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.

  • One Against Many

    Games that pit one player against everybody else

    We've talked about co-operative games where it's everyone against the game, but how about a game where it's everybody against one player? It sounds unfair, but what if that one player has some kind of advantage that balance the scales, giving everyone a chance to win? Have a listen and find out about this strange and fascinating sub-genre.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Scott Moyle
    Games mentioned: Dungeons and Dragons, Paranoia, Fury of Dracula, Letters From Whitechapel, Scotland Yard, Nuns on the Run, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Shadows Over Camelot, Battlestar Galactica, Panic Station, Pandemic, Pandemic: On the Brink, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel, Last Night on Earth

    Season 2
    Published: January 21st, 2014 Length: 00:16:00
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  • Runaway Leader!

    When one player gets out in front and can't lose

    In some games, one player can get an early lead that just gets bigger and bigger. In games like that, as soon as one player starts winning, the game is effectively over. For some players, this is all part of the fun, but for others, this is an absolute deal-breaker and a reason never to play that game again. How big a problem is a runaway leader, and how can a game deal with it?

    Co-hosts: Scott Moyle, Steve Tassie
    Games mentioned: Monopoly, Power Grid, Yinsh, CIA vs. KGB, Settlers of Catan, Risk, Munchkin, Dominion, Trains, Lords of Waterdeep, I'm the Boss!, For Sale, Risk 2210AD, Risk Revised, Risk StarCraft, Risk Metal Gear Solid

    Season 2
    Published: January 14th, 2014 Length: 00:15:22
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  • Game Spotlight: Coup

    A closer look at our new favourite microgame

    There's been a fashion lately for so-called "microgames". These are games that have very few components. A small box, a few cards (less than 20), maybe some tokens, and that's it. The latest to earn the affections of the gurus at Snakes and Lattes is Coup, by Rikki Tahta. It's a bluffing game with very sharp teeth. Have a listen, and find out if it's something you'd like to try on your next visit.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Scott Moyle
    Games mentioned: Coup, Love Letter, Coin Age, Mascarade, Cockroach Poker, Skull and Roses

    Season 2
    Published: January 7th, 2014 Length: 00:15:04
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  • Season One Wrap-up

    A look back at season one, and a peek ahead at season two

    This is a short episode. Jonathan shares the story of how the SnakesCast came to be, and offers a preview of some new features coming next season.

    Season 1
    Published: December 31st, 2013 Length: 00:07:55
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  • Women and Boardgames Part 4: Bring the Females

    How can we get more women and girls into boardgames?

    So we know there aren't as many women and girls playing boardgames as there are men and boys. We know there are very few female game designers. What can we do to change this? (We recently remixed the audio in this episode; you might want to download it again if you got it within a week of its initial publication.)

    Co-hosts: Mandy Jelsma, Emilie Finnerty, Crystal Kuhn
    Games mentioned: Dungeons and Dragons, Lords of Waterdeep, Mall Madness

    Season 1
    Published: December 24th, 2013 Length: 00:24:05
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  • Women and Boardgames Part 3: You Know What Sells

    Depictions of women in boardgames

    Plenty of games have pictures of scantily-clad women. Different people might find these pictures beautiful or gross, empowering or creepy, but one thing's for sure: they've got a lot of cultural baggage. In the third episode of our series on women and boardgames, we unpack some of that baggage and talk about how the way a woman is depicted in a boardgame can affect the experience of playing it.

    Co-hosts: Crystal Kuhn, Mandy Jelsma, St.Stella, Emilie Finnerty
    Games mentioned: Mage Knight, Dracula, Mascarade, Love Letter

    Season 1
    Published: December 17th, 2013 Length: 00:16:15
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  • Women and Boardgames Part 2: What Women (supposedly) Want

    Stereotypical "games for girls"

    Women love Scattergories, but they hate Risk. Girls love Dream Phone, but they hate Chess. Or so we're told. In the second episode of our series on women and boardgames, we take a closer look at the kinds of games girls and women are supposed to like better than others. Where do these stereotypes come from? How much truth is there to them? And what does it take to break free of the pink and purple box?

    Co-hosts: Crystal Kuhn, Mandy Jelsma, St.Stella, Emilie Finnerty
    Games mentioned: Mall Madness, Dream Phone, Girl Talk, Risk, Lords of Waterdeep, Dungeon! Hero Quest, Chess, The Game of Life, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Settlers of Catan, Taboo, Scattergories, Pictionary, Cranium, Bang!, Ginkopolis, 25 Words or Less, Time's Up!

