Board Game Spots in Toronto
As someone who lives on the outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area and works in the downtown core, I can comfortably say that the board game fans in the city are spoiled relative to those everyone else outside. Board games are booming in Toronto, with stores and cafes popping up everywhere to support a rabid fan base. Meanwhile, just outside of the city limits, your options for buying games or playing games in public venues is far more sparse, albeit growing.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I wanted to highlight a few places that are notable to me. Here’s a few places that I think are worth talking about!
401 Games changed the way I shop for board games. Before knowing of their existence, I bought games sparingly, as they were hard to find and/or very expensive. I don’t know what deal they’ve made with the devil, but their prices in-store and online are the best in town and probably the best in the country. Because of this and their massive selection, 401 Games is pretty much the only board game store I’ll shop at.
They recently renovated the upstairs part of the building to become a large play area. You can rent out an unlimited amount of board games for $2 per day, per person, though I’ve never taken advantage. I’ve been up there, and it’s usually full of Magic the Gathering and other CCG players. Unless you’re part of that scene, it’s really intimidating to game up there. If you can overcome that, it seems like a great deal to rent from there too.
Snakes & Lattes
Snakes and Lattes is often credited as being the first board game cafe in North America. Years later, it’s still the best in the city. There are now two locations in the city, the original in the Annex and the new location on College. What sets it apart to me are the fact that their game selection is still unparalleled in the city, as they have tons of games for all types of board gamers. Their gurus are very helpful when it comes to teaching games. The food is good. Also, it’s a comfortable environment to play games in. During our formative years of gaming, Snakes and Lattes was a driving force when it came to discovering new games or playing with our friends in a public venue.
I haven’t been to the new location just yet, but I do remember the Annex location having a pretty good game selection in terms of games for sale. That said, you can get most of those games cheaper elsewhere in the city. The only exception would be Cards Against Humanity, as they’re the sole distributor of the game in Canada. Yes, you might find the game being sold at other stores around town, but Snakes and Lattes has most of them beat on price by a wide margin.
Tucked away on the bottom floor of 247 Spadina Avenue, Meeplemart is probably the biggest board game store in the city. While they specialize in war games, their board game selection is great and their prices are very competitive. One place where it has 401 Games beat is that they’re more willing to slash the prices on their games to make space for new stock, though the games that get the big discounts are usually those with limited demand. Still, you might be able to score a hidden gem for cheap!
Off the strength of a recommendation from a friend, Steff and I relatively recently visited Riddle Room for the first time. This isn’t your traditional board game cafe, as it actually features a number of escape rooms to break out of. We didn’t try those on that day, but we did play a few board games and thoroughly enjoyed their milkshakes.
Located just steps away from 401 Games, I think it’s a great spot to play. There’s no cover charge, but you do have to order something off the menu. I’m just fine with that, as their milkshakes are amazing and I’m sure there are other great items on their menu. They have a decent selection of games catering to all audiences, though I do wish there was more available on the shelves. Considering how the stock in the picture above looked different from what I saw, they probably have more in the back that you could presumably ask for.