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.

  • 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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  • Time Pressure

    Games where time is of the essence!

    A lot of people think of board games as being slow. Those people have not played the games we're going to talk about in this episode. Almost every category of game has a few specimens that involve racing against time. There are party games like Pictionary, word games like Boggle, puzzle games like Ubongo, strategy games like Space Alert, kids' games like Ghost Blitz, and so many more. What happens to a game when you introduce time into the equation? And how can it make a game more or less fun to play?

    Co-host: Travis Ryans

    Games mentioned: Boggle, Scrabble, Atmosfear, Escape!, Space Alert, Ubongo Duel, Scattergories, Bananagrams, CatchPhrase, Pictionary, Last Word, Ghost Blitz, Quoridor

    Season 1
    Published: September 3rd, 2013 Length: 00:15:52
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  • Luck vs. Skill

    The age-old question

    Most games have a mix of skill and luck in them, but why do some players prefer games that are mostly luck, and others mostly skill? Why should luck-lovers bother to look into skill games, and why should people who hate luck in games give it a chance? And most importantly of all is the distinction between the two as clear-cut as it appears?

    Co-hosts: Christen Traviss, Anskar Shin
    Games mentioned: Candyland, Chess, Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, A Touch of Evil, Rock/Paper/Scissors, Poker, Hey! That's My Fish!

    Season 1
    Published: August 27th, 2013 Length: 00:13:42
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  • Conventions and Fan Expo

    There's a huge convention right here in Toronto

    GenCon, North America's largest boardgame convention, was (a) last week, and (b) in Indianapolis. Two compelling reasons why it would be difficult for most of our regular customers to get there. But here in Toronto, we have a huge convention coming up this weekend. It's not dedicated exclusively to games, but the Snakes and Lattes crew will be there, and the guy in charge of boardgaming at Fan Expo is here to tell us all about it. Find out more at http://www.fanexpocanada.com/

    Co-host: Justin Mohareb

    Season 1
    Published: August 20th, 2013 Length: 00:15:21
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  • Perfect Information

    Games where you know everything

    In most games, there are things you don't know. You don't know what number will come up when you roll the die. You don't know what cards your opponent is holding, or which ones you'll draw next. But in some of the most ancient and popular games, nothing is hidden and every player knows everything there is to know about what's going on. These so-called "perfect information" games are very attractive to some players, but not to all. Join us as we look more closely at what it means when the players know it all.

    Co-hosts: Mikhail Honoridez, Scott Moyle
    Games mentioned: Connect Four, Chess, Checkers, Go, Mancala, Quarto, Hey, That's My Fish!, Balance of Power, Puerto Rico, Diplomacy, Win Lose Banana, Poker, I'm the Boss!, Blokus, Smallworld, Quoridor

    Season 1
    Published: August 13th, 2013 Length: 00:14:21
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  • Let's Pretend

    Storytelling and role playing in board games

    As children, almost all of us enjoyed pretending to be different things. But as grownups, many people have lost that simple pleasure, and now they feel uncomfortable playing games of "let's pretend". Where does this revulsion for imaginative play come from? Why do so many grownups recoil at the idea of playing a game where they get to be something awesome like a knight or a cop or a pirate or a zombie?

    Co-hosts: Christen Traviss, Anskar Shin
    Games mentioned: Battlestar Galactica, The Resistance: Avalon, Mice and Mystics, A Touch of Evil, Arkham Horror, Last Night on Earth, Sex In the City Trivia, Harry Potter Trivia, Trivial Pursuit, Taboo

    Season 1
    Published: August 6th, 2013 Length: 00:15:07
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  • A Trivial Matter

    The strengths and weaknesses of trivia games

    In the early eighties, the huge success of Trivial Pursuit put trivia games on the map, and they've been a staple of board games ever since. They're hugely popular in the mainstream, but scorned and derided by some. Why is this huge genre so polarizing? And is there such a thing as a trivia game that everybody can enjoy?

