The end of January means a trip to the Airport Convention Centre to report on the Toronto Toy Show, an annual small trade show for the Canadian market. Board games are only a small part of this event, so the number of board games is small. I will summarize the three major distributors of games in Canada – namely Filosofia, ILOT 307 and Alary Games – and the games I found, then finish with any other games of note from the show.
This is the game company that took over Z-Man Games – namely for the rights to produce French editions of Z-man titles, but also to get more access to the English market. It handles the distribution end of Z-Man Games, while as far as I can tell Z-Man's Zev Shlasinger will continue with the development of games for the English market. The only concern I had was that these guys seemed more concerned about the French editions of games than the English editions since its primary market is Québec and France. We will have to see how this turns out.
Also, the marketing rep told me that the French gaming market seems to like abstracts a lot more than the English market. An abstract like Chromino, for example, sells 5,000 copies in Québec, yet only 24 copies in the rest of Canada, so do not be surprised if more abstracts appear in the Z-Man line.
I did not notice any new games from this publisher/distributor other than the sailing/exploration card game Mundus Novus and a variety of cube-box games from Gigamic: Coyote, Regatta, RÖK, and the dice game Wazabi.
By far the friendliest and most gamer orientated of the three distributors, Îlot 307 carries a variety of smaller card games such as Sobek and Jaipur but also the rather good Québec, which is definitely a gamers' game. Îlot 307 is carrying one new game in the Sobek-sized box called Tschak!, which is a trick-taking game with an element of hand passing. Looks very family friendly.
The small card games distributed by this company are not bad fillers, of which I would recommend Vizia and Sultans of Karaya.
Titles from Alary Games are more on the young children's end of games, but they did have three games of interest:
1. Odin's Table
A combat checkers variant in which the power of a piece is determined by a card, so you have some strategy and memory of having to guess what power a piece has. The higher-valued piece beats a lower-valued one and is removed, but both power cards are removed and replaced by a card from the player's hand. Looked like a decent filler and was fairly well-produced.
A Can't Stop-like game from Reiner Knizia in which you are stealing cheese from a central pile based on a die roll. As long as you keep rolling cheese (gain a cheese piece) or rats (lose a cheese piece), you can keep on rolling; if you roll two blanks, however, all your accumulated cheese on the table goes back to the central stock pile. Think of it as Can't Stop Junior.
A quick filler in which you play cards to move your tornado from player to player. The first player to circulate all four of his tornado cards through all the players and back to him wins. The opponents try to stop you, while doing the same thing themselves.
Apart from the titles from these distributors, I found only two more games of note. One was kind of a fun-looking Scrabble-like game from Family Games America, which has released pretty coffee table games like Cathedral. The game was called Mark My Words – Letter in the original edition from German publisher Theta – and is played on a grided mat with letters of different sizes. You try to make words each turn with the twelve letters you have in your hand, scoring points for the length of the word. A pretty-looking filler type game again.
The last title was sort of a quirky-looking Skittles-like game called KOOB. Essentially you line up ten pawn-like wooden men on each side, then toss a wooden stick at them to knock down your opponent's men. The first person to knock down all your opponent's men; plus the central castle piece wins. I am not so sure how many parents would be happy at their kids throwing small wooden sticks at one another, but it looks a lot safer than lawn darts.
To sum up, this is a very small show that has been shrinking for a number of years and was even smaller than last year. I still found some games of interest but even they are getting fewer and farther between as more businesses head to the toy shows in places like New York, London and Nürnburg – but as long as there is a show in Toronto, I will be there.