Enough of yesterday’s hippie-dippie kumbaya nonsense. Teamwork is great and all, but sometimes you’ve got to stick up for yourself. Pare away your fleshy parts. Make of your heart a stone. Become a creature of iron. Run in one of those mud marathons. Et cetera.
Today we’re celebrating the best games about asserting yourself in the face of irreparable differences. These are the two-player games that require you to plant your feet, lean back, and heave until you either win or tumble into the chasm.
When my first daughter was born, there was a mantra I would whisper whenever she cried out in the middle of the night, when I had chores but felt too exhausted to propel my limbs into motion, when the prospect of reading another history book for grad school felt like climbing Everest. “Nobody’s coming to save you. You have to save yourself.”
Turns out, that same mantra works in the middle of a global pandemic. Today we’re celebrating the games that remind us that we can survive almost anything. Because nobody’s coming to save you. You have to save yourself.
I don’t mean to brag, but after nearly two years of a global pandemic, I’ve become something of a professional when it comes to keeping hold of my waning sanity. So what better categorization for the best board games of 2021 than the five pieces of advice that have kept me afloat?
Take today’s motif, for instance. Need to survive another lockdown? It’s easier if you make something with all that spare time. Model airplanes, a novel, stacks of newspapers bound in twine and arranged into a hoarder’s maze — it doesn’t matter what you make, just so long as you make it. Today is a celebration of the board games that let you do exactly that. These are the makers.
As has become a February tradition around these parts, it’s time to rewind a whole year and a month to Best Week 2019. But this is no warmhearted jaunt down memory lane. Oh no. This is an interrogation. This is when we take a look at the titles I proclaimed the best of the year and discuss whether I was right, wrong, or somewhere in between.
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.