The SnakesCast

Bite-sized bits about board games from the game gurus at Snakes and Lattes

The world of tabletop games is a lot bigger than most people realize. In fact it's so big that the idea of investigating it can actually be kind of intimidating. When you see all those games you've never heard of, with rules and concepts and themes you've never seen before in a game, it's hard to know where to start. The answer is: start with the SnakesCast. Every week, we'll bring you ten or fifteen minutes' worth of banter about what makes these games worth playing. With a different theme every episode and a rotating cast of both gurus and non-gurus from Toronto's premiere boardgame café, we'll show you just how much there is to play with out there.

  • Absolute Beginners

    What can you recommend for a blank slate?

    One of the most challenging and enjoyable tasks for a game guru is recommending games to suit someone's taste. Everyone has different preferences, and based on what they tell, a skilled guru can find just the right game. But what's a guru to do when they can't tell you a single thing about what they like or don't like in a game? This week we tackle the question of how to recommend a game to someone who has no idea where to begin.

    Co-hosts: Amanda McKnight, Emilie Finnerty

    Games mentioned: Monopoly, Kulami, Ghost Blitz, Kwizniac, Zombie Dice, Dead of Winter, Last Night On Earth, Pandemic, Camel Up, Colt Express, The Duke, Quarto, Pentago, Yinsh, Onitama, Jenga, Concept, Hanabi, Castle Panic, Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert

    Published: September 20th, 2016 Length: 00:18:12
  • Game Spotlight: Ra

    A classic returns from obscurity

    Back in the late 1990s when modern board games were just getting to be a Thing, it wasn't uncommon at a game convention to hear a table full of people chanting "Ra! Ra! Ra!" What were they going on about, and how could a game as apparently unassuming as this be such a huge favourite among aficionados? This week the game spotlight shines on Reiner Knizia's Ra, celebrating its long-awaited reprint by Fantasy Flight Games.

    Co-hosts: Scott Moyle, David Kingsmill

    Games mentioned: Ra, Ra The Dice Game, Incan Gold, Through the Ages, Roll Through the Ages, Sushi Go!, 7 Wonders, Coloretto, The Hanging Gardens

    Published: September 13th, 2016 Length: 00:17:59
  • Git Gud

    How to win more often at board games

    It happens fairly often at the café that I'll get a request for "a game I can win". Naturally, that's not just a matter of picking which game to play, but developing your own skills. So how do you do that? How do you get better at winning games?

    Co-hosts: David Kingsmill, Scott Moyle

    Games mentioned: Puerto Rico, Chess, Warhammer, Catan, Cash 'N Guns, Twilight Imperium, Scrabble, Poker, Pandemic, Patchwork, Splendor

    Published: September 6th, 2016 Length: 00:17:28
  • Hand Management

    The invisible game mechanic

    Even if you've played a lot of games, there's a good chance you don't know what hand management is. But even if you've only played a few, you've probably done plenty of it without realizing. This week on the SnakesCast we're taking a close look at one of the most subtle but powerful elements in game design, one that makes the cards in your hand matter across a wider context.

    Co-hosts: David Kingsmill, Scott Moyle

    Games mentioned: Pandemic, Jaipur, Cacao, Carcassonne, Sorry, Cosmic Encounter, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, Summoner Wars, San Juan, Hostage Negotiator, Uno, Rummikub, Lost Cities, Hive, Battle Line, Ticket To Ride, Catan, Bohnanza, Hanabi, Love Letter

    Published: August 30th, 2016 Length: 00:17:58
  • GenCon 2016!

    Big releases from the big show

    Another year, another GenCon, and with it another bumper crop of massively hyped new tabletop games. In that deluge of new releases, how can one game stand out among all the rest? This week we're talking about the biggest games from GenCon 2016, and which ones we're most looking forward to having on the tables at Snakes & Lattes.

    Co-hosts: David Kingsmill, Scott Moyle

    Games mentioned: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, Seafall, Scythe, Star Trek Ascendancy, Star Trek Panic, Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne, Cosmic Encounter, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, Legendary Encounters: A Firefly Deck Building Game, Legendary: Big Trouble In Little China, Captain Sonar, Dead Last, HMS Dolores, Fugitive, Speechless, Codenames Pictures, Bring Your Own Book

    Published: August 23rd, 2016 Length: 00:22:02
  • Gambling

    Money changes everything

    Something happens when you play a game for stakes that go beyond the game itself. When you play for money, especially an amount of money that could make some kind of difference in your life, it changes the way you play. So is it still playing when winning is that important? This week on the SnakesCast we tackle the thorny topic of gambling.

