Total Confusion 2017 – This one goes to 11

There’s a peculiar thing about this particular convention – every single one I’ve attended has been the best one yet. That’s not bad, by any means – in fact, it’s great! Turns out Total Confusion 31 continues this streak with some new faces, some new friends and a hell of a lot of gaming. For that reason, this is going to be a long post!

I’ll take a look at this convention day to day, but first let’s look at the basics. Total Confusion bills itself as “New England’s Largest Gaming Convention” and they’re not wrong. While other conventions may draw many more attendees, Total Con is the largest convention dedicated entirely to the art and science of playing games. When I first stepped into the new location on Wednesday afternoon, there were already 20-30 people scattered about gaming. Now the convention doesn’t officially start until Thursday morning but I know folks showed up on Tuesday evening with the intention of getting in a full day of gaming before getting in a 4 day weekend of gaming. That’s awesome.

This is just the Board Game room. There’s a lot more to this con!

What’s always awesome

Have you ever gone to Gen Con and off in the distance seen someone like Tim Kask or Mike Pondsmith – maybe attended a talk they’ve given or an event they’ve hosted? Here at Total Con, you’ll just bump into them in the hallway, or in the game room – or jump into one of the games that they are running! The guest list for this convention never ceases to amaze me. Some the highlights? John Wick, Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Mike Pondsmith, Cody Pondsmith and many, many more! Your chances of just bumping into someone amazing are great! This year we also had a few folks just drop in – like Stefan Pokorny of Dwarven Forge and author R.A. Salvatore. You really never know who you may be talking to – or better yet, gaming with! For a New England con, I think this alone makes Total Con a unique experience. And that’s not counting the huge number of gamers like you and me who are always willing and ready to have a great time.

So many awesome people!
Tim Kask, Stefan Pokorny and two con attendees play Ticket to Ride

What was new

This year, Total Con moved venues for the first time in well over a decade. The Best Western Royal Plaza Marlborough, MA. It’s not the first time Total Con was at this location but it’s been a while. The change in venue offered two very important differences over the last hotel. There was more than adequate parking and there was a more than adequate number of rooms. These two things made for a huge difference from the last few years where attendees who both wanted to stay on site or drop in for a day had the easy ability to do so.

Wednesday Evening

The new venue also offered a much different layout, with board games, mini’s, the computer games room and the young player’s area being on one side of the hotel and RPGs being in another. This did result in a little bit less mingling, but also a lot less crowding. On the whole, I think it was a good thing. In fact, a day or so after the con wrapped up, even though official numbers aren’t out yet, the TC Facebook page posted:

TotalCon 31 is officially in the record books!!! With all the big changes going on, we expected a bit of a drop, instead the convention grew again!!! The convention surpassed every bench mark it set as a goal. That credit goes out to every volunteer, industry guest, game master, performer, vendor, exhibitor, and podcaster that was in attendance. The TotalCon team may provide the framework but the passion, creativity, and heart you bring to the table is what gets folks excited and what keeps bringing them back year after year. And now to see folks jazzed about creating new events for 2018 is AWESOME!!


Since my wife is on staff for the convention – and Total Con didn’t officially kick off until Thursday morning, Wednesday is always an interesting time. Generally my wife and I go into the airport a few times to pick up several industry guests being flown in from the mid-west or west coast. Generally for us this is a day of greetings, getting folks settled into the hotel and whatnot. We ended up in the hotel bar that evening, as we so often do. It’s our chance to see convention staff members we don’t get to see all that often, greet incoming guests and psyche ourselves up for a lot of uptime and not a lot of sleep.


My Thursday started with being interviewed for And Now A Word From a Gamer – a new documentary that was filmed almost entirely at Total Confusion. Hopefully we’ll all be able to see the final film at Total Con 32 (and also everywhere else!)

From there I went to the first game I was running all convention – Above and Below. I love Red Raven games and Above and Below may be my favorite (with Islebound a close second). It was fun to teach three other folks the joys of cave exploration.