    Season 1
    Published: December 10th, 2013 Length: 00:21:16
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  • Women and Boardgames Part 1: Start 'Em Young

    Early experiences with boardgames

    Come in to Snakes and Lattes any evening of any week, and you'll find about half the people playing games are female. But read the names of the designers of those games, and you'll find almost all of them are male. In the first episode of our four-part series about women and board games, we'll meet our co-hosts (four of them! And they're all women!) and spend some time talking about what it was like for them playing games when they were young, from early childhood through their teenage years.

    Co-hosts: Crystal Kuhn, Mandy Jelsma, St.Stella, Emilie Finnerty

    Games mentioned: (too many to list)

    Season 1
    Published: December 3rd, 2013 Length: 00:21:15
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  • I Don't Want to Think

    The words that strike fear into the heart of every game guru

    Tabletop games have a reputation for being an intellectual pursuit, with good reason. They're the only art form that cannot exist unless its audience participates, and that means thinking. But sometimes that's not what you're in the mood for. Sometimes you just want to relax and not have to think. Are you better off just watching TV or reading a book? Or are there games that can be enjoyable even for people who aren't interested in using their brains at the moment?

    Co-hosts: Mandy Jelsma, Todd Campbell
    Games mentioned: Snakes and Ladders, Yahtzee, The Game of Life, Ghost Blitz, Quoridor, Hey, That's My Fish!, Chess, Connect Four, Qin, Three Little Pigs

    Season 1
    Published: November 26th, 2013 Length: 00:14:14
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  • Games Considered As Art

    Can games stand proudly alongside music, literature, architecture and film?

    There's been plenty of discussion over the last decade about whether or not games can be art. The thing is, whenever this topic comes up, people are always talking about electronic games. But what about their ancient cousins on the tabletop? Should traditional games be thought of as art? Is gameplay an art form? Is game design an art form?

    Co-hosts: Mandy Jelsma, Todd Campbell
    Games mentioned: Dixit, Connect Four, The Game of Life, Checkers, Clue, Tokaido, The Resistance, Mission: Red Planet, Chaos in the Old World, Dungeons and Dragons

    Season 1
    Published: November 19th, 2013 Length: 00:15:36
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  • Going, going, gone!

    Auctions in boardgames

    If you haven't played many board games, you might be surprised to discover just how many of them use auctions as an element of gameplay. Auctions are a powerful and flexible mechanic that can be used to create tension, surprise, and balance. How are auctions used in games, and why are they so effective?

    Co-hosts: Matti McLean, Thomas Berton
    Games mentioned: Revolution, Tammany Hall, Modern Art, Masterpiece, Power Grid, Princes of Florence, Ra, Amun-Re, Cyclades, Evo, Vegas Showdown, Merchants of Amsterdam, No, Thanks!, El Grande, Traders of Genoa, High Society, For Sale

    Season 1
    Published: November 12th, 2013 Length: 00:15:54
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  • Friendship Wreckers

    Games that actually make people hate each other

    This episode airs with a tip of the hat to the inestimable Quintin Smith of the marvellous Shut Up And Sit Down show, whose recent article about games that wreck friendships inspired us to do our own take on the topic. But while Quinns was mostly kidding (mostly), here we're being deadly serious. People of good conscience can sometimes get genuinely angry with one another over a simple boardgame. It's not as common as you might think, but it's not just a myth either. How does this happen and how can we deal with it?

    Co-hosts: Todd Campbell, Mandy Jelsma
    Games mentioned: Settlers of Catan, Galaxy Trucker, Risk, A Game of Thrones, Magic: The Gathering, Hanabi, Bridge, Scattergories, Word on the Street, Diplomacy, Pachisi, Euchre

    Season 1
    Published: November 5th, 2013 Length: 00:15:27
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  • Stage Fright

    The scariest thing you'll face at the table top

    There are plenty of games about ghosts and ghouls and other scary creatures. Some of them have creepy or gory artwork in them, and a few will make you distrust your fellow players (at least within the context of the game). Of course none of these things actually makes anyone feel genuinely afraid. But when you have to get up in front of your friends and sing or mime or make something up on the spot, it can be very frightening indeed. Do we have anything to fear other than fear itself?

    Co-hosts: Matti McLean, Thomas Berton
    Games mentioned: Charades, Balderdash, Pictionary, Telestrations, Cranium, Moods, Snake Oil

    Season 1
    Published: October 29th, 2013 Length: 00:13:58
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  • OMG ZOMBIES

    Games about hordes of corpses that just won't lie down

    The leaves are falling, Hallowe'en is approaching, and the customers at Snakes and Lattes are looking for horror-themed games to play. Zombies have been the most popular creatures in horror fiction for quite a few years now. Long enough for a lot of games about zombies to be designed and published. What makes for a good zombie game, and what are the games that deliver the goods?

    Co-hosts: Mandy Jelsma, Todd Campbell
    Games mentioned: DOOM, Last Night On Earth, City of Horror, Zombie Dice, Zombie Fluxx, Zombies!!!

