When I first moved to Toronto, I didn’t know a lot of folks. I was still fairly casual in my hobby gaming and never really considered looking into local groups or stores. In the early 2010s, once board game cafes started appearing, I would go weekly and thus began my long slide into hobby games and more. Over the past almost 10 years, I’ve come to appreciate not just how present gaming is here as far as stores and the like, but also community events and the amount of gaming that happens in this fine city. We are lucky to have not just one but two annual design conventions (ProtoTO and Protospiel North), an annual tabletop (board games and RPGs) convention (BreakoutCon) as well as a presence at Fan Expo, as you’ll have read from me and David recently.
Seeing as gaming in Toronto continues to have a great presence, I thought I might share some little snippets from local gamers here with you! A little about their gaming tastes, how they got into the hobby and what they dig about getting to be a gamer here in Toronto. I get to hang out and game with a lot of cool folks in this city, and figured it was time I shared that with a wider audience! This is, of course, just a morsel of the wide range of gamers here in the greater Toronto region, but I do feel like it’s a great representation of the folks I’ve encountered and shared a table with.
Kushal :: Kushal has been board gaming for about 4 years. Before that, he was an enthusiast of mass-market games like Monopoly, Guess Who and the like – then Catan came along! When it comes to the new stuff or the classics, Kushal prefers the newer stuff. The one game that really took him by surprise was Rivals for Catan. Here in Toronto, Kushal attendings private game groups, and events organized through Meetup like the Toronto Area Board Gamers or Quiche Games at A-Game Cafe. He’s not travelled for events (yet!) because he remarks “there are always awesome people around to play some awesome games in the city!” As for what he’d like to see in the hobby? More organized and structured meetups.
Christen :: Getting actively involved in the hobby gaming scene in 2007, Christen dove into a game group whose fare was along the lines of Puerto Rico and El Grande. After buying Carcassonne to play at home, she was hooked. She cut her teeth on the classics but is now fully part of the “cult of the new”, digging all the fancy releases each year. As for gaming around Toronto, Christen’s fairly omnivorous as far as types of events – 401 Games open gaming nights, TABScon quarterly game days, and other Toronto Area Board Game meetups. It’s the friendliness and passion for gaming that she loves about the gaming scene here. While she’s not travelled outside of Ontario for gaming events, she does love attending the Niagara Board Gaming weekend each year in January.
Page :: Since 2013, Page has been enjoying modern board gaming. After trying Catan, he then played pretty much most of the games he saw featured on Geek & Sundry’s Tabletop. He favours playing the classics, and the game that’s really taken him by storm is the Godfather. Sticking firmly to Ontario (but hoping to travel to events elsewhere someday), Page gets out to Make New Friends days at Board Game Bliss, the occasional TABScon game day, as well as attending our annual tabletop gaming convention BreakoutCon. He loves how active the gaming community in Toronto is, and as far as improving the hobby, would like more mainstream acceptance of having games kicking around at establishments to use.
Milena :: After being lured by the siren song of Magic the Gathering around 19 years ago, Milena’s been firmly in the hobby since – and plays MtG daily even now! She loves the classics, and says that while MtG was what brought her into gaming, Le Havre was the first euro-style game she tried that made an impression. She loves the Toronto scene and its friendly people, but also gets out into the world of cons – from Gen Con to Dice Tower Con, BGGcon to PAX and even Essen. Looking forward, Milena would like to see more of a conscious effort to have smaller/less packaging for games.
Azhar :: The classic pull of the social game is what pulled Azhar into the hobby – The Resistance was his starter to the main course of gaming. Over the past 6 years, Azhar hasn’t picked a side between old and new – there’s a lot of great old games that get forgotten, but there’s so much to try that’s coming out that it’s hard to choose. Among all of this, the game that really grabbed him and surprised him was the crunchy title T’zolkin. Attending various gaming events around Toronto, Azhar loves that the hobby is accessible, diverse and full of welcoming people. He’s also dipped his toe into events further afield, attending a Dice Tower Retreat. When asked about what he’d like to see more of in board gaming, he replied, “representation in themes or characters. Diversity in themes or even historical eras, for example, Pax Pamir takes on a subject that isn’t well known or addressed.” Same, Azhar!
Stacey :: Although she’s gamed in some fashion for most of her life, the past few years have seen an uptick in hobby gaming for Stacey. The first game that got its board gamey tentacles and grabbed her was an experience playing the immersive co-op Mansions of Madness. After trying Photosynthesis, Stacey was drawn deeper – and titles like Evolution have shown her the potential of tabletop gaming. Can you tell that Stacey’s big into biodiversity like me? Stacey’s been to BreakoutCon and also gone further afield in Ontario to visit gaming stores and cafes in spots like Belleville and Peterborough which I love! What’s been inspiring to her about the local gaming community has been finding out how many people she knows are already nerding out in it, and how supportive the folks in the hobby are to new folks looking to be involved. As far as the future of the hobby, Stacey would love to see more accountability and respect when games are being created. Diverse creators and more creativity will see us moving away from problematic themes. Players should seek out games that successfully do this, and elevate them in the field.
