Toronto board game cafés are slowly but surely becoming a major trend in the city. While there may not be a large selection to choose from at the moment – keep in mind that this year alone, two locations sprung up in the downtown area offering a wide selection of old and new school favorites. These include the type of games that are guaranteed to ruin a couple friendships. Because we all have that one friend that likes to build a settlement in order to block your longest road – and we all hate him collectively for it.
Arguments are sure to arise and rules disputed but it’s also kind of fun to relive the type of atmosphere that once enriched your childhood. I’ll never forget devouring a box of Cheerios and screaming at my cousins over a game of Crazy Eights every single weekend growing up. Remember trying to avoid a loss by quickly flipping the board game or sneaking money from the Monopoly bank? You may be an adult now and that kind of behaviour won’t go over well in a public environment but that doesn’t mean you can’t hold a grudge afterward for a few weeks.
However you decide to handle the impending unease, the below list of Toronto board game cafés are sure to get your blood rising and provide a comfortable space to gloat in (I don’t believe in being a good sport). If we’ve overlooked a board game café that belongs on this list or if one opens up be sure to make a suggestion below. And if you’re looking for a complete listing of all the Toronto cafés be sure to visit our places section.
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No-brainer. The concept café Snakes & Lattes snuck into Koreatown and changed the landscape of the area. This may sound like a stretch but it’s one of the few bistros that are constantly packed with a wide range of people. On any given day you’re likely to find families, teens, singles, couples, hipsters, etc. crowded around one particular board game in either a competitive standoff or playfully shit talking one another. The feeling inside is always friendly and welcoming and the selection is also impeccable – considering Snakes & Lattes carries over 2, 500 unique titles in its board game collection. And it doesn’t hurt that each staff member is knowledgeable in every game in house. As far as cost goes, there’s a $5 fee per person to stay and play, which isn’t bad considering that that gets you unlimited time. However, be prepared to wait. The café is usually busy at all hours but they do take your phone number and will call or text when a table becomes available.
The recently opened Castle Board Game Café at College and Spadina is continuing the competitive and social atmosphere that Snakes & Lattes perfected. However, if you have zero patience to wait for a table then walk east and grab a streetcar south to the former. While the selection is not as vast as Snakes & Lattes, there is still a wide variety to choose from – and most are guaranteed to invoke nostalgic feelings such as Operation, Candyland, Risk, and Mad Gab. If you’re just planning to stay for a quick game before continuing on your way, the nice thing about Castle Board Game Café is that it only charges an hourly rate of $2.50 (waved if you’re not playing). This helps to not start and see a game of Monopoly through – we’ve all been there before, five hours later. If you want to be wowed by food however, don’t hold your breath. It’s a recently opened establishment so they’re sure to add more menu items in the future but for now, it’s a nice addition to the Toronto board game cafés.
Roll Play Café is another recently opened location in the downtown core that’s continuing the gaming tradition. It’s so brand spanking new that its existence is still relatively unknown, which means hardly any crowds and full access to a library of over 300 board games. Conveniently near Dundas subway station, the newest board game café offers a well-decorated and spacious area to sink the battleships of all your competitors. There isn’t an hourly fee or cover charge but you must be a paying customer in order to play. Specials go from 11am - 5pm daily and with the purchase of food or cake you get Americanos, espresso or tea free. The library currently includes Chutes and Latters, Netrunner, Guess Who, The Walking Dead Board Game, Dominos, and more, which can all be viewed alphabetically on their website. [Update] Roll Play Café does accept Visa, MasterCard and Debit. While the trend seems to be catching on, here’s hoping this place doesn’t get a liquor license and change directions.
Nestled right across from Trinity Bellwoods, The Tempered Press is where you want to go for a little warmth, comfort and relaxation, which is a different direction than the first mentioned bistros. That’s due to the fact that the café was never created to follow such a route. With a much smaller selection to choose from, it isn’t exactly known as being a board game hotspot. However, with that being said, it still deserves to be recognized – especially if you’re the type of person that likes to enjoy quieter activities (think Scrabble). There is no flat or per hour fee – just stop into The Tempered Press for a Maple Spiced Latte or a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and pick any board game to pass the time. If you’re ever pressed for a first date location, it doesn’t hurt that this café serves incredible lattes, stocks board games that are fun instead of aggressive, is located by a popular park, and the noise level never reaches deafening heights.
I’ve actually met people that refuse to travel west of Bloor and Ossington, especially as far as ‘Blansdowne,’ because they think it’s a dismal area with nothing to offer. This assumption is so far off base that it barely holds any shock value. Holy Oak Café may not be in the bustling Queen Street West area or in upscale Yorkville but it does hold a lot of character. During the day, this rustic café offers a quiet retreat while at night the atmosphere transforms into a candlelit bar – yes, it’s licensed – that features live music and other events. In addition to this, every first and second Wednesday of the month, Holy Oak Café hosts a board game night with the option of BYOG or playing one of their own. It’s the best of both worlds. Enjoy a quiet game during the day or stop by with a group of friends for a low-key night that’s accompanied with alcohol. But just be warned – liquor and Settlers of Catan do not mix well together.
Snakes & Lattes are continuing its Toronto board game legacy by opening a second location in Little Italy. The only difference is that Snakes & Lagers serves alcoholic beverages – 19 draft taps that are mostly from local craft breweries. For that reason alone, this should be stop number one of the evening. However, just like Snakes & Lattes, there’s always a wait time that can be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. They do take your number and text once a table becomes available so head over to No One Writes to the Colonel for a beer while you’re killing time. Now the collection sees over 250 board games, which includes Cards Against Humanity, Lost Cities, Majority Rules, Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, and much more. However, there’s currently no Settlers of Catan (surely it’ll be added soon enough). The library admission is $5 and there’s also a menu with a variety of shareable snacks.
The Rooster Coffee House has always been a staple over in Riverdale, and the café just recently opened a second location on King Street East. Is there a better of the two? Not exactly – both include friendly and professional staff members working in a relaxed and casual setting. Much like The Tampered Press and Holy Oak Café, the Rooster Coffee House isn’t known for being the go-to place for board games but they do have their own selection available. But be careful if you decide to play a game of Scrabble, you’ll find yourself consuming a lot of iced lattes and tasty coconut macaroons over the course of two hours. This means leaving the coffee shop wired on caffeine and sugar. It really can’t be helped though, the menu is a huge bonus at the Rooster Coffee House adding to its already major points for stocking the store with boards games.
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