    Season 1
    Published: October 22nd, 2013 Length: 00:13:52
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  • So Bad It's Good

    Can bad games be enjoyable like bad movies?

    Plan 9 From Outer Space. Showgirls. Sharknado. These and other legendary terrible movies have entertained millions with awful dialogue, pacing, special effects, acting, plot holes and other sins against film-making. But what about bad games? Is it possible for a game to be terrible in a way that actually becomes really entertaining?

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Sean Jacquemain
    Games mentioned: Grave Robbers From Outer Space, Manhattan, Catacombs, Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble, Risk, Can't Stop, Tic-Tac-Toe, Fluxx, The Game of Life, The Omega Virus, Banana Matcho

    Season 1
    Published: October 15th, 2013 Length: 00:16:54
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  • Analysis Paralysis

    A treatable condition with no known cure

    Most of us know at least one person who takes forever to take their turn. Some of us are that person. Analysis Paralysis (or A.P. as we call it) can bring a game to a screeching halt and suck all the fun out of the experience for everyone. It is a serious condition that threatens the very purpose of game-playing. How can we contend with the ravages of A.P. and how can we help sufferers to feel confident enough to just make a move?

    Co-hosts: Thomas Berton, Matti McLean

    Games mentioned: Scrabble, Chess, Jenga, Pit, Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, Cards Against Humanity

    Season 1
    Published: October 8th, 2013 Length: 00:14:52
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  • Worker Placement

    A close look at one of the most popular styles of Eurogame

    We've mentioned these things called "Worker Placement Games" a few times on the SnakesCast, and we haven't properly explained what they are. This week we go into detail about this very popular style of boardgame, examining its recent history, its many permutations in popular game titles, and the reasons why players might like or dislike it.

    Co-hosts: Thomas Berton, Matti McLean

    Games mentioned: Caylus, Pillars of the Earth, Stone Age, Lords of Waterdeep, Agricola, Alien Frontiers, Spyrium, Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, Carson City, The Manhattan Project, Le Havre

    Season 1
    Published: September 30th, 2013 Length: 00:14:42
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  • It's Complicated

    When is a complicated game worth the trouble?

    For many people who are new to tabletop games, complexity is something to be feared. There can be a lot of perfectly good reasons to shy away from complicated games, but what do you miss out on if you never give them a try? In this episode, we talk about what it's like to play a complicated game, and why sometimes it can be well worth the effort.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Sean Jacquemain
    Games Mentioned: CO2, Le Havre, Puerto Rico, Firefly: The Game, Chess, 7 Wonders, World in Flames, Advanced Squad Leader, Tales of the Arabian Nights

    Season 1
    Published: September 24th, 2013 Length: 00:17:23
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  • You're Fired!

    Games that can't cut the mustard any more

    The ethos of Snakes and Lattes has a few clear rules. One of them is this: every game is loved by some players and hated by others, so there's no point in saying one game is better than another. But here's the thing: sometimes a game comes along that sets out to do the exact same thing as another game, targeted to the same audience, appealing to the same tastes, but somehow does it better. The old game is fired!

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Sean Jacquemain

    Games mentioned: Yahtzee, Can't Stop, King of Tokyo, YamSlam, Tichu, King of the Dwarves, Euchre, Hearts, Bridge, Chronicle, Love Letter, Connect Four, Quarto, Pentago, Clue, Lady Alice, Kill Doctor Lucky, Save Doctor Lucky, Simply Suspects, P.I., Trivial Pursuit, Wits and Wagers, Kwizniac, Settlers of Catan, Santiago, Alien Frontiers, Ticket to Ride, Stratego, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples, Say Anything, Snake Oil, But Wait There's More!

    Season 1
    Published: September 17th, 2013 Length: 00:17:49
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  • Dungeon Crawlers

    The boardgame cousins of Dungeons and Dragons

    Board games are more accepted now than they have been in decades, but there's still a distinct stigma when it comes to certain kinds of games. And no game genre is more stigmatized than the dungeon crawler. These are games where the players take on the role of brave adventurers exploring dungeons, seeking treasure and battling monsters. Still, no amount of social disapproval can hide the simple fact that these games are tremendous fun. What goes on in a dungeon crawler, and what makes it so enjoyable?

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Sean Jacquemain
    Games mentioned: Dungeons and Dragons, Hero Quest, Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel, Warhammer 40000, Space Hulk, Zombies!!!, Munchkin, Castle Ravenloft, Mansions of Madness, Arkham Horror, Last Night On Earth, Claustrophobia, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Dungeon Roll, Dungeon Twister

    Season 1
    Published: September 10th, 2013 Length: 00:15:27
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