Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Game of Thrones Beer Pong Table

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die drink.

I have finally finished my Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones beer pong table.  I started working on it late last year but then put it aside for several months to work on other projects.  Now with the start of the third season of HBO's adaption of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, it seemed like an appropriate time to finish up.

Some of the sigils of the great houses of Westeros adorn the table.

For those not familiar with beer pong, it's a beer drinking game (though nonalcoholic beverages can be used instead) which features two teams trying to throw ping pong balls into beer filled cups from the opposite edge of the table.  When a pong ball lands in the opposing team's cup (8-10 cups arranged like a pool ball rack is the norm), that cup is consumed then removed.  Once all of a team's cups have been removed from play, that team is out and the opposing team is declared the winner (though in my mind, maybe it's not so bad to be the loosing team since you get to drink the beer).  There are plenty of additional rules (and house rules) but that is the core of the game.

I was introduced to beer pong last year by some of my boat crew.  Due to the nature of my business, my boat crews tend to be fairly young, with many just out of college.  They couldn't wait to share with the "old guy" their favorite college drinking game.  Now we had our share of games in my days, but they mostly involved cards or quarters.  So this one was going to be quite different.  Although according to reports, beer pong has been around on college campuses since as early as the 1960s, during my college years (1990s) it had not caught on and was not as popular as now.  The concept intrigued me so I let the "youngins'" show me how to play and explain all of the esoteric and crazy house rules.  I'm pretty sure they took advantage of me that night but all in all it was great fun.  I was hooked!

Rinse cup holders were added to each team's side.

The table we used that first night (and many nights thereafter) was a sorry affair.  Basically they took a thin piece of plywood and threw on a coat of paint.  It didn't even have legs.....just a pair of sawhorses held the table up.  It was in bad shape even then but the weather and humidity of the Florida Keys took a toll.  The peeling paint basically disintegrated and the wood warped to such a degree that one could almost toss a pong ball to the side and have it bounce in for a bank shot.  That's when I decided take make my own version.

House Tully and House Stark are aligned on the left side of the table.

Not to be outdone by the kids, I decided to build a bullet proof version.  I did a little research online and discovered that not only are there official beer pong leagues with a world championship in Las Vegas, but official beer pong table dimensions as well.  Two feet wide by eight feet long are the official specs so I decided to adopt those measurements.  I chose half inch plywood for the table itself then attached 2x4 runners down each side to keep the playing surface strong and level.  I also ran several 2x4 struts underneath to give additional strength and longevity to the table top.  2x2 legs approximately 28" high were then attached to hold the table up to the official height. Not required and probably not official, I also added rinse cup holders on each team's side.  This thing was heavy, to say the least, but the table would definitely last.

House Targaryen stands proudly in the center.

With the table constructed, I applied a few coats of dark stain to help protect the wood from the elements.  I wanted the wood to look old and well worn, so a rag was used to stain the table and I let the excess gather in random places to create a bit of a pattern.  After the staining process, it was time to start painting.

House Baratheon and House Lannister guard the right side of the table.

I knew all along that I wanted to make a Westeros themed table.  I just wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to represent.  At first I thought that a map of Westeros itself would make a great backdrop.  The landmass from The Wall down to Dorne would fit very nicely on my 2x8 rectangle due to the shape of the continent of Westeros.  The idea was abandoned early in the planning process however.  Though I am a huge fan of the books, I didn't think that at first glance most people, including those I play with, would make the connection between the imagery of the geography on the table and A Game of Thrones television series(which they were familiar with).  I wanted to take advantage of the atmosphere and branding the HBO adaption has created so I decided to use the house sigils popularized by HBO instead.

Painting the shields.  And yes, that lamp did fall over a bit after this photo was taken.

To create the sigils of some of the great houses of Westeros, I started with the shields.  I first made a template to insure that each shield was the same shape and size.  I then outlined them on the table itself.  Then it was on to painting the backgrounds, which did take quite a bit of time.  Several layers of acrylic paint were used to cover the dark stain with the appropriate house color, so four cycles of painting and drying were needed .  The next step was the most difficult.  I drew each design by hand on paper first, then cut out a template to trace onto the shield.  Some of the designs like House Baratheon, and House Targarian in particular, were a real pain to cut out due to all the small features.  With a craft knife and a steady hand, I was able to do so however, with only minor mistakes.  To finish up, all I had to do was paint between the lines just like we were all taught to do back in grade school.

As a final step, I applied several coats of sealer to help protect the surface from the sun, weather, and the inevitable spillage of beer.  A water based sealant was used instead of a stronger oil based version to help protect the paint.  I was afraid the latter would cause the acrylic to bleed or peel up.  If I had it to do over though, I would have applied an oil based sealant after staining, then paint the sigils over the stronger sealant.  I could then go back and apply additional water based sealer on the painted areas themselves.  Oh well.....

So my Game of Thrones table now sits proudly in my man cave ready for action.  The lords and ladies of the Seven Kingdoms may prefer the joust for entertainment in between their planning and scheming to win the Iron Throne but for me, I'll take a good game of beer pong with my friends any day.  Come on over and play but remember:  as Craster would say, "My house, my rules."  Ha, ha, ha.......

Thanks for reading......


  1. I have visions of ping pong balls bouncing all over the place!

    1. Indeed! The later the night, the less accuracy of the shot. Sometimes we put the table outside by the dock and the balls fly into the water. That's when things get interesting.......

      Thanks for reading Scott.

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  3. This is so awesome!!!