It’s hard to deny that Bill Lasek’s Koi is a handsome game. That soft color palette, Christy Freeman’s stunning illustrations, the wooden dragonflies and carp and frogs — throw them together and you have something approaching serene, the surface of the pond glasslike other than the occasional ripple of a predator flickering from the deep. At any rate, it’s far prettier than the muck-choked “pond” we had out back as a kid. The one time we stocked it with goldfish, they lasted all of one afternoon before being sucked down the storm drain.
You begin as a toddler stacking alphabet blocks. Thirty-something years later, you snap awake with a gray popsicle stick in hand, a sprawling mess of pillars and roads and cars standing before you, as attractive as it is fragile. Are you an urban planner? Some asphalt deity of the highway? Doesn’t matter. The only important thing is that your hands don’t shake.
Welcome to Tokyo Highway. Buckle up.
Despite containing enough minor problems to fuel an entire convoy of nitpickers, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game did the impossible by making me care about the zombie apocalypse. Scratch that — it made me care about my family of ragtag survivors. I cared enough to support their pill addiction, or reconstitute an entire library of books, or sometimes burn the very colony that had accepted us with open arms. All that zombie stuff was just the backdrop to its all-too-human tale of greed and selflessness. The real focus was always squarely on the people. It’s surprising how many zombie games don’t get that right.
Now there’s a new Crossroads game by the name of Gen7. At least it claims to be the heir to Dead of Winter’s throne. Other than a few patchy scraps of heraldry, I’m not convinced.
It never stops. That seems to be the central theme of SpaceCorp, and not only because a single play can easily consume three or four hours. We span an ocean, only to seek a river passage across the continent on the far side. We meet our neighbors, then decide that we should probably also meet theirs. We pen Here be dragons on the fringes of our maps, but never for long. If SpaceCorp didn’t have an ending in mind — a self-aware arbitrary ending that could be considered little more than an intermission — it might go on forever.
I’ll say this right up front: there aren’t many games as pleasant as Wingspan.
It isn’t just the setting, though the idea that you’re establishing a bird sanctuary is certainly pleasant. Nor is it only the gently expressive artwork of Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, and Beth Sobel. Nor the components, though that birdfeeder has elicited a chuckle of delight from nearly everyone I’ve introduced it to.
Rather, that pleasantness rests on the tenor of Elizabeth Hargrave’s design, from the birds themselves to the way the rounds are structured. This is good stuff. I can’t wait to show you.
Best Week is over. But that doesn’t mean we are! Down below you’ll find the full index of the whole thing. Five days, five games apiece, twenty-five titles in total, all the best. Click any of the images below to be launched via internet magic to the selected list. Thanks for reading, and see you in 2019!
It’s with the faintest hint of sadness that we arrive at the fifth and final day of Best Week 2018. Fortunately the sadness is fleeting, because I’ve compiled the five best hybrid games of the year. What’s a hybrid, you ask? Good question. These are the titles that take familiar systems and ideas and transform them into mutated monstrosities, some lurching and some sleek, some elegant and some trashy. Their sole commonality is that they’re all worthy of a look.
Take my hand. We’re almost there.
It isn’t exactly rare that I’ll laugh while playing a game. But that’s usually because Geoff made a mistake, not at the game itself.
Which is why today is about the year’s five most hilarious games. These are the titles that will likely prompt a smile, extract a bellyful of laughter, or provide an amusing anecdote that nobody will understand when you try to tell it at a family dinner. They’re silly, they’re amusing, they’re not about clowns.
Every so often, I’ll play a game that lends a new perspective. Not necessarily anything transformative, but a greater appreciation for a moment in history, or a certain cultural function, or an abiding curiosity about how injection molding works. What can I say — I’m easily astonished.
For today’s Best Week entry, we’re talking about the year’s best message games. These are the titles that had something to say and said it with clarity, style, and hopefully a really cool map.
When I say purity, what does it conjure? Morality, perhaps? The state of your heart? The criteria for entrance into the cult operating beneath your local import shop?
Today isn’t about those things. Rather, it’s about the five best games of 2018 that did one thing and one thing only. These are the games that didn’t need a dozen event decks or special edge cases or unexpected dexterity elements. They’re games, dammit, and that’s all they want to be, with all the cruft pruned away. In other words, purity.