Matt :: Like a lot of folks, Matt played mass market games as a kid. He came to hobby gaming about five years ago after playing One Night Ultimate Werewolf at a local meetup. Sticking on the somewhat supernatural side of things, he was really impressed after trying the intense (mostly) co-op Dead of Winter. A frequent attendee of local events like TABS, Meetup nights, and even being a frequent math trader at 401 Games & Board Game Bliss, Matt loves that Toronto’s got great gaming stores and fantastic folks organizing events here. He travels on occasion to Ontario cons like CastleCon and Niagara Boardgaming Weekend and makes the trek to Pax Unplugged in Philly for some big con fun. For the future of gaming, Matt would love to see an increase in the diversity of folks at the gaming table, both gender-wise and racially.
Helaina :: Helaina got her start in modern board gaming 15 years ago after trying (like many of us!) Catan (Settlers of, at the time). Before that she’d always had family game staples such as Monopoly and Sorry! around, and one of those was really truly her first game experience! When she’s not busy running a small publishing company, Helaina doesn’t mind playing new or old games, but her true love is classic Euros. It is no surprise, then, that the game that really grabbed her and injected a passion for the industry was Endeavor – a game that her company would reprint eventually! Her job brings her to conventions like Origins, Gen Con, PAXu, and the like – but here at home, where she loves the “amazing people and community”, she is a fixture at local events like BreakoutCon and ProtoTO. What she wants most in the hobby going forward is diversity.
Daniel :: As a kid, Daniel played Monopoly as his jump into gaming – years later he was grabbed by Princes of Florence and there was no turning back. Like many others of us, Daniel is omnivorous and loves not just new releases but older games, too. When asked what he loves about gaming in Toronto, it’s the community – and as a designer Daniel gets in there as part of it, attending events like Snakes and Lattes designer night, ProtoTO, & Protospiel North. Outside of Toronto, he’s attended conventions like Origins, Gen Con and GrandCon to add to the fun. Knowing Daniel is involved in the creation of games, it was interesting to hear that what he’d like to see in the hobby’s future is fewer games that are high quality – this is a really thoughtful response, especially considering the glut of games we’re seeing increasing year-by-year.
Mandy :: 7 years ago Mandy sat down to play Gloom. It was the first modern board game she’d tried, and it most certainly hooked her. She likes to stick playing the classics and resists the shiny cult of the new for the most part. Locally, Mandy gets out to events like ProtoTO and BreakoutCon to get her fix, and finds the community here overall friendly and welcoming. She’s quite a convention traveller too, having gotten out to events like Origins, GenCon, ComicCon, Pax Unplugged, and GrandCon. When pondering what she wants out of the hobby going forward, it’s simple: more diversity, less misogyny.
Jamie :: No stranger to games, Jamie’s been gaming in some form for the past 36 years, really in the hobby since first trying TSR Dungeon! for the first time. Not picking a side between old & new games, Jamie loves them all — and was especially taken by the Avalon Hill title Civilization as a tween, and later by Puerto Rico. Jamie loves the diversity of gaming here in Toronto, and he’s a staple at TABS events and our very own BreakoutCon. On occasion, he’ll get out to smaller private events, the occasional Origins and has even been on a Dice Tower Cruise! Jamie would like to see more diversity in the hobby gaming world going forward.
Lila :: Like a good number of folks in gaming, Lila’s first play experience was Pandemic, about 6 years ago. After that, it was the hugely popular Battlestar Galactica that grabbed her attention. She tends to stick to the classics as she doesn’t get out for games super often – no travelling for events, but she does enjoy the meetups downtown at 401 Games and the like. She loves how open and friendly the gaming environment is here in Toronto. For the hobby and industry overall, she’d love to see more inclusivity in the future.
THANK YOU to all the folks who sent along their responses to my questions – there were more of you than I could possibly include – perhaps it’s time to work on a “Humans of Board Gaming in Toronto” feature the next time BreakoutCon rolls around! I asked Sean for some fairly generic photos here as I really wanted the focus to be on the responses from people, rather than headshots! Thank you to the gamers of Toronto for making this such a fantastic hub for the hobby. If you’re in the city and are curious about events, be sure to hit up the Toronto BoardGamers meetup group, and the weekly events run by Caryl Tan at A-Game cafe on Friday nights.