Snakes & Blogs
2012 ‹ By Year
Our next announcement for the Snakeys is here! The Best Appetizer Game to Whet Your Whistle:
Not everyone who sits down at the café is interested in playing Agricola or Arkham Horror right away, if at all! Many of our patrons are looking for something simple and fun – some groups want a game that will help their table get into the gaming mood before heavier fare, while others want something uncomplicated to play over drinks. Whenever we go hunting for such a game, our team is searching for a something that is easy to set up and quick to teach, while still engaging and entertaining its audience. Whether it’s blurting out the right word, grabbing the right totem or outmaneuvering your opponents, all of our nominees have straight-forward rules and components which keep a table active and entertained.
The nominees are…Timeline
And the winner is....
Have your say! Snakes & Lattes has a wonderful team that loves games, but our community is so much greater than that. Each and every person that steps through our doors to play a game, buy a game or just talk about what they’re looking forward to playing next is a member of our gaming family. That’s why we want to know what you all think! We've been voting on our favourite games and we want you all to do the same. We have compiled a list of ten games that have been hitting tables regularly since we've gotten them into the café and we ask that you to tell us which is your favourite. The First Annual Snakeys Awards would hardly be complete without you guys telling us what you think, so we will announce the winner on December 24th alongside our pick for Best Game of the Year!
Ladies and gentlemen, Snakes & Lattes is proud to announce the first annual Snakeys awards! Since opening the doors in August of 2010, the members of the Snakes & Lattes family have taught thousands upon thousands of people countless games. Take a look at our game shelves and you’ll see that our board game collection is a diverse one; we have taught the longest and most complicated games, and we have taught the shortest and simplest. Our philosophy has been straight-forward since our doors opened: every game is the right game for the right people. We are proud to have spent the past two years making every effort to find the right game for the right people when they sit down and join us at the café.
As a result of this ongoing process, the proud gamers employed here have developed some strong opinions about board games. Certainly every game is waiting for the right group to discover it, but some games, on the basis of numerous criteria, appeal to more people: production quality, gameplay, theme, rule clarity, etc. The Snakeys is our way of celebrating the games we’ve spent the past few years playing, teaching and basically running our mouths about up and down the cafe. But beyond even that, the Snakeys are a celebration of the family that Snakes & Lattes has become – certainly our illustrious Game Gurus have strong opinions about our game collection, but so do our hosts, servers, baristas, bartenders and kitchen staff. Everyone here loves games, and we have sought votes from every corner of the café in order to bring you as accurate a picture as possible of what the “Best of Snakes & Lattes” really means.
Please join us over the next week as we announce our categories, our nominees and our winners. Respond on our site, message us on Facebook and tweet us! The family we have grown into include you as well, and we want to hear all of the good and all of the bad about our nominations and our winners. If you agree, join us in celebrating! If you disagree, tell us your favourite games! This is a time for gaming and merriment and we want every member of the Snakes & Lattes family to join in, whether staff, patron, long-distance pen-pal and each and every other friend that loves board games. Thank you and enjoy!
The People's Choice vote - Snakes & Lattes has a wonderful team that loves games, but our community is so much greater than that. Each and every person that steps through our doors to play a game, buy a game or just talk about what they’re looking forward to playing next is a member of our gaming family. That’s why we want to know what you all think! We've been voting on our favourite games and we want you all to do the same. We have compiled a list of ten games that have been hitting tables regularly since we've gotten them into the café and we ask that you to tell us which is your favourite. The First Annual Snakeys Awards would hardly be complete without you guys telling us what you think, so we will announce the winner on December 24th alongside our pick for Best Game of the Year!
Best Appetizer Game to Whet Your Whistle
Not everyone who sits down at the café is interested in playing Agricola or Arkham Horror right away, if at all! Many of our patrons are looking for something simple and fun – some groups want a game that will help their table get into the gaming mood before heavier fare, while others want something uncomplicated to play over drinks. Whenever we go hunting for such a game, our team is searching for a something that is easy to set up and quick to teach, while still engaging and entertaining its audience. Whether it’s blurting out the right word, grabbing the right totem or outmaneuvering your opponents, all of our nominees have straight-forward rules and components which keep a table active and entertained. Read on for the nominees & winner!
