It's safe to say that most people in Western Societies have at one point or another played a game of Foosball. If you're reading this article - chances are, you're one of those people and you're probably longing for a nostalgic and entertaining purchase.
Whether you're a former classic arcade dweller, familiar with the ins and outs of dig dug and Galaga, or just someone who had the occasional session on the foosball table at your local pizzeria, we're sure that our guide can help you make the best possible Foosball table purchase.
Let's get started.
What are the Types of Foosball Tables?
To get you started with making a purchase, we need to clear up the quite common misconception that there is only one type of foosball tables. Shocking, yes - I know. There are in fact, a few varieties of foosball tables commercially available each of which may or may not suit your needs. Here's a quick overview of the major types.
Standard Foosball Tables
The standard foosball table is the variety you are most likely to be familiar with. Typically, these boards are assembled after purchase and delivery and are intended to remain stationary for extended periods of time.
Usually, these boards are quite heavy, regardless of the materials they are constructed of. Commonly they are made of heavy-duty woods, however they can also be found made from plastic, MDF particle board or softer woods. Regardless of material, you can expect a foosball table to weigh around 100 lbs.
Tabletop Foosball Tables
Tabletop foosball tables emerged as part of an effort to make foosball more widely available. Their convenient sizes typically allow householders who normally wouldn't be able to accommodate a full-size table, to still have the foosball experience at home.
Of course, being "tabletop" doesn't mean you can simply play on any surface in your home. Typically, you'll need to ensure that your surface of choice is stable, to ensure uninterrupted gameplay. Which means your dining table with a slight lean is probably out of the question, the same goes for your rocking coffee table.
Countertops, home bars and sturdy tables are your best bets for fun and uninterrupted play. Tabletop foosball tables are usually made from plastic, so bear that in mind when making your purchase. Of course, there are higher quality materials available, however tabletop foosball is typically intended for short term use and not longevity. So, don't expect more than a few years use from the tabletop variety.
Coin Operated Foosball Tables
Coin operated tables are extremely heavy duty in most cases and thus- extremely expensive. Typically, these pieces are for those who are nostalgic at heart and have the extra money to spend, dedicated collectors or business owners hoping to attract patronage by improving their entertainment or arcade.
The parts for collecting coins - which of course can be safely altered to allow free play in a home environment - usually add a hefty amount to the price tag. They also open new potential vulnerabilities in your machine since these parts increase your likelihood of needing repair. Thus, we recommend against coin operated machines for the casual buyer.
What Size Foosball Table Should I Choose?
When purchasing your table, the first thing you'll need to consider is size. A standard, full size foosball table is 56 inches in length and 30 inches in width, not accounting for rod length. When measuring a space for your table, its best to leave a significant amount of clearance along each edge. Foosball can become a competitive game, so it's best to leave at least 2 feet of clearance on each side of your table to accommodate wilder shots and movements.
Most experts recommend having a 7ft by 8ft space to accommodate a full-size foosball table. If your table is intended solely as a collector's item or for decorative purposes, of course you can ignore these recommendations to some extent.
What Are the Best Player Arrangements in a Foosball Table?
Goalie Set up
If you're purchasing a table that will see at least SOME use - if only a little - the next thing you should consider is how your goalies are set up. Some consider the goalie to be the most important player on the foosball table as the goalie set up can dictate the pace of the game.
Goalkeepers can be set up as a single-man unit, or a three-man unit and which one you should choose is based on personal preference. Three-man goalie set ups make for faster games, since it's easier to defend goal-bound shots. Single-man goalie set ups emphasize skill and a slower paced game that focuses on well-timed shots.
That being said, if you're a regular or experienced foosball player, a single-man goalie set up might be more appealing to you. If you're planning on entertaining using your foosball table or have friends and family who are unfamiliar with or new to foosball, then a three-man set up is likely ideal for you.
Counterweighted Players Make for Cleaner Shots
Once you've decided on a single or three-man set up for your goalie, you can consider purchasing a table that has counterweighted players.
Put simply, counterweighted players are designed to stay out of your way once you've released the rod controlling them. For example, if you've just moved a midfield player to block a shot, you probably don't want his feet deflecting the ball back to your goal, once you move your defense to clear it out. Own goals can be hilarious, but those with a competitive nature can find this to be annoying to say the least.
Counterweighted players make for cleaner shots by sitting horizontally once you release the rod controlling them. This lifts heads and feet clear of the table to make lining up shots or blocking them far more consistent.
What is the Recommended Material for Playing Rods?
Playing rods are another important facet to consider when making your purchase. You should be looking for a table that comes with hollow, steel rods. These rods are ideal since they are well equipped for strain and lend to the life of the board by being durable against rough shots or play.
Hollow rods also speed up the game in comparison to whole steel rods since they weigh so much less. The highest quality boards typically come with hollow, steel rods and at the least you should ensure that your board of choice matches this. Never settle for a flimsy or unproven material, dealing with a broken foosball rod can be more than a pain in the neck.
What are the Best Materials for a Foosball Table?
You'll have three major choices when it comes to the construction of your foosball table: MDF particle, Wood + particle composites, solid wood and plastics.
Tables made of MDF particle board tend to break down over time, often with whole sections becoming rotted or falling way. Proper maintenance and humidity control can prolong the life of these boards but not by very much. Higher quality MDF does exist and is becoming more commonly used in foosball tables, however, most tables made of MDF have a warranty that lasts less than a year, which you can take as an estimation of their real durability.
Wood composites and solid woods
Wood composites and solid woods are interchangeable for the most part regarding durability. Solid woods face a bigger threat from humidity and need to be properly stored and protected. Composite woods react better to humid environments but also don't resist bumps and bruises quite as well as solid wood. If you're willing to maintain a solid wood board and have the budget, we recommend the purchase, however composite wood boards are a happy middle ground for most buyers.
What Material to Choose for Playing Surface?
The playing surface that you choose for your table will matter both in terms of long-term use and speed of play. Much like the goalkeeper set up we discussed earlier; your surface can have a significant impact on how fast the ball travels.
We recommend purchasing hard laminate playing surfaces.
These surfaces will offer you the most value for money since they facilitate the fastest play and are also the most durable playing surfaces available. Avoid purchasing playing fields that are stick-on or have stick-on field markings. These markings have a tendency to peel away and roll up, sometimes even after minimal use.
Humidity and temperature fluctuations also tend to heavily affect stick-on surfaces and field markings so try to avoid them if possible. Peeling surface markings are a sure-fire way to ruin the fun and decorative aspects of your foosball table.
Should My Foosball Table Have Stability Levers?
Our final recommendation is to ensure that your table of choice comes with stability levers. These are simple gadgets that allow you to maintain a table's balance. Balance may not matter too much in the early days of your foosball table's life, so long as your floor is level.
These bars come in handy once wear and tear threaten the level playing field of your board. Playing uphill is a losing battle regardless of how good you are at foosball and stability levers allows you to adjust the balance on both ends of the table to make the game fun for everyone who plays.
Have fun with your new foosball table!