Snakes & Blogs
2012 ‹ By Year
The charms of Jacques Zeimet’s new memory game, Taiga, are readily apparent as soon as you open the box. The wee wooden tokens, the adorable animal art and the colourful circular tiles; the cute components are very disarming, suggestive of a simple exercise for children. In truth, Taiga provides players of all ages with a challenging game of image and recall.Ten double-sided circular tiles form the board and depicted across the twenty surfaces are four images each of five different woodland creatures. On their turn, a player must find the four images of a particular animal, determined by a drawing from a wonderfully illustrated stack of cards. Every correct flip is rewarded with a wooden token, the fourth and final rewarded with the card itself, worth two tokens. Flip falsely, and you lose a token. Victory goes to the player with the most tokens after the final card is captured - they can consider themselves the sharpest-eyed camper at the table!
While there is a limited amount of animals and tiles, finding the featured fauna is easier said than done. The tiles are constantly being flipped, one turn after another, creating the fanning effect of a round of Three-Card Monte. (“Find the red fox, find the red fox, everybody’s a winnah…”) However, keeping one’s eye on the prize also requires a little deductive logic: on the reverse of an animal’s set of tiles are pictures of the four remaining animals. Therefore, if a player finds a fox by flipping over an owl tile, any other owl tiles can be ruled out as having more foxes. This added mental exercise tempers the game’s rigorous memory-work and creates a better designed and more rewarding push-your-luck mechanic.
The charms of Taiga will undoubtedly bring children and adults alike to the table. It is, however, simple yet strong gameplay designed to test multiple mental faculties that will keep them coming back to this particular forest.
Our abstract tournament takes place this evening (Monday, June 25th), starting at 7pm. One of the games featured in the tournament is Six, which is reviewed below by one of our Game Gurus, Colin Young:Games for two players tend to be designed with a more direct idea of competition in mind. Unlike games for three players or more, two-player games pit one individual against an opposing individual. Classics of the genre, such as Go, Chess, Checkers, involve an intellectual stamina, a mental endurance test in which both players seek to stay one step ahead; the idea being that the loser is the individual who cannot maintain the strategic thinking necessary and falls prey to some small slip. The experience can be quite civil, an enjoyably convivial competition, but such games are possessed of an aggressiveness that most games lack.
Six is an abstract two-player in the tradition of such mental calisthenics, a game that demands its players stay at attention. The rules are simple: place a red and a black hexagonal piece side by side. That is the starting set-up. Red plays first and must play a hex to touch the initial black piece without touching the initial red. From there, each player on their turn must place a piece anywhere connecting to the board. When a player runs out of pieces in their supply, they may move a previously played piece to another location on the board. Victory is awarded to the player who can create of three six-piece patterns: a triangle, a row or a ring. Veteran gamers will recognize certain similarities with the two-player hit, Hive (a café favourite). However, where Hiveresembles Chess without a board, Six is Connect 4 for grown-up gamers, a bitter war waged in black and red.The only criticism that could be leveled against the game is that it has no end-game timer – there is no built-in mechanic to progress the game towards a definitive conclusion. If both players played perfectly, the game would never end as each player would shift another piece in an endless succession of moves. The rebuttal to that valid criticism, however, is that there are no perfect players to enact this hypothetical situation. Eventually someone will slip, and that is the draw of games such as these; it is not simply the out-thinking, but the out-lasting. Such a mechanic is not for every player. Indeed, several games under one’s belt are needed before such endurance is developed. However, for the players that seek a purer form of board game competition, Six should find its way onto their table with all due haste.
Only days remain before our upcoming tournament, WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK, and there is still time to sign up to participate!
After wrestling our retail co-ordinator to the ground and making him cry "uncle", we've managed to get him to agree to offer 10% off on all in-stock tournament games, but only on June 25th - the day of the tournament itself. Very exciting!Also, we're excited to announce that several Door Prizes will be awarded to participants between each round of the tournament. Even if you aren't destined to be crowned Queen or King of the Abstracts, you still can be a winner! Prizes will include...
- Free games!
- Snakes & Lattes gift card
- Snack bowls and other tasty treats
For the winner and the runner-up, we've assembled some pretty amazing Prize Packages to be awarded...
- One Month of Unlimited Play at Snakes & Lattes (unlimited value!!)
