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.

  • Server and Barista Voodoo!

    The gurus aren't the only ones who know their stuff

    The game gurus at Snakes and Lattes do their best to entertain everyone, but sometimes there are just too many guests to handle. In times like that, our servers, baristas and other staff step in to keep people entertained, and because they have other duties to take care of, they don't have the same luxury of time that the gurus have. So their recommendations have to be fast, simple, accessible, and appealing to a wide range of players.

    Co-hosts: Kyle Maticic, Emilie Finnerty
    Games mentioned: I'm the Boss!, Kulami, Blokus Duo, The Duke, Hey That's My Fish!, Kwizniac, Timeline, The Resistance, Snake Oil, Cash N' Guns

    Season 2
    Published: July 29th, 2014 Length: 00:14:34
  • Hosting a Game Night

    How to do it up right

    If you're going to invite people over for games, what kinds of games should you play? How many people should you invite? What will you do about food and drinks? How about music and atmosphere? What do you do with people who arrive late, in the middle of a game? The answers aren't too complicated, but they're worth thinking about ahead of time to make sure your game night will be a good time for everyone.

    Co-hosts: Emilie Finnerty, Kyle Maticic
    Games mentioned: Eclipse, A Game of Thrones, Spot it!, Win Lose Banana, Cash 'n Guns, Cards Against Humanity, Snake Oil, Apples to Apples

    Season 2
    Published: July 22nd, 2014 Length: 00:15:45
  • Creativity In Games

    Making stuff up is hard to do

    Different games require people to be creative in different ways, but usually when people say they want a game that lets them be creative, they're only talking about one particular type of creativity. They want something that involves miming or writing or giving clues about a word or phrase. But what about the creativity that comes from making up stories, or devising novel ways to best your opponents? Why are these two kinds of creativity treated so differently by players?

    Co-hosts: Todd Campbell, St.Stella
    Games mentioned: Cranium, 25 Words or Less, Cockroach Poker, Bang!, Pictionary, Things..., Cards Against Humanity, Charades, Taboo, Telestrations, Concept, Balderdash, Snake Oil, Say Anything, Dixit, Dungeons and Dragons, Once Upon A Time, A Touch of Evil, Gloom, Chess, Suburbia, Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer

    Season 2
    Published: July 15th, 2014 Length: 00:18:50
  • Variable Player Powers

    Games where each player has their own special way to play

    In most games, each player comes to the table with the same resources, the same capabilities, the same rules. In Monopoly, everybody starts with the same amount of money and rolls two dice. In Chess, everybody starts with sixteen pieces laid out just so. But there are some games where each player starts out with something unique and different from the rest. On this week's SnakesCast, we'll introduce you to this intriguing area of game design.

    Co-hosts: St.Stella, Todd Campbell
    Games mentioned: Cosmic Encounter, Pandemic, Chaos in the Old World, Ghost Stories, Lord of the Rings, Robinson Crusoe, A Touch of Evil, Arkham Horror, Forbidden Island, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Hanabi, Space Alert, Escape: The Curse of the Temple, King of Tokyo, King of Tokyo: Power Up!

    Season 2
    Published: July 8th, 2014 Length: 00:16:05
  • Game Spotlight: Camel Up and Concept

    The other nominees for the 2014 Spiel Des Jahres

    In our last Game Spotlight episode, we talked about Splendor, which was nominated for this year's coveted Spiel Des Jahres award (international game of the year). Though many consider Splendor to be the front-runner to win, the other two nominees are also strong contenders. This week we'll put both of them in the spotlight and talk about their chances for an upset win.

    Co-hosts: Matti McLean, Colin Young
    Games mentioned: Splendor, Camel Up, Concept, Lemming Mafia, Long Shot, Charades, Qwirkle, Dominion, Ticket to Ride

    Season 2
    Published: July 1st, 2014 Length: 00:15:59
  • Guru Voodoo: Party of Three

    The tricky question of three-player games

    Even for seasoned game players, choosing something to play for a group of three can be a challenge. You can't play anything that's designed for just two, and many games that are dependent on group dynamics won't work either, because three just isn't enough. But it's harder still when the players want a party game like Taboo or Cranium, which can only be played in teams. What's a guru to do?