Best Game to Play on a First Date that you TOTALLY Want to Go Well
When Snakes & Lattes opened, there were few preconceived notions as to who would show up. Everyone was welcome to come in, sit down, and learn some new games with us. It was, however, with some surprise that we discovered our nerdy little establishment was becoming a pretty popular destination for date night. Whether it was first date or the fortieth date, it became clear that couples of all types were coming to spend time getting to know each other over a game or two. But which games? Two-player games are a genre of game that many people associate with abstracts such as chess and checkers and childhood classics like Guess Who? and Connect Four. However, there is a rich collection of games with more atmosphere and more maturity which pit two people against each other in a fun and friendly battle of wits. Our nominees are challenging, yet uncomplicated games which have left many satisfied smiles on our tables for two. Read on for the nominees & winner!
Best Game to Play When You Hate Everyone at the Table
The point of board gaming, near as we can tell, is to bring a group of close friends together at the table in order to play games that will damage and strain those relationships irreparably. This is because many of our professional and courteous staffers are sociopaths. Fear not! If you, too, have a great love for mean and merciless games, our gaming expertise extends well into the ancient art of being a jerk. The nominees in this category require you to lie to your friends, stab them in the back, and bluff your way to victory. You will do terrible things that you may not be able to speak of the next day. You may get unfriended on one or more social networking sites. There is the outside chance that you will have to find a new circle of friends that has not yet discovered your blackened heart. But those are simply the risks you take when you sit down to play these games. Read on for the nominees & winner!
Best Game to Play When You Have to Cooperate (in Spite of Hating Everyone at the Table)
Once upon a time, board games were competitive, aggressive vehicles for people to assert their dominance over those weaker than they, namely close friends and family. However, a trend has been growing for some time where people sit down to a board game and WORK POLITELY WITH EACH OTHER. Crazy? Perhaps, but the nominees in this category are all excellent examples of social, dynamic and challenging games that facilitate communication, concentration and creativity. Read on for the nominees & winner!
Best Game for the Morally Bankrupt and the Emotionally Damaged
Every awards ceremony has to have a dummy category, and here’s ours! It is almost statistically impossible that you haven’t played this, and you almost certainly own it already. But just in case you aren't quite sure what game is the leading cause of moral decay in our nation today, here are the nominees - you may already see where this is going..
Best Game to Play When You Facebook Invite a Bunch of People and They All Show Up to the Party
We know how it is. Having a party, sending out invites every which way, assuming only a few will be free. But when the big day comes, everyone comes barreling in and now you've got a whole lot of bodies looking to play some games and not enough seats at the table. Not to worry – we know large groups and we know large group games. Our nominees here know how to keep every player engaged and how to keep the down time to a minimum. Almost every game here is team based, and demands communication, subtlety and skill. But really, they’re all just excuses to have a good time with a whole bunch o’ folks at once. Read on for the nominees & winner!
Best Game that is Too Long for us to EVER Teach in the Cafe but that You Should Totally Play because it is Super-Rad
At the café, we pride ourselves on our ability to teach a variety of games to a variety of people in a timely fashion. However, there are a number of titles that we simply cannot teach. This is not due to an impenetrability of gameplay or an inscrutability of rules; it is merely the realization that our busy gurus are unable to sit down and spend the time necessary (30 mins +) demystifying the minutia of our more complex titles. That being said, some of those dense and complex games have been masterfully designed and are worth the time and effort necessary to learn them. Our nominees all have steep learning curves, but we have discovered that their fans are legion. Read on for the nominees & winner!
Best Totally Awesome Game that was Designed for Totally Awesome People
Some jobs are just plain cool: billionaire superhero, pirate, rail baron, comic shop owner, adventurer/archaeologist…for these people that know awesomeness as a way of life, a special kind of game must be tabled. They require games which ooze cool well beyond the limits outlined by the Standardized Safety and Protocol of Cool and Totally Sweet Stuff. With this in mind, we put together a list of games which are so awesome and totally bad-ass that they required us to make up this category to recognize how awesome and bad-ass they were. Read on for the nominees & winner!
Best Expansion that Makes Your Favourite Game EVEN BETTER!!!
