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Sunday
May062012

My Experience With Geek Chic - Part 2

 

 

Several months ago I wrote about my initial experiences ordering a Geek Chic Emissary table. I promised a follow-up when it arrived, but I decided to wait a bit longer (which turned into a lot longer) before writing about the table so that I could give a better impression of what it's like to live with one. I've had my Emissary now for a little over 8 months, and while I love the table and I'm certainly glad I made the purchase, there are definitely some quirks that only become apparent after spending some time with it in the family.

The Table:

The table I purchased was a Walnut Emissary with a 6' x 4' play area and a bamboo vault surface with a plexiglass layer. I chose to forgo drawers in the table and opted instead for the rail system that allows accessories to latch onto the sides of the table. My main reason for this choice was that I play mostly board games and don't have much need for the accoutrements required for Role Playing Games.

The actual delivery of the table was scheduled about a week before the delivery date, and was set up by two friendly Geek Chic employees. Setup took less than 30 minutes, and was a fairly painless process. The fact that my game room is easily accessible helped. Someone with a narrow staircase, or tight turns in their hallways could potentially run into some issues due to the depth of the tabletop. After the table was assembled, I was told about its care and feeding and how to transform it into various configurations.

The table itself is well built, sturdy, and looks very sleek. The grain of the wood is almost iridescent, and reflects light differently from different angles - a very pretty effect that none of my simulated wood grain or veneer furniture possesses. Since walnut has different shades of color depending on where in the tree it comes from, the table has a lot of character.

After the table was assembled, we discovered that it was missing a couple of brass pins that belonged to a removable support structure that kept the table leaves from sagging. Since these pins weren't critical, Geek Chic had them mailed to me a few days later, which was a painless process. However, I also found that one of the leaves in my table was not lying flush with the surface of the table, and it appeared to be slightly warped. I was told that wood was malleable and would flex and change, and to invert the leaf and let gravity help get it back into shape. 

I was not 100% thrilled with this suggestion. After all, I had just paid $4000+ for a brand new table, and it seemed to have a flaw, but I took the advice and flipped the leaf. After a few months it wasn't warping as much, but it still wasn't lying flat, so I called Geek Chic and they agreed to replace the leaf when they had another delivery in my neck of the woods.

About 2 months later my new leaf was delivered, and it fit perfectly into place. This new leaf is a slightly different color than the others, but it was explained that the wood changes color as it ages, and since the rest of the wood in my table is 8 months older than the new leaf, it will take time for it to catch up. I'm sure the colors will mesh better as the table ages (even in the past few weeks i have seen a difference in the color of the leaf), but it still makes me a bit nervous and I wish that the issue was addressed by Geek Chic earlier in the process. (If it looks like one leaf is slightly off-color in the photos, that is why - it is not indicative of how the table arrived.) All in all though, it was a positive experience, and I'm sure if I had been adamant that the leaf be replaced earlier, Geek Chic would have accommodated me.

Features:

Rail System - Instead of drawers, I chose the rail system for my table. The rail system is a groove that extends along the side of the table, onto which different accessories can be attached. The only accessories I purchased were cup holders, but I can see myself ordering a few desk or bin attachments in the near future.

Because the rail is just a groove in the wood of the table, it can't support a lot of weight. This makes it perfect for cup holders, or other small accessories, but care would have to be taken with a desk or any other accessory that someone might be tempted to lean on. In fact, since the cup holders extend past the edge of the table when inserted into the groove, I've had a couple of close calls with people bumping into them with their legs while standing up, or walking past. This doesn't make them non-functional, it just means people need to take care when moving around the rail accessories.

Rail accessories come in two types: locking and non-locking. Locking accessories have a little latch that has to be pulled in order to remove them, or slide them along the rail, whereas the non-locking accessories do not. I chose the locking cup holders, and have found them to be very functional.

In what is a bit of a trend with the accessories for the Emissary, it is important to have a place to store the cupholders. While the wooden brackets can be stored in the closed table, the metal part of the cupholder is too tall to fit in the table vault, and will have to be stored elsewhere.

Table Vault - The coolest part of the Geek Chic Emissary table is the "Vault". This is a recess in the table where games can be left in-play, and then covered with the hardwood leaves. Since there are several inches between the surface of the vault, and where the leaves slide in, the game can be kept in stasis under the leaves, while the tabletop is used for other normal table-like activities (or another game!). 

It's important to note that the leaves do not fit together tightly enough to make a waterproof seal. If you plan on using the table for dinner, I would definitely suggest using a tablecloth with a waterproof liner. A spilled drink would still leak into the vault and cause all sorts of destruction. I don't actually eat at the table, so spills aren't too much of an issue for me, but the kids often do their homework on it, and so I will often find a million little eraser shavings in the vault when I open it. While the Emissary is very effective at its dual purposes, little things like that can be frustrating and being preventative can go a long way to restoring sanity.

