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.

  • 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
  • Interview: Ignacy Trzewiczek

    Part Two

    Ignacy Trzewiczek is famous for complex, challenging designs like Robinson Crusoe and Stronghold, which are too complicated for even our best game gurus to teach quickly, which is why you won't see them on the shelves of the café. But Ignacy's publishing company, Portal Games, fell so in love with a game that only had 18 cards that they just had to publish it. This week he'll talk to us about Tides of Time, and what made it such a hit.

    Interviewed: Ignacy Trzewiczek Games mentioned: Tides of Time, Stronghold, Robinson Crusoe, Civilization, Love Letter, Coup, Sail to India, 7 Wonders, Sushi GO!, Tides of Madness, Caylus Be sure to check out for more discussion about Tides of Time.

    Published: May 3rd, 2016 Length: 00:17:55
  • Interview: Ignacy Trzewiczek

    Part One

    Some of the most exciting developments in game design these days are coming out of eastern Europe, and this week we're joined by one of the region's hottest designers. In part one of our interview with Ignacy Trzewiczek, we talk about Poland's post-communist cultural landscape, and the challenges of making games that tell stories.

    Interview guest: Ignacy Trzewiczek

    Games mentioned: Stronghold, Kolejka (a.k.a. Queue), First Martians, Robinson Crusoe, This War of Mine, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective


    Published: April 26th, 2016 Length: 00:19:12
  • Mathematical Games

    And math in games

    Mathematics is inescapable. Everything we do is governed by mathematical laws. And board games, being little systems we invent to put on our tabletops, are inherently mathematical. But so many people are turned off by even the idea of math. That could be because of how it's taught in schools, but it could also be because so much of the fun we have with math in games is disguised to not look like math. This week we're going to look into the ways math turns into play, for good and for bad.

    Co-hosts: Lisa Weklych, Holly Wyder

    Games mentioned: Monopoly, Yahtzee, Clue, Poker, Power Grid, Planet Steam, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Diplomacy, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Blood Rage, SmallWorld, Pandemic, Splendor

    Published: April 19th, 2016 Length: 00:15:39
  • Gurus Love 'Em, People Won't Try 'Em

    no matter how hard we try to convince them

    We've spent the last couple weeks on the show ranting about the most popular games that we really don't like, so now it's time to put the shoe on the other foot and talk about the games we love and can't get most people to even try. And believe it or not, these aren't massively long or complicated games at all! There's just something about them.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, David Kingsmill

    Games mentioned: Race For the Galaxy, Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, Fury of Dracula, Pandemic, Forbidden Island, Can't Stop, Skull & Roses, Vegas!, Patchwork, Codenames, Taboo, Chaos In the Old World, Caylus, Twilight Imperium

    Published: April 12th, 2016 Length: 00:23:56
  • People Love 'Em, Gurus Hate 'Em (part 2)

    More games disagreed upon by newcomers and enthusiasts

    This week the negativity continues as we talk about the most popular games that game enthusiasts just don't like. In a desperate attempt to bring at least a modicum of empathy and understanding to the proceedings, we also talk about the reasons why those games are so widely beloved despite their shortcomings.

    Co-hosts: David Kingsmill, Steve Tassie

    Games mentioned: Cards Against Humanity, Munchkin, Connect Four, Apples to Apples, Snake Oil, Balderdash, But Wait, There's More!, Mad Libs, Quarto, Pentago, Yinsh, Othello, Adventure Time Card Wars, Magic: The Gathering, A Game of Thrones The Board Game, XCOM The Board Game, 6 Nimmt!, Bang! The Walking Dead, Risk: The Walking Dead, Dead of Winter, City of Horror, Risk: Legacy, Risk: Star Wars, Coup, Coup: Rebellion G54, Coup: Reformation, Guess Who?, Clue

    Published: April 5th, 2016 Length: 00:25:15
  • People Love 'Em, Gurus Hate 'Em

    And now we're going to figure out why

    What is it about a game that can make it popular to millions... but despicable to people who love games more than anything else? This week we talk about some of the most beloved games out there, and the reasons why we who call ourselves Game Gurus just don't enjoy them as much as everyone else.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, David Kingsmill

    Games mentioned: Scattergories, Scrabble, Boggle, Letter Roll, Cards Against Humanity, The Game of Life

    Published: March 29th, 2016 Length: 00:19:12
  • Interview: Justin Gary (Part two)

    In which the making of a game designer is discussed

    In part 2 of our interview with game designer Justin Gary, we talk about what it is that makes a person actually set out to make their living in this unusual industry. We also get into the nuts and bolts of creating and publishing a game, and questions of where things are going from here. You can read more of Justin's work at, including essays about game design, philosophy and more.

    Interview guest: Justin Gary

    Games mentioned: Ascension, Magic: The Gathering, SolForge, Labyrinth, Bad Beets, Love Letter, Coup


    Published: March 22nd, 2016 Length: 00:21:22
  • Interview: Justin Gary (Part one)

    Justin shines the Game Spotlight on his most famous game: Ascension

    The SnakesCast is very lucky this week to be visited by Justin Gary, the lead designer of Ascension. We've talked about deckbuilding games on the show before, and Ascension was a watershed in the genre. In this episode we discuss the process of creating the game, the ways it departed from the original formula established by Dominion, and the reasons why Ascension's newer formula became so powerfully influential, paving the way for so many deckbuilding games that followed after.

    Interview guest: Justin Gary

    Games mentioned: Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, Dominion, Magic: The Gathering, Ascension: Realms Unravelled, Ascension: Dawn of Champions, Ascension: Storm of Souls

    Published: March 15th, 2016 Length: 00:19:53