After that I did what I’ve done every year for the past three years. Help set up, move crowds through and then take down Sal’s Traveling Flea Market! This is a pretty sweet event where over 800 games and game related products were brought in. A whole bunch of ’em sold too.

Finally, after the flea wrapped up around 11, I found myself with my wife and the head of con security in the board game room with a quick game of Splendor.


This was my big day. I was running games in all but 2 slots, which worked out to roughly 11 hours of planned gaming (and in reality about 15 hours of actual gaming).

The morning started off with an event I called Territorial Disputes. I brought a number of small, area control games and had fun playing them with three folks I’d never met before. I brought Age of War, Eight Minute Empire:Legends, Guilds of Cadwallon and Tiny Epic Galaxies. We ended up playing War several times and Guilds once but didn’t have time to make it to the other two games.

From there I got to introduce six folks to Cutthroat Caverns – my all time favorite take-that style game. While I had originally intended to play as well, I had a grand time running the game (as it was entirely full with no space for me)!

Then on to the first big event of the day for me. Scythe. Taking two slots from 3pm to 7pm, it had sold out in pre-reg. Strangely, only 2 of the pre-registered folks showed up to play. That was fine though as three more players materialized seemingly out of thin air. One had to leave mid-game, which gave me the opportunity to allow a 6th person to jump in whom I taught on the fly. I. Love. This. Game.

I had a 2 hour break for dinner, roughly 20 minutes of which I spent in my room relaxing with my wife. Then it was down to the bar/restaurant where I secured two tables for dinner and for my next event. Kids Games for Adults – 2 Drink Minimum. I’d call this game a stunning success. It helped greatly that a pub game event had just ended and we attracted a few of those folks to our table (along with their pub games). I have never, ever laughed so hard during a gaming event. We played a six player version of Loopin’ Chewie (that I modified with 3D printed parts), Villa Paletti, Pairs, Animal upon Animal, Skull, and finally several rounds of a terrible game (which I loved) called Midnight Party with Hugo the person eating ghost. We literally closed the bar down with this event – they turned out the lights on us. It was amazing.


I will certainly be running this event next year – in fact I’m hoping to team up with Mat who ran the pub games event so we can have one epic night in the bar gaming our little hearts out.


This was my lighter day. I’d purposely not scheduled any games as Luca was going to join us for the day. After touring the con a bit, we settled on a copy of Ice Cool from the Vendor’s room (the awesome folks at Crossroads Games). It’s a fairly simple, dexterity/flicking game where you attempt to get penguins through different doors to capture fish tokens while one player is trying to get your little penguin school ID card. Players switch off as the penguin attempting to capture the others. The physical (and graphical) design is amazing, and the physics of the game are a lot of fun too. I’d play this one just about any time. We played it at various times during the day with various people.

Then we bumped into our buddy David (who’d entertained us at the Granite Games Summit) and he introduced us to a bunch of cool, smaller games. We played Stack, Kingdomino (a surprisingly fun filler), and Mint Works – a tiny little worker placement game in a mint tin. Lots of fun!

From there we went to the all-con-long Paint and Take event. You paint a mini and then you take it. This has been a favorite of Luca’s in the past years and this time I joined her. Loved it!

Luca and I also got to demo her game Candy Crash and got some great feedback!

From there I got to relax a bit, grab dinner with my wife and some other convention staffers and then headed into the board game room to see what was what. I played a pick up game of Tiny Epic Galaxies, Played several rounds of Spyfall (finally!) I had a fun time also teaching Guilds of Cadwallon whilst playing Tiny Epic Galaxies. Something I’ve not done before. It must have been okay because I won TEG by a decent margin.

Later that evening I had the privilage (as I have for the past 6 cons) to attend an industry guest party. It was, as always, an amazing time filled with amazing people who I never would have met were it not for Total Confusion. I also found out that John Wick has a much, much better angry face than I.


Ah Sunday… a day of winding down and doing nothing. NOPE! Not at this con! Sunday morning I ran my Prototype Workshop. This Sunday we had five prototypes to go over and it was a lot of fun seeing a ton of creativity and good games before they make it to publication. I fully expect to see at least a few of them in game stores in a year or three!