    Co-hosts: Matti McLean, Eric Lang

    Games mentioned: Poker, LCR, Magic: The Gathering, Blackjack, Keno, Craps, Crokinole, Snakes & Ladders, Candyland

    If you know someone who is struggling with gambling addiction, run a google search for "gambling addiction help". If you live in Ontario, Canada, start here:

    Published: August 16th, 2016 Length: 00:15:48
  • Worst Of the Worst

    Games that bring out the worst in all of us

    Some games feel gentle and relaxing. Others are stressful and tense. And some... some games just make people want to burn down the whole world. Some games put players in a position where in order to win, they need to earn another player's trust, and then betray that trust. This week on the SnakesCast we're talking about games that not only allow for cruelty, but encourage it. How can you design such a game, and what does it mean to enjoy it?

    Co-hosts: Matti McLean, Eric Lang

    Games mentioned: Lifeboats, Intrigue, Quo Vadis?, Diplomacy, Chaos In the Old World, Blood Rage, Risk, I'm the Boss!, Bohnanza, Munchkin, Bridge, Cards Against Humanity, Take It Easy!

    Published: August 9th, 2016 Length: 16:41:00
  • Game Communities

    Metagames and the communities of people that make them a reality

    Some games are at their best when you've got a whole lot of different people you can test your skills against. Whether it's in a league, a tournament, or just a regular game night at the store, these games are only as strong as the community that plays them. How can publishers and players alike form strong communities around the games they play?

    Co-hosts: Eric Lang, Matti McLean

    Games mentioned: Chess, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer

    Incidentally, Snakes and Lattes College is building a new Magic: The Gathering community. Every Wednesday evening, Draught & Draft brings tasty beverages and a warm, welcoming atmosphere for veterans and new players alike. If you've ever been curious about playing Magic, there's never been a better time or place to jump in.

    You can learn more about it here:

    Published: August 2nd, 2016 Length: 00:17:15
  • Catch 'Em All

    Secrets of Pokémon's success

    Walking through the streets these days, there's an excellent chance you'll see someone looking through their phone for a colourful little monster to catch. Pokémon Go is all the rage, but Pokémon games have been around for two decades, not only on consoles and portable devices, but the tabletop as well. This week on the SnakesCast, we're joined by award-winning game designer Eric M. Lang for a chat about what makes Pokémon such a phenomenon.

    Co-hosts: Matti McLean, Eric Lang
    Games mentioned: Pokemon Trading Card Game, Pokemon miniatures game

    Published: July 26th, 2016 Length: 00:18:29
  • The Art on the Box

    Should you judge a game by its cover?

    You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for many board games, the cover art accounts for about 90 percent of its sales. What makes for a great board game cover, and what makes for a terrible cover? And can it even be possible to convey the essence of what it feels like to play a game with a single image?

    Games mentioned: Flash Point Fire Rescue, Arkham Horror, Takenoko, Rex: Final Days of an Empire, Dune, Twilight Imperium Third Edition, A Touch of Evil, King of Tokyo, Mysterium, T.I.M.E. Stories, Time Pirates, Verti-Go, Greedy Greedy Goblins, Arcadia Quest, Kemet, Camel Up, Cave Evil, PitchCar, Tokaido, Yinsh, Dvonn, Bandu, Yardmaster, Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game, Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy

    Published: July 19th, 2016 Length: 00:19:53
  • Game Art

    The way things look can make a big difference

    The way a game plays should matter a lot more than the way it looks, but if we're really honest with ourselves, we have to admit that the experience of playing a game can be profoundly affected by its appearance. This week we're discussing the art in games, and how it can enhance or detract from a game, whether or not it has anything to do with the rules.

    Co-hosts: David Kingsmill, Steve Tassie

    Games mentioned: Chess, Junta, Dune, Monopoly, Combots, HeroQuest, Magic: The Gathering, Manhattan, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, Mysterium, Dixit, Masterpiece, Pastiche, Modern Art, Pictureka, Spot It!, The Grizzled, Robinson Crusoe, Legends of Andor, Mag-Blast, Munchkin, Star Wars: Rebellion, Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deckbuilding Game, Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game

    Published: July 12th, 2016 Length: 00:19:31
  • Game Spotlight: Puerto Rico

    How the mighty has fallen

    For game enthusiasts,'s top rated games list is the ultimate high scores list. And in the first decade of this century, one game owned the #1 spot on that list: Puerto Rico. For years it seemed like nothing would ever displace it from its lofty perch high atop the ratings, but now it's tumbled all the way down to #6. This week we're talking about what made it special, and why it's no longer number one.

    Co-hosts: David Kingsmill, Steve Tassie

    Games mentioned: Puerto Rico, Twilight Imperium, San Juan, Race For the Galaxy, Roll For the Galaxy, Citadels, SmallWorld, Sunrise City

    Published: July 5th, 2016 Length: 00:17:07
  • Game Spotlight: Catan

    The game that changed the rules

    How much does today's board game world owe to the genre-transforming classic from 1995, and how well does it hold up today? Does Catan get the respect it deserves, or does its fame and nostalgia give it a free pass for sins that wouldn't be accepted in a new game today?

