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.
February traditions are important. Much like the lesser-known Presidents’ Day (the third Monday) and the Hallmark Greeting Card Company Annual Earnings Holiday (the 14th), the Space-Biff! Retrospective is our chance to revisit nominations of years past and see how they held up. It’s also a chance to see me cop to the mistakes I made along the way! Surely you’re here for the first reason.
Another year, another Best Week. Below you’ll find the whole thing, indexed for ease of access. Simply click any of the images to be whisked away to the relevant article. And if you’re desperate for more Best Week but don’t want to wait until 2020, there’s nothing stopping you from reading and rereading these same articles. With some minor memory erasure, each encounter can be like new!
Righteous fury. It’s what makes me holler and huff at game night. Not very many games can spark it in me, but a few are experts at grinding my competitive side to a razor’s edge.
Today we’re talking about the year’s best games for getting hot under the collar, steamed in the head, and so spanking mad you can hardly see straight. These are the titles that make you drop the f-bomb at that one guy in your game group. They are reminders that we are reasonable beings second, that for uncountable eons before we sat down on the couch to talk it out, our first and original nature was that of tooth and claw. We have incisors and canines for a reason. These games are that reason.
Like a mat of bacteria growing fuzzy on reliable feedstock, it sometimes seems like this industry thrives on imitation. But that’s only possible thanks to a rarer sort of game, those that step beyond assumed limits to create something truly unique. Thus the cycle perpetuates itself: imitation spawns innovation, which breeds further imitation. So shall it continue until sentient life is extinguished by atomic entropy.
Today is for the pioneers, those games that took a chance and, even if they were flawed in some way, managed to stick the landing. The year’s concept albums, in other words.
It wouldn’t be a good year without at least a handful of games that know how to spin a yarn. Like any good storyteller, these understand that while the destination matters, the journey is the more important portion. Also like a good storyteller, nobody would describe them as “tight.” To be frank, some of these are flabs. Some have sharp edges. They make mistakes some folks argue should have been eliminated from board games centuries ago.
Not me. The joy of these games is found in the stories they tell. Sharp edges? Psh. You know what has sharp edges? Books, baby.
Another day, another fraction of Best Week come and gone. Gone, too, are countless possible categories. To tell you the truth, the process of sorting these lists is so tricky that I’ve considered defaulting to “prettiest games.” Problem is, have you seen games these days? They’re crazy. Entire mountains of colorful plastic. Louvre-worthy art out the wazoo. One of the handsomest games of 2019 wasn’t even eligible for consideration because it was an unreleased prototype.
Which is why today’s victors are more than merely pretty. These are the titles where visuals are the gameplay. Where your decisions are based largely upon the visual information spread before you. In many cases, the math takes a backseat to the arrangement and spacing of the pieces. And often, this visual shorthand prompts both a synesthetic reflex and unexpected consequences.
Ah. Welcome. The wheel has turned once again, my friend. Here we stand upon the precipice of a new year. Let us then consider the best games of 2019. There is no better time for looking backward than when we look forward.
Today is a celebration of the charmers, the dashers, the titles you could bring home to mom and not worry about getting asked whether you’ve had your immunizations. It isn’t that they’re soft, although it’s true enough that some of these palms haven’t been worn rough by hard labor. Rather, they’re enticing. These are the games designed to appeal to weathered gamers and pine-scented newcomers alike. They beckon. Oh, how they beckon.