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.

  • Top 10 Cafe Recommendations, part one

    The games no guru should have to go without

    There are a lot of top 10 lists out there in the world of games. But so far, none for game gurus who have to recommend games to brand new players who have no idea what they want. A game like that has to grab players right from the beginning, it has to offer a kind of fun they haven't experienced before, and it has to be teachable in an extremely short span of time. Ticket to Ride? Too complicated. Catan? Forget it. This is the list of indispensable games for breaking through to the new.

    Games mentioned: ... well that would be a spoiler, wouldn't it?

    Published: October 21st, 2016 Length: 00:18:58
  • Technical Difficulties

    Your podcast is important to us, please hold

    Just a quick announcement; this week's podcast will be released on Friday instead of Tuesday.

    Published: October 18th, 2016 Length: 00:00:18
  • Game Spotlight: ...And Then We Held Hands

    An unusual game with an remarkable theme

    Why aren't there any board games about love and relationships? The short answer is that relationships are difficult and complicated, while most people want games to be simple. The longer answer is that relationships are delicate, nuanced things that don't easily lend themselves to the kind of concrete rules and systems that are necessary for a board game to work. But this week, we're talking about a game design that dared to try this daunting challenge, and the surprising ways it succeeds.

    Co-hosts: Amanda McKnight, Emilie Finnerty

    Games mentioned: ...And Then We Held Hands, Hanabi, Ladies And Gentlemen, The Grizzled, Pandemic

    Published: October 11th, 2016 Length: 00:15:36
  • Game Spotlight: The Long Night

    Dead of Winter just got deadlier

    Back in Season 3, we talked about how much we loved Dead of Winter, a game about a zombie apocalypse in the freezing cold. This year, Dead of Winter receives a huge expansion set called The Long Night, which adds a lot more to an already weighty game. Does it go too far with the complexity, or does is it still playable but with more tense stories to tell?

    Co-hosts: Emilie Finnerty, Amanda McKnight

    Games mentioned: Dead of Winter, Dead of Winter: The Long Night, Specter Ops

    Here's a link to our earlier Game Spotlight episode for the original Dead of Winter:

    Published: October 4th, 2016 Length: 00:15:42
  • Limited Play

    Games with only so many plays in them

    Most board games can be played over and over as many times as you like, and they're different each time you play them. But some games are built to be played just a certain number of times. The recent popularity of "Legacy" games like Pandemic Legacy has some people worried about games becoming disposable. But is that something we should really fear?

    Co-hosts: Emilie Finnerty, Amanda McKnight

    Games mentioned: T.I.M.E. Stories, Pandemic Legacy, Seafall, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, Risk Legacy

    Published: September 27th, 2016 Length: 00:20:46
  • 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