From there I was going to run a Bohnanza game but didn’t have enough folks to do it. So I wandered back into the vendor hall, bought a few things, wandered back into the board game room and was almost immediately scooped up for a game of Vast: Crystal Caverns. This is a very cool, very asymmetric game in which players take on the rolls of the Knight, the Goblins, the Dragon, the Thief and the Cavern itself. I played the Cavern. Very interesting game! I was a bit burnt out at this point (it’s 2pm on Sunday after all) and didn’t play at my best but still very much enjoyed the experience.

Remember how folks were at the hotel a full day early to game? Well here’s the board game room at about 4:15pm on Sunday. Still stuff going on!

From that point on I was pretty much toast. I’m lucky not only to be invited as a guest but that my wife is on staff which means I get to see the after party (full of pizza) and hear how all of the staff experienced the convention. From there it was a quick ride home and a short dive back into reality.

In Conclusion

I had a fine time. Total Confusion remains one of my favorite times of the entire year. As always, a huge thanks to the fine folks who make Total Confusion the best. The amazing staff and volunteers, the awesome guests and everyone who comes out to play! If you are anywhere near the area next February, I cannot encourage you enough to get out – even for a day – and play with us!

I played a bunch of fantastic games, ran some fun events, met a ton of great people and loved every minute of it! Special thanks to those who brought their prototypes to the workshop – some very interesting ideas! And to my friends at the con – those I met six years ago to those I met this weekend, you are the best part of this whole experience!

Here’s a semi-annotated gallery of most of the pictures I took at the convention – not all of which made it into the posts above. They may be a little out of order. Enjoy!

Total Confusion 29 – New England’s Largest Gaming Convention and Ben’s Schedule at the Con

Total Confusion 29
Total Confusion 29

It’s Total Confusion time again! This is New England’s largest convention geared totally towards gaming and it’s always a fantastic time! This year I’ll be spending a bit more time at the convention (arriving Thursday, yay!) The convention runs Thursday, February 19th through Sunday, February 22. They offer single day or all weekend passes and for my board game peeps, there’s a special board game pass that gets you into the board game room, vendors hall and panels and let’s you play all weekend long. You can find TotalCon at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA. While the hotel is sold out for the weekend, if you’re nearby I’d highly suggest dropping in for a day or two!

If you’re going to be at the convention, please come say hello! I love meeting fellow gamers! Just a quick note on names though. I have a wife and two daughters – I concentrate on remember their names and that’s generally about as good as I get at conventions. Please don’t take offense if I don’t remember your name, or you see me trying to sneak a glance at your probably backwards Total Con badge. It’s not you, it’s me.

TotalCon has been kind enough to have me as a guest for the last four years. This year I’ll be participating in a number of panels, running four different board game sessions, helping out with a Prototype Pitch event for board and card games and overall up to my eyeballs in games! I cannot wait!

Here’s my schedule as it stands right now:

Thursday – February 19

6:00pm – 7:00pm & 9:00pm to 10:00pm Sal’s Traveling Market of Curiosities – the TC Flea.

This is, I believe, a new thing for Total Con. A flea market of wondrous, cash-only gaming stuff for sale! I’m helping to run it, so if you’re there on Thursday and want to find me, this is the place.

7:00pm – 9:00pm Small Board and Card Games – Big Fun!

I love small box games. Cards and board that can almost fit into your pockets make for a great experience in quick games. Many people call these filler games but sometimes what you really want is to get 3-4 games into a two hour period. If you’re curious to check out some smaller games, from Love Letter to Diamonds, Eight Minute Empire to My Happy Farm and more – this event is for you! I’ll be bringing a bunch of my favorites.

Friday – February 20

10:00am – 12:00pm Hit People with Clubs! It’s Ugg-Tectugg

Have you ever wanted to construct a fabulous monument that will stand the test of time, while being directed by a slobbering, pre-literate, club wielding task-master with zero language skills? This is the game for you! In this Friday morning event, you can begin your day with a bash! Ugg-Tect is a game of construction, where teams work to build simple structures, directed only by a made up language and being hit by inflatable clubs.

