Foosball Table Buyer’s Guide

In Foosball by Jeff EastmanLeave a Comment

Foosball is a great game and a standard piece of equipment for any rec room.  When looking for a table to buy you will find hundreds of models to choose from.  Foosball table prices begin under $100 and can run as high as  $2,000.  Within this price range, there’s a wide array of features to consider.  You’re going to need to match up the features you want with your budget and needs.  Here’s a rundown of what to look for.

What To Look For In A Kid’s Table

If you have kids you know they have fickle interests.  It may take me 10 minutes to put Criss-Cross-Crash together and they play with it for 5.  Then they’re dumping out a bucket of Legos and it’s off to the races.  The point is that you don’t want to commit the dollars and the floor space to something that may become an unused albatross.  Smaller kids may have a tough time seeing over the edge of a standing table.  There are a lot of smaller models that can be set on a table.  They are at lower price points and can be stuck in the closet after play or put in the driveway for a garage sale when the kids outgrow it.

My recommended Kid’s table is made by Harvil. It’s an ideal choice for younger players.  Its got a busy graphical look sure to attract a kid’s attention.  It’s also an excellent introduction to the game of foosball as young players will only have three handles to manage.  Don’t expect counterbalanced players at this price point but players are molded to resemble ones on more grown-up tables.  The Harvil Tabletop Foosball Table moves easily from storage to a coffee table or the floor ready to play.

READ  Best Foosball Table For The Money

What To Look For In A Family Table

If you are looking for a table that adults can play along with the kids there’s a ton of choices at all price ranges.  You’re going to need to decide what features are the most important to you.

I recommend the American Legend Charger Foosball Table as a table that adults and kids can play together.  It’s got a great classic look.  It’s sturdily built and easy to assemble.  (Note on assembly:  Any table you buy in this range is going to require some assembly.  Plan on it taking about an hour.  I included a link to the assembly instructions HERE. The American Legend Charger model is on the easier end of the spectrum.)

What to Look For In A Serious Table

The “do all, end all” of foosball tables.  These are the tables with all the bells and whistles.  They’re made of superior materials and will stand up to heavy regular play.  If you need a table for a pub or frat house these are the candidates to consider.  You would also want to take a look at these if you have family members that are hardcore foosball players that play and practice all the time.  Of course, extra features and durability come with a heavier price tag.

The Warrior Professional Foosball Table is the choice here.  I’ve had the opportunity to play on this table and I can speak on the quality.  While not the fastest gameplay in the world the ability to control the ball is fantastic.   It checks all the boxes.  Counterbalanced men, telescoping safety rods, side ball returns, and advanced bearings. All features you’d expect to find on tables costing twice as much.  Warrior is one of the top names in foosball. This is the only table they make and is the official table of the Warrior Professional Foosball Tour so you expect top of the line gameplay.  You can get more info and check prices on Amazon HERE.

Foosball Table Features

Table-top or Freestanding: People usually imagine a foosball table as standing on four legs.  There are however many models that can be set on a table.  These tend to be smaller and geared for kids.  The gameplay isn’t going to be fantastic but they can be stowed away when not in use.  The price point on these tables is on the lower end of the scale so you’re not sacrificing a ton of cash for kids’ sometimes fickle interests.

Build Materials:  A lot of North American tables are usually made out of MDF (medium density fiberboard).  If you have ever bought a piece of furniture or cabinet that you had to assemble yourself you know what MDF is.  It’s wood particles pressed together, fused with resin and covered by a laminate.  This creates hard surfaces and leads to faster gameplay.  Higher end tables are made of solid wood.  The thickness of the walls will speak to the overall quality and durability of the table.  If you want something that will last look for at least a 1″ width. Some serious tables can even be 1.5″ width.  European tables tend to be made of more natural wood.  They look more like furniture and the softer material leads to slightly slower gameplay.  The same width guidelines apply here.

Goalie Bar: Foosball tables come in two varieties, one-goalie setups and three-goalie setups. One-goalie setups are standard in European regions and have slightly raised corners that feed the ball back into play. Single goalie tables do take a more precise style of play to succeed. You can find three-goalie configurations in North America. The additional players on the bar enable you to dig the ball out of the corners more quickly. This leads to a faster style of play. There is no right choice here, just a matter of preference.

Bearings: Bearings are the hidden little part between the bar and the table. They extend the life of the table and provide the smooth movement that determines the quality of play.
Bearing quality varies greatly and have what is called an ABEC rating (Annular Bearing Manufacturers Association). The ABEC ratings suitable for foosball tables are 1, 3, 5 and 7.  When looking at a table’s specifications online this info is not always evident.  If you are a picky buyer you may have to contact the manufacturer.

Rods: Foosball table rods will either be solid or hollow. The best option here is hollow. Hollow rods are lighter and more comfortable to move. They move faster and will give smoother gameplay.  Some tables also offer telescoping rods.  On a regular foosball table rods can be a hazard when pushed out during gameplay.  This is especially true when young children are about and are at eye level with the rods.  A telescoping rod collapses within itself and stays at a fixed length to prevent this.