So you’ve played your favourite game so much that you plotted out every stratagem, calculated every gambit, played through every plan and still want more. Clearly you need to spice things up a little! A good expansion is one that adds to a game without making the game feel like it was missing something all along. Our nominees are expansions that added varying levels of complexity and variety to their respective games while providing the players with the new stratagems, gambits and plans to play through that they so desperately craved. Read on for the nominees & winner!
THE GAME THAT WE COULD NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT ALL YEAR
THE TIME IS FINALLY UPON US. Our best of the year. The games that we could not shut our mouths about. The games that we showed us exactly how intense and opinionated and passionate we can get about our profession. Every year, a plethora of new games make their way through our doors and get played by our gurus, our baristas, our servers, our bartenders, our kitchen staff and our patrons. A great many are quite good. A great many are quite bad. A smaller percentage is the games which genuinely knock our socks off, and keep us coming back for more. Our favourite games of the year create something new – whether through innovation or refinement, these games remind us all of why we do what we do here at Snakes & Lattes. Our passion for our nominees is a celebration of what we love best about board games, and while only one can win the coveted Snakey, each and every one of these titles has impressed us greatly. Go on and read our nominees & winner - there can be only one!
Snakeys 2012 People's Choice Fan Vote!
The Snakes & Lattes family is extremely proud of its collection, but what is a board game without players? For the past two years, we have been inviting you into our home away from home and recommending, trouble-shooting and teaching the games we feel passionately about. Our hope has always been that you will feel as passionately about board games as we do; if not for our favourites, then for favourites of your very own. So when we decided that it was time for us to hold awards for those titles that made us most excited, it was only fitting to include you, the extended Snakes & Lattes family. Our Fan Vote had a strong turnout in its first outing, and we want to thank you all for your participation. The Snakeys have been a process of celebrating what we want to play, what we want to teach, and what we love. The Fan Vote is you telling us what you love. Every game nominated in the Fan Vote was a game that we had a fantastic time with in the café, but only one stands above the rest in the collective opinion.It was a close one - want to see who won?
Thank you for joining us for the first annual Snakeys! We hope you discovered some games, and we'd love to hear your thoughts on our choices/winners. See you next year!
October 18, 2012 marked the first time that Snakes & Lattes went to the Games Fair (or Spiel-Messe) in Essen, Germany. The experience was, in a word, surreal. The sheer number of people and games present at a convention spanning nine massive halls (I hope I didn't miss any) leaves me awestruck this many weeks later. Even though we were there from 10-6 for each of the four days, I left wanting more.
I wanted to be able to regale you all with a tantalizing narrative that captured the highs and the lows of every last step we took on those fateful four days. But I can't. Honestly, it's all a blur, and I can scarcely remember what happened on which day. What I regret most is not getting a hold of a German SIM card so that I could furiously tweet my every thought. So, with that in mind, I feel it best to report our travels through a posthumous list of the tweets I wish I had made, in no particular order.
- First stop: Pearl Games. I played a prototype of Ginkgopolis this past summer and I MUST HAVE IT!
- Xavier Georges, designer of Ginkgopolis signed my copy! It says I get first pick of colour. Sad there's no purple.
- They have huge booths selling used games here. Just picked up some rare titles for my personal collection. #mwahahaha
- The friendly folks at Odynaut Games Company recognized us by my S&L t-shirt. They know about us in Netherlands. Cool.
- Brettspielwelt (online gaming portal) has wicked interactive demos. One of them is a kinect-like meeple swatting game.
- Ben and I tried Artipia's Among the Stars. Cool spatial space station building game reminiscent of 7 Wonders.
- Flatlined Games' Rumble in the Dungeon adds one tiny element to Rumble in the House which vastly improves the game.
- Flatlined also has a really neat robot programming game by Antoine Bauza, Twin Tin Bots, on demo here. Thinking of contributing to their kickstarter.
- Czech Games Edition has an oversized version of their new hit game, Tzolk'in, up on the wall. The gears on this game are radical! Can't wait to play this.
- Vlaada Chvatil signed my copy of Bunny Bunny Moose Moose. #icandienow
- Alain Epron (Vanuata) just gave us a signed copy of Maamut. This is one GORGEOUS looking game.