7:00pm – 11:00pmCurse of the Weaver Queen run by the amazing Tim Kask

Saturday – February 21

argyl11:00am – 12:00pm Kids and Gaming (Panel Event in the Amphitheater)

A discussion of kid friendly RPGs and board games to get your whole family gaming.

1:00pm – 3:00pm Heat Wave and the Bio-Freak (some G-Core goodness with the always awesome Jay Libby). 

7:00pm – 11:00pm Talisman, 4th Editiontalisman

Tonight, we dine in…uh… well, whatever random ending gets picked! Talisman is the classic roll and move quest game that brings players together so they can all kill each other. In this version, we’ll include an expansion or three and have one house rule – The +1 rule! Every character gets one extra Strength and Craft, turning this 5 hour game into a 3-4 hour game. Join us! Or not!

11:59pmPrivate Event

Sunday – February 22

10:00am – 12:00pm  Prototype Pitch (Panel Event in the Amphitheater)

Bring in your card and board game prototype and give us a 15 minute pitch! We’ll give you a 15 minute review in turn! First come, first serve! Last year’s event was a big hit so stop by and say hello. Please limit one prototype per person.


Total Confusion XVIII – Ben's Schedule


It’s that time of year again! My favorite convention, Total Confusion is happening in Mansfield MA! Starting Thursday the 20th and going through until Sunday the 23rd. I’ll be there from Friday around 1pm until Sunday in the afternoon!

Here’s my hard schedule. Any time that isn’t taken up by a panel or the game I’m running, I’ll probably be free!


7pm – 11pm – Pyramids and Paradoxes – Garden Area (lobby).


11am – 12am – Kids & Gaming: Raising the Next Generation of Gamers (amphitheater)

12pm 1pm – Self-Publishing 101 (amphitheater)

1pm – 2pm – Game Design (amphitheater)

5:30pm – 6:30pm Private Event

7:00pm – 11pm – Talisman (board game room)

Midnight – Private Event


10am – 11am – Prototype Workshop – Bring your game and game idea! (Seminar room or board game room).

11am -> Free play!

I hope to see you there!


Total Confusion XVIII – Ben’s Schedule


It’s that time of year again! My favorite convention, Total Confusion is happening in Mansfield MA! Starting Thursday the 20th and going through until Sunday the 23rd. I’ll be there from Friday around 1pm until Sunday in the afternoon!

Here’s my hard schedule. Any time that isn’t taken up by a panel or the game I’m running, I’ll probably be free!


7pm – 11pm – Pyramids and Paradoxes – Garden Area (lobby).


11am – 12am – Kids & Gaming: Raising the Next Generation of Gamers (amphitheater)

12pm 1pm – Self-Publishing 101 (amphitheater)

1pm – 2pm – Game Design (amphitheater)

5:30pm – 6:30pm Private Event

7:00pm – 11pm – Talisman (board game room)

Midnight – Private Event


10am – 11am – Prototype Workshop – Bring your game and game idea! (Seminar room or board game room).

11am -> Free play!

I hope to see you there!


Ben’s Total Confusion XVII Schedule – in which I go to play games and talk a lot


Total Confusion XXVII is nearly upon us! February 21-24 will bring New England’s largest gaming convention. You can find all of us at the Holiday Inn at Mansfield MA – and pre-reg is still open for another week or so.

Here’s your chance to sit down and rub elbows with  some amazing industry guests like Tim Kask, Tom Vasel, Eric Summerer, James Carpio, Peter Bryant, Jay Libby, Nik Palmer, Frank Mentzer, Michael Curtis, Mark Edwards,  and more! Awesome vendors, industry folks, Gygax Magazine panels and all of us just hanging out where you can play a game with us or just say hello!

I’ll be there, along with TC Editor Jonathan, and I’m doing a ton of events this year. If you’re interested in seeing what I do, hanging out or listening to a few panels, podcasts or fictional dramatizations then here’s where you’ll find me.

Friday, February 22

5pm – Cube of Death – Main Lobby (With Jonathan J!)

