ALPHA Table Q&A With Joe Rybinski of Firmer Terra, LLC

Rob Kalajian interview, tabletop 0 Comments

Joe RybinskiFirmer Terra, LLC, makers of the ALPHA Game Table, were kind enough to send me one of their tables for review. Joe Rybinski, Managing Member of the company, was also kind enough to answer some of my questions about the table in a quick email Q&A. The ALPHA Table is currently available to order for $189.99. Here’s the transcript of our Q&A. My review of the table will follow shortly.

When did the idea for the Alpha Table first come about?

Our group was looking for a good play space outside of the game store for about 4 years now. We tried crafting our own tables at first but ran into space and spouse issues. So, after we put down the saws and the plywood, we decided to search for an alternative that could be stowed away with the rest of the gear. Surprisingly, no one offered the dimensions we needed (namely a 6×4 or larger). The natural next step was to buy two tables and join them but after an accident that cost many models their arms and legs, we went back to the drawing board. Also, two tables were a pain to line up on carpeting. At that point, we had to get creative with manufacturing.

What was the production timeline like? How many prototypes did you go through, and what are some of the changes to the table made along the way?

We approached about a dozen manufacturers with our needs. Half of them were willing to work with our idea. We then purchased a sample of each product and started evaluating it in house and in a focus group of sorts. At first trial the original ALPHA concept was going to be a 3 fold table that weighed over 75 lbs. This unit could still slide under a bed or a sofa but was pretty much stuck in whatever room you wanted your game space. Also, you needed 20 minutes of set–up time and a small handyman tool set.

Then one starry night, after considerable amounts of fermented barley, I had the idea of being able to host a game while grilling outside. The whole process was started over, but this time with 3 set goals in mind. The ALPHA had to tuck away when not in use, it also had to be lightweight enough to move by your-self, and it had to be pretty resistant to weather (versatile, portable, lightweight). That’s when I began using my10 year—old daughter as the standard of complexity. If she could set this thing up, take it down, and move it 20 yards we had a success. The rest of the process was adding and subtracting structural and stabilizing aspects.

What was the overall timeline from concept to the final product?

From first concept of manufacture to finally placing my hands on a ready ALPHA, I’d say about 26 months.

How did you go about spreading the word for your IndieGoGo campaign? Why IndieGoGo over Kickstarter?

I actually did go with Kickstarter at first. The initial idea to crowdfund was set up in Summer of 2016. The idea was presented but at that time we had a working model and not the full scale prototype. Someone accused us of reselling an existing product. This was blatantly wrong but by that time Kickstarter pulled the campaign. There was no way to restart on there even after explaining and presenting my case. That was a very depressing weekend. Witnessing an idea get such great support just to have the rug pulled out from under. In all honesty, I was just going to give up, but the amount of moral support that came in from the funders was what got me to look at other sources of funding. I spent the next 2 months vetting every single part of an Indiegogo campaign with the folks at Indiegogo. After they gave me the green light, I relaunched there.

Most of the marketing was done through Facebook advertising. It’s a challenge spreading the word. Again, the gamer community is an unnatural beast; I’ve met so many supportive and positive people over the past year. At this point I’m thankful that I did push this project to completion. I’ve received tons of positive feedback and I’ve had the opportunity to just shoot the breeze with fellow gamers. People know that they are free to call me or email me with their experience whether it is ALPHA related or not.

Do you have any other tables in the works? Ideas for an ALPHA V2? ALPHA accessories?

We are working on a concept. Probably will not be out until 2018. Now mostly just aesthetics.

Is there anything else you’d like to cover before we wrap up?

I’d like to thank you for conducting the interview. I hope that people realize this is a project of passion rather than profit. I want to share a solution to a gaming need. Our feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I will continue to strive to contribute to the community and make new friends along the way.

Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn's Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.
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