From Wednesday, February 17th through Sunday February 21 I found myself and the Mansfield MA Holiday Inn for Total Confusion 30! Total Confusion is New England’s largest convention dedicated to tabletop gaming. I don’t have the numbers yet but I can tell you that it was a busy convention with a ton going on! Total Confusion is without a doubt my favorite convention. If your goal is to play games, meet some terribly interesting people, have a great time and then play more games it’s should certainly be on your radar too. Here’s my convention report.
The afternoon saw my wife and I heading into Boston to pick up industry guest Tim Kask from the airport. Tim is someone we’ve gotten to know over the last few conventions and we always enjoy doing the airport runs to bring him out to Mansfield. Once back at the hotel, Tim and my wife went off for some genuine Casey’s hot dogs while I hung about.The hotel is eerily quiet on Wednesday afternoon but we still saw gaming going on! After a few missed connections I finally ran into Michael Curtis at the bar and we chatted over soda about ongoing projects and how the last year had treated us.
Shortly after relaxing with Michael, my wife arrived back at the hotel and it was time for our 7pm game – and the only real RPGing I was going to get in this weekend. Dark Phoenix Events had a room dedicated to their GM’s and game all weekend long (and it was packed!). Founder Scott Legault was kind enough to run a Call of Cthulhu game for us which we along with three other attendees thoroughly enjoyed – and all managed to stay (barely) sane throughout!
After our game we hung out a bit with Scott and then retired.
We started the day off with a hearty breakfast. Then relaxed for a bit with some friends. Frank Mentzer got me excited again about the people who make and play games. Tim Kask, Frank and I talked small games for a while too.
Shortly after that Stephen Wollett of Nerd Rage News arrived and got me and most of the TC staff and industry guests to behave in a Socially Unacceptable way. The game was played with tags on our lanyards identifying us as actually playing. From there a series of cards were handed out that required you to do, well, socially unacceptable things to other players. Steal their food, look them in the eye and proclaim your undying love, etc. It went on all con long and was a blast!
I played a bunch of Swamped and got to tell Dennis at Bellwether Games that I was nearly out of the game . Then I did finish off all my copies! Thankfully a few more appeared before the end of the convention but on the whole I believe I sold or gave away 14 copies of Swamped. If you’re near me physically I still have a few copies left – otherwise pick them up at your FLGS, Amazon or from Bellwether directly.
I had a great game of Seasons with my wife and two others. We ran into Peter Bryant and Mike Kafes from the Mythwits and also got to say hello to the folks from our favorite vendor, Crossroad Games. I also learned that Jason Tagmire’s mail ninja reached him safely and then caused him to lose.
For the second year in a row, Sal’s Traveling Market (a giant game flea market) took place and we helped with traffic control while my wife and Scott managed the register. Last year there were about 300 items for sale, this year we topped out around 600 and lots of folks walked away with a ton of treasures, new and old. We’ll definitely be helping with this again next year.
Then to wrap things up, my wife and I chatted with Mike and Cody Pondsmith about new things coming down the line, old games revisited and upside down fake mummies.
My goodness, is it only Friday? Friday morning my dexterity game challenge took off at 10am with games like Ugg-Tect, Rhino Hero, Villa Palletti and of course, Loopin’ Chewie!
That was a fun two hours and a great way to start off my Friday morning. From there the 1-3pm slot saw us playing a bunch of different small game titles – some mine, others brought by my buddy Jeremy who just happened to have been there with a whole mess of games. We were pitted against one particularly crafty 13 year old girl who handily won several of the games.
Some more Swamped was played, along with a game of DC Deck Builder as we waited for the vendor hall to close and then we broke out my newly acquired Code Names with Brendan and Dave from Crossroads and also took Funemployed for a test run! What a great bunch of party games! We were able to round up enough folks to easily play both and did so until just about midnight.
Saturday was a relatively free day for me – I’d left it intentionally so because my two daughters were spending the day at the convention and my wife, who’s on the staff, was pretty solidly booked. The 501st had a few members arrive, which is always cool!
Both girls took part in the Paint and Take mini event and did a splendid job. My oldest won in the 16 and under category for the 2nd year in a row! We played a few games but then my youngest came down with some kind of awful sickness so a good bulk of the rest of Saturday was spent with either myself or my wife in the room with the girls. I had to cancel my annual Talisman event but did loan out my game to a few friends to play.
