Con Report: Total Confusion 30!


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.


frankWe 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!socially

swampedsmallI 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!
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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.
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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!
girls n 501st
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. flatiypus
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 20160221_115821 20160221_114557
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.

In Conclusion

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:

proto girls n 501st frank dgbgpic 20160221_174521 20160221_115821 20160221_114557 20160220_124750 20160220_103846 20160219_225045 20160219_214525 20160219_174614 20160219_155310 20160219_135258 20160219_113153 20160219_105603 20160219_105446 20160219_104750 20160219_103407 20160218_175447 20160218_131624 20160218_120420 20160218_115006 20160218_113920 20160218_110614 20160217_162315 20160217_153135 20160217_150201 swampedsmall socially

Jonathan’s TotalCon 2016 Schedule

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.

3-5pm Meander

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.

5pm Dinner

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

9am Breakfast

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.

7pm Dinner

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

Noon Adios

Homeward bound.

On Making Swamped and That Good Old Creative Drive


I was recently asked why I decided to make games in general, and Swamped in particular. There’s the short answer – I love table top games. RPGs, board games, card games, and I love toying with things that make them work too. Then there’s the long answer.

The Long Answer

Way back in 1986 I was a high school freshman. I was hugely into D&D and Palladium RPGs. Then a mutual gamer friend introduced me to this thing called Talisman. It was love at first sight. I played and then owned all of Talisman 2nd edition. After that I got into first Blood Bowl and then Dungeon Bowl. Warhammer was around back then but the price was a bit prohibitive for me, so I purchased a few of the chit and paper map type war games that were available in the late 80s and continued my love affair with RPGs.

College happened and the RPGs were easier to pack so with the exception of Blood Bowl and Talisman, my board game stayed at home. There followed a long period where I was mostly an RPG player, only dabbling occasionally with board and card games.

Back in 2008, I launched this blog, based almost solely on table top games with a slant of course towards RPGs. That was the tipping point. I ‘published’ a number of Pathfinder and system neutral RPG things, along with a few small, self enclosed systems. I loved and still love RPGs but I found myself with two kids, my wife, a full time job and a long commute. My time to play RPGs kept getting whittled down.

So I glanced around my shelves, dusted off a few of the board games I had and promptly and instantly fell back in love with the hobby board game scene.

I’ve always enjoyed creating things, so after a year or so of doing research (which thankfully translates into playing a huge amount of board games) I started toying around with some design ideas of my own. They were, quite frankly, crap. Poor implementation of mechanics, way to much reliance on luck and things that had been done before without much of a change in how they were implemented.

The Inspirational Bit

Here’s the thing though – having written fiction and poetry in college and afterwards, having made a few low-end RPGs, and having read quotes on the internet, I knew one special fact. Here’s a quote from Ira Glass explaining that fact. It’s a little on the long side as far as quotes go, but it will be worth your 30 seconds of reading.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Knowing that and also knowing that many of the design ideas implemented in newer games came from ideas from older games, I started experimenting with Old vintage cards on a white background isolatedold (19th century) card games. I’d start with a simple re-theme, get to a theme that I enjoyed and then start adding/taking away mechanics until I had something that was similar but hopefully better.

It didn’t always work. But it worked enough that I was encouraged by my own designs. So I showed a few to other people and they were also encouraging, in the best way. That is, they like what I had done but found the flaws and pointed them out to me. A few of these I liked enough that I started making them available as Print and Play or Print on Demand titles.

Around about this time I also decided that since I couldn’t always find enough folks with enough time to play these games I loved so much, I’d do the next best thing, talk about them! So I launched a podcast and started interviewing game creators. I did about 50 episodes of that, which was an immense help. Nothing informs people on how to create games more than talking to people who create and (important point here) sell games.

By this time two years ago I have about 200 game ideas, ranging from a catchy title to a fairly well fleshed out prototype. Of those, I’d found about 30 that seemed like they might be viable games – have something that’s both fun, interesting, new and not boring. Of those, I found that about 5 really, honestly did have something to them. They were fun, engaging, with a neat twist on a mechanic that wasn’t everywhere else in the board game world. Swamped was one from that batch, although it wasn’t called Swamped then, and it was a bit of a lesser game than it is now.

On Pitching a Game

Holy Stock Photo BatmanIn my course of shopping titles around… well hold on a second. Let me touch on that briefly too. In my Game School articles, I talk a bit about finding new games from the publisher’s perspective and publishing new games from the creator’s perspective. I gleaned this information from two sources. First was talking to publishers and creators. The second was my attempts to put these ideas into practice.

Those 5 titles that I thought had some real potential, I shopped them around via email and my podcast connections and just plain old blind selling to perhaps 20 publishers, big and small. I consider myself lucky to have 2 publishers be very interested. One took a design (not Swamped), did a bunch of development on it, play tested it thoroughly and then did the dreaded cost analysis. They just couldn’t bring out ideas to a point where they felt it would be cost effective. They had some great ideas, and did a lot of work which I appreciated. Then, they turned over the work and ideas to me and said “Thanks! Hit us up if you have anything further!” and that was that.

The other was Bellwether Games.

Dennis from Bellwether was interested enough in my not-quite-Swamped that he asked if he could toy around with it. I said yes and he took me up on this. He came up with some cool ideas for this little game that I hadn’t thought of and we agreed to move forward. This was approximately 11 months ago.  We had a video call, exchanged some emails and suddenly this contract arrived, was amenable to both of us and I signed it.

