30 For 30

When the time came to figure out what I would be doing for my 30th birthday, I decided to give myself a quest. In the past, I’ve watched all of the Lords of the Rings movies (extended editions) back to back, and tried to drink 26 drinks in a single day each starting with a different letter of the alphabet (it didn’t go very well.)

Being The Game, the answer seemed obvious: 30 games in the course of one gaming party. After a bit of discussion with my fellow partygoers, we further clarified it had to be 30 different games. I succeeded, though with a little cheating. Here’s all what I played.

Game 0: Tetris with my Dishwasher

I didn’t count it, but fitting everything in my sink into the dishwasher with the added time pressure that people were arriving was one of the hardest challenges of the day.

Game 1: Toc Toc Woodman

This is a dexterity game that was recently brought to the US by Mayday Games. I enjoyed this one since the rules are very simple and clean while creating a pretty intense experience. You hit a plastic tree with an axe (two taps on your turns) and keep anything that hits the table. Bark on the edges is positive points, the cores in the center are negative points. A fun game that I’ll happily play once or twice occasionally but probably won’t become a permanent part of my gaming rotation.

Game 2: Fiasco “All The Damn Time”

I’ve wanted to pull this playtest playset out for a while, yet always rejected it since I rarely play Fiasco with a completely experienced group, and the playset heavily cautions against playing it with new people. While I agree it’s on the complex end of the Fiasco playset scale, and it certainly shouldn’t be a GROUP’S first playset, it worked fine with one new player.

This was without a doubt one of the funniest Fiasco games I’ve played in, while simultaneously being mind-bending and, of course, a Fiasco. You all play versions of the same person, unstuck through time and encountering each other. Each person as a result ends up bringing their own interpretation of the same character (as well as their own personality) which mixes quite well with the play. While the playset has the potential for a more introspective game, we went the other way bringing out the time travel tropes at rapid pace. Predestination paradoxes where the main character Sam convinced himself that he’s his own father because of a rumor he told himself, alternate timelines trying to scam each other, a temporal twin sister, a bag of heroin that gets dragged through time, and an aftermath involving Sam punching himself as a baby and eliminating all the others from existence were a few of the many highlights.

Game 3: Dominion, All Hinterlands Expansion

After the intense Fiasco session, I sat in on a game of Dominion using all Hinterlands, which I’ve only gotten to play with a few times. Due to some various action chaining, and some Noble Brigands making keeping high treasure cards difficult, this was a slow match.

However, Hinterlands has gone up to my top 3 Dominion expansions. Its effects that trigger in other times when playing them does make the decisions a bit more interesting than in other sets. There’s a lot to be said for just using my 3 favorite sets together (Hinterlands, Prosperity, and Seaside) along with the promos- especially since my custom box is too small to keep all the cards!

Game 4: La Strada!

My first cheat, especially because I am ALWAYS playing La Strada! And you should too.

Game 5: The Game

You just lost it too.

Game 6: Sorcerer (dice game)

As a third game played while also playing the Hinterlands game, I played this silly dice game with “the designer.” Here is the gist of Sorcerer:

  • Start at level 1.
  • Roll a d6.
  • If you rolled anything but a 1, level up.
  • If you roll a 1, you die at that level.
  • If you get to level 20, you can roll to try and get into the pantheon of gods on a 4+.
  • However, the pantheon is full, so that’s probably not an option anymore.
  • If you’re playing competitively, you can stop rolling at any level.
  • Did I mention it’s not much of a game?
I died at level 16.

 Game 7: Legend of Drizzt

The latest in the D&D “adventure system” board games, and the only one I hadn’t played before. I played the allied version of Artemis Entrari because assassins are awesome. We kicked Shimmergloom’s draconic ass, even though Drizzt fell in a pit for a turn.

I didn’t realize this version of the game came with more playable characters than the others. We suspect the characters are better than the characters in previous versions of the game, too. There’s a few other cool twists in the cards without adding extra rules to the core engine of the game, which is good. On the other hand, I don’t know if the missions add enough for the game to make me excited about playing it a lot more.

I did ruminate with Sly Flourish (who had brought the game, painted minis and all) that it might be time to combine all three into one mega-game though, and customize it to only contain the most fun stuff. Now that’s tempting, and gives me a few ideas for other games.

Game 8: Rock, Paper, Scissors

I held off on playing this until my friend Mark showed up, who had called it in advance. I had to turn down at least 4 previous offers to play it. And then, I lost. Stupid rock.

Game 9: Hit A Dude

I hit a dude, and play passed to the left. I did not use the player’s guide, however.

Game 10: Get Bit!

A few folks there had never tried it and asked me to play, so we busted out my “primo” copy with all the extras from the Kickstarter campaign. We had 7 players interested, and because of the promo pink robot, 7 player sets. I didn’t want to jump into the Sharkspansion either with new players. I also couldn’t just sit it out, so we tried it with 7 players, which I have never tested before.