The vault also has the option for a plexiglass sheet that fits over its surface. This is really nice for multiple reasons. First of all, it can be written on with wet or dry erase markers. This may be more of a feature for the RPG gamer than the board gamer, but it's still really neat. Second, people who enjoy playing games that use paper maps or boards will find that putting them under the plexiglass will keep them flat. I've found this incredibly useful when doing reviews, and taking photos of wargames and print & play prototypes.

The plexiglass will have to be removed from time to time and cleaned. It is inevitable that little pieces of dirt and dust will find their way between the plexi and the vault surface. Geek Chic includes a cool suction tool to remove the plexi (It looks like something James Bond would use when he's cutting a hole in an alarmed glass case), although moving a 6' x 4' piece of plexiglass is still quite a task.

Leaves -The 5 leaves that cover the table vault are all made of solid hardwood. They look really nice, but are surprisingly heavy, and need to be stored somewhere when the vault is in use. I usually just set them up against the wall (although if warping is a concern, or the vault is going to be open for an extended period of time, they are probably best laid flat on the floor.) They can be somewhat cumbersome to move, as well. When looking at the pictures, it's sometimes hard to remember that each leaf is 6 feet tall.

I especially like that the leaves can be arranged in different configurations. When all five are on the table, it's a typical wooden tabletop. When all the leaves are removed, the entire vault area is available. My favorite configuration, however, is when two leaves are left on the table as "desks", and a portion of the vault is left visible.

This separates a player's personal play-space from the common play-space. Reaching things in the center of the table can sometimes be a bit difficult from a sitting position, but in this configuration, players can keep all of their pieces and player boards close to them, and only need to reach when interacting with the main board (plus it just looks cool).

Now, simply leaving two leaves in could cause issues, because pieces could accidentally get pushed under a leaf, or a player could lean against the leaf and push it forward, spilling their components into the vault. But, luckily Geek Chic has a solution to this with two long wooden pieces that fit into the leaves to close the gap and stabilize the leaves.

If a player leans against the "desk" that is made from a leaf, it is still possible to push the guard out of place, and cause the leaf to slide forward (I tend to do this rather frequently because I'm an "elbows on the table" type person), but it does keep the leaf much more stable, as well as making the table more attractive in this configuration.

Since the Emissary is in "Normal Table" mode most of the time, the 6 foot leaves can tend to sag in the middle. Geek Chic combats this problem through the use of a wooden bar that slides into the center of the table on two brass pins, when the vault is not in use. This keeps the leaves supported in the center, and helps them keep their shape.

There is a bit of a storage issue with the cross-bar support and the leaf "desk" stabilizers. The stabilizers can be stored in the vault when not in use, but only if the cross-bar support isn't installed. This means that someone who has both has to make a decision between safety of the leaves or storage convenience. It's not too hard to find a place to store the stabilizers; they are long, but not bulky, so fit easily into a closet. However, it would have been nice if there were some sort of integrated storage solution to keep all of the parts of the table together when it was closed.

Conclusion:

I am very happy with my purchase. Aside from a couple of hiccups with a missing part and a warped leaf, the purchase experience was great. I'm very happy with my table; it's well built, and looks great. In fact, the Emissary is probably going to be the driving force in upgrading the other furniture in my game room, because everything else looks cheap in comparison.

The only big issue I have with the table is one of storage. The cupholders cannot be stored in the table and the leaf shelf supports cannot be stored in the table while the crossbar support is in use. Since I don't want my leaves to warp, it means I have to store the long shelf supports in the closet. It would have been really helpful if the Emissary had some sort of rack or a set of hooks on the bottom of the table to store these pieces along with the table.

All in all, I'm very happy with my purchase, and plan to enjoy my Emissary for years to come. In fact, I'm already counting my money trying to find a way to get one of the smaller coffee table sized pieces into my living room. If you are in the market for quality furniture that will fit your gaming needs, as well as go incognito as a normal kitchen table, the Emissary is just the ticket.

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Reader Comments (6)

Hi! I'm Jen, and I work for Geek Chic. Thanks for the review-- we always love seeing how people get along with their tables. Plus, your photos are gorgeous!

Regarding the hardwood leaf that didn't play well with others, I'm glad we replaced it for you. A little bit of bend is the result of working with a natural product, and can often be fixed with a flip-- but definitely, too much is too much, and we want you to be happy.

(By the way: I don't know if this posts directly to public, or if you get to review this before it goes up; either way, if you're uncomfortable with this being on your blog, delete away and no hard feelings.) In reading this over, I realized there are a few care-and-feeding things that might help you to know. So, if you don't mind a short novel from "a company man", here's some information, and there should be an official version in our FAQ soon. Very soon, we hope. We know we need one!

Hardwood leaf spacing: Because wood expands and contracts with heat, cold, and humidity, a watertight fit would mean your leaves could get stuck in the table. To accommodate the natural action of wood, we make tongue and groove leaves with spring tensioners to provide the right fit (that's what those small metal bits are inside the grooves). When you put that last leaf in the table, let them space out a little so the wood can breathe.

