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Sports & Play

The top 8 board game stores in Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 26, 2013

Board Games TorontoBoard games in Toronto are becoming more popular than ever before. It's not a backlash against video games, but more of a maturing of both the gamers and the games. Board games have evolved from the days of Monopoly and Sorry! Modern games are better balanced, often easier to learn and encourage social group interaction more. Which is something video games lack. Instead of staring at a screen, the eyes of board gamers are on each other. That's why board game sales are up and board game cafes like Snakes and Lattes, GO Lounge and U Tea are popping up all over Toronto.

But the popularity of games has also resulted in an inflation of board games made, so picking the right one can be tough. Luckily Toronto has a number of exciting gaming stores all over the city. Though you could pick up a game from the big box stores, you'll find a much larger selection and better prices at the specialty stores (many of them sell their games for online prices). In addition you'll get expert advice on what game to pick from devoted people that have made gaming their lifestyle.

As an added bonus many stores offer free space for you to bring your friends and play your games at. There are even events running every night at most game spaces. Bring a friend or just head there alone. You're bound to meet friendly faces and it's a refreshing change from the big screen at home.

Here are the top 8 places to buy board games in Toronto.

401 Games
The full name is 401 Games, Toys and Sportscards. The store started as a convenience store 20 years ago, but has grown to one of Toronto's busiest game stores. So busy that they're moving to a location that is three times larger at 518 Yonge street in August. Till then you can drop by for free board game nights (Wednesdays) or just marvel at the massive collection of games, action figures, sports cards, card games and more.

Snakes and Lattes
Located on Bloor, just west of Bathurst station, this board game cafe is also a game store. So if the place is full, and it usually is, you can just pick up a game and head home. They recently expanded and now look more like a bar than a cafe; which is awesome! Their collection of games to play is the largest in Toronto and for only $5 you can play them all for as long as you like.

The Hairy Tarantula
The Diagon Alley of Toronto's game stores; it's central, but difficult to find to the untrained eye. But look for the giant Zanzibar sign across the street and you'll find a staircase that leads to one of Toronto's oldest and most packed gaming stores. If you are looking for something rare or out of print; this is the store for you. Don't let its cramped interior fool you, the store is larger than it appears at first. And don't forget their location at 6979 Yonge St.

Strategy Games
Not all the game stores are located on Bloor or Yonge. On Mt. Pleasant Rd, just south of Eglinton Ave, you will find Strategy Games. Though more focused on classic games (it's run by the Chess'n Math Association (CMA) a non-profit organization devoted to bringing the game of chess to Canadian youngsters), this store is packed wall to wall with new games as well. There's also a rentable space downstairs that seats up to 60 gamers.

Dueling Grounds
Though more focused on war gaming and tabletop role-playing games, this is a hidden gem on Bloor street. Just a few blocks east of Lansdowne station. There's a large gaming area (1500 sq.ft.) in the basement and though it doesn't rival Snakes and Lattes, it's free and available. The medieval weapon collection on the walls also help set the mood.

Silver Snail
You'll find the Silversnail just north of Dundas square. Though heavily skewed towards comics, you'll also find a great selection of board games here. There's also the Black Canary Espresso Bar where you can watch the busy streets while contemplating what game to get next.

Heavy Support Games
If you're in the west end of Toronto and don't want to bother going all the way downtown: stop by Heavy Support Games on the Queensway. Mainly a miniature gaming and card games store, it has great prices on most modern games.

Meeple Mart
Named after the small person-shaped figures used as a player's tokens, this place is more a warehouse than a game store. But it boasts a massive collection of board games. Shelf after shelf of multiple games awaits you...if you can find it. This place is tricky to discover, even if you have the address. Look for the very nondescript door at 290 Carlaw Ave and head upstairs.

Writing by Jorgen Stovne, an an avid gamer and blogger at rpgbooster.com

Discussion

20 Comments

Alexander / May 26, 2013 at 11:10 am
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If you want to rate game stores, cool...but "easier to learn"? than monopoly? or Sorry? There is a reason that a medium level difficulty game like Settlers is considered the gateway. Lots of the games pictured (for example) are less than simple to learn.

I'd also add that "more popular than ever before" is unfounded nonsense...the days when Trivial Pursuit sold millions of copies are long over...gaming is a niche...and that's fine...but the 1980's were the heyday of mass family playing of games.

I also resent the idea that video games are somehow not mature or social (wii, MMORPG's)...

Stick to rating games and leave the unfounded social commentary alone.
Jose / May 26, 2013 at 11:11 am
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Can anyone suggest the Top 5 Board games to play right now?

