The IT Engineers’ Guide to the Foosball

As a company successfully built from scratch and working in IT for five years, a significant comprehensive knowledge accumulated over time. With this post, we give back to the community.

Onboarding the idea

You are eager to find your place in the IT, eager to learn, advance and prosper. Moreover, you have decided to start your own IT company. Excellent decision in our book, kudos.

As long as there are at least two people in your new company (you should not really start a company alone, should you?) you are eligible to start building your company’s inventory. In the first place you need tables and computers for work.

Highly ranked second place is reserved for a different kind of table inevitable for day to day operation – the infamous table football (a.k.a. Foosball).

Hint: Coffee machines are permanently trying to take over the second place, but more about it in some next blog.

Now, we present you a practical guide for choosing the right Foosball. In 7 steps.

Step #1: Should I build a table or buy it?

“To be, or not to be, that is the question.” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Essentially, the urge of each engineer is to try to build things and reinvent them, but the right answer is: don’t do it. We hope that your partner or partners will have some sense to stop (Trust me, if they don’t, you might need better partners for succeeding in IT).

OK then buying.

Step #2: What kind of table to buy?

When buying a table price is usually one of the first factors to be taken into account. Next is durability, availability and cost of spare parts, but also ability to customize.

Case Study Example: Italian style Foosball such as Fabi or Roberto College

Very sturdy, high quality build and really expensive. Hey, they are proven in the worst of conditions. Kids were mean to them for decades in the arcades and they seem to have shown able to withstand worst of torture.

Downside of this model are expensive parts that are not widely available, and they are the reason you come across these having players without heads, squiggly rods, or uneven playing surface.

One strong pitfall are telescopic rods, too. They are very fancy and minimize the possibility of hitting some kid on the head while trying to peek at what’s going on in the match. However, these rods are expensive and difficult to maintain. Since they contain more moving parts every engineer is going to agree that the possibility of failure is higher.

Picture 1: Fabi (left) and Roberto College (right)

Case Study Example: Tornado style table

Without second thoughts, our vote would go for this model.

This table checks most of the checkboxes: very sturdy, has protruding rods, it is built out of quality materials, but using very simple techniques – practically slabs of MDF bolted together. It is essentially a Kalashnikov style of design, built not to fail (Engineers should like this reference).

Tornado tables are expensive (they are being used for world championships), but there are lots of companies that make the same style of foosball table. A lot of individual producers, as well. You will be able to easily find one using ebay, amazon or some other listings website.

FYI: There are two things you need to look after when buying this table:

  1. check the material used for foundation (it should be thick and sturdy, try lifting the table);
  2. the rods: they should weigh a lot. They must be able to withstand a leaning engineer bored to death listening to a colleague explain why a great injustice just happened. Ask a seller to dismantle one rod to check for weight (not the goalie or defence row. If you figured out that is the easiest to dismantle, chances are the seller has also).
Picture 2: Tornado style

Case Study Example: On the other side of game

There is another end of the scale in those cheap, no name, unsturdy varieties. No decent company should settle for something like this. As we have a motto in our company “If you don’t need help tipping it, you should not be playing it!”

We will leave it at that.

Picture 3: Common table

Step #3: Choosing players

“It is a tale…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” – Macbeth, William Shakespeare

This is something people tend to have a lot of discussion about. Robot shaped or men shaped? Which color and which jersey design? What ethnic feature exactly? Actually, maybe not this one: you will usually have to pick from a variety of Asian face features.

Most of the time you will buy them online and won’t be able to feel the quality of the material. Don’t bother, you will break them anyway (as you can see in our players graveyard).

Picture 4: Player graveyard

Important: Just check for measures to see if it will fit in your setting.

Picture 5: Various types of players

Step #4: Greasing the rod

“Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing? As You Like It” – William Shakespeare

One of the most important segment of table foosball is the rod with all accessories. Rod must be of quality and must be able to move freely without obstruction. This is the only thing that can ensure execution of those lightning speed shots. Therefore, you should have the right size and decent quality rod holder.

Usual inner radius is 16mm in order to accommodate 15.8mm rod. Make sure you buy the right length of this tube. When closed it should be slightly smaller than the thickness of the board (if u accidentally get a larger one, like when ordering from aliexpress, don’t despair, take a saw and shorten the side with threads).

Also, keep it well-greased at all times. We found that good old vaseline does the trick (we also use it to grease moving parts of our coffee machine ;).

Next order of business are rod buffers, dampers or shock absorbers. Chances are when you buy a table it will be fitted with these cheap plastic ones as seen on image. This should be immediately replaced because this thing does not absorb anything. And worse even it does not age well. Best option is using metal springs (make sure they are metal, often they are just sprayed with metal color). If it is cone shaped, the wider side goes next to the board. And use washers, both sides of the spring, it will extend the life of other elements.

Step #5: Noise issues and how to solve them

Many IT companies have office space that is not really tolerating high noise. It also affects other people working there. There are several things you can do:

  1. Biggest reduction in noise can be achieved by using cork balls. They are very effective, but the feeling is not the same (like shooting people with silencers, it takes away from the experience);
  2. taping duct tape each side of the goal so that the ball does not hit boards plastic furnish directly.

Hint: Whatever you do, the biggest problem will remain: that is a group of engineers causing noise by arguing and celebrating way beyond what is normal (thoughts of that silencer contemplated…).

Step #6: Taking score

This is particularly important since a small survey showed that you cannot rely on players to keep track. They are too busy dishing about each other’s mothers (widely accepted in Serbian culture). There are many kinds of scorekeeping gizmos. Make sure you pick one that has actual numbers on (image1). Otherwise (image2) you will always wonder what side you started from and will have to recount since it is difficult to determine from one glance.

Step #7: Determining the etiquette and rules of the game

“The first thing we do, let’s kill the lawyers.” – Henry IV, William Shakespeare

There is some sort of urban legend that prescribes the rules of the table foosball game. Some say its origin can be found in arcade parlors of the past. Since these tables were coin operated there were rules that are set in place to make sure each ball is used to its max. The famous “no goals with 5 in a row” or no rotisserie. It is quite clear that these techniques can lead to premature ending of a game by scoring some fluke goal.

You may find yourselves under pressure from senior management and founders (usually older than the rest of the crew) to abide according to these rules. We were in a similar situation. There were a lot of discussions, maybe some threats of pay cuts, retaliation through strikes and disobedience… Nevertheless, we settled and found a compromise. We allowed scoring with 5 in a row (5 in a row are also men, plastic, but nonetheless) but rotisserie is strictly forbidden.

No pressure to apply that solution in your company, try to find a model that suits you.

And in the end, if you have some IT project that requires engineering devotion presented in this document, please, feel free to contact us at . We might even play a few games together.

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