As expected, there’s lots and lots of ties early on, and goes longer than I’d like. However, it still works as a game if you don’t mind it being more chaotic and punishing. I wouldn’t recommend it officially for the published rules, though. The Sharkspansion is still the best way to add a 7th player, and in my oh-so-biased opinion, adds a lot to the game.

Game 11: Loopin’ Louie

A friend of ours brought this over, unaware of my tournament-level past. I taught him the tournament rules, and enlightenment was had. And then I won the mini-tournament, showing that my skills have not atrophied much over the years.

Game 12: Crappy Birthday

We had a crowd around, so I busted out this party game from Northstar Games. It was appropriate since it’s about recieving gifts on your birthday, and inappropriate since my party and gifts were not crappy at all.

This is a quick, Apples to Apples-ish party game about giving the worst gift to someone on their turn, from a deck of cards of gifts whose quality ranges wildly. I do enjoy playing this, yet I may try some of the optional rules about giving someone a gift you think they’d like and one you think they would hate, and go from there. Also, it usually ends far too quickly if someone gets a better hand of crappier gifts.

Game 13: Seven Dragons

I busted out this game to play with the “Rainbow Dragon!” guy from the promotional video.

I enjoy Seven Dragons more than its predecessor Aquarius, not just for the Larry Elmore dragons but also for the added gameplay improvements. This is one of those games that I’ll rarely suggest on my own but works well in a group of both gamers and non-gamers.

Game 14: Tic-Tac-Toe

The Main Event suggested this one and threw down a piece of paper and allowed me to have the first move. Somehow, I lost, in plain view of many partygoers. I suspect I’ll have to relinquish my title of “The Game” as a result, and you would not be wrong to take it from me.

Game 15: Hangman

I had my revenge on The Main Event in this game, who also screwed up the rules. Unfortunately, the message was “Y O U  S U C K” so it indeed was a victory and great cost.

Game 16: Spot-It!

This real-time game, brilliant party game is easy to bust out for a short amount of time, choose your own preferred rules set with the same basic play (match the symbols on two cards, which is much harder than it sounds), play, and then be done in a few minutes while still feeling satisfying. Simple enough for kids to play, yet fun enough for adults as well (especially when you add swearing to everything), I’d say this is one of the hits of the year for me.

Game 17: Pit

As it was getting late into the evening, and some players were already leaving, I started to push for quick playing games to hit my quota. Pit is an old game, which I jokingly call a “shouting game.” It’s interesting because there are strategies there, and I have seen people (including those who have actually worked in the stock market) do consistently very well at the game. I know some basics and still haven’t figured out what the best way to play is. Still, for a game that goes that quickly and includes a bell, hard to go wrong with this one.

Game 18: Hey Waiter!

Another quick-playing game designed by my friend Anthony, you are given a stack of dishes (represented by poker chips) and try to serve them before your opponents do. We played partnership, which means you look for opportunities to help both yourself and your partner while blocking your opponents.

The design of the cards and the available actions gives it a bit of a learning curve for a pretty simple game, yet there’s some real decisions to make during it that make it fun. If you’re a fan of trick-taking games or similar, this one may appeal to you despite not being trick-taking at all.

This is also the point where I realized I was playing a lot of games with a “!” in the title.

Game 19: Falling

Another of my top 10 games of all time (alongside Loopin’ Louie and Dominion), Falling takes more time to teach the rules than it does to play, which means you can get in a few rounds of it very quickly, and each game still feels like a frantic rush… just like falling from the sky. This is a real time game where your only goal is to hit the ground last (which happens when the deck runs out). This game is hated by many but remains one of my favorites. I almost pulled out my other favorite real-time game (also from Cheapass) Brawl but didn’t make it happen.

Game 20: Jenga

This was one of the most intense games of Jenga I’ve ever seen, including a late game twist where one of the players developed a forceful strike to knock blocks away from the table where they would land with a violent fall. He ended up pulling this off three times, and was among one of the winners. The tower was very tall by the end, and went many rounds past where we thought it would. I also got to regale other players about playing Dread and getting really lucky with my pulls so that my complete bastard of a character got away in the end.

Game 21: No Merci (aka Geschenkt or No Thanks!)

This short yet brutal filler hasn’t seen much play lately, yet it’s still high up there. The rules are really simple: either place a chip (worth positive points) or take a card (worth many negative points.) Getting runs of cards means you lower the amount of negative points you have. That’s about it, except that random cards are removed from the deck, and are hidden, so you don’t know if the cards you need to connect are in the deck. There’s a combination of gambling on what will come up, as well as trying to milk points from other players at the right time and for the right amount.

Game 22: Mamma Mia!