Liquids: Actually-- have you spilled anything on it yet? It's not as bad as you'd fear (if you spaced out your hardwood leaves). They can't handle a firehose, but they handle a glass of liquid quite well. Because liquid has cohesive attraction and clings to itself, the liquid will flow into the grooves and out to the edges before it begins to pull away and drip down. Our recommendation: don't panic. Leave your table closed. Wipe up the liquid on top and let the rest dry (some of us recommend overnight if possible). If it's something sticky, carefully remove the leaves and wipe the tongue and groove. It's not foolproof, but between that and keeping your maps/etc. under the acrylic layer, you should be pretty safe.

(Solid particles like eraser dust, well, you're right, they're inevitable, and we can only be so clever. If you know the eraser dust is lying in wait, use a vacuum hose on the grooves before you take out the leaves, which works a little better than a duster. Vacuuming the grooves clean after the table is open should also help prevent sneaky leftover debris from dumping down when you replace the leaves.)

Now to the big problem you mentioned: Storage! Actually-- we do make leaf storage.

As always, this is a matter of function, aesthetics, and price. Basically, we could make a table that held them underneath, but you'd be sacrificing some important function-- drawers, table height, and/or the comfort of your seated players. So, we offer vertical or horizontal hardwood leaf storage, separate from the table. Most customers choose not to spend the money and space on it, and would rather lay the leaves on the floor or lean them against the wall, and use the money for more accessories. (If that's not you-- contact your valet, they can give you more information than I could).

Past the storage and leaf issues, it sounds like you're pretty happy, and we can see that your table has found a good home with plenty of game time, so I won't talk too much more… But thank you kindly for the review, and hopefully this information is useful for you!

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Thomas

Thanks for the response, Jen!

I actually haven't spilled anything on the table yet, I'm militant about cup-holder usage ;) With the spring loaded leaves though, It seems like they have some play, so it was actually an assumption on my part. If I had a game set up under the vault though, I still think I would be a bit hesitant not to use a tablecloth, just because there is always that chance that a stray drop would fall onto the game. If a game wasn't set up under the vault though, I wouldn't find it necessary at all - the table itself is way more resilient to liquid than most of my furniture; they would warp or bubble if exposed to water.

It may not have been clear in the article, but I don't see the fit of the leaves as a bad thing at all. The fact that they are spring loaded is actually a benefit, and a smart design choice. I don't think the leaves would be functional without it. But, as an Emissary owner, I think it's important to keep details like this in mind in order to prevent possible tragedy. (I also have 4 children, with another one on the way, so spills during dinner are practically daily occurrences!)

I think that leaf storage is a bit overkill, personally - I'm perfectly fine setting them on the floor. The pieces that I would have liked to have a storage option for in the table are the two "leaf guard" pieces that allow the leaves to be used as a desk. Normally they fit in the vault, but when I use the crossbar to support the leaves when the table is closed, the two leaf guards won't fit in the vault. A minor quibble, for sure. (The biggest storage issue I have is with the plush card top for my table - but I knew what I was getting into when I ordered that, so I didn't mention it here! A 6x4 slab does not fit into the closet, so I have to lug it from the basement when I want to use it :) )

Thanks again for writing in and explaining in more detail some of these details. Very useful information!

May 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterWilliam McCarroll

Happily-- thanks for reading! Your article caught my eye, and I realized you might be happier knowing why we made a lot of choices we make. (Geeks, unite.)

For the same reason, I'm always interested in hearing the whole spectrum of experiences with using one of our tables, and your article addressed several important things about usage over time. (Tablecloth? With four kids, I'd probably end up putting the whole table in a wading pool!) So, sincerely, thanks for writing. We're always evolving, and we can't do it without real feedback!

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Thomas

My Emissary will be here in 7 days. I got walnut and the play surface is 7 feet 6 inches by 4 feet. the overall table is 8 feet by a little over 4 feet.

I went with leaves that go the width of the table instead of the length. The leaves are shorter (4 feet instead of 8 feet) so I don't have to worry about bowing or sagging. I got two standard player desk drawers on each of the extreme ends of the long side of the 4 x 8' table. Since most of my games are two player there will be plenty of room for each player to sit in between the drawers and open them for extra table space. That also means that if I leave a couple of leaves in on each end of the table, there will be extra table space to the right and left of each player. I got rails on the short ends of the tables for cup holders. The player will have to reach for their beverage but it is out of the way for spills, etc.

I also ordered 4 drafting chairs with footrings from ebay. They were $69 each with free shipping. Thery are like office chairs (upolstered, no arms) but can adjust higher. Since the table is 4 feet wide I figured this way the players could reach easily across the table without standing up. I'm not sure how well they will work though.

I'll write more after the table gets here next week.

I am interested in getting a felt top or insert later. How did that work out for you?

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBartowWing

Thanks for the detailed review. I'm getting mine in less than two months, now!

March 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEnvoyPV

Hi,

I noticed you said you ordered the walnut table.
What Stain did you pick?
It's beautiful, and looks better than the Walnut we see on the Website.

We're looking to buy one soon. Love your table. :)

June 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDesiree

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