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Christen Traviss

    Games mentioned: Trifecta, Trieste, Maria, Marrakhesh, No Thanks!, Coloretto, Puerto Rico, Le Havre, Dominion, Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries, Castles of Burgundy, Poison, Risk, Guess Who?, Word on the Street, Quarto, Last Word, Hedbanz, 5-Second Rule, Spot it!, Ghost Blitz, Jenga, Riff Raff, Animal Upon Animal, Hamsterolle, Toc Toc Woodman, Ker-Plunk, Cockroach Poker, Catch Phrase, Time's Up, Taboo, Cards Against Humanity, Balderdash, Query, Tiki Topple, Hey That's My Fish!, Chicken Cha Cha Cha, Quoridor, The Magic Labyrinth, Carcassonne, Splendor, Three Little Pigs, Hearts, Euchre, Bridge, Haggis

    Sorry this week's episode was late, everyone!

    Season 2
    Published: June 24th, 2014 Length: 00:15:34
  • Cottage games

    Recommendations for vacation time

    It's cottage season in Toronto, and if you're lucky enough to have a place where you and your friends can go to get away from the city heat, you'll want to bring some good old-fashioned games to pass the time together. What sort of games are best for those times when you can get away from civilization for a while?

    Co-hosts: Colin Young, Matti McLean
    Games mentioned: Risk, Kamisado, Yinsh, Dvonn, Quarto, Quoridor, Twilight Struggle, Wizard, Hearts, Monopoly, Scrabble, Cockroach Poker, Coup, Tichu, King of Tokyo, Pandemic, Escape: Curse of the Temple, Ultimate Werewolf, The Resistance, Arkham Horror, A Touch of Evil, Diplomacy, A Game of Thrones, 6 Nimmt!, Revolution, Shadows Over Camelot

    Season 2
    Published: June 17th, 2014 Length: 00:16:24
  • Communication Games

    You're trying to tell me something

    In a communication game, players need to express thoughts or ideas to one another. But usually, the interesting part isn't the ideas you're trying to express, but the things you're not allowed to say or do. Like maybe there are certain words you're not allowed to use, or maybe you can't talk at all. This episode, we communicate about communication.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Christen Traviss
    Games mentioned: Charades, Time's Up!, Pictionary, Telestrations, Concept, Catch Phrase, Taboo, 25 Words or Less, Pandemic, Space Alert, Escape: Curse of the Temple, Hanabi, The Resistance, Werewolf, Shadow Hunters, Bang!

    Season 2
    Published: June 9th, 2014 Length: 00:16:55
  • Game Spotlight: Splendor

    A simple, beautiful, and wonderfully accessible new game

    This year's Spiel Des Jahres awards nominees have been announced, and the front-runner is Marc André's "Splendor", a game about collecting coloured jewels and cashing them in for points. It's simple to learn, beautifully presented, and offers surprising depth considering how easy it is to learn. It's a quintessential SdJ nominee, and this week the gurus will be talking about it.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Christen Traviss
    Games mentioned: Splendor, Settlers of Catan, Poker, No Thanks!, Quirkle, Pentago, Backgammon, Ticket to Ride, Concept, Camel Up!, Lemming Mafia, Things..., Telestrations

    Season 2
    Published: June 2nd, 2014 Length: 00:18:37
  • Guru Voodoo: They Say They Want Strategy

    A dangerous request, and a dangerous recommendation

    A game guru's job is to recommend games according to the tastes of the customers. They tell you what they want, and you try your best to provide it. But what if what they want and what they think they want are two very different things? This does happen sometimes, and so the guru has to go off-book, recommending games that look like one thing when they're actually something else. Especially when what they think they want is strategy.

