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.

  • 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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  • 20th-Century Classics: Monopoly

    Week one of 20th-Century Classics month!

    Board games grew into the form we know and love today during their formative years in the previous century. Some games from that era have endured and are played by millions the world over to this day. This month we'll take a look at some of the most famous of them all from the perspective of the game gurus. First up: Monopoly!

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Nicole Hoye
    Games mentioned: Monopoly, Hey! That's My Fish!, Quarto, Nowhere to Go, Hive, I'm the Boss!

    Season 1
    Published: May 6th, 2013 Length: 00:14:54
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  • Civilization Builders

    An introduction to a small category of really big games

    Some games have big themes, and few are bigger than the building of an entire civilization. These games give you the chance to lead your people to greatness through exploration, culture, discovery and conquest, but they can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Have a listen and see if this venerable genre might hold some appeal for you.

    Season 1
    Published: April 29th, 2013 Length: 00:12:54
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  • Something Against Humanity

    So you've played Cards Against Humanity. What next?

    LISTENER DISCRETION ADVISED "Cards Against Humanity" might just be a random collection of cards with weird and offensive things printed on them, but it's also the most popular game at Snakes & Lattes. Longevity isn't exactly its strong suit, though. So how can you keep it interesting after you've played a few times?

    Season 1
    Published: April 22nd, 2013 Length: 00:13:11
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  • Intro to Euros

    What are European-style strategy games and why should you care?

    If you're new to the hobby, it may surprise you to discover that there are different schools of thought in game design. Let us introduce you to the European style of games, and see what you think.

    Season 1
    Published: April 15th, 2013 Length: 00:15:11
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  • Party of Two

    So you want a party game but you've only got two players?

    A lot of our customers love party games and ask to play them often, but sometimes they only bring one friend with them. Which puts us in a tough spot, seeing as how party games are, well, party games. As in, they don't work unless you've got a big group. So what do we do then?

    Season 1
    Published: April 8th, 2013 Length: 00:11:15
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  • Kid Stuff

    Children's games that are beloved by grownups

    Come in to Snakes & Lattes any day of the week, and you'll see grown men and women having a great time playing games that were designed for small children. What is it about kids' games that makes them so appealing to adults?

    Season 1
    Published: April 1st, 2013 Length: 00:14:23
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