Once the girls were settled down and most of the sickness was gone, we did manage to sneak out to the Dilly Green Bean Games annual shindig for a bit of hanging out and our ever growing yearly picture. In that picture above are a ton of amazing people – industry leaders and veterans, amazing staff from the convention, artists, friends, podcasters – you name it, they were there!
With my youngest feeling better I was able to meet up with Glenn from Games By Play Date for our yearly Prototype Workshop. This year it was a very sedate workshop – one gentleman stopped by with two prototypes. As always though I was thoroughly surprised by a new idea. One of the games was a unique type of dexterity game that I’d not seen anything like before. Glenn and I encouraged him to pursue it after making some suggestions.
From there I wandered into the board game room where Emerson Mastuuchi was just about to demo his newest title, Caravan, coming from Z-Man Games. Not only did I get to play the game, but Emerson signed my copy of Specter Ops and asked me to sign his copy of Swamped. That was an entirely new experience for me!
Caravan is a wonderful resource management, engine building game which (as you can see from the first picture) will be released with two distinct themes. The game will remain the same but the artwork featured will be different between the two editions. The game play with four of us took just about an hour and was a little brain-burny perhaps for a Sunday afternoon at the convention but still a lot of fun and certainly a game I’ll be playing again once it’s available.
At this point I started to notice the one real downside that can come along with any convention. Con Crud. I was feeling a bit lousy so rather than stick around for the close-of-convention meeting with the Total Con Staff we bugged out so I could give my bed a nice, big hello.
I have to hand it to the staff and volunteers at Total Confusion. This was their 30th anniversary and they did a bang up job. Every day something new and neat was being given out at Registration (buttons being one of my favorites!). They were always friendly and courteous, always smiling despite the long hours and the essentially sold out the convention. I know that for at least several days there wasn’t an open table to be had for roleplaying and that the overflow open gaming area was being well used and often full as well. There was a very nice, glossy book printed up for the convention which was something new for the 30th as well. We had ours signed by all of our friends (new and old) yearbook style!
Even at it’s busiest on Saturday, I was constantly meeting folks I hadn’t seen since last year, exchanging hellos and also meeting a bunch of new folks who either hadn’t been to Total Con before or who just hadn’t crossed paths with me prior to this year. It was great! The vendor area, while not huge, did have a great selection of games and merchandise and was always busy. Just about every surface area was being utilized for gaming as well and that’s a lovely site to see.
If you’re going to be in the New England area next February and love table top gaming, I’d highly suggest making plans to visit Total Confusion 31 – it’s always one of the major highlights of my year for both the people and the gaming.
All of the pictures I or my wife took during Total Con 30 can be found right here:
TotalCon begins this TODAY! If you haven’t pre-registered don’t worry. You can get your ticket on site. There are heaps of games, events, panels, and fun to be had.
This year I will be in attendance with Troll in the Corner owner & Indie Talks host Ben Gerber. Ben, as a Guest of Honor, is running a few events and is also sitting on a slew of panels. Be sure to look at Ben’s Schedule to see what he is doing.
If you are coming to TotalCon this year, I’d love to meet you. Below you can find my public con schedule. Just look for the tall guy wearing either a black or gray Wargaming Recon t-shirt. If you like us on Facebook you will be able to see a photo of me during the con to make it easier for you to find me.
Friday February 21
1-3pm Arrival/Stairs of the Immortal: Duke Crestfaul and the Lightess/Small Board and Card Games: Big Fun!
Hoping to arrive for 1pm. If I make it in time and if there is still space I’m hoping to play either in Guest of Honor Jay Libby’s Stairs of the Immortal RPG or Guest of Honor Ben Gerber’s Small Board and Card Games event. Don’t play many RPGs so it’d be nice to try something different and although I own a copy of Love Letter I’ve never played it. No matter what happens it is sure to be fun.
This is a great time to visit the vendor room and then walk around taking photos. There’ll be a lot of people playing games and fun stuff happening.
I’ll be dining in Pike’s Peak with Guest of Honor Ben Gerber. If you see us don’t be shy, feel free to come up and say hi!
6-7pm Perusing the Con
There are numerous events I need to pop by. You can find me visiting:
Guest of Honor Peter “Blix” Bryant’s Blixapalooza in the lobby.