    Co-host: Travis Ryans
    Games Mentioned: Trivial Pursuit, Wits and Wagers, Smart Ass, Kwizniac, Timeline

    Season 1
    Published: July 30th, 2013 Length: 00:15:18
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  • Games Based on Movies

    Or TV shows or books or comics or whatever

    Game manufacturers know they can get a ton of sales just by putting the name of a popular movie or TV show on the box. But what goes inside the box? Games based on licensed properties can be brilliant explorations of the themes and characters from their source material, or they can be cheap, thoughtless cash-ins. What makes a good licensed game, and how can you tell the good ones from the bad ones?

    Co-hosts: Christen Traviss, Anskar Shin
    Games mentioned: Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek Catan, Scene-It, Friends Trivia, Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, Babylon 5 Collectible Card Game, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, Star Wars: The Card Game, Lord of the Rings Risk, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, War of the Ring, The Hunger Games: District 12, Marvel Legendary, Dominion, DC Deckbuilding Game

    Season 1
    Published: July 22nd, 2013 Length: 00:14:57
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  • Theme and Mechanics; Form and Substance

    A deeper look at games that are actually about something

    Most games are about something, and that something is what we call a game's "theme". All games have rules and procedures and things you do as you play, and we call those things "mechanics". In some games, the theme and the mechanics don't have anything to do with each other, which can be distracting. In other games, theme and mechanics work together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. How does this work? Award-winning game designer Eric M. Lang joins us once again for a fascinating look at the magic behind the curtain.

    Games mentioned: Settlers of Catan, Monopoly, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue, Cranium, Apples to Apples, Balderdash, Checkers, Connect Four, Poker, Bridge, Friends Trivia, The Office Trivia, Law And Order Trivia, Sex and the City Trivia, Clue, The Game of Life, Ra, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, Battlestar Galactica

    Season 1
    Published: July 15th, 2013 Length: 00:14:30
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  • Downtime

    That part of the game when you don't get to play

    In most games, you don't spend every second of the game actually playing. There are times when you're just watching or chatting or waiting for your turn. We call that "downtime". Some players hate it, others can't bear to go without it. So where does downtime arise in a game, and what makes it good or bad?

    Co-hosts: Eric M. Lang, Colin Young
    Games mentioned: Settlers of Catan, Taboo, Charades, Scrabble, Monopoly, Risk, Battlestar Galactica, Arkham Horror, Shadows Over Camelot, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Puerto Rico, Pit, Space Alert, 7 Wonders, Balderdash, Apples to Apples

    Season 1
    Published: July 8th, 2013 Length: 00:14:46
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  • And They Call It "Ameritrash"

    Exploring modern American-style game design

    Eurogames are very popular, but there is another influential school of board game design, proudly called "Ameritrash" by its biggest fans. Ameritrash stands in stark contrast to the clean, efficient and nonviolent approach taken by Euros. With loose, exceptions-based mechanics and high interactivity, rich and memorable narratives emerge from the tabletop. Award-winning game designer (and Ameritrash aficionado) Eric M. Lang joins us in our look at this controversial approach to board games.

    Co-hosts: Eric M. Lang, Colin Young
    Games mentioned: Monopoly, Risk, Axis & Allies, King of Tokyo, Puerto Rico, Chaos in the Old World, A Game of Thrones Boardgame

    Season 1
    Published: July 1st, 2013 Length: 00:16:52
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  • Award-Winning Games

    Featuring award-winning game designer Eric M. Lang!

    It's not uncommon to see a sticker with the words "AWARD WINNER" on a game box, but what kind of game wins awards, and should you play those games? Where do these awards come from? Who decides the winners, and how do they pick them? Are some game awards more prestigious than others? Join the game gurus and award winning designer Eric M. Lang as we take a look at what those stickers really mean.

