Snakes & Blogs

2013-10 ‹ By Month

  • Reflections on Spielezentrum

    Published October 30th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    Of the over 150 booths and vendors in attendance, a few games really stood out in popularity. The titles to grab a lot of attention from the audience included Zombicide, Kronen fur den Konig (Crowns for the King), Trains, Augustus and Brugge (Bruges). A number of gaming tournaments were contested over 4 days at Spiel too. Players battled in elimination contests to determine champions of Stone Age, Dominion, The Settlers of Catan, Pokemon and Carcassonne - South Seas. Spiel was absolutely packed with fun content and entertainment.

    Memorable moments from my Spiel weekend consisted of meeting a married couple from Australia who found each other on Brettspielwelt (a games portal on the web); she loves playing games and he loves designing them. In another funny interaction, a vendor had called over the game designer to me after I had asked for the instructions to a game on display. It was a game of Asian origin that had been ported into English. After the explanation, the designer jokingly mentioned he was embarrassed that he wasn’t confident in explaining the English version of his game to me in the English language! Spiel wasn’t only about new games and competitions, it also featured some of classics too- with a twist! A couple players stationed themselves at the chess booth for the weekend to demonstrate speed chess- 1-minute on the clock for each player- much to the delight of dazzled onlookers.

    Spiel was certainly a roller coaster of excitement that no one wanted to end. Why can’t we just go to Spiel every day to have fun and play games? Well it doesn’t have to end here- now is the time to share your new favourite game with good friends or pick up an old classic, or perhaps join the millions of registered game players on apps or websites.

    John Miklavcic is our Canadian Carcassonne Champion. After winning the Canadian qualifier at Snakes & Lattes on September 30th, John went on to compete in the World Championship in Essen, Germany.

  • The World Carcassonne Championships

    Published October 28th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    Spiel climaxed with the Carcassonne tournament being contested by 36 players representing 34 countries- the largest world championships tournament yet!

    The German Carcassonne champion was crowned just the day before the world championships in an exciting showdown of German region representatives. The lot of champions to compete in the final day’s tournament featured an interesting mix of players including a physician, professor, mathematician, estate manager and even a professional poker player. Games and gamers don’t discriminate, they include everyone from all walks of life!

    There were several veterans amongst the competitors who had qualified for the world championships on several occasions. There were also several new and savvy first-time qualifiers, including myself. In the entertaining finale, the player from Greece narrowly edged the defending world champion from the Czech Republic. I’m incredibly pleased and happy to say that I was able to help Canada place 19th out of the 36 competitors.

    Afterward, I had an amazing opportunity to meet the author of Carcassonne, Klaus-Jurgen Wrede as well as the head of publisher Hans im Gluck. Klaus was extremely friendly in signing autographs, taking photos and answering questions about a new Carcassonne release: South Seas.

    A number of competitors in the tournament were also in the business of games, either as designers, distributors or shop-owners. Competitors from the Scandinavian and Asian countries mentioned that local table top game tournaments were relatively small where they were from. Although the gaming community may not be as prolific there as in some (other) areas of Europe, a number of these individuals were passionate to make a big impact in these markets. Some even mentioned mimicking the Snakes & Lattes model. With the newfound growth of games in non-traditional markets and 3 new countries expressing interest in sending a representative to next year’s Carcassonne tournament, there are many exciting gaming developments to anticipate!

    John Miklavcic is our Canadian Carcassonne Champion. After winning the Canadian qualifier at Snakes & Lattes on September 30th, John went on to compete in the World Championship in Essen, Germany.

  • ​First day at Spiel

    Published October 27th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    The Spiel environment is incredible friendly and inviting. It’s not long after the doors open that gamers are already seated at a table having rules of a new game explained to them and then playing with new friends. Don’t understand game rules in German? No problem- lots of exhibitors and attendees speak English!