7-11pm Convoy to Malta
Convoy to Malta is a War at Sea event (GMed by Dan Eustace) in the minis room. Dan has taken the standard War at Sea game as created by Wizards of the Coast and he’s enhanced it with resources, info, and ideas from the excellent Axis & Allies ForuMINI online community. Dan’s events are always a blast. If you’re not playing in anything at 7pm you should try to get into the game.
11pm Podcast the Day’s Events
When I return to my hotel room I am recording my thoughts on the day. With luck I may even be able to edit and release the recordings from the con, for your listening pleasure. This will most likely be a LIVE recording you can watch on YOUTUBE! Should warn if you watch the live recording I may be imbibing alcoholic beverages so it will be for mature audiences only. The actual podcast episode will be safe for all per usual.
Saturday February 22nd
A guy has to eat. The hotel serves a good breakfast buffet. This is a good way to meet other gamers and catch up. Feel free to have breakfast with me if you’d like (everyone pays their own way).
11am Writing for RPGs (Auditorium)
Industry guests discuss the process of writing for a roleplaying game. The panel is moderated by Jenn Gerber. Looking forward to learning a lot about the writing process.
Noon-2/3pm Lunch/Family visit
My wife and infant daughter are coming to visit and check out the con. My wife has never been to TotalCon before and there’s a lot of people who want to meet the baby.
1-5pm Hanghai Hustle
GM Mike Paine is running his Hanghai pulp wargame. After my family leaves Mike said he’ll make room for me to play even if the game is half over. Mike is one of the GMs I ALWAYS look for at a gaming convention. YOU. NEED. TO. PLAY. THIS. GAME.
5-7pm Riding the Rocket TSR’s First 5 Years
Guest of Honor Tim Kask discusses the first five years of TSR’s existence covering how they made Dungeons & Dragons and hopefully Chainmail too.
Consider this an informal meetup. Any who wish to can join me for dinner at the hotel restaurant Pike’s Peak. Everyone pays their own way but we can have a meal and discuss the fun at TotalCon. If you see me don’t be shy, feel free to come up and say hi! Please try to connect with me BEFOREHAND so I can be sure everyone is together before going into the restaurant. Makes it easier on the restaurant staff.
11pm Private Event
I can’t speak about this but please know it has the opportunity to open quite a few doors for Wargaming Recon.
Sunday February 23rd
11am Open Gaming
I’ll be around to game for a bit. Got a game you’d like to play? I’m also bringing some board/card games to play. Maybe I’ll pack X-wing minis too
DriveThruCards is having their Christmas in July sale, with a few titles notably discounted in their card games. Of particular interest is Smart Play Games (i.e. Daniel Solis) who make some amazing titles.
If you’re into the RPGs, DriveThruRPG features the same deal (25% off through July 30th) on a huge number of titles, including some of my own.
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.
With the growing popularity of mega cons are smaller game conventions dying out? Jonathan addresses the question with his thoughts. Be sure to listen to the entire episode to hear an important announcement about the birth of Jonathan’s first child.
Due to illness and scheduling conflicts Aaron Bostian couldn’t do the show. So, NO NEW EPISODE right now. To make up for it we’re sharing this episode from the vault. The classic episode comes to you from the dark ages where the show had a different name. Since this is a CLASSIC episode some of the links, content, giveaways, contests etc may be out of date or ended.
Don’t worry! Next time we’ll be back with a NEW episode of Wargaming Recon.
Host Jonathan J. Reinhart releases a short show discussing some collectible miniatures (War at Sea and World of Warcraft). The highlight of the show is coverage for TotalCon 2008. This marks the first time Jonathan discussed TotalCon on the show.
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 10:00pmSal’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 – 9:00pmSmall 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 – 12:00pmHit People with Clubs! It’s Ugg-Tect
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 – 11:00pm – Curse of the Weaver Queen run by the amazing Tim Kask!
Saturday – February 21
11:00am – 12:00pmKids and Gaming (Panel Event in the Amphitheater)
A discussion of kid friendly RPGs and board games to get your whole family gaming.
1:00pm – 3:00pmHeat Wave and the Bio-Freak (some G-Core goodness with the always awesome Jay Libby).
7:00pm – 11:00pm Talisman, 4th Edition
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!
11:59pm – Private 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.