April 30, 2014 by warzan
About a week ago we got a chance to try out the new modular cardboard gaming tables from 4th War.
While we liked the product and enjoyed leaving Justin (@dignity) lying stranded on it, the product itself and it’s resulting Kickstarter left us with a few questions.
So, we reached out to the guys at 4th War to try and learn more about the technical and financial details of the product, and see if we can uncover what makes a ‘cardboard product tick’.
Is it structurally sound…
Despite the fact we were able to lie Justin on the table, we wanted to know more about how the design of the table affected it’s stability and strength.
Cardboard is a bit of a wonder material, but one we tend to quickly dismiss as we see it practically every day. Its properties allow it to be folded and bonded in ways that would be very difficult (read expensive) to achieve with a plastic alternative.
The ‘engineering’ in cardboard design is to ensure that you play to the strengths and that means having the the corrugation align in the right directions to ensure load is always supported by the strongest elements.
Strength like a tree or a skyscraper…
There is a common misconception that strength is derived from rigidity, but in reality strength and stability are just as reliant on materials being able to bend or flex slightly. It is these properties that allow products to take a shock or a hit, and dissipate the energy rather than react directly to it. (The whole equal and opposite reaction stuff our old friend Newton described)
The 4th War gaming table has three specific areas that help here:
Pressure Positioning System – The legs have a blade structure that reacts to the amount of weight placed upon the table, in other words the more weight that is applied the resulting force exerts a pressure on to the leg assembly and more of the blades come into contact with the floor surface.
Seismic Attitude – There is a double skin on the surface of the table, this acts a kind of buffer to dissipate the energy from knocks and bumps and ensure that those types of vibrations are absorbed rather than ‘reflected’ or ‘amplified’, meaning your models are less likely to fall over.
Ferrite isotropic magnets – The magnets built into the edges of the tables are very strong, and don’t have a polarity. Typically these magnets are weaker than ‘Anisotropic Ferrite Magnets’ (those with a polarity) but the size of the magnets on the table more than compensates for that. The key here is that as you bind these tables together they become stronger.
We all like Beer right?
A concern we had was about the table and moisture, to be fair we’re not really concerned about dropping a drink or beer over the table, because we always try to take as much care over that as possible, and we’d be more worried about our terrain and miniatures than the table!
But we don’t all live in lovely climates like the designers over at 4th war (Sizzling Italy!) what about those of us (and I mean US!) that live in a rain forest without the forest.
Well the guys at 4th War really didn’t have to do too much thinking about that, because the boffins who make cardboard have to deal with these things every single day, in every part of the world.
Quality cardboard’s like those used in the 4th War table (high density cellulose), have a basic natural resistance to spills etc, and if you need to store it in a damp environment is comes packaged in a heavy duty plastic bag (Nearly un-tearable clear bag, not the carry bag!) to keep out the moisture. The guys even go so far as to say if you seal it with tape you could submerge it and it will be fine. (we don’t suggest that as an efficient way of storing your gaming table by the way)
They also have told us they will be looking into additional optional sealants and adhesive plastic coverings for the feet to ensure no moisture transfer.
So what about cost?
This was always going to be a key point for the product, because cardboard is cheap right? Well it’s not as clear cut as that. First lets look at the benefits its trying to achieve.
Folds into a very small space
Flexible and expandable
Safe to use on your floors and carpets (I have torn too many carpets with those fold away wallpaper tables!)
Now lets try to break down the production costs for a set of three tables costing $129 (spec ops pledge as referral point & + kickstarter exclusive bag)
Materials – $21.70
microtriple poliwave high performance cardboard, + magnets + velcro tape + special glue for cardboard
Manufacture - $56.60
Bag – $21.75
Shipping Waterproof Bag – $1.16
Shipping Box – $6.77
Kickstarter Fees – $12.26
Shipping Tax – $1.5
Buffer for changes to designs or unexpected issues – 7.26
As you can see if the figures they gave us are correct (and we’ve no reason to disbelieve them) they are running a fairly typical Kickstarter where budgets are down to the wire to try and get production up and running.
I’m sure they will find scope for cost breaks if they get to scale but from the figures above I would imagine that would become some well earned profit – or more likely go towards all the other costs a company faces these days.
So to Cardboard or Not to Cardboard?
For me there are clear benefits of a product like this, we have limited space and I would like our carpets to remain intact. We want to run small local events and having something both light and portable makes that possible.
All the little features they have took the time to develop, regarding stability etc, is all stuff we are unlikely to notice, but would surely miss them if they weren’t there.
On top of it all, nothing is designed to last forever, and I do feel a little better knowing if and when it makes its way to the place for tables in the sky, it can be either recycled or bio degrade gracefully knowing it has hosted a multitude of epic battles for supremacy!
A big thanks goes out to 4th War for being so upfront about their product with us, and we wish them every success in trying to bring this to the market.
"There is a common misconception that strength is derived from rigidity"
"we don’t all live in lovely climates like the designers over at 4th war (Sizzling Italy!) what about those of us (and I mean US!) that live in a rain forest without the forest"