- Our hosts are showing off their game, Interstellar Mayhem, in Hall 6. It's a fast-paced space battle game with wicked ships and asteroid bits.
- Just met Antoine Bauza, designer of 7 Wonders. He signed his newest game, Tokaido, for us.
- Richard Breese is here with his new game. Grabbing a copy for my personal collection. Another signature! :)
- Just saw Uwe Rosenberg (Agricola) and Friedemann Friese (Power Grid) having a chat. Friedemann was wearing a Snakes & Lattes button! WHAT?!
- Richard Garfield is signing promo cards for King of Tokyo. That line-up is... long. Really long. Oh well. :(
- Queen Games has a HUGE area set up for their new game, Escape! Looks really fun.
- Just played Escape. This game is AMAZING!! So. Tense.
- Just chatted with Dirk Henn (Alhambra). He says he'll stop by the café the next time he's in Canada. :D
- Hall 10 & 11 are attached. It's enormous!
- Just met Jacques Zeimet (Geistesblitz, Kakerlakenpoker) and played his new games, Sonne und Mond. I like. Also, really nice guy.
- Just sat down with the people at Spielbox. I love this magazine. I wish more Canadians knew about their English editions.
- Tried to teach Santa Cruz to two German guys after having only read the rules once two weeks ago. It did not go well.
- Got to play Geistesblitz and Geistesblitz 2.0 together with the advanced rules that join the two games. ABSOLUTELY CERTIFIABLE INSANE! #brainbroken
- Zoch zum Spielen brought several TONS of bananas to promote their new game Banana Matcho. I'm also hungry. Excellent!
- Bumped into Friedemann Friese again. Got him to sign Copycat and Unexpected Treasures, his two latest games.
- BGG has a booth set up where you can "like" the games released at the fair. Very cool. Escape is currently #1.
- Just bumped into Sébastien Pauchon (Jaipur). Why didn't I get a photo with him? #damn
- Just played Hanabi with our hosts. This might be my new favourite co-op game.
- Nabbed a copy of Lady Alice. I'm really pumped for this new deduction game set in the Mr. Jack universe. The art is gorgeous (same guy that did Mr. Jack Pocket).
- Promo cards for 7 Wonders with Antoine Bauza's baby boy on them? That just might be the most adorable thing I've ever seen.
- I can't begin to describe how busy it is today (Saturday). It's a veritable mosh pit in here.
- Waiting to speak to Uwe Rosenberg!!
- Uwe was super nice and super excited to hear about the café. He gave us a bunch of promo cards for Le Havre. Let me know if you want one.
- Managed to snag the LAST copy of Suburbia, signed by the designer, Ted Alspach. This one has been getting a lot of positive buzz.
- That's it? It's over? Why can't it be Thursday again? :(
- In short, if you can get to Essen, do it. The experience of a liftime. Period.
You can have a browse of some of the photos from Ben and Adam's trip here, on our Facebook page. Now, let's look forward to Essen next year!
Snakes & Lattes are excited to host the North American launch of FoxMind's String Railway - the conductor will be shouting "All aboard!" at 6pm, Thursday 22nd November!
Hop on board to experience a game where the playing area, landscape and your twisting, turning railway network are all created with colourful strings. We pondered how we could compare this to some of our other favourite train games, but drew a blank - it's really unlike any other game you've tried before.
This innovative game consists only of a handful of strings and a tall stack of station tiles. Apply a generous dose of imagination and enthusiasm, and you're well on your way to a bigger, better railway than your friends - and that pile of victory points! Exquisite visuals, simple rules and strategic game play make String Railway a delight for family nights and avid players alike.
Be one of the first to try this hot new game - our friends from FoxMind, along with our famed S&L game gurus, will be running a number of games throughout the launch evening. We know as soon as you sit down, strings in hand, you'll be intrigued. The fun won't stop there - we'll have a number of copies of the game for giveaways through the night, and S&L will also be retailing the game at a special launch price.
As usual, admission is $5 - S&L and FoxMind will be providing on-board snacks to all guests aboard the String Railway Launch Express. Don't forget, departure time is 6pm on the 22nd of November! Seating is limited, so RSVP to ensure a spot on the journey now. See you there!