    Co-hosts: Colin Young, Eric M. Lang
    Games mentioned: Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Ticket To Ride, Dominion, Dixit, Rummikub, Scotland Yard, Ghooost!, Kulami, Snake Oil, Pastiche, Anomia, Forbidden Island, Word on the Street, King of Tokyo, Skull and Roses, Lords of Waterdeep

    Season 1
    Published: June 24th, 2013 Length: 00:16:28
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  • All For One and One For All

    Co-operative games

    There's been a vogue for co-op boardgames in recent years, ever since the release of Pandemic in 2008. The players in a co-operative game must all work together against a common enemy, and in the end either they all win, or they all lose. What's the appeal of these games, and how do they work?

    Co-host: Travis Ryans
    Games mentioned: Pandemic, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Hanabi, Space Alert, Shadows Over Camelot, Battlestar Galactica, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Last Night On Earth, Marvel Legendary, Forbidden Island, Castle Panic, Ghost Stories, Yggdrasil

    Season 1
    Published: June 17th, 2013 Length: 00:15:00
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  • Competitive but not Combative

    Can you compete without being mean?

    Some games are just plain mean. Others are totally co-operative. But what about the ones in the middle? What kind of game lets you compete without being mean and nasty to the other players? What kind of player enjoys that sort of game and why? (My sincerest apologies to Anskar for butchering the pronunciation of his name!)

    Co-hosts: Christen Traviss, Anskar Shin
    Games mentioned: Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples, Risk, Taboo, Pit, Snakes and Ladders, King of Tokyo, Cosmic Encounter, Citadels, Castles of Burgundy

    Season 1
    Published: June 10th, 2013 Length: 00:15:28
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  • Mean, mean, mean

    Some games bring out the worst in people... and sometimes that's awesome

    Mean games. Games where you crush the other players' plans, hopes, dreams and egos. Games that make players cry. Some people love 'em, some people can't stand 'em, but everyone seems to agree that some games are just plain mean. What is it about a game that makes it mean? Why are some games mean and others not so much?

    Co-hosts: Nicole Hoye, Steve Tassie
    Games mentioned: Nexus Ops, Mall of Horror/City of Horror, Diplomacy, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Manhattan, Santiago, King of Tokyo, Alien Frontiers, A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame (Second Edition), Chaos in the Old World, Cosmic Encounter, Frag, Claustrophobia
    This was one of the first episodes we recorded, and it's still one of my favourites. We hadn't quite figured out our sound arrangement at the time, so the audio's a bit janky, but we hope that won't get in the way of your enjoyment.




    Season 1
    Published: June 3rd, 2013 Length: 00:15:22
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  • 20th-Century Classics: The Game of Life

    Week four of 20th-Century Classics month!

    We bring our month of nostalgia to a close with one of the biggest nostalgia games out there. Many customers at Snakes tend to balk at playing games that have a plot, but they don't seem to mind this one. So where did this game come from? How did it take the form we know today? What life lessons does it have to teach? What can we learn about life... from Life?

    Co-host: Travis Ryans
    Games mentioned: The Game of Life, The Checkered Game of Life, The Game of Life Indiana Jones

    Season 1
    Published: May 27th, 2013 Length: 00:14:57
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  • 20th-Century Classics: Clue

    Week three of 20th-Century Classics month!

    It's been said that a mystery endures far longer than an answer. This certainly seems to be the case with Clue, one of the most enduring games of the 20th Century. Whodunnit? Where? And how? The answer is always different, and the world has not yet tired of solving the mystery. Why is Clue still so popular? What was the secret to its success? Does it deserve its reputation as a classic? And what other games might appeal to mystery fans?

    Season 1
    Published: May 20th, 2013 Length: 00:14:37
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  • 20th-Century Classics: Risk

    Week two of 20th-Century Classics month!

    Here's a game most people seem to either love or hate. Just mentioning Risk conjures up images of broken friendships and flipped tables. But why does it get such a powerful response, good or bad? How has it stood the test of time? And what's the deal with all those alternate versions?

    Season 1
    Published: May 13th, 2013 Length: 00:13:42
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