Skip to main content

Ali Skantos, left, and Iris Karuna play Fireball Island at Snakes and Lattes in Toronto's Annex, October 6, 2010.The Globe and Mail

Snakes and Lattes bills itself as North America's first board game café, but soon it can add a second title: the first board game café to get its own sitcom.

Debuting late September, Snakes and Lattes: The Show will explore the people behind Toronto's seminal board game café.

"It's really an homage to how board games have brought communities together," says Drew Dafoe, the series' showrunner.

"You play a board game with five other people, and you learn more about those five people than you would doing any other activity."

The show is a fictionalized account of Snakes' early years. Comedian Jamie O'Connor plays Max Packett, whose lack of human touch and micro-management has driven Snakes to near-bankruptcy. That's when James Kacey (played by actor and comedian Troy Matthew Martin), who helped Packett come up with the idea for a board game café but dropped out after deciding it was too silly, reappears to help.

"It's about their relationship being repaired over saving Snakes and Lattes," Mr. Dafoe says.

The show also features some of the actual café's employees playing versions of themselves. It's all part of a self-awareness that the creators hope will resonate with modern audiences. Beau's Brewery, for example, is one of the show's sponsors, and so the characters actively make fun of how much Beau's they drink.

Mr. Dafoe likens it to the irreverent attitude of Scrubs set in a bar like Cheers.

"It's supposed to be an uplifting thing and in no way disparaging," he says.

In reality, Snakes and Lattes opened on Bloor Street West in August 2010 by a savvy pair of business owners from Paris. The original venue has since doubled in size and spawned a second location, Snakes and Lagers, on College Street. It's been cited in The Atlantic and the Guardian as an inspiration for the global explosion of board game cafés that's recently swept through North America, Europe and East Asia.

So it makes sense that Mr. Dafoe wants to piggyback off that success. The real challenge will be to sell it to more viewers than just young downtown Torontonians.

"I would never classify myself as a hipster," he says. "I am just a huge nerd."

Nerds are having a cultural moment lately, especially when it comes to board games. One of the most famous episodes of the cult hit Community dealt with the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

"Board games have become really popular, and that's one of the things, I think, that will help the show become popular," he says. "We liked board games before they became cool."

The show will air on Bell Fibe and be available to stream on Snakes and Lattes' website in late September.

Interact with The Globe