    One of my first stops is at the Spiel both where I meet Thomas, one of the Spiel organizers. He is busy attending to one of the many game tournaments of the weekend, but makes time to talk to me about Spiel and his excitement for attracting an international audience. He tells me what to check out based on what I tell him I like and he even tells me about some of the best spots in the exhibit hall to easily find spaces to sit and start playing a game.

    There is something at Essen for everyone, even if not deeply entrenched in gaming culture. There are hundreds (and probably thousands) of table top games (many premiering for the first time at Spiel), card games, video games, novels, comics and graphic novels. You will certainly find your favourite collectibles whether it be Pokemon, Mario, Star Wars, Final Fantasy. Although it isn’t as common to dress up as your favourite character at Spiel as it is at a ComicCon or FanExpo, you will find the crucial materials here to make or complete your costume.

    First day recommendations: arrive early! The subway line to Messe Essen runs at regularly frequent intervals for Spiel, but you may have to wait for one or two trains to fill and pass until the crowd is small enough that you can board. Plus, there is a lot more room to navigate your way around the exhibit halls with fewer people. There will also be fewer people at concession lines when you get hungry or thirsty! By the afternoon, gaming tables are almost totally filled but you can still be seated quickly with a little patience. If you’ve already spent your morning making friends while playing games, there is still plenty to see and do!

    John Miklavcic is our Canadian Carcassonne Champion. After winning the Canadian qualifier at Snakes & Lattes on September 30th, John has been prepping for the Worlds in Essen, Germany. Over the next week we'll be following his adventures and cheering him on.

  • Arriving in Essen

    Published October 26th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    John Miklavcic is our Canadian Carcassonne Champion. After winning the Canadian qualifier at Snakes & Lattes on September 30th, John has been prepping for the Worlds in Essen, Germany. Over the next week we'll be following his adventures and cheering him on.

    After 3 flights in a 17 hour journey, I have finally arrived in Essen! The time zone change and short sleep on the plane make it difficult to stay alert and responsive near the end of the journey, but the atmosphere of Spiel excitement is enough to get anyone’s adrenaline racing in anticipation of the convention.

    My first impression is that the city of Essen is lovely. Even a couple weeks before the convention, I was able to find affordable and comfortable accommodation that is just a short ride away from the Spiel convention center, Messe Essen. This is pretty remarkable considering that Spiel attracts well over 100,000 visitors in its 4 days! There are numerous supermarkets and restaurants with amazing food within walking distance of any subway or tram station. The transit system is top class. The city feels safe, even when wandering around later in the evening.

    My first morning here in late October is quite pleasant as the temperature reads 12 degrees at 05:30 am already! I eat breakfast quickly since I’m so curious to see what the convention is all about. I arrive at Messe Essen to find that the foyer leading into to the exhibition halls is completely packed with eager game enthusiasts 30 minutes before the doors even open to Spiel on a weekday morning. I’m continually astonished every time I look at my convention ticket and read that entrance to Spiel for the full 4 days is only 24 euro (less than $40 CAD)! Sneaking a peek through the doors to the convention halls, the exhibitors can be seen hustling to neaten and tidy gaming tables, stock games & paraphernalia.

    The crowd huddles closer and closer to the exhibition hall entrance and finally, the doors open…

  • A Revelation about Revolution!

    Written by Mandy J / Published October 19th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    It is only with slight shame that I admit that prior to working at Snakes and Lattes I was strictly a Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Game of Life kind of board gamer.

    This was mainly due to the fact that when it came to playing board games, these were the only kinds of games that were in my friend’s cupboards. was that board games with lots of little pieces (chits, cubes, and the colour-coded wooden men called "meeples") scared the crap out of me.

    I was asked to play Revolution! with some of my coworkers and agreed. Inside, I was terrified. I mean, look at all those little cubes! Surely, this must be a complicated game. But mingled with this internal fear I was also secretly pleased that I had been asked to sit at the big kids table and play something meatier. I knew that I had to conquer this irrational fear or risk becoming some sort of board game pariah who sits in the corner playing Jenga by herself, sobbing silently.