Cube of Death is a game show that combines a basic trivia game with table top role playing. This is played with two teams of three per game. Every round the host asks each team a trivia question and if they get it right they get to roll 1d6 damage to the opposing team. Each team has 50 hit points. The first to run out of points loses the match and is eliminated. Each player can chose a class (thief, wizard, barbarian, etc.) to play and each class has a special ability they can use during the game. There are also special questions that generate special rules.

8pm – Curse of the Red Death – P014 

This is a full cast live reading of the short story Curse of the Red Death. The Red Death is a plague that infects the host and turns them into raging, infectious, maniacs. Our tales starts in a meat cellar where our heroes are hold up. Will they wait for help or make a break and fight their way through the infected? Only one way to find out….

9pm – Midnight at the Welcome Wench – P015

This is a full cast live reading of the short story Midnight at the Welcome Wench. It is the sequel to the Curse of the Red Death. Find out what happened to the survivors of the Red Death as they make their way to the Welcome Wench. A double cross will put the crew of the Banshee in peril and will force one man to choose between honor and duty.

9:45 – whenever – I’ll be hanging out, pulling some games outta my bag and looking for people to relax and play a game with!

Saturday, February 23

10am – Board Games then and Now – P022

A discussion of board games from the 70’s on up through last week. I’ll be on this panel with freaking Tom Vasel and freaking Tim Kask and freaking Frank Mentzer!

11am GM’s Workshop – P023

Need some help breaking through that block? Or just need an interesting plot hook. Come to our GM workshop get the ideas you need to give your players the adventure they deserve. Over 100 years of experience among our panelist.

1pm – Talisman! – B164

The game is full up, but feel free to swing by and say hello as I attempt to beat my wife for the first time in Talisman!

5pm -> Eating, gaming, hanging around until midnight when I will vanish into a secret location.

Sunday, February 24

9am – Zombie Survival Guide – P025

When the zombies start their attack on humanity will you know what to do? More importantly will our industry guest stars know how to survive so they can keep on gaming after its all over!

11am – Podcasting 101 P027

Always wanted to know how past casts are done or how to get involved with one? Stop in and get information from the professionals who fill the net with their stories.

Noon -> I’m hoping to get in a viewing of Project London, but time may be working against me here! Also grabbing some lunch and then it’s back to reality.

Indie+2 Online Convention kicks off today, with an amazing bundle at DriveThruRPG

Indie+2 – the awesome, online convention starts today!

Being an independent is all about taking the initiative and doing it yourself. Indie+ is no different, except we are all doing it together for mutually beneficial publicity. If you want to publicize your own product, podcast or blog as part of Indie+ you need to get involved and do things. Join in as a participant of a panel, host your own panel or game, or come aboard as a sponsor and help organize the whole event.

By taking part, you raise your profile with the Indie+ gaming community and help raise independent gaming’s profile to everyone’s benefit. Every participant, host and sponsor will be promoted and plugged by the Google+ Page.

In support of Indie+, you’ll find the Indie+2 Bundle live at DriveThruRPG right now! 34 amazing products at $110 retail value for $28.

Indie+ kicks off today! The online RPG convention held through Google+

Indie+ July 9th – 15th

Indie+ is all about the rich and diverse tabletop gaming culture that exists beyond the realm of the big boys with their marketing budgets and corporate mentality. It’s about the bloggers and podcasts who tell us about the games; the artists and writers who bring ideas to life; and the publishers who take the hobby in new directions.

Whether amateur, semi-pro or professional, if you are doing it love of gaming, Indie+ is the place for you. Join us on our Google+ Page for the latest news and chat. Hit the Wiki to see what’s being offered, which games are being run and find out more about panels and other goodies!

To go along with this awesome online convention, a number of independent game developers, publishers and authors have put together a special bundle. Introduce yourself to some fine indie products! $94.30 worth of PDFs for just $4.00 is quite a deal and it’s our way of asking you to check us out!

To see what’s available in the bundle, either click the link above or read on!

