TABLETOP gaming is inarguably the earliest form of “gaming”. You might think you’re OG because you played Dungeons & Dragons back in the late 1970s, or were into chess in high school, but there were people in ancient Mesopotamia playing the oldest board game for which we actually know the rules – the Royal Game Of Ur – and the Ancient Egyptians had Senet.
Chess has been around since the Middle Ages, while other game night staples such as Monopoly, Cluedo and Risk are more recent but still quite old (1935, 1949 and 1957) . Then we’ve got the more modern entries such as Ticket To Ride and Settlers of Cataan, not to mention the countless other board games that are developed/released each year now the scene is undergoing something of a renaissance.
Besides all this being a justification for the research rabbit hole I fell down while trying to come up with an intro, it’s also a way to demonstrate how board games have evolved and are continuing to evolve – with this latest iteration of board games giving things a digital approach.
The Infinity Game Table, produced by Arcade 1Up, is an inventive way to have a library of tabletop games at your disposal – from a technical perspective it’s essentially an enormous Android tablet (32in touchscreen) on legs, with a reinforced screen, and it doubles as a table. When assembled, the 32in system measures 22.8cm wide by 100.3cm high and 67.6cm deep.
The system has about 98 games available for it at time of writing, covering a range of titles from licensed, well-known Hasbro games like Monopoly and Cluedo to traditional card games, and things like chess, snakes & ladders, and so on.
It also has the ability to download more, many of which are likely to be paid, but there are no details on specifics at present.
The games are full-feature versions of their physical counterparts and are, when you boil it down, effectively mobile device versions of the boardgames, but with hotseat gaming for many players (ie, just like a conventional board game).
The digital effects are well done and nice, too – for example, in Battleship, when you select the square to attack, you get the sound of naval guns firing and an animation plays showing the shell flying onto the screen and making a splash or an explosion depending on the result.
My kids absolutely loved the way the games we played came to life, and we had a lot of fun with them. The touch screen was responsive and accurate, the sound was good, and we had no issues at all using the Infinity Game Table during our time with it, no matter what we played.
There’s a large black bezel around the screen which, rather than being a distraction, serves perfectly as somewhere to put drinks and nibbles (there’s even some coasters in the box), and the whole thing is sturdy enough to serve as a side table (especially if you cover it with a towel or something first) when not in use, which means that instead of just taking up space when not in use, it’s actually a useful addition to the room.
Assembly is pleasantly straightforward – plug in legs to bottom of main unit, plug in AC adaptor to power point, turn on. It’s not light (it weighs 27kg), though so while it’s technically portable, it’s not something you’re going to be packing up and carting to a mate’s place on a whim either.
This would be amazing for someone with a lot of friends, or who has a dedicated rec room (I assume someone besides Darryl Kerrigan still has a pool room, right?).
I was somewhat irritated to discover I had to create an account and login to use the Infinity Game Table (I’ve got enough “only going to use it once” accounts as it is) – I honestly couldn’t see any reason why the system couldn’t come with all 98 games preloaded on it, with an account optional if you wanted to buy additional ones, instead of me having to download the free games after setting it up.
The other significant criticism I have of the Infinity Game Table is that it is shockingly, eye-wateringly expensive for what it is, with a current RRP of AUD$2000 – you can get a cromulent gaming laptop for that sort of money.
As great as the Infinity Game Table is, it’s not two grand great and I don’t think it remotely justifies that price tag, especially given the games aren’t exactly AAA blockbuster videogame titles, the system itself isn’t a cutting-edge powerhouse, and it’s not even in a fancy cabinet with heaps of programmable RGB lights or anything.
That’s a shame, because in and of itself, removing the price, it is a great system that’s a lot of fun, offers a variety of games, and is easy to jump in and play with. If you have the money, then this could certainly knock games night up a notch – but let’s be realistic here, given the state of the economy right now and the ongoing cost of living crisis, how many of us actually have a lazy $2,000 in our budget for something like this?
The idea behind the Infinity Game Table is great, the execution is great, it’s genuinely useful for games nights or parties etc, but the RRP is far too expensive for anyone except those with particularly burdensome wallets, or maybe community groups who can get some sort of Government grand to fund it.