One mainstay of any great game room is an air hockey table! Between the game speed and multiplayer action, an air hockey table can be a fun addition to any game room. But where do you start? With hundreds of options on the market, it can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why we at Gold Standard Games put together this list of questions and tips to make it a little easier!
Here are some things to look for and think about when purchasing your next air hockey table:
Let’s get started!
What size Air Hockey table?
Air hockey tables are generally large and can be as big as a pool table, so make sure there is ample room for your new game to get into your house or business. How is it getting into the game room and where is it going once it’s there? Make sure to measure the points of entry and take notes of any turns or narrow doorways that might hinder the moving of the air hockey table into your location. Next you want to figure out is how much space you have in your game room itself for your game. Air hockey tables can range from only a few feet long up to 8 feet and up to 4 feet wide. We encourage customers to leave a minimum of 36” on either end of the table for optimal play. This will ensure even taller players will have enough room to move around and score some legendary shots!
Large vs. Small puck tables
You may have noticed while shopping that some tables have small air hockey pucks while other tables have large pucks. You’re probably asking “Why?”
Typically the smaller puck tables are foreign made and are generally of cheaper construction. Made mostly for children and smaller players, these tables are less expensive and not recommended for adults or commercial use. With these smaller units the air hockey blower motor will be less powerful. Also, with the pucks being small, they have a tendency to fly off the table during game play! So heads up!
Large puck tables are usually constructed out of better materials and have a more solid ‘arcade-like’ feel to them, this makes them better for commercial and heavy home use.
With a larger puck comes a larger blower motor, allowing for the puck to travel faster and more smoothly. These large puck tables can be USAA- sanctioned (meaning they can be used for tournaments) and are constructed for commercial use- so they can take a lot more use and abuse and hold up.
Evaluate the skill levels of the players
So who do you think is going to be playing your air hockey table? Is it mostly going to be for the kids and their friends or will the adults be partaking in some late night air hockey tournaments? If so, you will want to go for larger, better constructed tables, that will take the style of play that higher level players tend to dish out. The frequency at which the table is played will also influence the life of the game. So if you expect heavy use at your location, we strongly suggest a bigger, better built table.
A commonly overlooked aspect of an air hockey table is the quality of the side walls on the playfield. The sidewalls are what the puck bounces off of during game play. The more solid the wall the better deflection and rebound you are going to get from it. This makes the game play faster and with less effort from the players. Make sure to check the quality of the rails on your next air hockey table to ensure the best playfield action possible.
New vs. Used Air Hockey Tables
Should you go with a new or a used table? That is entirely up to you but there are a few things to take into consideration when purchasing a used air hockey table versus a new air hockey table. Make sure to inspect the individual air holes for dirt and debris. If the air holes are clogged it can be very difficult to clean these out. How was the table stored? Are there any indications of water damage? High humidity and moisture can seriously damage the inner components of any arcade game. Digital scoring units and the blower motor both can be damaged but you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at the game. It is important to find out as much about the history of the game as possible. Check the condition of blower motor and the airflow on the table. If the blower motor is bad it is fairly expensive to replace. The same can be said for a damaged playfield. New air hockey tables have the advantage of you being able to choose all the details exactly how you want them. Most importantly to many buyers is the majority of new products have a warranty included with the purchase of the game, thus giving you some peace of mind and protection on your new purchase.
Construction of the Air Hockey Table
Evaluate the materials and construction of different tables. Is it solid wood or particle board that makes up the construction? Are the legs sturdy? How are the joints put together? Is there any kind of laminate on the playfield for protection?
Like many other products on the market, with air hockey units, you get what you pay for. Many of the more inexpensive tables will cut corners on production quality to keep the price down. Remember that when you pay for a bigger game you are also paying for better components and construction. This is going to show on the overall game play and longevity of the table.
What kind of pucks do I need?
There are different sized air hockey pucks for different sized tables. The smaller puck (2 ¾” diameter) is used for smaller tables- 6 and 7 foot respectively. The larger puck (3 ¼” diameter) is for the larger tables- 7 to 8 feet in length. Pucks come in a variety of shapes and colors as well. Some glow in the dark (and are blacklight reactive for air hockey tables like Gold Standard Games Gold Pro With Side Lights) while some are just plain black or white. There are also pucks that are designed to be quieter during game play, so as not to wake-up the children during a late-night game. Also, to change things up a bit, companies also offer different shaped pucks- like octagonal and triangular. These change the entire dynamic of the game and add another level of difficulty for players! Imagine playing all night with a round puck and then switching to a triangle! It would definitely add another dimension of play to the game, wouldn’t it?
Manual Vs. Digital Scoring
Another option for you to determine is if you want to keep your own score or have a computer do it for you? Many commercial air hockey tables will have digital air hockey scoring units that will keep track of the game points for you, allowing you to focus on your path to victory. The computer can also stop the game/blower when one player wins the match. Some tables have manual scoring mechanisms at each goal for players to keep track of their own score with. One advantage is that accidental goals can be ignored, or taken back whereas with a digital scoreboard they often can not. Some people like to keep things simple while others enjoy letting the game take care of the counting for them! It’s up to you!
Mallets? Pushers? Paddles?
Air Hockey Mallets are used to hit the puck in game play. Mallets are also called ‘pushers’, ‘paddles’ or ‘goalie mallets’. Mallets can vary in size from a couple of inches up to 4 inches in diameter, depending on the size of the table and puck. The bigger tables require the bigger mallets. Some mallets will come with felt pads on the bottom but not all do. Tables like Gold Standard Games Air Hockey Tables that feature a protective laminate do not require felt pads. If a table doesn’t have a protective laminate, felt pads can be used to protect the table. This is a personal preference left up to the player. While on one hand the felt pads will protect your table and playfield- some players feel that the pad slows down their reaction time thus hindering their game play. If you do choose to use felt pads on your mallets, be sure to replace them as necessary. Dust and dirt will collect over time and eventually damage the playfield it is designed to protect.
Boom-a-rang Style vs. Traditional
Boom-a-rang style air hockey tables are very much like how they sound: The actual playfield is shaped like a boom-a- rang! This allows for both players to stand on the same side competing against one another! Not only is this design different, but it’s also more attention grabbing! The advantage to this style is that it saves space, allowing for the game to be located against a wall, corner or even back to back with another table!