To the untrained eye, it’s just a table. Looking at the price tag, it’s a bloody expensive table. But for seasoned table-top, RPG and LAN gamer, the gaming table is a crucial part of the experience and can be the difference between immersion and frustration.
I’m speaking with Frank Bruzzaniti, a co-founder of Monty Haul Gaming. As someone who has only watched table-top games being played on dining room tables and participated in LANs on people’s floors, I’m not quite sure what Frank means when he first mentions the gaming table. He tells me about a handcrafted gaming table manufactured by a US company that goes for $15,000, not including shipping -- it’s a gorgeous piece of furniture that looks like a cross between a pool table and a treasure chest, but I wonder how many people have that kind of money to throw into a hobby that already requires a large financial investment. I certainly don’t. Bruzzaniti doesn’t. Nor does his business partner, William Grenfell. Cue their Australian-based business, Monty Haul Gaming.
Bruzzaniti had been looking at Geek Chic’s gaming tables for a while, admiring the stunning handcrafted pieces with regal names like “The Sultan”. Beautiful as they are, they are out of reach for many people; Bruzzaniti could afford one, nor could his table-top gaming friends. So he decided to make his own, and he decided to go one better.
Teaming up with Grenfell, they decided their had to meet a certain criteria: it had to be affordable (Monty Haul Gaming tables start at $AU1650 and go up to $1870), it had to be easy to ship (all tables ship at a flat rate of $AU200, compared to the $1000 required to ship models designed overseas), it had to cater to role-playing, table-top war gaming, as well as LAN gaming, and it had to be available in Australia.
Bruzzaniti says that Monty Haul’s gaming tables may not be the first in the country, but he believes they are the first to have designed a gaming table that also converts to a dining room table. In addition, he believes it’s the most affordable professional gaming table that also caters to LAN gaming by allowing cabling to be managed through through the drawers, which is something often neglected by manufacturers of gaming tables.
“We initially built a prototype. It was very rough, but it was enough to prove the concept,” says Bruzzaniti.
“We worked on the design and a couple of prototypes (and arguments) later, we felt it was at a stage where we got a professional carpenter to review our design and build us a ‘finished prototype'.”
The pair started talking to everyone about their idea, finding a manufacturer in China that could help them build the table and taking their product to conventions around the country. Bruzzaniti says that they wanted to have the tables manufactured locally, but they simply didn’t have the money to make that happen.
“The business is still running on a shoestring budget – we can even afford to get our website fixed!” says Bruzzaniti, who, like Grenfell, works a full-time job outside of running Monty Haul Games.
“We have been plugging away at expos where we usually make enough sales to get the next order in and pay for us to get to the next expo.”
Monty Haul’s designs meet table-top gaming specifications with the bonus of being suitable for LAN gaming. They feature a 60mm sunken play surface with removable table leaves for maps and miniatures, lined dice tray to minimise noise and maximise available space, clear acrylic map covers to allow temporary marking of maps during the game, a flat pack design that allows for easy storage, and they in four, six, and eight player sizes.
The series that Bruzzaniti and Grenfell have created is called the Tribute Gaming Table. The name comes from the tribute the tables pay to the gaming tables that gamers have made themselves over the years.
“People have been making their own gaming tables for years, so I guess it’s great to have something that’s accessible to everyone now,” he says.
“Most people [who see our tables] are normally like ‘Finally!’ or ‘Of course, it makes sense, why haven’t we seen gaming tables sooner?’ We do get a few people that screw up their face and say ‘What is that thing?’, but not too many, thankfully!”
“What keeps us going, apart from our happy customers, is that people really seem to be happy to see the tables. We think it’s because the table is such a big part of gaming; it’s where you meet and gather around with your friends, it’s where you play the games… I guess it was a logical step that something came out that was designed just for that purpose.”
[Lead photo courtesy of Pairadice Saloon]