    As a coworker started going through the mechanics of the game, I gained a hazy idea of how the game was played. That being said, I am not skilled in understanding rules/instructions/mechanics strictly through oral tuition. I learn best from visual example. It only took two turns of seeing how the game was played for the lightbulb to go off. OOOoohhhhh! We’re trying to take over sections of this city! We have to use means of influence! I want to gain the most points! I LIKE VIOLENCE, BRIBERY AND MONIES!

    ...Anyways. The premise is actually rather simple, once you see it played in its entirety. The person who gains the most victory points is the winner. You gain points by taking over parts of the town (such as the Tavern, the Harbor, and the Plantation). Each part of the town is comprised of a number of spots, which are then covered with a cube when acquired. You secretly bid on segments using your means of influence (Money, Blackmail or Force). The person who has bid the most wins the spot.

    I didn’t win Revolution!, but I didn’t particularly care either. I played the game and didn’t make a fool of myself. I felt like Kevin McCallister after he conquered his fear of the basement. These games aren’t scary at all! They aren’t even particularly hard. They are actually super fun! Since then I have even tried other games I wouldn’t have dared touch prior to my experience with Revolution!. The key is to go in with an open mind, always aware of what kind of learner you are. Armed with this mindset, you open yourself up to a whole new world of amazing board games. So, fellow board game n00bs, game on!

  • The Gamer's Travel Bag

    Written by Steve / Published October 17th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    The holidays are coming, and that often means travel - whether it's to visit family in far-flung parts of the province, or to warm destinations to escape your family. Either way, you ought to have games with you for those mid-afternoon lulls before Aunt Louise arrives with the cousins or in the airport lounge waiting for your connection.

    The exact nature and number of games you should have with you depends on many factors: where you're going, how much luggage space you have, how many traveling companions are with you, and so on. As such, no list could possibly hope to be exhaustive, but here are some ideas to help you pack your travel bag.

    My satchel: When I go to a game night at a friend's place, I make sure to fill a tote bag with whatever I think I'll feel like playing, but there are times when I don't know that games are the plan but could be. It's for times like that that I have a satchel with me. It's not big (just enough room for my tablet, a book and a few games) but it's perfect for those times when I don't know what's on the agenda.

    Here's what's in it right now: Saboteur, Love Letter, No Thanks, Hanabi and Coloretto. Here's why:

    Saboteur is good for large groups (up to 10). It's not as good a game as The Resistance, but the smaller box makes it perfect for travel.

    Love Letter is good for smaller groups (2-4) and it's really easy to learn, so even if I'm with non-gamers (what???) I have something they can try.

    No Thanks is perfect for slightly larger groups (3-5) and is simple to learn. It takes most people, even novice gamers, just one or two plays to see the joys that this treacherous game has to offer.

    Coloretto is also good for small- to medium- sized groups (2-5) and has a little more depth than No Thanks, so I can break it out for the hardened veterans in the crowd.

    Hanabi (last year's Spiel des Jahres winner ) is small and plays up to 5; it's a co-operative card game that will really warp your mind.

    So what should be in your bag? That depends on the sort of travelling you're doing and who you expect to be playing with.

    Long trip with your spouse or significant other? You wants lots of portable two-player games. Anything with "Pocket" in the title is likely to be your friend! Mr. Jack Pocket, Hive Pocket,and Hey! That's My Fish Pocket all cram a lot of game into very small packages. And Hey! That's My Fish has an added bonus: you can play with up to four if you make some friends on your journey.

    Jaipur and Blokus to Go are also good, portable two-player games. Quoridor Mini is another one that gives you the flexibility to play with some extra players.

    On the other hand, if your travel plans involve going somewhere you will have numerous players, you'll want to pack some multi-player games. To save your luggage space, we will stick to small package games that support a variety of group sizes.