It seems a job requirement for the staff of Snakes & Lattes to love board games as much as they do, but we also have a couple of published game designers on our team. Game Guru Steve Tassie, who has perhaps taught you a game or two, is the published designer of the B-movie card game, Grave Robbers from Outer Space. With Halloween just around the corner, we asked Steve a few question about game design, the space in which horror and comedy overlap and what titles he likes to table when he gets the time.
What was the inspiration for your card game Grave Robbers from Outer Space?
I was in a hotel room at a convention playing "Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond" (now known for legal reasons as "James Earnest's Totally renamed Spy Game", thank you Albert Broccolli & Company!) and I thought to myself, 'why isn't there anything like this for B-movies?' So I made something.
What was the first step in designing the game?
The very first step after deciding that I should make a game (what was I thinking???) was to figure out what the goal of the game would be. Once I decided that you're trying to kill off the other players' characters, the mechanics were actually quite easy to come up with.
Are there specific games you draw inspiration from?
Although you'd never guess from playing Grave Robbers from Outer Space, or any of its sequels, my favourite games now-a-days tend to be Euro style strategy. When I dreamed up GROS back in '99, I hadn't yet been exposed to a lot of that style of game, but had been playing Chez Geek, Magic, Illuminati and other CCGs, so those are the mechanics I emulated. Since then, however, I've been looking to design a more Euro game.
Your take on horror seems more comedic than macabre - was satire a goal going into the designing process?
Satire was always in mind. I've been some form of comedian for almost as long as I've been a gamer, and the subject matter is so ripe for spoofing, that a comedic take on things was inevitable.
As a horror aficionado, are there particular scary games you play for fun?
When it comes to horror games, most handle the theme well but few manage to combine the theme with compelling game play. At the top of my list for favourite horror games are Mall of Horror (soon to be re-booted as City of Horror), The Fury of Dracula, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Last Night on Earth. Fearsome Floors is a light-hearted game with neat mechanics, but it's take on horror isn't really scary. It's more kiddie-horror.
Are you working on anything at present?
There is one project that is consuming much of my spare time. It's a worker placement/area control game (here comes that Euro game I've always wanted to make) about evil pharmaceutical companies unleashing designer diseases onto an unsuspecting populace all in the name of profit. It's darkly comic and very cynical... but promising to be really good.
We eagerly await Steve latest and greatest and suggest you ask him for a scary title or two from our library when you’re by the cafe next time!
Some of the Snakes & Lattes crew hit the road for Gen Con last month, and they brought back some terrific new stuff to try. These are some of the favourites of our staff, and they've been hitting the table frequently with customers too!
- Smash Up: Tired of online arguments about absolute badassery? Burdened by knowledge of what member of the geek zeitgeist would really win? It is finally time to decide. In the frantic and furious world of Smash Up two to four players will fight to stand atop the Pedestal of Complete Awesomeness. Pirates, ninjas, robots, aliens, zombies, dinosaurs and more will team-up to answer the eternal question: Will pirate aliens pillage the planet or will zombie dinosaurs rise from their ancient grave to devour a new era? Make no mistake – Smash Up is an angry, card-based Internet argument. However, it is an Internet argument that will finally crown an ultimate victor through funtimes with a card game. Smash Up! Play it now!
