From February 19th through February 22nd I was once again invited to attend Total Confusion 29 as an industry guest. Let me tell you, this is hands down my all time favorite gaming event of the year. I ask you in all seriousness, where else can you wake up on a Friday morning, grab some breakfast, head down to a nicely busy events room and hit a bunch of friends and strangers over the head with an inflatable club?
Tons of games being played by tons of friendly gamers. The people are amazing. The staff and volunteers are great. The vendor area, while small, is also great. Themed cocktails created by Steve Wollett. Rubbing elbows and playing games with industry guests including legends like Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer and Mike Pondsmith. Games running from 8am to 1am, with open gaming starting earlier and going later. I got to demo my newest game Swamped a bunch of times, and had five full play tests completed with five different groups of people, which was amazing. I also get a weekend amongst friends with my wife, which really only happens once or twice a year.
The Cons (Get it? The Cons? No?)
Well, there was the weather and the parking which was entirely out of the conventions hands but still were issues. Other than that, I’d have loved better wifi coverage (also a hotel thing, not a convention thing). Really I have not a single complaint aimed towards the convention staff or volunteers – mostly it’s the hotel that could have acted and reacted better and this darned New England weather.
My wife Jenn is an Associate for Total Confusion in the capacity of organizing the panels and some of the events. As such, I often get a behind the curtain look at how this convention works, from attending meetings to going to the airport to pick up or drop off industry guests. On Wednesday we traveled to the far off wilds of Rhode Island to pick up Tim Kask and Frank Mentzer from the airport. This is the second year we’ve done this and we enjoy it immensely because not only are these two guys TSR alums and industry veterans but they are full of interesting stories. We love hanging out with them. Then we drop them off at the hotel and get our last glimpse of the Holiday Inn before it transforms into Total Con.
Let the games begin! Thursday we arrived right around lunch time, met up with our buddy Jean who’d driven up from somewhere down south where it’s warm, and grabbed lunch. We then played a few games, met up with a ton of people we hadn’t seen in a literal year and had a hell of a time. At 6 that evening Jenn and I helped set up the first ever flea market at Total Con (which raised about $700 for the Wounded Warrior Project) and it was a blast! I helped direct the flow of traffic and also accidentally purchased a copy of Stone Age and Spyrium. Whoops!
At 7pm I wandered over to the board game room where I had scheduled a 2 hour block to play small box games. Jean joined me along with a few new friends and we played a large variety of games! Lost Legacy, Sushi Go, Hanabi and more. Then at 9:30 or so it was back to the flea market to help corral games that hadn’t sold and get them back to their owners. After that it was hanging out with Jenn, the staff, volunteers and guests in the Green room for a bit and then off to bed for us!
Early Friday starts with breakfast for Jenn and I in the Green Room. It’s a nice chance to get some caffeine and food into us and gear up for the day. Gaming opened up at 10am for me with something I’ve always wanted to do. Ugg-Tect! We had six folks, including myself and this game was an absolute blast! More than one person stopped just to watch our antics as we tried to communicate with a four word vocabulary and lots of motions what we wanted our teammates to build. Unfortunately Ugg-Tect is currently out of print, so here’s to Fantasy Flight Games getting new copies out to the world!
I then purchased my very own copy of Lewis and Clark the Expedition. Just as I was setting it up to learn with Jean, a very nice person who’s name I didn’t catch stopped by the table and offered to teach it to us. He spent a good half hour getting us up and running! It was a fun race game that I very much enjoyed though I’ll admit it was a bit more brain burny than I expected.
After that it was off to lunch with Jenn and then some more open gaming! We played a few different things, including my own Swamped until we had dinner, and then at 7pm. After that, I had a very special appointment. My first game with TSR alum Tim Kask – Curse of the Weaver Queen. The point of the game wasn’t to make it through alive, but to see just how far we could make it. Alas, I made it right up to the high level Litch and that was it for my poor character. While I was being set upon by a nasty undead magic user my wife was off getting the RKO Army going with the first of several shows they put on during Friday and Saturday evenings.