    Your greatest player-number-to-box-size ratio is Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. It supports up to 18 players and is only slightly bigger than a pack of standard playing cards. Again, The Resistance is a superior game, but it only plays 10, and the box is about three times the size of the standard Werewolves box.

    Mascarade plays 2-13 people and is a reasonable size.

    Anomia and Ghost Blitz (both very popular here at the cafe) are small and easy enough that Aunt Louise can learn, even if she hasn't played anything but Cribbage in decades.

    Shrimp Cocktail, Spot It and the Alles series of memory games are fast, small, and great for kids and adults alike.

    Fandooble and Dungeon Roll are both fantasy-themed push-your-luck games packed into small boxes.

    Eight Minute Empire is a fairly meaty conquest game that plays in under ten minutes and has minimal drain on your luggage space.

    If you like a little more strategy than most small box games provide, remember that many games are much smaller than their boxes imply. Safe travels and good gaming.

    In addition to being a Game Guru at Snakes & Lattes, Steve Tassie is an actor, comedian, certified English & drama teacher, writer and game designer. Follow him on Twitter @RealSteveTassie or read the blog he shares with his wife, novelist Christina Upton onesfunnytheothersinsane.wordpress.com.

  • Netrunner Tournament Recap

    Written by Sean J / Published October 11th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    Last night at Snakes & Lattes the FFG Netrunner Plugged-In Tour saw 42 competitors running ice and defending agendas. Runners came from all over the country. Waterloo, Cambridge and even Edmonton had representatives. Toronto took home the top four spots, with Kaiwen Zhang taking first place and our very own Mikhail Honoridez taking third.

    Very special thanks to Fantasy Flight Games for their support! It was an amazing night and we're looking forward to many more!

  • Game Review: Room-25

    Written by Steve / Published October 10th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    You stare at your fellow contestants, knowing that you must work as a team to survive and win the most lethal reality show ever devised. But who is really on your side and who is a Guard, working for the show, trying to kill you before you win? Welcome to Room 25.

    Room 25 places you in the middle of a 25 chamber complex fighting for your life on live TV. Many of the rooms are safe or helpful, while others will slow you down or outright kill you. The game has three different modes: Co-operative, Competitive, and Suspicion. In co-op, all the players work together and cannot escape the complex until all the living contestants are in the titular Room 25. Competitive mode is an every-man-for-himself death match where only the first person to escape will win. Suspicion mode is where the game really shines. The goal is the same as the co-op but one or more players might be a guard, working against the group, trying to kill them before they reach the exit.

    The board is made of 25 different tiles, all but the centre start tile are placed face down initially, only being revealed when someone enters the room...suffering whatever fate the room bestows.

    There are six characters to choose from, but their diferences are purely cosmetic. Each character comes with a pawn, a turn order token, a reference board and four action tokens. The action tokens are the meat of the game.

    Each round players will program and perform two of the four possible actions (Look, Move, Control, and Push). Programming is done in secret, then players take their first actions in player order, then their second actions. The Look action allows you to look at a facedown tile next to the room you are currently in. The Move action causes you to move into an adjacent room, revealing it to everyone if it wasn't already face up. The Control action allows you to pick a direction and slide the column or row your room is in, Labyrinth-style, one position over. This will cause one tile to leave the edge of the board. That tile is placed in the empty space at the other end of the row. Finally there's the Push action which allows you to shove another character in your room into an adjacent room, revealing the room and causing the shoved character to suffer the consequences.

    Contestants must get to the Exit room and use the Control action to get the Exit out of the complex. They are not allowed to leave the complex unless all the contestants are in the Exit room (unless you are playing the competition mode).

    The game comes with more than 25 different rooms so you can set the difficulty of the game by choosing diferent rooms to include in the complex. There are several empty rooms that are harmless, there's even a helpful room that allows you to look at any room in the complex. Most of the rooms, however, have a detrimental effect on people who go in them, including the Mortal room which kills you instantly upon entering.