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, David Kingsmill

    Games mentioned: Catan, Monopoly, Blood Rage, The Godfather, Summit

    Published: June 28th, 2016 Length: 00:22:27
  • Game Spotlight: 7 Wonders Duel

    A 2-player adaptation of an already popular favourite

    Catan. Ticket To Ride. 7 Wonders. These are classics among modern games, and often requested by customers at Snakes & Lattes. But when a group of two people requests to play 7 Wonders, we always have to disappoint them by revealing that it's not a great game for 2 players. Or rather, it wasn't... until the arrival of a new game called 7 Wonders: Duel. Which we're putting under the game spotlight in this week's SnakesCast.

    Co-hosts: Vincent Kong, Steve Tassie

    Games mentioned: 7 Wonders, Roll Through the Ages, Tides of Time, Race For the Galaxy, Sushi Go!, 7 Wonders: Duel, Patchwork, Animal Upon Animal, San Juan, Agricola: All Creatures Great And Small, Le Havre: The Inland Port, Nuns On the Run, Catan, Starship Catan, Clue, Spy Alley, Mr. Jack Pocket, Cosmic Encounter, Mah Jongg, Space Alert

    Published: June 21st, 2016 Length: 00:18:12
  • Storybook Games

    Can you make a game out of reading from a book?

    Most games tell their stories through the action of playing. But in some games, playing means reading a storybook. Like a choose-your-own-adventure novel but with many more choices to make, these storybook games can transport you to another world, full of adventure and drama. But creating such a game means facing some unique challenges, and that's the topic of this week's SnakesCast.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Vincent Kong

    Games mentioned: Tales of the Arabian Nights, Voyage of the B.S.M. Pandora, Agents of S.M.E.R.S.H., Rory's Story Cubes, Star Trek: The Adventure Game, Above And Below

    Published: June 14th, 2016 Length: 00:17:18
  • House Rules

    My game, my house, my rules

    Lots of people like to tinker with the rules of the games they play. We call these little changes "house rules," and it's possible that you've been using some without even realizing it. This week on the SnakesCast we look into some of the most popular house rules, the reasons why people made them up, and why they continue to play using them.

    Co-hosts: Vincent Kong, Steve Tassie

    Games mentioned: Talisman, Zombies!!!, Monopoly, Chaos in the Old World, Catan, Verti-Go, Hamsterrolle, Anomia, Letter Roll, Sushi Go!, Guess Who?, Uno, Dutch Blitz, Hedbanz

    Published: June 7th, 2016 Length: 00:16:55
  • Games That Aren't Fun

    And the reasons why you should play them anyway

    The most common request from customers at Snakes & Lattes is for a "fun game". And although that means different things to different people, there are certain kinds of games that are popular among game players, despite not being what most people would think of as "fun". This might seem weird at first, until you remember that sad songs and stories have always been popular. So this week we're talking about games that definitely aren't fun, but are absolutely worth playing.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Vincent Kong

    Games mentioned: Terra Mystica, Agricola, The Grizzled, Freedom: The Underground Railroad, Memoir 44

    Published: May 31st, 2016 Length: 00:18:51

    Games in a galaxy far, far away

    Games based on movies and TV shows are usually awful. We know all about this from previous episodes. Our childhood memories of Star Wars-themed board games are not good. But happily, things have changed. For more Star Wars game goodness, check out our curator's video review of Star Wars Risk:

    Co-hosts: Amanda McKnight, Scott Moyle

    Games mentioned: Star Wars: Escape From The Death Star Game, Battle At the Sarlacc Pit, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – Battle at Sarlacc's Pit, Star Wars: Epic Duels, Star Wars Miniatures, Imperial Assault, Star Wars: The Card Game, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, Star Wars: Armada, Wings of War, Descent, Loopin' Louie, Loopin' Chewie, Boom Boom Balloon, Star Wars Death Star Boom Boom Balloon, Star Wars Risk, Lightsaber Dueling Pack

    Published: May 24th, 2016 Length: 00:17:46
  • We Have A Problem, Part Two

    Causes and possible solutions

    This week's episode continues last week's discussion of problems with oppression in the board game community. We don't just talk about the problems though. We also get into the ways you can help to make our little corner of the world safer, happier, and more welcoming to people who might otherwise feel alienated or even fearful.

    Co-hosts: Amanda McKnight, Coco Lee, Scott Moyle

    Sadly, we didn't get much into talking about race during this series. We will approach this topic in a future episode (when my co-hosts aren't all white).

    Published: May 17th, 2016 Length: 00:29:41
  • We Have A Problem, Part One

    A difficult but necessary conversation

    Playing board games with other humans should be fun and safe. This is not a controversial statement. And yet within the community of people who consider themselves tabletop game players, there are places and individuals who are unpleasant and even dangerous. This week we begin a two part series on sexual harassment and abuse in game groups, game stores and game conventions. Listener discretion is advised.

    Co-hosts: Amanda McKnight, Coco Lee, Scott Moyle

    Special thanks to De Scriptorice, the Popette of the First Church of Quantum Universes and author of this article, which inspired the episode:

    Published: May 10th, 2016 Length: 00:16:29