Toronto’s board gaming culture is becoming bigger than ever.
Cafés are crowded on Saturday evenings, allowing geeks, gamers, and just about everyone else to play their favourite games well into the late hours. If a rainy Sunday occurs, you can expect to see locals lined up outside, patiently waiting to get let in to play.
And it appears that Torontonians aren’t the only ones who are excited about this shift in weekend activity.
Lynn Freehill-Maye of the NY Times, whose recent article was titled “In Toronto Cafés, Board Games Rule,” couldn’t agree more.
Freehill-Maye’s article explains how board game cafés are becoming quite popular in the city and the best part about them is you no longer see people buried in glowing phone screens.
The article mentions three popular board game hangouts in the city, Snakes & Lattes Annex, Castle Board Game Cafe and Bampot Bohemian House of Tea and Board Games, but also notes that there are more than 20 other game cafés to check out, making Toronto a hub for board game culture.
Board games have been a growing trend in Toronto; leading other big cities to follow suit. Freehill-Maye writes that there are at least a dozen dedicated board-game cafés popping up around the United States, including in Manhattan, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Toronto’s gaming scene first took off when French-born Ben Castanie opened Snakes & Lattes Annex back in 2010. According to Freehill-Maye, Castanie was inspired by the Parisian toy libraries that lent playthings to families when he was a boy. So along with his business partners Mr. Zack and Aaron Slade, they put together an impressive selection of 1,000 games and gave the café some life.
They focused on having a variety of options to attract gamers of all levels. From hipsters looking to play the latest trend, to couples wanting to play a childhood favourite, and serious gamers that take hours to finish complex games, they offered something for everyone.
Another key to the success of these cafés is the influx of international games.
“European strategy games like the Settlers of Catan have carved inroads into the North American market,” Freehill-Maye wrote.
Classic games like Monopoly and Yahtzee were the former choice for gamers. But now visitors wait patiently to get their hands on the latest Game of Thrones game, or the risqué Cards Against Humanity.
Board games are no longer about simply rolling dice, moving your piece and completing the next task at hand. They’re now much more complex, making visiting one of the board game cafés both a social and strategic experience.
While the games are always the main attraction, helpful staff and delicious snacks definitely add to the experience. Game gurus are always available to advise on game rules and help newcomers understand games they might be familiar with. Each café also has its own unique menu, mostly serving up tea, beer, wine and espressos with fresh paninis and sharing plates.
But no matter what café you visit you’ll aways notice that guests are having fun and letting their inner child out…you know, that one that isn’t staring at a screen every other minute.