- Snake Oil: The magic of boardgaming is the act of bringing people together and bonding and forge lasting, meaningful relationships. That is why you should play Snake Oil - a quick and dirty party game that asks you to spin some creative pitches to your close friends and family and get them to pick the shoddy nonsense you’re peddling. Each round asks a player to act as a pigeon for would be snake oil salespeople. They’re given a customer role telling them how to shop: every customer is different, ranging from superhero to high school dropout; from priests to carnival workers. Quick-thinking and fast-talking wins the day in Snake Oil, so step right up and find just the game for you!- Libertalia: Like pirates? Hate your friends? If you answered yes to these questions, play Libertalia! As you take up pegleg and parrot, you will fight to take home the greatest treasure of all. Over three rounds, up to six players will choose members of their crew - represented by decks of cards - to steal, pillage and plunder their way to victory. Each pirate card has its own special ability and knowing when to use each is the trick to filling your ship’s hold. Beautifully illustrated and fiendishly designed, Libertalia has definitely become a cafe favourite.- Ugg-tect: Like so many people, the Snakes & Lattes crew has often thought about what it must have been like to be an architect in the misty periods of pre-history. Who hasn’t wiled away countless hours contemplating the career paths available to homo neanderthalensis? Well, good news - the fine folks at Fantasy Flight Games bring you Ugg-tect, a meticulously researched gaming experience in which you and your friends compete as opposing caveperson architectural firms. Using only a limited vocabulary of gestures and grunts, teams will try to erect magnificent monuments of some bizarre cultural significance now lost to us in the modern era. (Something to do with fertility, hunting and some gods, we believe.) Also, you will use and inflatable club to help you facilitate group morale.. so, there’s that too! Ugg-tect: yell at your friends and hit them with novelty clubs!- Battle Beyond Space: Battles in space are awesome and intense. As the battles in this game are BEYOND space, they are that much more awesome and intense. Taking on the fleet of a space-faring race, your thoughts are bent towards peace...through violence. BBS is a quick game for three or four players in which each fleet’s aim is to destroy as many enemy ships through careful choice of movement cards. With only nine rounds, your decisions determine the fate of your valiant crew and the pitiful lives of your puny adversaries. Destroy, lest ye be destroyed!
Snakes & Lattes is excited to announce our 2nd annual CARCASSONNE tournament on Sunday September 16, 2012 at 9:00am (sharp!). This tournament will also be the decider for the Canadian representative at the Carcassonne World Championships, run at the Spiel game convention in Essen, Germany! Spiel runs October 18 - 21st, 2012.Can you best your opponents at castle-building, road-laying and farming? Will your meeples reign supreme?
Details of the tournament are on our Facebook event page here. Please RSVP and discuss the event with your fellow players! Tickets can be pre-paid in store or online. (Please bring your receipt to registration).
The grand prize is as follows: A paid trip to Spiel, in Essen, to represent Canada in the Carcassonne World Championships. The fine print of this prize is inclusive as follows:
- Travel from your location in Canada to and from Essen in Germany, leaving 17th October 2012, returning 22nd October 2012. If you wish to travel earlier or stay later, you will be responsible for the difference in costs of the flights.
- To claim the prize you must have a valid passport and be of legal age to travel without a parent or guardian. Anyone requiring a parent or guardian to accompany them will be responsible for their guardian's travel costs.
- Should the grand prize winner not be able to claim their prize, it will be offered to the second prize winner (and so forth).
- Accommodation for the duration of the Spiel convention in Essen, and cost of travel between accommodation and the convention.
- Snakes & Lattes Inc is not responsible for the cost of travel documents such as visas or passports, nor the cost of travel insurance.
- Snakes & Lattes Inc is not liable for your safety during the trip.
See you all in September!
- Travel from your location in Canada to and from Essen in Germany, leaving 17th October 2012, returning 22nd October 2012. If you wish to travel earlier or stay later, you will be responsible for the difference in costs of the flights.
Outer space is not for the timid. It is an unfathomable abyss that cares not for the achievements of the tiny humans struggling within it. Clever Mojo Games’s Alien Frontiers sets the stage for one of those brutal struggles, pitting two-to-four would-be colonizers against each other on the frontier of a newly discovered planet.
Alien Frontiers is not a game about long-term strategy. It is about adaptability and short-term goals. On your turn you roll your dice and, depending on the resulting configuration of pips, you will be able to place them in one or more of the different locations on the gameboard. Doing so allows you to gather resources, draw support cards, gain more dice or construct colonies. To fans of worker placement games like Agricola, Stone Age and Kingsburg, the mechanics will be familiar, but they are intelligently and intriguingly assembled. There is much you need to do, but never enough dice to go around.
Die placement often means edging your opponents out of key locations. In many titles this is a fun piece of meta-gaming. In Alien Frontiers, the joy of such playful cruelty is tempered with the knowledge that, in the desperate scramble for location abilities, you are likely to be screwed next turn.
