negate most of the friction between the puck and the table.
If the fans are too powerful, the puck will just fly off of the playing surface, but if the fans are too weak, then there will be too much friction between the puck and the surface. This design element is one of the principal hurdles in the air hockey table design process, ensuring adequate airflow for a fun game.
In addition to the air that blows up through the holes in the playing surface, an air hockey table will also feature a very smooth upper surface. This smoothness allows for less friction than a rougher surface. You may be wondering why a smooth surface is necessary when there is already airflow negating friction.
While the puck floats on the surface, the downward pressure that you exert upon the mallet means that it will often make contact with the table. A smooth surface allows the striker to move with relative ease. The game would be much more challenging if the playing surface were not as smooth.
Playing air hockey is a surprisingly effective way to stay active. Intense games will give you a decent arm workout and the need to constantly reposition means that you have to be quick on your feet. While arm strength is not as crucial as a proper technique when it comes to playing well, you will still be able to develop your strength over hours of play.
There is also a good deal of stretching that is required over the course of an air hockey game, as you will have to reach for the puck when it nears the middle of the air hockey table. If you are trying to improve your upper body flexibility, you will find that air hockey is a great game to play.
Air hockey is also a great way to reduce your stress levels. There are few things more satisfying than being able to hit the puck and send it zooming across the playing surface. When you are stressed, you will find that hitting things like air hockey pucks or punching bags is an excellent way to let off some steam.
It is not only the action of playing air hockey that is good for relieving stress; it is the game itself. Letting your mind roam a bit so you can enjoy an inconsequential match of air hockey allows you to stop thinking about the things that have you stressed. When you enter the zone during a game of air hockey, the game is all that matters for that short time.
There is also the enjoyment of winning a match of air hockey. After you win a game, you can take a step back and realize that there is no need to be clouded in a bubble of stress. There are so many simple pleasures in life, like air hockey and other table games, being stressed is a way to blind yourself to them.
An air hockey table will also help you improve your hand-eye coordination. It makes sense that a game which involves stopping a zooming puck with a mallet will help you improve your coordination, but some people may not realize the extent of this improvement.
While table hockey may seem like a simple game to the untrained observer, it is a game which is based entirely on the player who has superior reflexes. As with any other sport or game, you will find that practice makes perfect. As you get better at air hockey, you will find that your coordination will improve at the same rate.
One of the best parts about table-based games is that they allow you to socialize with your friends. This is an aspect in which video games are struggling to catch up to tabletop games. While you can play online multiplayer in video games, few things match the experience of crowding around a table with buddies.
Air hockey tables are a great way for adults to socialize, but they are also a great way for children to make friends and have fun on play dates. An air hockey table in your game room will allow for the whole family to enjoy some fun and relaxation and can make for a great centerpiece at parties.
Air hockey tables which are featured in arcades will typically be top of the line models. They can range in price from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. If you are looking for the most authentic air hockey experience aside from competitive tables, arcade tables are the way to go.
Arcade air hockey tables tend to feature a broad range of extra accessories. These can be as simple as electronic scoreboards or as complex as light and sound effects whenever a goal is scored. They also tend to be styled more aggressively, featuring graphics and decals which would be at home in an arcade.
Basic air hockey tables tend to be much more affordable than their arcade counterparts. They can usually be found in the price range of one to two hundred dollars. These tables often sacrifice extra features in exchange for affordability, but this does not have to make them inferior.
Most people won't be able to spend a few thousand dollars on a fully decked-out air hockey table, so these make up the vast majority of personal air hockey table purchases. Another difference, when compared to arcade air hockey tables, is that these models can often be carried and assembled by one person as opposed to a team.
While air hockey is usually defined as a tabletop game, these air hockey tables make the term quite literal. Table top air hockey tables do not feature legs as they are meant to be played on a tabletop. This allows them to be much more compact than other models, so they can be easily stored as well as moved.
Table top air hockey tables are usually in the less expensive range when it comes to buying an air hockey table for home. The price will usually max out at around a couple hundred dollars, and that is for the models which feature a good deal of extras. These models are a good choice for children who may be too short to reach full-sized tables.
One of the unique types of air hockey tables that you will find is a multi-game table. These tables feature a convertible top that can alternate between different tabletop games. The tabletop games which are features on multi-game tables can vary from product to product, but some styles are more common than others.
The most versatile multi-game tables are known as 3 in one air hockey tables. These allow you to swap between three of the most popular tabletop games: air hockey, pool, and foosball. These tables are a great investment for customers who don't have enough room for three different game tables.
The first air hockey table difficulty level that you will find is for beginners. Air hockey tables which feature this difficulty are meant to be played by people who are new to air hockey as well as younger children whose reflexes may not be finely honed yet.
These tables are usually smaller than competitive tables, allowing shorter players to reach the center of the playing surface. Beginner tables also tend to feature larger goal slots, so it is easier to score. This makes for a game that ends quicker thanks to the higher scoring nature of matches on these tables.
