Let’s begin with a question. Imagine two different board game settings. The first is a goofball portrayal of piracy, complete with silly names, outrageous violence, and plenty of plunder. The second is a goofball portrayal of colonialism, complete with silly names, outrageous violence, and plenty of plunder.
Which bothers you more?
There’s something remarkable about holding an illuminated manuscript. It isn’t just the work itself, the artistry, the history leafed onto the pages. It’s the additional histories that crowd around the first. The scribbled notes. The stain of a fingerprint. The places where the paint has worn thin from dozens of fingers brushing the image of Jesus, or where a self-righteous fingernail has censored Eve’s privates.
Or the killer rabbits warring in the margins.
In true dedication to the apostils of history, Alf Seegert’s Illumination is about the latter. Two monks, one upstanding and the other irreverent, passing the days via the mortal contest of ensuring that their illustrations will endure for an age. How do they conduct this contest? By pitting rabbits against monks, squirrels against hounds, demons against angels. Naturally. How else?
It’s not that I’ve forgotten Flotilla exists. I’ve just forgotten what you do in it. Something about diving for resources and then trading them? Ships that hold barrels? Colors without meaning?
Apart from its wallpaper, Seastead doesn’t have much to do with Flotilla. It wasn’t even designed by the same duo. Jan Gonzalez and Ian Cooper are on the job, and they’ve gone out of their way to make this foray into Flotilla’s waterlogged world more memorable than the last. They even assigned names to the resources.
It’s no secret that my favorite part of Ryan Courtney’s Pipeline was the pipe-laying. Scoring, automation, loans — no thanks. Give me Donnelly nut spacing and cracked system rim-riding grip configurations using a field of half-seized sprats and brass-fitted nickel slits. The McMillan way. That’s all it takes to make me happy.
Curious Cargo is Courtney’s follow-up to Pipeline, although its shaky proximity to its predecessor has me doubting the term “follow-up.” As before, piping is a major feature. More so, even, than in Pipeline. But despite that similarity, it’s very much its own thing, right down to the husk nuts bolstered to each girdle jerry.
The wheel has turned. Below you’ll find links to every day of Best Week 2020, which despite the year’s expectations has hosted some of the finest games ever featured here on Space-Biff! Simply click the image to be transported to the relevant page.
See you on the other side, friend.
Common sense is overrated. I’ve known that since I was a boy and my mother kept insisting I find some. I’m more interested in uncommon sense. Piercing observations. Repudiations of the norm. Self-awareness. Now those are qualities to celebrate!
Which is why today, for the final entry of Best Week, we’re taking a look at the games that thumbed their noses at common sense. They took a long look at their genre, gave a gentle shake of the head, and decided that if anyone was going to do it better, it had to be them. Even if it meant turning the genre upside down in the process.
Firestorm take incoming: more than any other medium, board games are about discovery. Yes, more even than their digital counterparts. Truly, board games are so completely about discovery that they cannot even be played until the process of discovery has begun. Beginning with the earliest formative moments when the rules take shape in our minds, they cannot help it. The flip of a card, the provocations of a rival, the epiphany of a perfect move — these are all acts of creation and discovery alike.
Today, Best Week is about discovery in a more literal sense. What follows are the best games of 2020 that left me breathless as I charted past the map’s edge, redefined my species, or recorded new knowledge.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. As far as years go, 2020 was a real downer. It isn’t necessary to say why. Such an utterance would only grant it additional power.
Fortunately, certain games were a relief. A vacation in miniature, you could say. These are the titles I was able to get lost in, if only for an hour or a few minutes, and forget the low-grade anxieties that attended every waking moment.
There’s nothing quite like counting out your moves. Or obsessing over the perfect placement of a polyomino. Or examining the unfurling board state until your eyes cross.
Today is about those games. The ones that saw me picking over every detail, every possible move, every counter-move. These are the ones that hurt so good.
There’s a reason Best Week arrives when it does. Popular belief would say it lands at the end of the year, but that isn’t it. Best Week happens when it’s needed most. When the world is cold and dark, Best Week is here to draw our attention to the games that mattered.
And there’s no better way to flip the bird to a dismal year like 2020 than by celebrating the games that stood up to the giant, pounded their shield-arms, and said, “You know what, jackass? Even though everyone has fallen into the habit of taking afternoon naps, even though it’s almost next year and I still find myself thinking it’s October, I’m going to be my best self.” Call them redesigns, call them spins on familiar formulas. Either way, these are the games their designers decided to revisit in order to craft something new.