Colonies are the lifeblood of planetary settlement. Constructing them and taking control of planetary regions is how a player gains victory points. They are also the endgame trigger: the game ends when a player places their final colony. But since ending the game is not instant victory, just because you can doesn't mean you should. There are multiple paths to colony construction, so every player is in contention until the bitter end. It makes your next turn feel light years away.
Like Settlers of Catan, scores are low and close together. As such, often a single strong turn can push you past your opponents to victory. In my last game, where I was ahead by two points, an opponent used a resource card to move one of my colonies, costing me the control of a region. There goes one point. She then placed her final colony, which gave her a point to tie. That colony gave her control of the region I once held, giving her one final, soul-crushing point. My comfortable lead was not nearly as comfortable as I had believed it to be. I sorrowfully stared at a scoreboard which served only as a grim reminder of how close I had come, and how far I had fallen.
One cannot adequately strategize against the sheer immensity of space. Alien Frontiers instead demands malleability and adaptability, as your short-term gains gradually build into something tangible. Roll your dice and roll with the punches. It is a tense and nail-biting experience, but those willing to struggle over this cold rock will find Alien Frontiers to be an intelligent and satisfying game indeed.
Earlier this month, Bang! was one of our Featured Games. It’s a game based on secret player identities and team-based objectives: the Sheriff and Deputy players want to defeat the Outlaws; the Outlaws want to defeat the Sheriff; the Renegade wants to help kill the Outlaws, then win a final shoot-out with the Sheriff. Everyone draws from a central deck, but the different roles provide different objectives and different gameplay. Unsurprisingly, with secrecy and antagonism as its major mechanics, Bang! is a game for jerks. This is not meant as criticism – almost all of my favourite games encourage borderline sociopathic behavior. I’m simply struck by the fact that many of our patrons, and the growing gaming community at large, crave this type of game: light on rules, heavy on social interaction and capable of being played with a large party. (Bang! accommodates upwards of seven desperados, eight with any of its popular expansions.)
Here’s the thing: not everyone digs the Western theme; and even for those that do, they won’t want to play the same title ad nauseum. The obvious question is raised: WHAT’S NEXT? Three titles spring to mind.
Shadow Hunters is the most like Bang!, in that it gives players secret identities and team-based objectives: Shadows want to kill Hunters; Hunters want to kill Shadows; Neutrals have varied victory conditions that keep both Shadows and Hunters on their toes. The game becomes a process of differentiating friend from foe and protecting the former while attacking the latter. The Asian horror theme is far removed from the Western frontier so the atmosphere is rather distinct. The game uses a board, but only to indicate the players’s respective health points and to hold the location cards that will be visited throughout the game. It is clerical, but its cosmetic flourish adds something to the atmosphere.
Lost Temple differs significantly from Bang! and Shadow Hunters. The game objective is the same for each player: get through the jungle and be the first to the temple at the end of the path. Decision-making in Lost Temple is dictated by the player’s board placement, and instead of having fixed characters, the players select a new role card each round in order to use its unique ability. The game plays eight people, so the fun is figuring out how to stay one step ahead of your opponents in this mad jungle dash. Lost Temple is structurally simple and straight-forward to teach, making it the most accessible of the games on this list. It’s a great introduction to role selection and ought to get a lot of play at the café (if I have anything to say about it).
Citadels is a modern classic, and is the spiritual predecessor to Lost Temple. The variable player powers are more aggressive and instead of a board, there is a central deck (like Bang!). The cards represent various districts with the objective being to build the best city. Play ends once a player has built their eighth district, and points are awarded for the cost and diversity of districts. Since the varying districts have a range of costs, decision-making in the game is based on gold: specifically its acquisition and the spending thereof. Citadels is a more antagonistic and more mature experience than Lost Temple; patrons who feel comfortable with a little more complexity ought to jump headfirst into the delightful ragefest it will provide.
So very often, seven is actually the unluckiest number for gamers – the breaking point for most games, where the host has to bring out a second title for play or risk pushing Bang! for the umpteenth time. No longer, my friends! Shadow Hunters, Lost Temple and Citadels all play seven people (up to eight, actually!) and provide the secrecy and antagonism so richly craved. They’re light on rules, heavy on social interaction and when your seventh joins the party, they’ll be exactly what you’re looking for.