Saturday is usually the biggest day of Total Con for both myself, Jenn and the convention. I usually have a bunch of events lined up, Jenn has a whole line up of panels to see through and the convention’s at it’s busiest with attendees. This year was no exception, although later in the day the weather kept some folks away. I started off actually leaving the convention to pick up my 11 year old daughter who was going to spend half the day with us. Arriving back with her, she elected to join me on my Kids and Gaming panel! It’s nice to get a real expert in on the talk.
After that, as I taught Star Realms, Izzie headed up on the stage to paint her very first miniature figure – a wizard, which I’m proud to say won Best Youth Mini later that evening!
We wandered the board game hall for a bit to stare at the minis section. Where else are you going to see this?
Izzie departed in the late afternoon after she and her sister got to peruse the vendor room and then it was another fun dinner, and a chance to sit down with Emerson Matsuuchi of Nazca Games and Chip Beauvais, designer of Chroma Cubes to get in a demo game of Volt! I’d heard a lot about this one but hadn’t been able to play it, so I remedied that situation. Emerson also had his copy of Specter Ops which I very much wanted to play and a copy of Dead of Winter – alas I ran out of time to try any more.
After this I met up with my wife and Jean and we found ourselves in front of Pike’s Peak (the hotel restaurant) where Steve Wollett was doing a book signing for Blasphemous Cocktails. Jenn took it upon herself to test the Mushroom Cloud (a drink from the book) and can highly recommend it.
Then came by my yearly game of Talisman! Six players (With shout outs to Jenn, Jean, Dan, Jake and Gordon), four hours and it culminated in the Demon in the center being faced by a very, very unfortunate Toad.
As is also traditional for me on Saturday evenings, on wrapping up my Talisman game, there’s a private party for a bunch of industry guests and convention folk. Four years ago Jenn and I were lucky enough to be invited and it’s been one of the highlights of the entire convention every year since! I can’t say much about what goes on except to say that it’s always a fantastic time, where things happen and stories get told. Amazing.
Sunday morning opened with my now yearly Prototype Workshop, where I was lucky enough to hang out with Mike Pondsmith, Chip, Glen Given of Games by Play Date and Emerson, who popped in to lend a hand. We got to see and give some advice on a few prototypes which were pretty darned good! Not as big a turn out as last year but I think the weather, 80 or so inches of existing snow and the parking may have deterred a few people from staying through Sunday, or dropping in for the day.
After that, it was a quick lunch with my Jenn and then she had to head off to the airport with two of our VIPs. I got in a ton of Swamped demos and play tests over the next few hours! A couple of guys from my Google Plus Board Game community found me and I convinced them to play.
After that game, Peter Bryant of MythWits fame and Steve Wollett who created Blasphemous Cocktails joined me for a game. As an aside, I’d highly recommend both watching the MythWits and grabbing a copy of Blasphemous Cocktails. In fact, watch the MythWits while drinking the Mushroom Cloud from Blasphemous Cocktails.
I even managed to get in three more games of Swamped after that – in fact, you can grab the Print and Play files and play it yourself! I was immensely happy with the feedback I’ve gotten and the fact that everyone who played really seemed to enjoy the game.
My children arrived after that and we got in a game of 5th Street Games‘ My Happy Farm, which we all very much enjoyed, while Jenn was helping get the rest of the convention broken down. Yes, the board game room is still doing a pretty good business at 4pm on a Sunday.
From there it was time to say goodbye to all of the friends we’d made in the years past and the awesome folks we met this year. That didn’t mean that we were leaving though, they were. We were determined to stick it out to the end and get in as much gaming as possible! Plus my wife stayed for the 6:30pm staff meeting.
I’m also pleased to note that this year was a first for me. I saw far, far more Ninja cards than I had brought with me. People also stopped me to mention Ninja – Silent but Deadly, so I must have done something right with that one!
Still not done, we managed to get in one last game of Love Letter at about 6pm, before the meeting and then the drive home.
All in all it was another amazing, wonderful, fantastic, tiring, incredibly fun four days of gaming with Total Confusion. I’ve said it before and I won’t ever stop saying it until it’s not true anymore – this is the best gaming convention I go to. It’s small enough to not overwhelm and make some real friends. It’s large enough to always find an open game and people to hang out with. If you’re in the New England area next February I would highly recommend joining us.