Continue reading “Indie+ kicks off today! The online RPG convention held through Google+”

Total Confusion XXVI – My favorite convention

Total Confusion bills itself as “New England’s largest gaming convention”. I’m here to tell you that they don’t lie, in fact, they’re keeping the truth under wraps. They’re not just the largest, they’re the best.

I was lucky enough to attend my third TotalCon just a few weeks ago. I was in attendance at TotalCon 1 as a gangly teenager with a few dice and a mechanical pencil. Last year I was invited as an industry guest to TotalCon 25, a role I repeated again this year. It’s by far my favorite convention to attend and I would highly recommend it if you’re anywhere in the area. Now let me tell you what happened during the con, including some tidbits from behind the scenes and some thoughts on just why this is the most fun gaming I have all year.

The largest?

It’s a fact – Total Confusion is the largest gaming convention in New England. That is, it’s not a fan convention, it’s not a mix of computer and table top games, it’s not dedicated to any one table top system. It’s simply four days of pure gaming goodness. In 2010, there were (counting by badge) 600 attendees.  In 2011, 800.  This year, TotalCon broke 1000 attendees, all there with the sole purpose of gaming, gaming, gaming.

From Thursday to Sunday you can get your fill of board games, RPGs, wargames and just about anything else you’d like in the tabletop arena. It’s all contained within one hotel (the Holiday Inn at Mansfield, MA) which means you’ve got everything you need under one roof.

Shamelessly stolen from TotalCon's facebook page

I love this about TotalCon. PAX East has it’s moments, as I’m entirely sure other extremely large conventions do. At TotalCon you have enough people to ensure that there’s always an open game or a pickup game happening when you need it. Enough to keep everything busy and exciting and new. Yet you have  a chance to run into people throughout the weekend and say hello. After a day or two nearly everyone is a familiar face. This is a friendly place where everyone is in attendance for exactly the same reason and that lends a distinct, pleasant atmosphere to the con you don’t get at the bigger gatherings.

Continue reading “Total Confusion XXVI – My favorite convention”

Total Confusion XXVI – if you're going to be there, come say hello!

It’s late February and another Total Confusion is almost upon us! I am once again attending as an industry guest, although I admit I’ll be spending as much time as possible playing, hanging out and generally connecting with people who love gaming just as much as I do.

I have to say that last year was the most fun I’ve had at a convention in years. TotalCon is big enough to always find something to do or someone to chat with, yet small enough that you’re constantly bumping into friends and acquaintances and don’t feel crowd fatigue (PAX East, I’m looking at you).

Last year I ran several Pathfinder games of Aruneus, did the Talisman thing and also participated in a bunch of great games and panels. This year I’ll be doing a bit with some sock puppets and Talisman (details below) and I’ll also be covering the convention for the site. Expect a full report next week!

If you’re looking for me there, well this is what I look like as of this morning.

You can expect a little bit more ‘dark circle’ under the eye, and a slight bit more of ‘burning with the light of a thousand RPGs’ in the eyes themselves.

If you’re going to be there, please feel free to come on over and chat for a bit. If you’re interested in meeting up, I’m always game for a good breakfast/lunch/dinner/beer/pick up game/dangling from the inside balcony over the player tables by our hands. Just hit me up on Twitter, or Google+ or email me!

Now – my tentative schedule for the convention.


Arrive somewhere between 1pm and 4pm, hang out, grab some dinner, find some people.

7pm – Cube of Death!

11pm – Win Cube of Death! – go to bed.


8am – 10am – breakfast, check out the vendor rooms, stroll about looking pleased with myself.

10am – 12pm – Argyle & Crew event for young players. We’ll be making Soppets and conducting a scavenger hunt! This event is currently full, but stop by and if I have any extra socks you may be able to join in the fun.

12pm – 9pm – a few meals, playing in various games, looking to do a few pick up games.

9pm – 11pm – Talisman! I’m ‘running’ a session of my favorite board game.  This event is full.

11pm(ish) to early in the morning – Drinking Woodchuck with friends.


10am – Gaming

12pm – 1pm hanging around a bit and then off to pick up my daughters!

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