Begin my next A&A table, that is going to be a backlit glass table <<
I’ve always thought that it would be very cool to have an A&A map board that was some sort of backlit transparency. You might want to start by doing some small-scale experiments with various techniques (using just a small map section about the size of an 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper) to find the approaches that would work best, then produce the actual full-scale map once you’ve identified the best option. Just off the top of my head, there are three possible methods that come to mind.
The first option would be to get a digital image of the game map and have it commercially printed on the kind of translucent, large-sized stock that’s used to produce backlit advertising posters – the kind that you’ll see, for example, in some subway stations. You’d have to mount it on a table that consists of an open frame holding a horizontal sheet of clear glass or plastic, with a light source underneath.
The second option is just a hypothesis, since I’m not sure if the optics would actually work, but the idea would be to use a projection rather than a physical map. Basically, you’d use a table similar to the one described above – an open frame holding a horizontal sheet of glass or plastic – but the sheet would be translucent white rather than clear; essentially the same as a back-projection screen. The game map would be a digital image, but it would be projected onto the glass/plastic from underneath the table, using a data projector. The tricky part would be to project a large enough image, which would require the projector to be far enough away from the glass/plastic. Short of having a deep hole in the middle of your floor (which most people don’t) into which you could put the projector and aim it upwards, one approach might be to position the projector horizontally on the floor a few feet away from the table and bounce the projection upward using a large mirror tilted at a 45-degree angle positioned under the table. But either way, the translucent glass/plastic would give a somewhat fuzzy or washed-out image.
A third option, which could be rather expensive, would be to get some sort of very large flat-screen TV, set it up horizontally, hook it up to your computer for use as (in essence) a giant monitor, call up the game map on your computer and display it on the horizontal screen. It would be a lot easier and more practical than the fiddly second option, and give you the best possible picture. Flat TVs the size of the Global 1940 board do exist, but I have no idea how much they cost.
I actually ended up snagging this awesome advertising case from my work that they were just throwing away, complete with the lighting mechanism, wiring, and interchangeable opaque and transparent glass covers. I’m going to probably print a large transparency map based on the board I’ve been designing based on satellite imagery that is in some serious high definition.