    This game will be a hit with anyone who likes the action programming of Robo Rally, the board movement of the Labyrinth series, the traitor mechanic of games like the Resistance or Saboteur, or is a fan of movies like the Running Man and Cube. Room 25 supports 2-6 Contestants and plays in about 30 minutes.

    In addition to being a Game Guru at Snakes & Lattes, Steve Tassie is an actor, comedian, certified English & drama teacher, writer and game designer. Follow him on Twitter @RealSteveTassie or read the blog he shares with his wife, novelist Christina Upton onesfunnytheothersinsane.wordpress.com.

  • 10 Spooky ​Halloween Games

    Written by Steve / Published October 7th, 2013 / 1 Comment

    October, the best month of the year is upon us! As the nights grow longer and the trees take on their skeletal appearance, it's a good time to set in with a warm drink and a spooky game or two.

    Ghosts, witches, vampires, things that go bump in the night and more have crawled their way into all these games creating monstrous fun from the goofy to the downright creepy:

    1 King of Tokyo
    Giant monsters smashing the real estate in Tokyo and bashing each other in a bid for dominance. 2-6 players.

    2 Cockroach Poker
    Use rats and bats and other creepy-crawlies to lie your way to victory in this vermin-infested bluffing game. 3-6 players.

    3 Last Night on Earth
    Zombies have invaded the small town of Woodvale and it's up to a small group of survivors to fight them off lest this become their Last Night on Earth! 2-6 players.

    4 Panic Station
    An Antarctic science station has lost contact with the civilized world and it's up to you and your team to go find out why, but beware! An alien entity has set up shop in the station and it has one goal: to eliminate or assimilate all life in the station. Paranoia abounds as the deeper you delve, the fewer people you can trust. 3-6 players (best with a full team of six).

    5 Phantom of the Opera
    The Opera Ghost is terrorizing the Paris Opera and no one knows if the show will go on in this head to head battle of wits. Will the Opera Ghost scare Carlotta into quitting or will the Investigator unmask the ghost in time to save the show? From the makers of the popular Mr. Jack line of games. 2 players.

    6 The Phantom Society
    The ghosts are running wild in a Victorian Scottish hotel and it is up to the Phantom Society to catch them before the ghosts and the ghost hunters themselves destroy the joint. If you've ever wanted to join Ray, Peter and Egon as they wreck the Sedgewick Hotel in Ghostbusters, this is the game for you! 2-4 players.

    7 Smash Up
    Pirates, and zombies, and aliens, oh my! Armies of strange bedfellows battle for domination is this fast-paced card game full of more costume ideas than you can shake a stick at... Especially spooky if you add the Obligatory Cthulhu expansion! 2-4 players.

    8 Betrayal at House on the Hill
    Explore a mysterious haunted house with a group of strangers. You're working together for now... But eventually one of you will turn on the others. Who will it be, and who will survive? Over 50 possible end game scenarioes. 3-6 players.

    9 Kill Doctor Lucky
    Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women)? You do, in this game of manipulation and murder best described as reverse Clue. Players explore Dr. Lucky's country manor house, all the while trying to get the old man away from prying eyes so that they can bump him off and inherit his massive fortune. 3-7 players.

    10 Elder Sign
    It's Arkham Horror "light" in this dice game of investigators and ancient horrors. Visit strange locations, fight monsters and collect the clues needed to seal the gates to other realms and prevent the Old Ones from entering our reality. Co-operative terror for 1-8 players.

    In addition to being a Game Guru at Snakes & Lattes, Steve Tassie is an actor, comedian, certified English & drama teacher, writer and game designer. Follow him on Twitter @RealSteveTassie or read the blog he shares with his wife, novelist Christina Upton onesfunnytheothersinsane.wordpress.com.

  • Favourable Winds: A Review of The Three Little Pigs

    Written by Mikhail H / Published October 4th, 2013 / 0 Comments

    The fable of The Three Little Pigs is about the virtue of proper preparation.