Making a “Nice” Game into a Great Game

More development on Bellwether’s part, more emails, a few more video calls, some online testing, ideas flowing back and forth, collaboration that worked and suddenly… quite suddenly (a mere 2 years after I had initially come up with the idea) there was this game and it worked and it was new and packed more game into it’s tiny little structure than some $60 games I owned. This part was also quite fascinating to me and reminded me why I enjoy degrees of openness on a creative project.

With just me working on the original game, I came up with a fun, quick and interesting little game. Once Dennis came on board and got his folks play testing this though, he came back with some different ideas that just wouldn’t have occurred to me. We talked, the ideas go developed and test and the entire project began to evolve into something better.

The part in all this that keeps me going personally, that keeps my interest in this project high and my enjoyment in seeing it completed is that I had a major part in making it. The part that gets me excited about this game from a fan of the hobby in general aspect is that Dennis from Bellwether also had a major part in making it better. That means every time I played a newer version, it may have moved in a different direction than I had anticipated but it got closer to my vision of making a great game.

In short, I was and am very excited about this game. It’s moved from the sometimes drudgery of play testing before I even sent it out to Bellwether to a game I really, honestly want to play, even though I have a ton of other games in my gaming library. I still had one problem though.

I’m a pretty open person when it comes to development of things like this when I’m working on my own. I love to talk to everyone and anyone about my latest ideas, what worked, what failed awfully and everything else. When you’re working on a game for someone else however, there’s an expectation that things not get blurted out as soon as they occur. So after nearly a years worth of development this press release was made. Partly I’m convinced because I was about to explode from excitement and I think Dennis didn’t want a death on his hands.

There’s still lots of information about the game I’m ready to go on about. Mechanics, more on the theme, which bits have teeth and which bits require some subtle manipulation of the other players. But I must end this now as my wife has challenged me to another game of Swamped and she won the last one!

ReCast: TotalCon 2008 – Wargaming Recon #34


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.

Support Jonathan through PATREON
Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 6.48.24 PM

Continue reading “ReCast: TotalCon 2008 – Wargaming Recon #34”

A ton of amazing games on sale at today – Splendor, Panamax, Love Letter and lots more!


Holy Moly y’all! Lots of good stuff cheap today and all with Prime shipping available!

Splendor, my current favorite game in my entire collection is 42% off today on Amazon, at $23.09 

Star Realms is a cool 32% off at $10.17, which is a crazy price for a game this good. 

YT-2400 from X-Wing is 38% off at $18.64 and the VT-49  Decimator is 46% off at $21.58. 

Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem suffered another price drop and is now 43% off at $28.56. 

Agricola All Creatures Big and Small is 38% off at $24.62 with the full game of Agricola also at 46% off or $37.84. 

Love Letter is 50% off at $5.94 which is another crazy price. 

Ghost Stories is 47% off at $26.57. 

Qwirkle is 47% off at $18.99.

Spot It is 36% off at $9.00 

King of New York is 42% off at $29.08. 

Machi Koro continues to be cheap at 37% off or $18.88. 

Panamax which is brand spanking new is 34% off at $39.85. 

The new Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook is 40% off at $29.95 and the DM’s Guide is also 40% off at $29.97. 


Great Wargamer Destinations – Wargaming Recon #117

Yorktown battlefield sign

Great Wargamer Destinations

Summer is a time to relax and go on vacation. Why not also gather some inspiration for wargaming to boot?

Jonathan shares a few of his favorite wargamer destinations. If we didn’t cover one of your’s, then please share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail at

Scale Military Modeller International
The June 2014 issue is briefly, very briefly, reviewed. It is worth picking up if you can. The cost is 4.25 GBP. Visit Scale Military Modeller International for more information.

Continue reading “Great Wargamer Destinations – Wargaming Recon #117”

Wargaming Recon #108: Con Industry Guests Do’s & Don'ts with Jay Libby

Con Industry Guests Do’s & Don’ts with Jay Libby

Ever attend a con only to have a less than great experience? Maybe the GMs were lacking. Perhaps the Guests of Honor seemed bored. Or maybe the other attendees were rude.

Jay Libby, frequent Guest of Honor at TotalCon, shares his tips for success. With his advice convention Guests of Honor, and attendees alike, are sure to have a fun time at any convention.

Do you have a convention story to share? If so, don’t be shy. We’d love to hear about your experiences, good and bad, with any con you’ve attended.

Continue reading “Wargaming Recon #108: Con Industry Guests Do’s & Don'ts with Jay Libby”

Wargaming Recon #108: Con Industry Guests Do’s & Don’ts with Jay Libby

Con Industry Guests Do’s & Don’ts with Jay Libby

Ever attend a con only to have a less than great experience? Maybe the GMs were lacking. Perhaps the Guests of Honor seemed bored. Or maybe the other attendees were rude.

Jay Libby, frequent Guest of Honor at TotalCon, shares his tips for success. With his advice convention Guests of Honor, and attendees alike, are sure to have a fun time at any convention.

Do you have a convention story to share? If so, don’t be shy. We’d love to hear about your experiences, good and bad, with any con you’ve attended.

Continue reading “Wargaming Recon #108: Con Industry Guests Do’s & Don’ts with Jay Libby”

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