- The brand new Snakes & Lattes T-Shirt ($20 value)
- A new copy of any in-stock tournament game (~$35 value)
We're pretty excited about these prizes, and the whole tournament! Be sure to sign up before Monday, June 25th to secure your spot in the WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK tournament by visiting the Facebook Event Page, or dropping us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- One $25 Gift Card to Snakes & Lattes
- The brand new Snakes & Lattes T-Shirt
Our WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK tournament of 2-4 abstract games is coming up in just 10 days! Expect to see a number of games featured on this blog in the coming days, as we build towards this exciting event!
Perhaps the best reason to hang out at Snakes & Lattes is the staff, all of whom are passionate and excited about their favourite board games. As this blog grows and develops, we'll be seeing more content from these wonderful people. Speaking of which, one of our game enthusiasts, Thomas Berton, has contributed the following Mini Review for Pentago. Check it out!Pentago is a game that does many things well: it adds strategic depth to the simple concept of Tic-Tac-Toe by allowing players to rotate segments of the board; it elegantly forces players to consider every possibility while remaining simple and manageable; and it plays quickly enough that a rematch is always an option. But for me, what Pentago does best is that it brings all those qualities together, creating a game that constantly punishes arrogance. I can’t count how many times I’ve been sure that I was one move away from winning, only to have my opponent play their piece, rotate the board and snatch my victory away. Afterwards, I try to be more attentive, but if I ever let my guard down, the same thing happens. That’s what makes Pentago so much fun: it never permits complacency. When you think you’ve got it figured out, it wipes the smug smile off your face and keeps you coming back for more.
Pentago is one of the many games featured in the WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK tournament, which takes place on Monday, June 25th, starting at 7pm. To sign up, simply send an email to email@example.com, or visit our Facebook Event Page!
In just a few days, some of the brightest minds in Toronto's gaming community will be coming together to share their game designs with one another, and you're invited!
Whether you have a fully developed game in the works, the simple beginnings of an idea, or merely want to see a few prototypes in action, it's an event you should not miss. Even better, the $5 admission fee is waived for all those attending, just as long as you purchase an equal amount in food, beverage, or retail games. Holy moly!
A few policies to keep in mind for this special event:
1 -- As a designer, come with clear expectations and have a guideline for what you want the playtesters to give feedback about. Ask them to keep these issues in mind BEFORE starting the game. If you want to see if a certain part of your design or a specific mechanic works, you don't need to play to completion. Someone winning the game isn't necessarily that important, the most important thing is getting appropriate feedback.
2 -- Be realistic with your timelines and know when to wrap a game up. Be considerate of the fact that the majority of people attending are designers themselves with their own games to try. As a guideline, for each hour your design is on the table, you should be playing at least 3 hours of other people's designs. It's ok to stop a game mid-play if you've got the info you need or if the game is failing.
3 -- Be open to all feedback and try not to be defensive about your game. Everyone's ideas are valid based on their experience with games in general and their play through of your game. You don't have to implement all suggestions, but accept it all and process it later.
4 -- As a playtester, give constructive feedback and try to provide suggestions for possible improvements. Whether you enjoyed the game or not, provide reasons and be as specific as possible about the reasons WHY a certain part did or didn't work for you.
If you have any questions, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you there!
FITS (Fill in the Spaces)Designed by Reiner KniziaFor 1-4 players45-60 minutes to play
FITS is one of those games that I love despite being terrible at it. Trying to make my Tetris-like pieces fit into place and cover up those nasty point stealing dots drives me …well to fits, but it’s fun!
There’s an endorphine release when the right shape at the right time comes up and locks into place. Joy!
I have learned that all my years playing Game Boy Tetris have not prepared me for this unique game. It tests completely different skills and as many times as I play it I always have room for improvement.
by Sean Jacquemain
QwirkleDesigned by Susan McKinley Ross2-4 Players30-45 minutes to play
Qwirkle is my mother’s favourite game, and for good reason! It’s simple and engaging, allowing for just enough strategy to be challenging for adults, with rules simple enough to allow children to play. It’s much like Scrabble or Bananagrams, in that you’re creating a grid of tiles to score points, but instead of letters, shapes and colours are used.
A player can only contribute to one row on their turn, and scores one point for each tile in a row. Clever tacticians can play their row in such a way that two columns of scoring take place, possibly resulting in big points. The ultimate play in this game, however, is when you’re able to place the sixth tile in a row, scoring a “Qwirkle”, which doubles the points for that row.
The game components consist entirely of colourful, chunky blocks, and for the gamer who enjoys tactile elements, it’s sure to please. Of course, for those who are always looking for the perfect move to make, the turns could be drawn out a little longer than necessary, which might be one drawback. Luckily, at Snakes & Lattes we have a stock of sand timers, which can push those hefty thinkers to quicker plays. Regardless, it’s a delight of a game from both a visual and gameplay perspective, and it’s definitely worth a play!by Jon-Paul Decosse
“Can you suggest a game for us?”