    Though it may take more time and resources to put up, a well-built brick house will stand firm against huffs and puffs that'd take apart shoddy straw huts or slapdash wooden shacks. For a pig, having good, strong walls between himself and any hungry, hirsute howlers means the difference between being a homeowner or a ham sandwich.

    Laurent Pouchain's The Three Little Pigs is a little different. Here, a sturdy home doesn't necessarily mean a safe pig; sometimes wolves have their 'on' days, and their breath can blow away even the brawniest brick. Likewise, on occasion a lackadaisical oinker in a house of thatch will catch the Big Bad slipping; despite a mighty gust, the straw will stay together, retaining his bacon as well as the property value. Due to the uncertainty inherent in every domicile, there exists a housing market: as architect hogs, the players will compete with each other to build dwellings fit for a pig. With a little luck and a decent sense of timing, a savvy swine could do well for himself. Of course, even the soundest foundations aren't completely safe, and an ill wind could blow at any time...

    The game plays somewhat like a mash-up between Yahtzee and Dominion. On his turn, a player rolls the five dice, setting aside whichever he wants and rerolling the rest; after three rolls, the player must make do with what's in front of him, though he may choose to stop at any point beforehand. Having multiple of the same symbol showing will allow the player to purchase house tiles; the more symbols matching, the stronger the material it's made of. There are only four of each type of tile; once a number of piles dependent on the number of players have been completely depleted, the game ends.

    Besides being made of straw, wood, or brick, tiles can be doors, windows, or roofs. Each house can have only one door (though it's not absolutely necessary to have one), but can also have an unlimited amount of windows. Tiles in houses may be made of disparate materials; via what can only be assumed to be next-level mud-packing techniques, a house can easily have a brick window over a straw door. Players can have as many houses as they wish under construction simultaneously. Better materials mean more points, though a house is worthless if it has no roof on it; since Reynard's Fox News exposé on Parachute Wolves, pigs have been wary of moving into roofless homes. A house with a roof on it is considered complete and can no longer be added to, but it may definitely be taken away from.

    Three of the five dice are filled in black; these three have the potential to have the wolf symbol appear. A player must keep any wolf symbols rolled, and if he ever has two, must immediately stop building to blow at a neighbour's house. Here, the wolf spinner is used. 1/2 of the spinner corresponds to straw, 1/3rd to wood, and 1/6th to brick. The player picks a house to target, flicks (or for maximum theme, blows on) the marker, and all tiles in the house made of the material the marker lands on get removed from play. This element of uncertainty adds a lot of fun to the game; it can be exhilirating to target and demolish someone's meticulously-made brick villa on the off chance, and it can be infuriating when a ramshackle hut of wood and straw refuses to fall.

    When the game ends, players are awarded points for their completed houses, and are eligible for bonus points depending on the composition of their neighbourhood. Tallest house earns points, as well as most complete houses and most flowerpots, which a few tiles have visible on them. Players may have also earned points during the game for building 'perfect' houses, i.e. homes made with only one type of material and comprised of a door, a roof, and at least one window. The player with the most points after final tally wins, and is bestowed the ornamental title of Prize Pig.

    This game is a winner. The box is styled like a storybook, and all the components are cute and well-made. The wolf spinner could have easily been a die, but the uncertain revolution of the pointer adds a lot of excitement and suspense to wolf attacks. It is relatively simple to learn, but there is just enough strategy to keep veteran gamers clamouring for more, with several different methods of play being viable. Best of all, a game rarely takes longer than twenty minutes.

    Its short play length lends itself well to marathon sessions; it is quick-paced, dice-rolling fun for anywhere between two to five players. We played several times in a row during a recent game night; the action is frenetic and satisfying. It's worth a try the next time you're in the café; however, as we currently only have one copy open, we ask that you share with your fellow patrons. Nobody likes a game hog.