    Co-hosts: Dan Legault, Mandy Jelsma
    Games mentioned: Agricola, Risk, Survive!, Revolution, King of Tokyo, BANG!, BANG! The Dice Game, The Resistance, Coup, Cockroach Poker, Magical Athlete, No Thanks!, Poison, Incan Gold, Tsuro

    Season 2
    Published: May 27th, 2014 Length: 00:14:00
  • Beyond the Gateway

    After you've played Ticket to Ride, what's next?

    Boardgame hobbyists like to refer to some games as "gateway games". They're very easy to learn, but they have far more depth and interest than the games most of us learned as children. They're supposed to be a gateway to the larger world of modern tabletop games. But once you've tried the most popular gateway games, where do you go from there?

    Co-hosts: St. Stella, Todd Campbell
    Games mentioned: Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Survive!, Monopoly, Wizard, Euchre, Cranium, Pandemic, Bang!, Cockroach Poker, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Stone Age, Arkham Horror, Agricola, Lords of Waterdeep, Augustus, Bohnanza, Three Little Pigs, King of Tokyo

    Season 2
    Published: May 20th, 2014 Length: 00:15:26
  • Spoilers and Kingmakers

    Crucial game elements, or game design abominations?

    It can be a bitter truth for some, but the best player doesn't always win, and it's not always because of luck. Sometimes a player will decide they're not going to even try to win; they're just going to make sure one specific opponent loses. We call that player a "spoiler". Then there are times when a player can't win, no matter what they do, but they can help one of the other players to win. We call this "kingmaking". Usually this will mean the best player doesn't win, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

    Co-hosts: St. Stella, Todd Campbell
    Games mentioned: Diplomacy, Puerto Rico, Lords of Waterdeep, Coup

    Season 2
    Published: May 13th, 2014 Length: 00:14:55
  • Game Spotlight: Cosmic Encounter

    A true classic among modern games

    Modern hobby games first became a subculture back in the 1970s, and very few games from that era have stood the test of time as well as 1977's Cosmic Encounter. A game of strange alien races colonizing each other's planets, it is cited by many of today's most prominent designers and other industry professionals as a major inspiration. Today, the art of game design is changing and developing rapidly, but Cosmic Encounter is just as relevant and beloved as ever. Tune in and find out why.

    Co-hosts: Steve Tassie, Emilie Finnerty
    Games Mentioned: Cosmic Encounter, SmallWorld, King of Tokyo

    Season 2
    Published: May 6th, 2014 Length: 00:17:34
  • Guru Voodoo: Family of Four

    Mom and dad and both kids have totally different tastes! What should they play?

    From the land of Twitter comes listener Tara Tallan with a challenge for our gurus: two parents who like the elegant strategy of European-style games, a teenaged son who love aggression and conflict in games, and a younger daughter who loves to build a unique narrative with every game she plays. Can we satisfy them all? Tune in to find out!

    Co-hosts: Emilie Finnerty, Steve Tassie
    Games mentioned: SmallWorld, Caverna, Agricola, Love Letter, Coup, Lord of the Rings Deckbuilding Game, Dominion, DC Heroes Deckbuilding Game, Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, Pandemic, Pandemic: On the Brink, Fury of Dracula, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Letters from Whitechapel, Scotland Yard, Nuns on the Run, Risk, Last Night On Earth

    Season 2
    Published: April 29th, 2014 Length: 00:17:12
  • "Who Did What" Games

    Games where you try to guess who did what

    One of the most popular types of party game out there is the kind where everybody does something or writes something or chooses something, and you have to try to guess who did what. There are dozens of games built around this basic idea, and more keep coming out every year. This week we take a closer look at this simple, yet popular approach to gameplay.

    Co-hosts: Mandy Jelsma, Dan Legault
    Games mentioned: Dictionary, Balderdash, Say Anything, Cards Against Humanity, Snake Oil, Things, Apples to Apples, Dixit, Wise and Otherwise, Malarky, Big Bang Theory Party Game, Mice and Mystics

    Season 2
    Published: April 22nd, 2014 Length: 00:14:42
  • Drawing Games

    There's always someone saying "but I can't draw!"