Another great filler. Part memory game, part hand management, you play ingredient cards into a center pile along with pizzas recipes that have different requirements for the cards under it. When the deck runs out, you see if people were able to make their pizzas or not. You play for 3 rounds and see who has made the most pizzas.

I like this game because while there is a memory element, it’s is far secondary to smart card play. I managed to score all of my pizzas, easily winning.

Game 23: Magic: The Gathering Commander

Using two of my decks, we tossed down a quick one on one Commander duel: Kresh vs. my never before played Wrexial deck. I didn’t draw the right mana for most of the game, and Wrexial’s ability to pull instants from the graveyard didn’t end up helping that much. When Phage the Untouchable hit the table, it was over for me. I do have some tweaking to do with the Wrexial deck, yet I still like the idea and play of it a lot.

Game 24: Treehouse

One of the quickest playing Icehouse/Looney Pyramids games out there, I hadn’t played this in so long I forgot how all the different actions worked. Fortunately, I had a trained Looney Game Technician there to help me with it (and I won with a well-timed Aim.)

Game 25: Dots And Boxes

I managed to convince a few players that wanted to get to Risk Legacy (which I wanted as a closer) to help me hit my goal before we could play. Thus, this was the first of a few rapid-fire games.

I hadn’t played this since I was a kid. I won with some friendly assistance. I probably don’t need to play this again until I’m 40.

Game 26: Win, Lose, or Banana

I got a banana.

Game 27: High Card

I wrecked this game by pulling the Ace of Spades immediately. I have mad High Card skills.

Game 28: Texas Hold ‘Em

We dealt out two cards to everybody sitting there. Several people called. I folded my hand in this no stakes, no consequences game, then cashed out with as much money as I started with.

Game 29: Blackjack

Yes, my penultimate game of the evening was Blackjack, a game I’ve never played in a casino. After one hit, my 20 was enough to defeat the dealer. Good enough for me.

Game 30: Risk Legacy

This has been a frequent centerpiece at our Thursday game nights lately. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a game that could potentially define a whole new category of games.

Essentially, the game evolves, and is never the same from game to game. You make permanent changes to the board, the rules, the available resources, the other components: it all permanently changes with each game you play. As a result, a meta-storyline develops. You write on the board to name cities and immortalize the winners of conflicts. When certain events happen, you open envelopes.

In the game prior to this one, we opened two envelopes in the same game, and each was a mind-blowingly awesome twist that forever shaped how later games will be played. I’m trying very hard not to spoil anything just because of how cool it was to experience those.

The game we played was our first chance with the new stuff we unlocked in the previous game, and as expected, it made a big impact on how the game was played, and even had much more subtle repercussions in the strategy of the game I couldn’t predict. When people have asked me about the game, I’ve responded that it’s a really cool idea, but the game play is still Risk, so judge that carefully. I’m not a big Risk fan and didn’t play it much growing up, so I’m at a bit of a disadvantage when I play. Still, despite the fact that I’ve never won, I still look forward to every time I play just to experience more of the story we’re creating with the game.

In short, other than losing again (when so very close), it was a very satisfying close to 30 games in a single party.

Final exclamation point game title count: 6


About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. I’m glad I was around for the beginning games since I missed out on a lot of the middle and late games. Out of all the games I really wish I’d gotten to play No Thanks! I really enjoyed it a few years ago when we played it most nights we got together for games.

  2. Lou Wainwright says:

    Happy Birthday Dave! Thanks for the tweets about Risk Legacy. I hadn’t bothered clicking on it on BGG because, hey, it’s Risk. But after seeing that you were playing it I read the reviews and bought it immediately. My boys and I played 3 games this weekend, and they loved it. They were giddy at getting to rip up cards, loved naming the continents (Barbaria and Azeroth) and cities, and are going nuts since we haven’t opened up one of the secret packs yet. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Awesome post mon ami. It’s quite a feat to play so many games in so little time. I must plan something like this for my 40th 🙂

  4. Happy birthday! Sounds like a great time! I love the M:tG Commander format, and I also play a Wrexial deck. I have a lot of Infect going on, and I’ve done well with it. My group has houseruled 20 poison counters to eliminate in this format, which seems fair. There’s also a fair amount of Eldrazi going on.

  5. Thanks all!

    Lou: Azeroth is an awesome name for a continent. Naming a continent is the one thing we haven’t done yet on the board: if I manage to win a game, that’ll probably be what I do.

    Randall: Wrexial Infect, eh? That sounds pretty awesome. Mine is just a standard mill/discard deck. I got a bunch of cards from my wishlist for my birthday, so now I’ve gotta try the deck again new and improved.

  6. Happy birthday! what a blast! too bad my next birthday would be 41 games. I didn’t even play that much at Gencon!

  7. Sounds like a blast! Thanks for the game ideas. I want to go out and get Seven Dragons and Risk Legacy myself now! (Actually, I want to make my own fantasy version of Risk legacy…)