Intermediate air hockey tables are usually the type that you will find available for a more reasonable price. The playing surface may end up being a little less smooth than the surface that you will find on arcade, and competitive tables and the goals may not be sized according to tournament rules.
Intermediate tables are usually smaller than advanced tables, but there are also tables of this difficulty level that are full-sized. These tables tend to be the most common type that you will find when searching for air hockey tables according to their difficulty level due to their accessibility.
The advanced difficulty level encompasses air hockey tables that are designed for competitive and arcade play. These tables will be the most expensive models, but they will also feature the highest construction quality out of the rest of the competition.
While these tables aren't much harder than intermediate tables, they represent the actual tournament air hockey experience, so they are an excellent choice for more serious players. The downside is that they are usually difficult to install and take up quite a bit of space.
Air hockey table sizes are one of the more important specifications to account for. The size of your air hockey table will have a huge effect on the game experience and can radically alter the speed of your game. Smaller tables will result in faster, more intense games that will tend to be over quicker.
The official size for tournament tables is the eight-foot table. A larger playing surface means that the player needs better puck handling skills and provides more angles for deflection shots. Unless you are a tournament table hockey player, an eight-foot table isn't entirely necessary as it costs more and takes up more room than smaller tables.
The blower motor of your air hockey table is the main mechanical component that is needed to make the table function. It is the part of your table that makes the fan turn, and it can get rather expensive to replace. This is why it is important to invest in a model with a reliable motor.
Aside from reliability, you will want to look for an air hockey table that comes with a motor which is powerful enough to provide sufficient friction reduction. Some budget air hockey tables will feature dead zones where the airflow isn’t powerful enough to keep the puck off the table.
There are also many different kinds of frames that you will find on air hockey tables. Lower priced models may feature a simple frame that only supports the table itself. High-end models feature frames which may extend further up, and they can contain lights, scoreboards, and other accessories.
Regardless of the type of frame that is available for an air hockey table, it is important to ensure that it is as durable as possible. The frame will typically support a good portion of the table so you do not want it failing, as the table will be likely to fall apart and other parts of the table can get damaged when this occurs.
The materials used in the construction of an air hockey table will have a significant bearing on the effectiveness and build quality of the table. The playing surface is usually made of smooth, high-quality plastic which should allow the puck to slide around slightly even when the table is off.
The frame of an air hockey table will usually be made out of a type of metal. Some models use steel, but this is rather cumbersome, even though it is resilient. Other models use aluminum for the frame, which is relatively durable and lighter than steel.
There is a wide variety of accessories available for air hockey tables. Most of these are features which improve user friendliness. For example, there are many air hockey tables which come with a digital score counter which automatically tallies up goals the moment the puck enters the slot.
Beyond score counters, there are also models which feature LED lights so that you can play air hockey in the dark. Another attractive feature is the ability to adjust the size of the goals. This allows you to set up a handicap by making the goal narrower or wider for one player or you can just adjust both nets equally.
Brunswick Bowling and Billiards is a company which specializes in many different types of games, as you may be able to tell from their name. Their employees were the original creators of air hockey, so they have the most experience in the field.
Playcraft is a games company which was established in 1975. They specialize in pool and air hockey tables. They value superior quality above everything else, so their products may be a little more pricey than some of their competitors, but they are built to last.
Fat Cats is a brand of GLD Products, they specialize in pool tables and other game tables, like most air hockey table manufacturers. GLD was founded in Milwaukee in 1981. They are a company which manufactures air hockey tables that provide excellent value for money.
Triumph is another brand which is owned by a parent company, in this case, that parent company is Escalade Sports. Triumph is their brand that focuses on many different kinds of game tables, such as foosball tables, pool tables, and of course, air hockey tables.
Sportcraft is a company which specializes in a wide range of games, from indoor to outdoor. Their product catalog ranges from bag toss and horseshoe games to indoor game tables.
While their product catalog is certainly varied when compared to other companies, their air hockey tables are still quality products.
Cleaning an air hockey table is one of the most important ways that you can maintain it. If you let your air hockey table get too dirty, there is a good chance that the holes will end up getting clogged and your game experience will suffer.
You will want to thoroughly wipe down the playing surface of your air hockey table whenever you see it starting to get dirty. A moist cloth with dish soap will usually be sufficient when it comes to cleaning it well. It is crucial that you remove the upper surface of your table before cleaning to prevent water from damaging the fans or the motor.
To maintain your air hockey table, you must ensure that you get all the dust out of it when it starts to form. Dust in your blowers can result in clogged holes since it will get pushed up into them. If the holes of your table end up getting clogged, you can use a can of compressed air to blow the dust back out.
To ensure that this situation doesn't occur in the first place, you will want to check your fans regularly and either remove the dust by hand or by using compressed air. Compressed air will ensure a more thorough clean as it can clear the dust out of nooks and crannies.
As you can see, air hockey tables are not all that complex. Air hockey is a great way to pass the time for a wide variety of reasons. Regardless of whether you want to improve your fitness, blow off some steam or simply have fun, an air hockey table is an excellent choice.