    Pictionary is one of the most frequently requested games at Snakes and Lattes. It's been a nostalgic favourite for decades, but it's also a game with a serious problem: most people just aren't comfortable with their level of skill at drawing. But the idea of a game where you draw pictures is still good, so how can you overcome it with clever game design? This week we talk about several ways to do this, along with sculpting and other ways to make pictures for your friends to guess at.

    Co-hosts: Emilie Finnerty, Steve Tassie
    Games mentioned: Charades, Pictionary, Win Lose or Draw, Telestrations, Cranium Scribblish, Identik, Pictomania, Cranium, Conjecture, Creationary, Barbarossa, Cluzzle, Squint, Stix & Stones, Morphology, 25 Words Or Less

    Note: The pun Steve makes in this episode is a reference to a frantic real-time game called "Pit". Just in case you're not a huge nerd.

    Season 2
    Published: April 15th, 2014 Length: 00:18:29
  • Accessibility Issues

    Physical challenges to playing games

    When board gamers use the word "accessibility", they're usually talking about whether a game has simple rules and is easy to grasp for new players. But this week we're going to talk about physical accessibility. What games can you play with the visually or hearing-impaired, or players with fine motor challenges? How can we make games more accessible to everyone?

    Co-hosts: Emilie Finnerty, Steve Tassie
    Games mentioned: Riff Raff, Jenga, Pit, Banana Matcho, Ghost Blitz, Pop-a-Matic Trouble, Ticket to Ride, Taboo, Time's Up!, Legend of the Five Rings
    Also, here's a link to the kickstarter we mentioned in the show:

    Season 2
    Published: April 8th, 2014 Length: 00:18:15
  • Game Spotlight: The Duke

    It looks a bit like Chess, but it's so very different

    In this month's Game Spotlight, we take a look at The Duke, by Jeremy Holcomb and Stephen McLaughlin. The staff at Snakes and Lattes were so impressed by this game, they started a league. That's never happened before. What makes this unassuming little tactical abstract strategy game so appealing?

    Co-hosts: Dan Legault, Mandy Jelsma

    Games mentioned: The Duke, Chess, Yinsh, Quarto, Checkers, Hive, Six 

    Season 2
    Published: April 1st, 2014 Length: 00:13:20
  • Guru Voodoo: Expert Plus Newbies

    Our first listener-contributed Guru Voodoo episode!

    From the land of Twitter, SnakesCast listener @mocliamtoh offers the following challenge: 1 person really likes meaty euros, but the rest of the group isn't so sure about them, though "open to anything" How will Jonathan and Todd handle it? Tune in to find out!

    Co-host: Todd Campbell
    Games mentioned: Puerto Rico, Intrigue, Escape: Curse of the Temple, Space Alert, Hanabi, I'm the Boss!, Bohnanza, Risk, Cyclades, Kemet, Survive!, El Grande, Rattus, Balance of Power, Scotland Yard, Letters from Whitechapel, Doom, Descent, Fury of Dracula, Last Night on Earth

    Season 2
    Published: March 25th, 2014 Length: 00:13:56
  • Board Games and Video Games

    Building bridges between the screen and the tabletop

    Video games are a much bigger business than board games, and have been for quite a while. But tabletop games are on the rise these days, and more and more video gamers are taking notice. This week we talk about experiences that led electronic gamers to explore the old/new world of modern tabletop games.

    Co-hosts: Mandy Jelsma, Dan Legault
    Games mentioned: Gloom, Survive!, HeroQuest, Battletech, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Boss Monster, Last Night On Earth, Claustrophobia, Ghost Stories
    NOTE: There's a reference at the end of the episode to a game called The Duke, which won't make much sense yet because our episode about The Duke hasn't aired yet. Watch for it on April 1st (no, this is not an April Fool's joke).

    Season 2
    Published: March 18th, 2014 Length: 00:16:12