Counterbalanced Players: Higher end tables have counterbalanced players. A counterbalanced player has additional weight moved toward its head. The test is to rotate the handle so that the player is horizontal. A table with counterbalanced players will stay horizontal after you let go. Counterbalance also affects gameplay. The handle rotation will be uniform and make for smoother gameplay.

Handles:  Handles come in 2 varieties: wood or plastic.  Plastic is the way to go here.  They are more durable and provide better grip over the course of a game.  Wood handles can stain and become slippery during a game when your sweaty mitts are handling them.  Wooden handles can be wrapped in tape to alleviate this if that is your preference.

Leg Levelers:  Nothing throws a wet blanket on a foosball game faster than an uneven playing surface.  Trying to control the ball and having it roll away from your players’ feet is maddening.  If the table is tilted against you and the ball consistently rolls into your end you’re not going to have a good time.  Table levelers are adjustable feet at the bottom of each table leg.  Each corner can be turned to raise or lower each corner.  This ensures a level surface and a good time to be had by all.  Most tables have them.  Some don’t.  Make sure the table you pick has them.

Ball Returns: Ball returns can be on each end, under the goal or on each side where the players stand. Side returns require some additional plumbing but are more convenient. You will find them in the more expensive tables.  Don’t dismiss this convenience!  Having to leave your spot and bend over awkwardly to dig a ball out of your end can get old quick.

Drink Holders: meh.  I don’t know.  Some tables have them, others don’t.  I personally think they mar the lines of a table.  Just discourage players from setting their drinks on your table.  Guys should just know not to do this anyway.  Just like they know not to set a garbage bag on the hood of your car.  If they don’t… quit being friends with them.

Foosball F.A.Q.

Why do they call it foosball?

Foosball is the American translation of the German word “fussball” (same pronunciation).  “Fuss” is the German word for foot.  “Ball” is the German word for ball.  Funny, I would have guessed the German word for “ball” would have been something like “balch” or “balk”.

How Much Room Do I Need For A Foosball Table?

A regulation table is 56″ long and about 30″ wide.  Consider the rods need room to move and the up to 4 players need elbow room.  The minimal area needed for a foosball table is 7′ X 8′.  The ideal area is 10′ X 10′.

What’s the deal with balls?  Do they matter?

They sure do.  Foosballs tend to fall into 3 different categories:

  • Plastic: These are usually included in cheaper tables.  They are usually printed up to look like soccer balls but can also be smooth.  None of these are good and are to be avoided.  They are hard to control and loud.  They are only suitable for kid’s games.  Have I mentioned they are bad?  Heed my warning.  No Bueno.
  • Cork: Usually used in the European game, cork balls are easier to control and provide a slower pace to play.  Because of the softer material used, durability can be an issue.
  • Textured: Made from urethane, textured balls give the combination of control and fast play.  They are common to the North American style of high-scoring, fast play.  Any table you buy will typically include a few textured balls.

A final note on balls, be mindful of your play surface color. By default most fields are green and the typical pink ball will contrast well.  If you opted for some whack-a-doodle design with a plaid surface make sure you pick a  ball color that will stand out against it.

What Are The Best Foosball Table Brands?

  • Tornado may be the biggest name in foosball.  Based in Richland Hills, Texas they’ve been making tables since 1970.  They are the table of choice for tournaments around the world.  Their legendary durability makes them the choice of pubs and bars everywhere.  The playfield itself is an unheard of 3/4″ thick. That ain’t ever going to warp!  The underside is lined with rubber gaskets and waterproof caulking.  It makes an aquarium look like a punk.  Tornado pundits will tell you that their table has a unique feel that other brands don’t have.  Not convinced?  Take a look at this vid of the Tornado manufacturing process.  It is impressive.

  • Warrior is another American company based in California.  They started out as a golf club manufacturer.  The owner was also an avid foosballer and played professionally.  Whereas other brands typically offer several makes and models Warrior only makes one table.  It is a high-quality table recognized by both foosball governing bodies… the ITSF and the USTSF and is the official table of a major tour.  As a tour player Warrior’s president consulted with other professional players to design the table.  That they are able to focus all of their resources into one table makes them unique amongst foosball table makers.
  • Garlando has been making foosball tables since the 1950’s. An Italian company, its table design definitely shows a European flair. Bold colors and distinctive cabinet architecture are hallmarks of a Garlando table. Despite its roots, they make both European and North American style tables. Beside foosball tables, Garlando also makes billiard and ping-pong tables.
  • Bonzini is a French company founded in the 1920s. In the 30’s they shifted focus from furniture to leisure products. They make European style tables (1-goalie bar, raised corners, softer materials, slower methodical play). Bonzini’s models range from unique showpieces to serious tables. They are 1 of only 5 manufacturers whose tables have been sanctioned for world championship play. Bonzini allows custom orders where you can select any combination of style, color, and finish. This does come at a steep price, however.

Photo Credits:
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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