“Definitely! Do you have anything particular in mind? A word game?Something strategic? Trivia?What are things you’ve enjoyed before, so I can help find you a good fit?"
This is a conversation every one of us here at Snakes & Lattes has had at least once. No joke. Not a single guest has asked for the game that isn’t fun. It’s sitting in the corner, lonely and unloved. Poor thing…
Seriously though, people want to play games that are fun! No matter what the reason that any gamer is attracted to gaming – it’s ultimately about the potential to have fun with the experience. This brings us face to face with the question: What is fun?
So here we are – a discussion about the evolution of content for the blog, the voice of the podcast, the visibility of the vlog – what are we talking about, why are we talking about it, and from what perspective are we offering advice about all these games?
We’ve got 34+ people that work here at Snakes & Lattes and a lot of what makes it special is our commitment to having fun. Obviously it’s a business environment - we’re a café that offers food and drink – we have to have an eye toward our quality of service – but what feels really cool is that I want to hang out with every one of these people and play games with them when I’m not ‘at work’.
The result is that the character and diversity of such a big staff gives momentum to the variety of games that we get to play. We all know how nice it is to be taught a new game, to be introduced to something that we don’t have to personally consume a rulebook for – so we take turns introducing and teaching games to each other.
So what are we talking about? Games, board games, and board games that have been ported to mediums beyond the tabletop.
Why are we talking about them? Because we’ve played them, had fun with them, and want to share about some of those experiences!
And the limitation of our perspective on ‘what’s fun?’ Exactly right – we’re limited to our perspective. We will share about our opinions of what’s fun, our opinions of why something might not have been fun – ultimately though, we hope to leave the space for you to decide for yourself: What is fun for you?
In the coming days and weeks leading up to the Snakes & Lattes WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK Tournament, we'll be highlighting each game with brief reviews and testimonials. We're kicking things off with Hive, the game that will decide the finals of the tournament! Below is a brief review from our Community Outreach Coordinator, and an all-around swell guy, Sean Jacquemain:
Hive is a brilliant 2-player strategy game, simple in it's design, but deep and difficult in it's execution. I learned Hive on one of my first nights working at Snakes and Lattes and it remains one of my go to games for groups of two.
I am generally not the biggest abstract fan, but there's something great about building the board itself as you play Hive that I really love. The portability of the game (made even more so with Hive Pocket) make it the perfect traveling companion.Do you believe you're the greatest Hive player in all the land? Then sign up for our WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK Tournament by sending an email to email@example.com, including a contact number and your very favourite abstract strategy game!
Many of the classic games of history - Chess, Checkers, Go, Mancala - are considered to be abstract strategy games. Traditionally, these are games with no hidden elements, no aspects of luck to be found, and are often solely for two players.
At Snakes & Lattes, we've observed the definitions of gaming stretching and growing over time, and abstract strategy games are no different. Mass market classics such as Stratego and even European strategy games like Reiner Knizia's Through the Desert are examples of abstract concepts that have been injected with random and/or hidden elements.
On June 25th starting at 7pm, we're looking to celebrate our most popular and fun abstract strategy games with a three-round tournament entitled WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK!
In the first round, we're breaking the classic mold by pitting our contestants in our arena with four player games. Some familiar hits such as Blokus, Quoridor, and Qwirkle, some new or undiscovered titles like FITS and Pentago Multiplayer, and even a Euro-designed masterpiece, Ingenious.
Round two will move towards the traditional abstract games for two players. Again, we'll be seeing stalwarts of the genre such as Abalone, Quarto, YINSH, and Gobblet, along with newcomers Nowhere to Go and Six.
For those who endure those first two clashes of mental moxie, the final battle will go head to head with one of the most loved games at Snakes & Lattes ... Hive!
The tournament entry fee is $10, and will include one non-alcoholic beverage. Prizes will include a copy of the newly released Hive Pocket, Gift Certificates to Snakes & Lattes, free snacks and drinks, and perhaps even secret surprises to be revealed on the day of the event.
If some (or all) of these games are not familiar to you, fear not! We'll be doing features on each game in the coming days through this blog, and if you're interested in training with our Game Gurus leading up to June 25th, we'd be glad to give you a hands-on demonstration!
To sign up for the WHEN ABSTRACTS ATTACK tournament, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, phone number, and favourite abstract strategy game.