I always hear of this one game called "Settlers of Catan", but apparently it takes a while to learn.
Mary / May 26, 2013 at 11:20 am
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I used to hold a monthly board game night in my apartment building for about 6 years. My attendance was mostly men in their 30s. Great way to socialize face to face!
Bijan replying to a comment from Jose / May 26, 2013 at 11:28 am
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My top 5 are:

1) Settlers of Catan
2) Cards against Humanity
3) Pandemic
4) Ticket to Ride
5) The resistance
w-hat / May 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm
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Ticket to Ride is a great game. You can explain how to play in a minute or two to new players, it moves super fast and your turn comes around quickly, and as you get into it you find there are various strategies and approaches. Great game for after dinner with a few drinks. Catan is great but slightly more involved, and I'd say Puerto Rico is my other favourite - though that one takes a while to explain to everyone.
tq3 / May 26, 2013 at 02:43 pm
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I'm wondering why "Things" the game, isn't on any of these lists.
It is an amazingly fun game. Best played with a group bigger than 4 or 5. Very easy to learn. There are not a lot of complicated rules. Just really a lot of laughs! Check it out sometime!
Krissy / May 26, 2013 at 04:48 pm
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I will never buy a board game from Silver Snail. First, their "great selection" is a very limited section at the back of the store, which includes maybe 10 games (a few more if you count card games). Second, their prices have a significant markup over other stores. One game I was thinking of buying was around $30 and only $20 at 401 games, which is a two minute walk up the street. If you want a board game, go to a dedicated board game store, better prices and knowledgeable staff.
Tadd Brackish / May 27, 2013 at 07:13 am
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I love the Hairy Tarantula, in addition to having a million games the staff are really knowledgeable. I also like that it's up some stairs and somehow still seems like a basement.
Anonymous / May 27, 2013 at 07:16 am
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It's a shame you listed Hairy Tarantula. I was in their downtown store for comics back in March and one of the staff (a manager!!) begin YELLING at one of the customers and his girlfriend. The manager called the poor customer a cheater (??) insulted his girlfriend and banned them from the store.

What kind of store employs people who will just yell in front of other customers to berate others? Be careful or maybe it will be you getting yelled at next. Just crazy people working there, if you ask me. I won't be back, I don't need the harassment.
Jonathan replying to a comment from Jose / May 30, 2013 at 10:46 am
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Jose, in response to your question. I agree with Bijan, Settlers, and Ticket to Ride are great games to start with. I also like Zombies!!! Cards Against Humanity isn't really a board game though, it's actually a card game but it is great for large groups to play and can get very funny.

Settlers of Catan may seem complicated but if you're at all interested in board games, and have a sense for basic strategy you can pick it up over the span of one game and be proficient by the second. Playing time varies depending on the amount of players but you can usually complete a game in 60-90 minutes.

Hope that helps.
Leon replying to a comment from Anonymous / June 4, 2013 at 09:41 pm
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Dear Anon.
That "poor customer" had been banned from the Yonge/Steeles store for cheating on more than one occasion, and appeared downtown in what would appear to be an attempt to get a reaction, which happened (and shouldn't have.) Regardless, if you're not a cheater or a thief then we won't yell at you. Also, that manager did apologize to those present afterward, and to me, her employer, for the unprofessional scene that day. None of us are perfect, but nobody here is crazy enough to yell at people for no reason precisely because it can lead to others wondering when they're next.
Erik / October 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm
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Castle Board Game Cafe at College and Spadina has a pretty good selection of board games for sale now. Good prices too.
mike / October 18, 2013 at 01:01 pm
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Anyone know where I can get a copy of field commander: Alexander'seem to be sold out on line.
MakerKids / October 28, 2013 at 01:52 pm
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MakerKids is hosting a 25 Hour Gameathon this Saturday to raise funds for SickKids. Stop by their makerspace to play Minecraft, board games, give your old board games new life and learn about 3D printing! Register asap via: https://bitly.com/mk4sickkids
Robin / March 8, 2014 at 05:19 pm
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Meeple Mart has moved to 247 Spadina.
StevieC / March 8, 2014 at 06:08 pm
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^ plus it's no longer warehouse-like. With two 70" TVs for video gaming, tables for boardgames. It's every geek's fantasy basement.
Meggs / March 21, 2014 at 10:15 am
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This is a great list. Personally I love going to 401 games. A few years back their dropped their prices significantly and are more competitive with online retailers. Silver Snail doesn't have good inventory and is more suited to the RPG group. It's nice to see other stores in Toronto listed as well.

As for discussions on what are the best boardgames, go to boardgamegeek.com.
Steve / June 18, 2014 at 01:49 pm
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Although the size of a warehouse, Meeplemart is the nicest game store I know of... and they offer the community a play space that is huge and comfortable.

Meeplemart have moved since that review was posted, so check them out at 247 Spadina Ave in Toronto. If you are a board game or miniatures game enthusiast, you will not want to miss this place.

Even if you are elsewhere in Canada, you'll want to check their website out and order online for some of the best prices and stock selection in the country.
Steve / June 18, 2014 at 02:08 pm
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I guess I should have put meeplemart's website - not that you all can't google it.

www.meeplemart.com
Holden / July 19, 2014 at 10:50 pm
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My kids and I love playing King of Tokyo together. Fun game, especially if you have players of varying ages. My son was only 7 when he picked up the rules in 10 minutes.

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